I’m going to open up and share with y’all the struggles I’ve had with my son Samuel. I’m doing this because I know I’m not the only mommy with a hard kiddo and I know that having someone who can relate to what you’re going through as a mother can bring so much comfort. Often times motherhood can feel so isolating but I hope you know that you are not alone. If you are struggling with a hard toddler know that it will get better, I promise friend. Some kids need a little more attention and love than others and that’s okay!
Samuel has been the child that has brought me to my knees and tested me on every level humanly possible but, he is also the child that has taught me more about life and about myself than anyone ever has. He is my special beautiful boy.
My son Sam is a very intuitive, strong-willed, and an emotional little guy. He has the biggest heart and is so smart but he feels things very deeply. The depth of that boy’s soul is unlike any of my other children. I like to joke that Sam has two emotions happy and angry that’s it! As a baby he had colic and he never slept, I’m talking like would not sleep longer than 4 hour stretches for the first 6 months of his life. Sleep deprivation is no joke.
At around 15 months I really took notice that he was struggling more than the average child to manage his emotions. No toddler is good at managing their emotions but Sam’s temper tantrums were next level and getting him to calm down from a meltdown (as I like to call them) was a challenge. There was also still a major lack of sleep going on that was exacerbating his temper.
At this time in my life, I was juggling having a newborn, an extremely difficult toddler, and a kindergartener. I felt like I was drowning every day and that I was failing at being the mom my children deserved. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.
Sam’s temper only seemed to be getting worse and his meltdowns more frequent. I can’t tell you how many times I opted out of playdates and had to leave my shopping cart half full in the middle of the store because once he felt an ounce of anger he would explode. He was unpredictable and because of this, my anxiety went into overdrive. His meltdowns would be so severe sometimes that I would become paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do or say in these moments and that just made me feel like I was a complete failure. Not to mention seeing your child so out of control like that is very scary.
We could not continue on this path and I knew I had to do something. I had to figure out how to help my son so of course, I turned to my faith and books. That’s usually the first place I go when I am faced with a problem.
I’ve mentioned this book in a previous blog post but the first book I turned to was The Baby Whisperer. I went straight to chapter eight called Taming Toddlers which was the catalyst to my now obsession with teaching my children to be emotionally intelligent. I began implementing the F. I. T. strategy as discussed in that chapter with Sam and it was life-changing.
When I first started implementing the F. I. T. strategy it wasn’t easy and there was a lot of trial and error but I kept at it. I had to modify it slightly to accommodate what worked for Sam and what didn’t. I also began reading more articles and books and listening to podcasts about all things of the mind and child development. I took pieces from each scholar while keeping F. I. T. as my foundation to formulate a plan that was specific to Sam.
Vocabulary was a HUGE component in getting Sam to a better place. So I vigorously began working on building his vocabulary so he would be able to express his wants and needs to me. As I’m sure you are aware one of the main reasons for toddler meltdowns is their lack of vocabulary. They have reached an age where they know what they want to eat, what they want to wear, what show they want to watch, etc. but they can’t articulate that which causes them frustration.
Another major component that I set out to teach Samuel was his emotional intelligence. Because Sam is so emotional and his heart so sensitive his feelings would get the best of him. So I began teaching him what different feelings meant. We would play the game “Can you show me your ___ face?!” Insert feeling and we would make that face at each other. He loved it and thought it was funny seeing me make all these silly faces!
I would make sure to identify and validate his emotions whether they were happy or sad or angry I always made sure he knew I understood what he was feeling. If he did something that was kind I would make sure to say things like “You made mommy so happy when you ___!” (fill in the blank) or if he did something like hit his sister I would make sure he knew that that made mommy sad. Always identifying the emotion behind the action.
If you think about it, toddlers are experiencing the world around them for the very first time. They are experiencing happiness, and sadness, and anger for the first time and it can be really confusing for them because they have no idea what all these feelings mean.
Lastly, I made sure that Sam knew what was acceptable behavior and what was unacceptable. Because his outbursts of anger were SO severe I was really worried that he would hurt himself or hurt someone else. I think it was very important for me to explain to Sam that he needed to practice self-control. That was taking deep breaths, counting to 5 slowly, taking him to a quiet place where he could regroup, removing him from the situation that is causing the stress. Always making sure that he was safe and that others around him were safe.
Samuel responds best to positive reinforcement as do most children. That is the way I parent all three of my children but with Sam, it’s like positive reinforcement on steroids. To this day before he goes to bed, I always whisper in his ear “You are such a good boy Sam and mommy is so proud of you”. I think it’s important that he knows that his outbursts don’t define him and that he knows I see his heart.
It has taken years to get to where we are today and a lot of hard work. I have cried myself to sleep more times than I can count. I have doubted myself and my abilities as a mother. I have felt like I wasn’t strong enough to handle this child that God had given me. I know that our situation could be so much worse but this was our family’s struggle and our fight. I refused to give up and because of that Sam has come so far!
Often times the emotional kids, like my Sam, are labeled the “bad kid”. Well, you know what I have to say about that…f*ck that. They aren’t the bad kids they are the emotional kids. They are the children that are insanely smart and intuitive. They are the children that will challenge you in the best ways possible. They are the children that will change you. They are the children that if guided in the right direction will rule the world one day. They are the strong ones.
I firmly believe that the mind is the most powerful force of nature. It is extremely complex but don’t let that scare you! I also firmly believe that no one knows a child better than their mother. As Rachel Hollis said, “You can’t fail at a job you were created to do.” You were given this child for a reason and together you can move mountains my friend. I just know it.