Friday, January 29, 2010

Disequilibrium: Where is my sweet child?

We have had a couple of events around here that make me wonder if Tessa has been possessed by aliens.

Yesterday, we had what I thought was a great day. In the morning I read to her in bed for a half hour before she got ready for school, and I took her to school. I made her a lunch from her "acceptable" list. I picked her up, and informed her that she would get a chance to play with her best friend for as long as she liked at the playground - they played on the monkey bars and ran around until THEY were ready to leave. After dropping off her best friend at home, we went to the library, and I read her choice of books to her (a science fiction graphic novel involving dinosaurs in space - not exactly my cup of tea but I was willing to go along with it). We came home, and I'd already prepped dinner, so I played American Girl dolls (an elaborate story involving horses and the character of Princess Ellie) with her for an hour or so.

I really was ready to nominate myself as Mother of the Day.

And then, all heck broke loose. Her bear's hat was hanging on by a thread, so I cut the thread. She screamed at me. She cried. She yelled. She slammed a door in my face. She locked herself in the bathroom. She threw things.

What the heck?

I said, "I'm sorry, I can fix the hat, and I'll sew it back on, no problem. I didn't realize how important this was to you."

More screaming, crying, stomping feet, hiding from me.

By the time I was in bed, I was completely wiped out and felt exhausted and sad. She was MEAN! I am fully aware that she loves me, and that this was just a fit, and it's what kids do sometimes...but that doesn't mean that I had to like it. I wanted to reply in kind and yell and stomp but I maintained my temper, and THAT was exhausting.

Sooooo - any advice, my cyber friends? How do I prevent, or at least lessen, future episodes? I jokingly told Ryan that if she was a teenager I'd have immediately suspected drugs (not funny, but dark humor none-the-less). Do seven year olds have a change in hormones? Is there some new cognitive leap on the horizon that her body is getting used to? Is she about to grow six inches?

Will I have to deal with this again this year?!

Tessa is capable of so much sweetness, love, wit, kindness, humor, intelligence. Last night I really missed that girl. She's mostly back today, but only after I threatened removal of privleges if she didn't shape up.



Julie said...

Hi Kristina,

My 9 year old Emily does this too once in awhile. The temper tantrums have subsided but now she can be downright snarky when she talks to me. It's not often and most of the time I couldn't ask for a better daughter.
I think what has worked for us is that while she's in the moment I try and stay calm and don't really engage her. She can sit on the couch and rant or go to her room and scream. Once she's calm we try to talk about it and I'm very clear that she can be upset and show emotion but that it is unacceptable to make someone else in our family fee like they are being attacked. (we have a 7 year old son who is sometimes the victim of her rants). Now that she's a 4th grade and almost 10 I think it has worked.
I don't mind fits-heck sometimes I have them too! but I do mind when she (or our son) makes us feel bad or says things are that are inappropriate. Hope that helps.

Krystal said...

Hi Kristina,
Caleb and Jockey get demanding, sarcastic, huffy, yelling etc etc. Finally came to me this week (yeah, took nearly 7 years), I said to them "Jesus loves me just as much as he loves you. Why would you treat someone that Jesus loves, so badly?" They thought for a while and then apologized. Probably not a cure all, but it worked this week over here.

Anonymous said...

My suggestion would be to think about what your parents would have done in response to that reaction. Once you've done this, do half of their response. Gratefulness is a tremendous quality but needs to be developed early. Some expression of disappointment should be allowed in this case but getting away with a full-blown tantrum is a powerplay and needs to be squelched. You're the mommy - she's the kid. She gets to talk to her dolls that way, not you.

Kristina said...

Julie, disengaging is not what I do best (I want to talk it to death) but I think you have a good point. Tessa needs some time to work through her feelings without me. Krystal, we're talking a lot about the golden rule (treat others as you would have them treat you) a lot - good reminder! Anonymous (who are you?), hmmm, I don't know. I think I would have received a slap for that behavior, and that's not what I do. But I do believe in immediate consequences, though I didn't emphasize that in my post. Working on gratitude is a hard one! We discuss it regularly and I try to model it and we even work with a homeless shelter...but not all of these messages are internalized for Tessa yet. I do squelch tantrums....but it does exhaust me. What I want to know is, how can we SKIP the tantrums? All of you - thank you fo ryour comments and suggestions. :-)