Opinion

January 14, 2014

Misty Watson: Behaving like a 2-year-old

You don’t want to get near me when I’m hungry.

I turn into a mix of a Tasmanian devil, a grizzly bear and a hyena.

Same for when I’m super tired. Oh, yeah, and when I’m in pain. Or when I’m lonely or mad.

So I try to keep in mind the same would be true for my 2-year-old, Sophie. Except with Sophie, she hasn’t learned how to communicate those big feelings she’s having to me. Cue meltdown!

There’s a website, www.reasonsmysoniscrying.com. It’s exactly what it sounds like. I can relate to some of those posts.

There are tears when Sophie wants to put her shoes on herself, then tears because I’m not helping her put on her shoes. There are tears because I hand her the “toast, butter on it” that she asked for. “NOOO! No toast, butter on it.”

I take a deep breath and tell myself it’s completely normal. It’s as normal for toddlers to have a meltdown as it is for adults to get frustrated, causing them to swear, throw something, slam something down and yell.

My mantra: “She’s not giving me a hard time. She’s having a hard time.” I don’t know who coined the phrase, but I’m glad that person did. Sophie’s sole purpose isn’t to drive me insane, though it feels that way at times.

I remind myself not to expect my 2-year-old to behave better than me when she’s in pain, needs to potty, hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If I’m allowed to throw myself on my bed and pound my fists into my mattress while screaming into my pillow, why isn’t she? (Everyone does that about twice a week, right?)

I find it’s common for parents, me included, to forget and hold our children to a higher standard than we hold ourselves.

How many times do we come home, snap at our spouse because they haven’t taken out the trash? Then later apologize and say, “I’m sorry I snapped. I was just so tired and hungry when I got home. And I was mad about stupid drivers who insist on going 45 mph in the left-hand lane of the four-lane from the bypass all the way to Duvall Road.”

But then when our toddlers snap we don’t say, “They’re having a hard day and they can’t even communicate efficiently yet to tell me what’s wrong. What can I do to help them through this rough period?”

There’s a great tool out there to help us identify our child’s needs. It’s called pHALT, which is an acronym for potty/pain, hungry, angry, lonely and tired. It’s a checklist to run through to determine why a toddler — or an adult — might be acting out. Acting out is an indicator something isn’t quite right, not an indicator your child is a brat.

Here’s an example of how to use it: After work you hurry to pick up your daughter from the sitter, then run to the grocery store. But your daughter just isn’t cooperating. She buckles her legs when you try to put her in the car seat. She goes limp when you stand her in the parking lot and hold her hand. She refuses to walk. So then you pick her up to carry her and she pushes away from you.

It is ever so tempting to snap, “Quit acting like that,” threaten punishment and/or enforce some kind of punishment.

If you’re using pHALT instead, you would start the checklist by asking, “Do you need to potty?” “Are you in pain?” “Are you hungry?” She nods. Then you figure out she hasn’t eaten in three hours. You pull out a granola bar from your purse. After a few bites, she’s your sweet little girl again, and you go through the grocery store without further incident.

It’s not spoiling a child to meet his or her needs. It is not rewarding bad behavior to feed a hungry child, to stop what you’re doing to play a game with a child who is feeling lonely or to hug a child who is angry.

I have been using pHALT, telling Sophie what she’s feeling and how to respond appropriately for several months now. “You are mad because I won’t let you lick the bathtub. It’s OK to be mad. I’m not going to let you kick me. Would you like to kick a pillow until you feel better?”

She comes to tell us when she’s ready for bed in the evenings because so many times we’ve said, “You are tired. It’s making you not feel well. We need to rest when we’re tired.”

For me, parenting isn’t about forcing our children to fit a certain happy-all-the-time mold. It’s about teaching them how to handle the bad times as well as the good and guiding them to make wise choices.

No, Sophie’s not perfect. We still have our meltdowns and frustrations, and we always will.

And you may very well see me in the grocery store, doctor’s office or a restaurant one day with a screaming 2-year-old. And I may very well be visibly frustrated.

If you do, will you pass us a granola bar? We might just both be hungry.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can contact her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Tax holiday weekend is perfect time to shop

    August means children across the state are headed back to school, and for parents that means it’s time to buy new shoes and clothes for children who have outgrown their old ones. It means it’s time to buy new school supplies, and it may even mean it’s time to get a child a new computer to do their school work.

    July 30, 2014

  • "We’ve had a great ride"

    For 60 years, the Green Spot has been a part of Dalton. It survived long after most other locally owned grocery stores in the area had folded to competition from big chain grocery stores and to big box super stores.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charles Oliver: Traveler from a district in Columbia?

    Jim Gray was traveling out of Orlando International Airport when a Transportation Security Administration officer tried to stop him from boarding his plane.

    July 29, 2014

  • Letter: Children are not the enemy

    We recently read somewhere that our country is at war, not with another nation but with one another.

    July 29, 2014

  • Ensuring the joy of reading

    They’re little, they’re libraries, and best of all, they’re free.

    July 28, 2014

  • Move carefully, but soon

    No one intended for it to happen. No one had any bad motives.
    But during a period of 40 years or more, quite a few people didn’t do enough planning, didn’t have enough foresight to see what all of the development in Dalton would do.

    July 27, 2014

  • Local school systems must bear costs of federal immigration failure

    No word. No warning. Little help.
    That’s what Dalton Public Schools officials received from the federal government when it dropped 30 Central American students into local classrooms last school year.

    July 26, 2014

  • Sacrifices worth honoring

    Members of the Dalton City Council were recently approached by representatives of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart with a request to declare Dalton a Purple Heart City. Council members indicated they will approve the request.

    July 24, 2014

  • We must do better

    The numbers tell a sad tale.
    Registered voters: 36,843.
    Cards cast: 5,307.
    That means the turnout for Tuesday’s runoffs in Whitfield County was a measly 14.4 percent, according to unofficial results from the Whitfield County elections office.

    July 23, 2014

  • Letter: Control immigration

    Thousands are starting to pour into our country, and things are getting personal. Why would we end up the bad guys if we turn away children who aren’t ours? How does it make us better people to let one man steal from our children and stand by and do nothing?

    July 23, 2014