This last week my twelve year old daughter had an attitude problem a number of times in one day. This is very unusual for her and definitely had me analyzing her and the day. She earned negative consequences many times and we had talks about the situations and practiced how she could have handled them better. I really focused on seeking to understand. At one point, after she was calmed down I initiated a conversation to discuss her possible need for more sleep. During this conversation she said, “I just feel like no one really understands. I bet you have never felt like this.”
I was so glad she shared this feeling with me. These kinds of feelings are so natural and should be discussed. She was obviously disconnected from me since she kept having the same problem multiple times in a day. I had just forgotten to really look deeply into the messages she was sending me.
I said, “Paije, I know exactly how you feel. You feel like no one is showing you that they care about the things you want and that there are things you don’t want to do too. You have desires inside to connect with someone, but the only thing that seems to be getting talked about is how you keep having emotional problems…I have felt this way before too. I remember thinking that if I could show my parents enough power they would leave me alone so that I could get what I wanted. The thing is, I see now that what I wanted was to feel connected to my parents, not separated from them. And, I really wanted security, not power over them. Security is emotional power, and power struggles are weakness. When I had attitude problems I was wrong. I communicated in a way that would make it impossible to get what I really wanted. Since I have felt the same way you are feeling right now, I am pretty sure I can confidently tell you that you don’t need power to get my attention or to get more of your way, you only need to talk to me calmly like we are doing right now. I will listen. Tell me anything…”
Paije relaxed and saw her own actions more clearly and saw I really did undestand. She also opened up to me about how helpless she feels sometimes because of her emotions. She says she doesn’t like feeling like that, but sometimes it just happens before she even realizes she has been sucked into it. She is twelve, hormonal, and had been going to bed after midnight for a few days. This was too much for her fragile chemicals. I suggested we get back to a regular sleep schedule to see if it would help her feel more secure and in control of her emotions. Sure enough, the next day was a different story. And since then things have been happy.
Paije is such a sweet girl! But, let’s face it. Sometimes we push it too much and don’t pay attention to what our bodies, or our children’s bodies need. If you have a teenage child or a toddler who is grumpy, maybe you need to check your schedule and see if you can make adjustments to accomdate more rest.
Being tired is no excuse for having an attitude problem. Otherwise mothers could have an excuse to act out almost every day. However, after the appropriate communication teaching has been done, don’t forget to look at some of the other factors which could be leading to the emotional outburst and solve them if you can.
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