Last year I was musing about how lovely it was to have a 6 year old. Daughter was easy to get along with, easy to take places, interesting to talk to, and generally just very enjoyable to have around. Then a couple of months before her 7th birthday The Change started to take place. We moved from equilibrium to disequilibrium, as one child development expert put it. At first I chalked it up to just a normal phase of growth, but the situation has only worsened over the last little while.
Every day around late afternoon she goes crazy. She spits and drools, she runs around like a demented lunatic, she “sings” loudly and obnoxiously. She torments her little brother, and anyone else who happens to be around. She is argumentative, rebellious, rude, and generally behaving in the sort of way that makes one want to lock her in her room. She has had several raging tantrums lately that have definitely gotten my attention, and started me thinking that perhaps this was more than just a phase.
So I’d been thinking about this issue for a while, realizing that I was simply not handling these outbursts in the way I believed I should, which was of course making everything worse (nothing like hearing your raging child spew phrases that you know you’ve said yourself in moments of less-than-stellar parenting). We were in a vicious cycle whereby my reactions to her behaviours were fueling more of the same: if anybody wants proof that coercive, punitive, authoritative parenting makes everything worse just come see me.
However, while it’s true that I was not handling the behaviours well, I also began to see that perhaps the behaviours themselves were really just the surface signs of a deeper problem. I very much believe in the saying Kids who feel right, act right. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I have not been spending very much one-on-one time with her lately. And I grew more certain as I thought about it that her behaviour was a cry for attention. Heck, most grownups don’t really understand why they act the way they do and kids have far less experience and knowledge to draw upon. A seven year old can be so articulate in some ways that it’s hard to remember they are still so very young and unable to analyze their own complex emotions and drives.
You may wonder how a homeschooling, mostly stay-home Mum can fail to spend much time with her Daughter. Well, I am both blessed and cursed with children who play very independently. I can pretty much go an entire day doing housework, working on the computer, weeding the garden, and various other tasks without ever doing much more than making snacks and meals, kissing boo-boos, and stepping in every now and then to help with minor disputes. With the arrival of spring, adding yardwork and other pleasures to my list of duties, it became too darned easy to put the kids off for another day while I caught up on my work. I convinced myself that because the kids weren’t specifically demanding that I spend time with them, they were just fine with it and if I only just take this one day, I’ll be all caught up and able to spend time with them again. Yet somehow I never seem to get caught up.
And so I have adopted a new Resolution to start spending alot more one-on-one time with my kids, especially Daughter who is obviously needing me right now. I’ve had to conciously remind myself that I only have so much time to spend with my young children, and housework can wait. I’ve started to limit my domestic activities to one small task at a time, in between which I do something with the kids. I’ve focussed on being intentional and present whenever I do. On just one day we sat and read books together, did puzzles, went to the playground, the library, and many other things that we normally do over the course of a week. Surprisingly, I managed to get most of my domestic tasks done too, enough to feel satisfied with my day’s work. I believe I am already seeing the benefits, and I’m convinced that I’m on the right track. It’s too early to tell, and I don’t expect an instant end to her obnoxious-ness. But I’m confident that things will improve. In my next post, I’ll write more about the importance (to me) of maintaining a connection with my children, and how difficult that can be as they get more independent.