Today was one tearful episode after another, even with my full attention.
- She wanted to take away the book I was reading to the older two, and instead read the book she had. She did not want to sit in my lap. She then decided that she’d rather have the book that Bethel was holding and cried when she could not have it. I let her cry on this one.
- David and Bethel turned our living room into a stable, and Laurel wanted to play with the blocks, too. She wasn’t content with a few, and she didn’t want to play with me in the room. She cried when I wouldn’t let her play with the other blocks. I resolved this conflict by asking her if she wanted to go take a bath, and I cleaned the bathroom while she played. She became frustrated because I wouldn’t dump water in the tub (I had already done it several times), and wanted out.
- I wondered whether her mouth was hurting since it looks like a tooth is coming through. But I’ve been blaming fussiness on that same tooth for several weeks! I gave her some Motrin just in case.
- Several times I couldn’t figure out what she wanted. At one point, she was nearly completely irrational. I put her to sleep, even though she had already taken a short nap, and although it was late afternoon. She slept about an hour.
- David and Bethel wanted to play with puzzles. Laurel wanted to take their pieces. She was happy to play with her own puzzles with me, but got distracted and went to take pieces away from David. I told her to give the pieces to David. She didn’t respond. I think she understood, but I wasn’t sure, so I simply scooped her up and walked over to David. Then I helped her give them to David.Puzzles are hard.
- Before we went to bed, she wanted her shoes on over her pajamas. She cried when I told her no, took her shoes to her dad and cried when he said no. I distracted her successfully. She was happy to go to bed.
I’m praying that God will give me wisdom. Since I posted my observations about my fussy toddler, I’ve been watching for her response. I’ve been working at being attentive to her, by playing with her, by keeping her with me when I work, and by keeping my mind focussed on teaching her that she is not the center of the universe. I don’t know that I see a difference in her yet, but I’m less on edge with her, and that’s a good thing. I’m praying that God will continue to give me insight into the motivations behind her actions.
Yes, much of her tears reflect an inability to communicate. Seeing this motivation helps me not become weary or impatient with her frustration, because I know that as she grows, this part of the problem will resolve itself. I can help by repeating in simple words what I think she is trying to say, or what I want her to know or do. Sometimes I find myself repeating in four different two-word sentences a single thought. I think this is helpful.
Some of her tears are indeed her dismay at finding out that she is not the center of the universe. She cannot take toys away from her siblings, mother cannot always immediately serve her the beverage of choice, and she doesn’t always have the option of doing exactly what she pleases. I could avoid these tears by leaving her in the center of her universe, but that wouldn’t be a good thing for her or me. I’m setting the stage for teaching her that God is the center of her universe. That means I have to remain constant when I have determined a course that she disagrees with. It’s easy to give in. This afternoon, she wanted a pickle without eating her sandwich. I told her as simply as I could that the pickle was for after sandwich. She cried and I started to waver. I removed all but a few small pieces of sandwich so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Still she pushed the plate away. Eventually, she took a piece of bread, and then flung it away from her. I then took her out of her highchair (the expected consequence) and calmly washed her hands and put her down to play. Some may respond differently, but what is important to me is that she did not win the essential conflict.
Tomorrow is a new day! We’ll see how she does then.