I am living with a drunk little man.
And he doesn’t stop with his wildly crazy talking and schizophrenic-like tantrums.
Our three-year-old son has definitely entered into the “terrible twos” (actually, it’s “terrible threes” because he is the big “3”) with all the energy and intensity that rivals that of a ticking time-bomb. But, this timer actually does go off. And quite frequently.
Those of you that follow me on IG or FB may see the adorable pics of said son grinning as he devours an ice cream cone or plays on the swings, and your immediate reaction may be that our little guy is quite adorable. Yes, it is true. When he smiles and his tiny dimples shine through at the corners of his mouth, my heart melts. When he climbs onto my lap and showers my face with kisses, I don’t want to let him out of my momma-bear grip. But when he throws his toys across the room because he doesn’t want to clean up, when he hits his sister because he isn’t getting the cookie he wants, when he yells “NO NO NO” at the top of his lungs for no good reason, I feel like I’m dealing with a drunk little man.
How does one calm down a three-year-old who obviously cannot control his own emotions and actions?
Well, trying to rationalize with a child whose mind is not fully developed is akin to trying to get a drunk person to see that no, more beer is not good, lets get some water and Tylenol into your system instead. You can’t try to reason or explain anything, so you just make the person do the action. Shove the cup of water in his hand. Put the headache/pain reliever in the other hand and sit there until he pops the pills. In my case, when my son begins his transformation to drunk little man and starts swatting at his sister, I know trying to rationalize with him will fall on deaf ears. So I don’t. But herein lies the problem.
What happens when the drunk person swats away the glass? What happens when our normally angelic looking son looks me in the eye, and rather than listen to my firm yet calm statement of “Hitting makes Misha sad. NO.” actually starts yelling even louder?
This is the dilemma my husband and I have with our son, our drunk little guy. Ignoring tantrums? Tried it. Positive reinforcements for good behavior? Tried it. Negative consequences for bad behavior? Tried it. I asked friends for advice, and attempted implementing numerous reward charts and the like, but to no avail. And then a friend mentioned this to me: consistency. Whatever choice I make on how to parent, I have to be consistent in it. And persevere with that choice even if the immediate result is not what I envision or would like.
Isn’t that the truth? And not even just with parenting, but with, well, life. Consistency. Persevering. Take my work, my training, my faith, my friendships, my family–all of these areas require that I continue to forge forward even when the “going gets tough” and I think there are no solutions to the inevitable problems that arise. I can do it with weightlifting. I see the problem in my lifts (rainbowing the bar), and so I follow the plan my coach lays out for me so I can rectify the issue (extend first!). I see where I can be a better teacher (transitions between activities), and so I film myself in class to see how I can better get students from doing one task to then doing another. But parenting? There’s a lot of pressure there. I don’t believe I will ever be the “perfect” mother, but I do want to be a mother that grows her children into strong believers in Christ, children that are responsible citizens that will make a positive impact in the world (I know, it’s cliched sounding, but true).
So whenever I see my son tantruming or being the crazy drunk little guy, I internally cringe. I don’t want these actions to follow him to adulthood, and I don’t want the crazy drunk little guy to grow up to be the crazy drunk big man.
But thankfully, when those moments of fear or trepidation enter my head, I remember CONSISTENCY. PERSEVERENCE. THIS TOO SHALL PASS. And so I use my firm voice. I set him in time-out if needed. I make him apologize for hitting his sister. I talk to him about what it means to be a loving person and good brother. I give him hugs after the tears are wiped away.
And you know what? The drunkard leaves. My smiling boy returns. And my heart is happy.