Saturday, May 2, 2009

Anger management

We're dealing with a very angry three year old at the moment. Tiny things fill her tiny being with rage. A shoe on the wrong foot, a marker pen that dries up, a dress with sleeves that are too tight, a request to get in the bathtub, and worst of all, getting the response 'No' to a question.

I'm a big believer in the philosophy that it is OK, in fact healthy, to get angry. It is the method of expressing that anger that needs molding by us parents and teachers into a socially acceptable form. Perhaps swearing should not be quite so taboo. There is nothing quite like spitting a satisfying obsenity when you drop a book on your foot. Having to teach my child how to express anger in a healthy way makes me realize I barely know how to do it myself, and usually need to have a large glass of wine before spilling the words out.

We are not there yet with geekygirl, that is for sure. She isn't hitting the booze, thank goodness, instead hitting others is the reaction that we get most often, both at home and and preschool. One particular child, a boy we will call Billy, seems to bear the brunt of her rage at preschool. This boy has been her friend since they were both tiny (in fact I think he was the one she used to bite, back in the toddler class. I guess looking at it in that light we have made some progress). They are fast friends, but as soon as they get upset with one another, out come Geekygirl's fisticuffs. To his credit this little boy does not hit back. The fact that at 3 he is already a foot taller than all the other kids, and if you look at his dad who is over 6 ft and at least 300lb, is likely going to be a bruiser of a kid, makes me wonder why this is the lad Geekygirl chooses to pick fights with. Sometimes she manages to control her hands, but instead brings our her best insults "you are a poo poo head (also stongly discouraged at school, but in my opinion better than violence), or to me and her father "I DON'T love you anymore".

It has been a week of anger, rage and contrition. We had one morning where, because apparently all the clothes in her closet were unwearable (I confess to removing a few tattered favourites in secret in the hope some of the newer, cuter, less orphanage like items would find favour), she walked into the kitchen and hit her dad before he had the chance to even say good morning.

That morning, I think it was Wednesday, was spent mainly in time out, and culminated with a wailing child with no shoes on being plugged into her cat seat and whisked off to school, leaving us parents exhausted and drained before our work day had begun. The exasperation of trying to help Geekygirl control her behavior is thrown into contrast, perhaps too much, by the adorableness of Geekybaby. Now toddling in his robust arm swinging manner, he will enter the screaming mayhem that is our kitchen proffering his shoes to be put on, or a book to be read, full of smiles and giggles and placid tractability.

But we made it through the week, with a lot of time outs straight out of supernanny, where it takes 10 minutes of restarting the timer to get a calm three minutes, a lot of "well I still love you, even when I feel angry". Today we have made a sticker chart, a hitting free day will earn a sticker, and five stickers some kind of fabulous prize, I think an Ariel costume. I'm a bit worried this might be too high a bar though, since despite good intentions, I have been hit (albeit not very emphatically) twice already today. My new idea is to put 6 sweeties in a jar, each day, and take one out for every hit. Whats left can be consumed with dinner. Better living through bribery.


followthatdog said...

How frustrating. We've had our fair share of hitting in this house. He's getting better now, more angry "I so fwustwated" or "I don't love you mommy" and less whacks and hitting. One thing that helped Django was a bit of deep breathing to calm down. It'll pass. I promise, she's just getting in touch with her emotions. Doesn't make it easier on the moms and dads though, does it.

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