It took me awhile to read Dr. Deborah McNamara’s Rest Play Grow, Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One) because it was extremely heavy and thought-provoking, maybe a little redundant, but I must say repetition works well for parents too.
I reserved this book from the library and a few others on the same topic because I totally hit a wall with my daughter Audrey's behaviour.
I felt like I was stuck not knowing what to do or what worked to calm her during her frequent outbursts or tantrums.
She is three years old.
My natural instinct has always been to master the best possible way to overcome troubling or challenging situations and “win” the battles.
Well, with parenting my competitiveness derived from years of playing sports is certainly still alive but has taken the backseat. When it comes to children’s behaviour there aren’t usually quick fixes.
I’ve always been a book girl so I began searching for books on tantrums and peaceful parenting. Rest Play Grow arrived first at the library.
Although as I mentioned it’s extremely heavy with child development jargon, it’s really opened my eyes to see what Audrey’s dealing with.
As a bit of a sensitive yet strong-willed girl, the preschooler behaviour is heightened for her. And that explains why I’m only reading about this type of behaviour now. I never read books like this when Jack was that age (he had tantrums don’t get me wrong, but not nearly as many).
To summarize, preschoolers simply don’t know how to control their emotions yet. That may seem obvious, however we (well I do anyways) often get frustrated with their behaviour so obviously we sometimes need a reminder.
Preschoolers are just learning what emotions are. They’re testing the waters.
When they get angry, they don’t have the maturity or ability to reason. As parents, we need to be their guides. We need to explain throwing toys isn’t nice and might hurt someone. We need to talk to them about what emotions are so they’re able to identify what’s happening within them.
“You threw a toy at mom, you must be angry, but that makes me sad.”
Sometimes it kind of feels a little silly to talk this way, almost robotic, but it works.
The key is, we need to have patience through this stage. We also need to have a bit more compassion for how they’re feeling too.
That may be hard when your daughter is ripping the door stopper off the wall and throwing it at you, because you simply told her it was bedtime, (true story... this happened last week) but it’s important to keep your cool.
So basically, buckle up and hold on for the ride.
As child development psychologist Gordon Neufeld states, “It’s lucky for us they have small bodies and poor aim.”
McNamara, who was one of Neufeld’s students, also emphasizes in this novel how important it is to hold your ground and be firm, yet compassionate (is that ever a challenge!) with what’s not allowed or acceptable, circling back to throwing objects at people’s heads.
She also stresses we need to create a safe environment for our children, a place where they feel comfortable expressing their emotions too.
Sometimes it's OK to have a good cry.
She included this quote at the beginning of the Tears and Tantrums chapter:
“Heaven knows we need never to ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of the earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before – more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.
I loved this quote, but I'm also a sucker for old literature.
McNamara also touches on many other topics, including separation anxiety, alpha roles, and the importance of play. I was really honing in on, as I'm sure you noticed, the sections on emotions and tantrums.
I highly recommend this book to parents who have also hit a wall as I had with Audrey (figuratively and literally banging my head against the wall with frustration). Just take note, it’s not a quick fix or even a quick read.
But the time investment is worthwhile.