Oh, that Amy would cease to simply, impulsively, immediately, express how frustrated, angry, or upset she is at every occasion.
I know that she is expressing her feelings and that it’s about her and not about us. She’s not actively trying to annoy us, manipulate us, or make us feel bad. I think she’s still rather surprised when her expressions DO annoy us.
There’s the first-level reactions — we ask her to clean up or something, she grunts loudly or sighs heavily or bangs her fist on her thigh or says “I will NEVER!” (usually while actually starting to obey). Or, she’s trying to do something and it doesn’t work after one or two tries; similar responses.
These are tiresome enough, because the provoking situations are so ordinary and routine and recurring. Get used to it already, please.
Then there’s the second-level reactions. These are usually when we’ve had to repeat something — like “that’s why I told you not to stand on your chair” or “put your blanket down so you can use both hands to clean up” or “eat your lunch, please” either because she’s gotten distracted or ignored the first request. Then we get an exasperated “I’m TIRED of you telling me that.” Or if a note of annoyance creeps into our voice, “I don’t like the way you’re talking to me.”
That’s extremely annoying. Of course, it’s just repeating what she’s heard — we have said we’re tired of this or that behavior from her. It’s super annoying for her to toss this kind of thing back in our faces. Granted, we should be, and I want to be, fair, respectful, compassionate, etc, modeling the behavior we want from her. But it’s as if, to her, she never needs correction and we always do. I want her to see a little gray. (May I add that it’s also extremely annoying when she gives us permission to do something?)
There’s maybe a third level — when I’m trying to model communication, trying to explain, trying to listen and respond — I ask her to do x, she says she’s not going to, I say what the consequence will be, she says she’s not going to let me do that… I know there are times, situations, issues that call for communication and others that call for immediate concrete consequences, but it’s not always easy to tell which is which. Especially when it starts as such a simple, normal thing — if we did immediate concrete consequences for every time a simple and normal thing escalates, we’d be having immediate concrete consequences all day long. Sometimes it’s not even a matter of obedience, but trying to explain something or problem-solve together, and it feels like she’s absolutely determined to be helpless — every suggestion met with rebuttal, no suggestions of her own.
I’m tired of the repetition around ordinary recurring simple normal things. I know repetition is important with young kids. But I’m still tired of it. When do ordinary things become ordinary? I think we need to choose at least a handful of these ordinary things that will no longer be occasions for explanation or communication. It can be hard not to overtalk everything; I’m just as concerned about not losing opportunities for communication.
She has every right to feel whatever she feels, and I don’t ever want to compel her to hide, deny, or repress her feelings. But I do absolutely want her to learn tact, consideration, understanding how her behavior and expressions affect others, ways to deal with her feelings, appropriate ways and times and places to express her feelings, impulse control, frustration tolerance, and so on. It’s hard to talk about those skills in a way that makes sense to a four-year-old mind and DOESN’T equate, in such a mind, to repressing feelings.
Some of you reading will be thinking, yeesh, this kid has them wrapped around her finger.
Others of you will be recoiling in horror that I would ever be annoyed with her or enforce a consequence for anything.
I hope most of you will be nodding in sympathy.