It’s a fairly common scene at my house with my 3- and 4 1/2-year-olds. “But Mooooommy,” the whining begins, “I wanted the other doll (or dessert or dress).” For any number of reasons, I say “no.” We don’t have any cookies in the kitchen, it’s your sister’s turn with that toy, we’ve already discussed this, the answer is no.
The wailing starts, followed quickly by tears. On a good day, we might talk about how my little one is feeling (sad, frustrated, angry, tired, or hungry) and what might help her feel better (a snuggle or a story, usually). I stay calm, she calms down, and we get on with whatever we had been doing. On a bad day, I find myself snapping (or even outright yelling) at my daughter that we don’t get what we want by throwing tantrums, and then I send her to time out on the stairs until she can calm down. I walk out of the room and proceed to silently berate myself for yelling.
I used to think that the difference between a good day and a bad day depended on my daughters’ behavior. Then one morning I found myself yelling at the girls for something relatively benign and age-appropriate (albeit annoying), and it hit me. The problem wasn’t my kids. It was me. They’re still young; it’s not their job to have good judgment and respond appropriately and calmly to all of life’s challenges. It’s my job to teach them how, generally by modeling those behaviors myself. But I wasn’t doing it — at least not as often or as well as I wanted to.
You can read more about my journey into Mindful Parenting and sign up for my Stress-Less Challenge over on HuffPost Parents!