Obstinate Ones?

They say “Terrible Twos”, but what about your 1-year-old who’s been having outbursts worthy of an Oscar before he’s even 1. I mean, does “Terrible Twos” refer to 2-year-olds or to the second year of life? I’m thinking 2 is going to be more “traumatic” than “terrible” at this rate. I can handle the 100 different ways Harrison can say “No!” (even when he means “yes”), and the short stint of whining/crying when he doesn’t get his way. Heck, I’m okay with him slamming his hand down on the floor or table when he’s unhappy. What I can’t stand is when my sweet little boy turns into a monster who seems to think he gets whatever he wants and makes me feel like others around must be thinking I have the most spoiled, undisciplined child ever. Here’s a quick run down of some of the behaviors Harrison has exhibited:

  • Head banging – this one was difficult. I was calling and emailing multiple friends asking them if this was typical. It’s easy to get paranoid when you work with the population I do. Harrison would be sitting and playing nicely when something didn’t go his way, and suddenly he was screaming and banging his head on the floor. At first we picked him up and tried to soothe him, but quickly realized we were not helping matters, so we would simply move him to safer grounds (rug, blanket) if necessary and make sure he didn’t hurt himself. When Harrison could walk, he would actually walk over to something to hit his head. This was extremely upsetting.
  • Screaming – This was/is quite impressive when you think about it. Sometimes, that’s what I had to think to myself (“Wow, that’s quite the octave you’re hitting there!”) in order to keep myself calm and not to react.
  • Screaming and head banging – I explained this to one friend when I was extremely worried, and she stopped me midway to comfort me by saying, “I was waiting for you to tell me he was opening his mouth and trying to bite/eat the floor.” Amazingly, I had witnessed this and had to ask if this was normal, too. It is.
  • Orchestrated tantrums – I didn’t think such a young child was capable of masterminding something like this, but he is. David shared with me one morning how Harrison became upset about not getting his way and walked himself into his play area, lay down on the rug, looked at David and began kicking his legs and whining. Is it wrong that I chuckled when he told me this? I mean, at least he learned that the kitchen floor and hardwoods are not conducive to tantrums.
  • Hitting/Swiping – Occasionally, Harrison will yell “No!” and swipe at us. This one I have to admit was likely my fault. I realized that I sometimes reprimanded him by saying “No!” and slapping his hand. What a mixed message I was sending on a number of levels. Despite all of our mindfulness and using more positive discipline, our son hit another child over a toy the other day. Imagine how upsetting it was to read that he scratched someone on the face. This is a rare occurrence for him (actually the first time he has hit someone other than us), and we were upset, embarrassed, ashamed, appalled… We quickly realized that we need to have more lessons on sharing with Harrison.

So while all of these are very frustrating, what’s most frustrating is the judgement you feel like you’re receiving or putting on yourself. One response in particular angered me after Harrison graced some people with his head banging and screaming. Exasperated, I said, “I don’t understand why he does this. We don’t respond to this behavior in any way other than moving him to a safe place and waiting until he calms down.” I was told, “Another child we know did this, too, and I think he did it more for the response he got.” WHAT?!!!! I mean, at least offer something more helpful like telling me how you respond when your child gets really upset or throws a tantrum. Don’t make me feel like I’m causing the behavior. That situation also taught me something very important: Just because your child doesn’t do it, doesn’t mean you should let yourself think the behavior is abnormal. You also shouldn’t judge parents for behaviors their child is exhibiting. I’m not saying that these people were intending to pass judgment or that I didn’t misinterpret what they were saying, but it still frustrated me.

It’s so easy to feel like you’ve done something wrong if your child is misbehaving. Despite being told I would be a wonderful parent because I provided speech therapy for the birth to five population (say what?!), I did not have increased confidence in my abilities. In a way, it almost makes it worse when things go “wrong” because I think of all those wonderful things people thought said to me. Nothing like a guilt-trip. The other day, I got extremely upset because Harrison wasn’t taking his nap. We had kept him up in the morning because he’s transitioning away from one nap, but we made the mistake of thinking a big breakfast would be enough. Needless to say, an hour into his nap, Harrison woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep. He wasn’t upset, just talking quietly every 15-20 minutes or so, yet I was still angry. David reminded me that nothing was physically wrong with Harrison, and I should relax (not what I wanted to hear at the moment, but true).

It also makes it worse when few people seem to empathize with you. I don’t want you to make up a story just to make me feel okay, but saying, “Really?!” doesn’t make it better. I’m not sure if silence is better or worse. It either means you’re thoughtfully thinking of something to say in response or thoughtfully deciding not to say “Really?!”. Or I may interpret it as you being appalled at the behavior I’m describing. Note that that may not really be what you’re thinking, but I start to feel that way.

Thankfully, I have an awesome husband and a few close friends who have been there and make me feel better about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. Which is good, because I’m not sure what to do if the Twos are “Terrible” or “Traumatic”.

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