Thursday, June 4, 2009


D and I have both been really frustrated with E lately. She takes L's toys away, annoys her by sticking her feet in L's face in the car, "helps" her walk, and sometimes even pushes her over. My knee-jerk reaction to her behavior is to yell or roughly physically remove her. It's not any better than what she is doing to her sister. In fact, my reaction is worse, because I'm an adult who should be modeling appropriate ways to deal with anger and conflict.

I've been thinking about all the things I *know* intellectually about her behavior and trying to remember them in the heat of the moment to more effectively help her.

I know:
that her 3 year old brain is not physically capable of empathy.
that she is often trying to help L or play with L when she accidentally hurts her.
that she hasn't fully learned to recognize when L changes from enjoying what E is doing, to making sounds that mean STOP.
that even when she does recognize the L doesn't like what she's doing, she doesn't understand why that should signal her to stop.
And even IF she knows she needs to stop, her 3 year old brain is not physically capable of impulse control, especially if she is enjoying what she is doing.

So, when I was posting my last post about L's first word and how she's experimenting, it dawned on me that E is doing the same thing. I'm thinking while I'm typing here- if I look at everything I *know* about E's behavior, what are the questions she's asking with her experimentation?

If I do this what will L's reaction be? What will mom's reaction be? Why does she react differently when I do X than when I do Y? This time L laughed. That time L cried. What was the difference? I'll do it again to try to figure that out. Mom likes it when I help her. What if I help L? Why does L cry when I help her? Mom likes when I take some things away from L (chokables), but not other things (toys)? Which one is this thing?

Of course, because she hasn't yet developed empathy or impulse control, usually she's just doing something because she wants to do it, and realizes after the fact that it causes reactions from us. I've been spending way too much time reacting in a way that tells her "You're bad and I'm angry with you." I need to react in a way that says "I'm going to help you answer these experiment questions. I know you want to learn how to act. I'll help you learn."

As usual, the way to do that is to be more present, more in the moment, more aware. Some days I'm able to do that really well, but it requires my attention, my focus. If I sit on the floor between them and see things from each perspective and work with them, we connect and flow. If I stay focused on me and what I'm doing or want to be doing and see them as a problem to solve or a battle to win so I can move on to the next task, then tempers flare and feelings get hurt, and nothing actually gets better anyway.

So tomorrow (or today since it's after midnight) is a new day. But that's too big. When I wake up in the morning that's one moment. How will I choose to react in that moment? And the next. And the one after that.

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