Posts Tagged ‘preschool tantrums’

My 3-year old son Will is testing his yelling skills these days. Usually the hollering starts over something simple, like, how I put on his pants. He’ll fuss with the waistband, look at me disapprovingly and say, “I don’t want the pants this way! I want them this way!” And he’ll tug them a little to the left. To manage his frustrations, I offer the usual parenting advice—use your nice words, your inside voice, your manners, etc. But after awhile, the yelling, paired with a fingers-on-the-chalkboard whine, had me rattled. I fought the urge to shout back, then one day, something altogether surprising came out of my mouth:

“Spell it, don’t yell it.”

I could have shot flowers out of my nose. Will was remarkably silent.

“If you want to me to help you,” I said. “Please don’t yell at me. Spell pants instead.” Again, silence. Now don’t get me wrong, I know a preschooler can’t spell pants, unless he’s taken a crash course in Your Baby Can Read, but asking him to spell pants piqued his curiosity.

“Momma, can you spell it for me?” he asked.


He repeated the spelling back, smiled and returned to the floor to play with his Star Wars figures. I was beyond pleased.

Of course now, like anything that’s too good to be believed, Will is asking me to spell everything. New Jersey. Underwear. Pneumonia. The last of which tripped me up. Seriously. Try spelling pneumonia out loud.

But I’m not complaining. R-e-a-l-l-y. It’s a lot quieter in my house. And my son is learning, which is so much better than yelling.

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Lauren posing on her uncle's Harley. A glimpse into the future?

Four years ago, when I learned I was having a girl, I immediately worried about her teenage years—the drama, the sudden shifts in mood, the tears. I was not a rebellious teenager. I studied, listened to my parents and rarely got into trouble. However, I was a royal pain in the derriere when it came to my appearance. My hair, clothes and complexion had to be right, and if they weren’t, then my mother endured most of the grief. Why didn’t she have the mousse I liked? Why couldn’t she buy me Guess jeans? And why was it such a big deal when I missed the bus because my hair wasn’t feathered just so?

My husband thought I was crazy when I fixated on ages 13-18, when we had more pressing things to focus on like preparing for a new baby. When my daughter arrived, she was so sweet and even-tempered, that I forgot all about my worries. How could this dream child ever give me cause for concern?

Little did I know that Lauren at age four would have tantrums equal to my own at age 14. If her hair isn’t perfect, she screams, “No! Mommy! No! Not like that…. like this.” Then she’ll tell me where to place the barrette. If I’m off by an inch, she freaks out all over again. I have little patience for this behavior. What I really want to do is scream at her. Instead, I attempt reason. “Mommy is just trying to help. Can you sit still for a moment and I’ll try again.” But I should know better. After 15 minutes of unsuccessful hair styling attempts, she storms off, and I’m left feeling exasperated.

Then there are the battles with clothes. Long ago, I gave up arguing about wearing polka dots and stripes, or going outside without a jacket. Our morning routine runs better when Lauren is happy with her outfit. These days, she changes at least three or four times before selecting the right ensemble. Her closet can be full of clothes, but if she has it in her mind to wear pink and pink, then Mom is expected to deliver, pronto. And when I can’t? She falls on the floor in a huff. “But I want my pink skirt and my pink tank top!” I tell her the skirt is in the wash, and then I get flack for washing it in the first place. “Why, Mom? Why, did you wash it?” I opt for reason again, mentioning the ketchup stains from the night before. This small detail sends her into orbit. She sits in a pile of rejected clothes, naked and bemoaning the unfairness of it all.

The aftermath of a wardrobe meltdown

I’m not sure that there is a logical explanation for her behavior. Maybe it is payback for all the times I drove my mother nuts. But isn’t it a little early? I was hoping for ten years of basic training to help avoid battles like these. If Lauren behaves like this at four, what will happen when she’s 14?

Friends: I am beyond worried. I am terrified.

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