Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Secret Messages, Part 3

More thoughts in my subtext series, inspired by Angie...

I tell Raccoon I love him, but lately with the stress of moving and less "just us" time with the new baby, there has been a lot of angry faces flying back and forth between us. I didn't realize how negative everything was getting until Raccoon told me to stop yelling at him all the time. He perceived my comments - don't squish the baby, stop whining, stop hitting, don't do that - as anger directed at him and he was mirroring it back to me.

He soaks up all of our family stress, which is high right now, and then doesn't know how to handle it so his behavior becomes intolerable. If I, with 31 years of coping strategies, am feeling overwhelmed by our move next week, it's no wonder that my three year old is falling apart. This move is going to be a good thing for our family, I believe that, but right now this transition stage stinks for all of us.

So my heart wants Raccoon to know that I love him, but the message he's receiving is closer to "I'm too busy for you right now" and "I can't handle your bad behavior!" I cried myself to sleep the night before last because this is not how I want things to be.

Today, I set a goal for myself  - give Raccoon five loving faces that show pleasure and how much I enjoy being with him. I'm trying to slow things down a bit and snuggle more. He's also been feeling sick which doesn't improve his behavior any. We snuggled so much this morning that he fell asleep, something he never does! So now I'm off to pack...

But one more triumph first. I've mentioned the heart message of persevering before. What I usually end up telling him to do is give up because I get so upset at his freak-outs and meltdowns when he's trying to do something. I also want him to know that I care about his problems, but the message I've been sending is just the opposite.

This morning, I tried a strategy I read about (not sure where) to mirror what he's feeling back to him since he doesn't have enough words or self-awareness yet to express it himself. "It seems like you're starting to get frustrated. You're whining and hitting. I can tell that this is important to you." He came over to snuggle and I asked him if it was a lot important or a little. "A little? Okay, then let's have a little fussing." He thought this was very funny so I again asked him to fuss a little more. "Okay, now what did you try? Did it work? What went wrong? What could we try now?" And MIRACLE of MIRACLES he came up with an idea to fix the problem himself!

It didn't work perfectly so then he had another meltdown, but I feel like he made some progress. In the middle, I was getting annoyed/frustrated by his whining and fussing pat way through and I was about to send the give up message again, but the thought popped into my head, "This is not my problem (he was trying to find something to sit on inside of a big box to do a puppet show). It's a repetitive scenario in our home - Raccoon wants to do something but it doesn't work the first time so he freaks out while my husband or I try to fix it. But no matter what we offer or do, it's not good enough and the meltdown goes on and on and on. It was very freeing to think today, "This is not my problem, it is his problem. My job is to help him stay as calm as possible while we work towards a satisfactory solution."

Packing? Hmmmm. Maybe I'll get a snack instead. :)

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