7 August 2007

Why is three harder than the "terrible" twos?

Jenna’s personality really has changed, overnight it feels like and I’m a bit lost with her. She had no terrible twos at all, then she just suddenly hit this awful STROPPY phase and she's lost all her impulse control as well. It's like she thinks she wants to do something so she does, where even a month ago she would have recognised the consequences. Today that was hitting Morgan across the head with a book.

Talking to other mums I'm reassured that lots of easy toddlers hit a bad patch just before they turn three. The general consensus is that it lasts anything up to the majority of the third year. Which is scary, because we get a discipline tool that is really working for us and start to rebuild our relationship and then I am tired and she's in a mood and I yell.… It’s not going great.

What is working for us best is just NOT arguing and not trying to even bother assigning positive intent but just describing what she needs to do next and then instead of getting worn down or cross with the torrent of refusal and attitude that follows, just feeding it back to her and keeping on insisting ("you're very cross, I hear how upset you are - now pick it up" etc lol).

Letting her have her emotions and not trying to fix them is helping, she's saying how she feels more and screaming less. I feel like I'm nagging but she really needs me to be calm and persistant, and I'm doing what I can. Repeating back to her what she's feeling is *just* about getting her to use words more often.

We worked out recently that she has started to really need more routine as well. By that I mean she needs to eat really regularly (otherwise she is either crying non-stop or screaming and lashing out at me) and she absolutely can't do without an afternoon nap. With Morgan in tow it's hard to get her to wind down for one, but we've been putting her in her room and sitting with her but telling her that if she is very loud or kicks me (!) or anything like that then I will go and come back in a few minutes.

I end up leaving almost every time but she shouts for me once or twice and falls asleep before I even get back in to her. It's taken a lot of soul-searching to be comfortable with that, as to start with I felt like the crying was my fault and I should be able to help her or at least be there. Now I'm certain that the more I let it become a battle the more distraught she is - as soon as I see that we're working ourselves into a fight over nap time it's better to get me and Morgan out of there so she has space to calm down instead of trying to tantrum me out of making her sleep! :(

Even on my most consistant days it's like living with a different child. I didn't believe that her personality could change so much overnight but it really did! I'm just hoping that when we get Jenna back again I will have managed to keep us from becoming enemies. I'm aiming for not perfectly controlled but just calm enough, not perfectly consistant but just reliable enough, not perfectly gentle, but just loving enough. Baby steps. ;)

We had a great swim yesterday and didn’t fall out at all, which is a pretty rare day for the last week or so. I’m working at it though, and I really don’t feel that bad at the moment (in fact I feel like I’m doing pretty well). It mostly was good to hear that it was normal and it isn’t my fault!

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