Monday, January 25, 2010

peaceful parenting: Tackling Distress Tantrums with Brain Research

peaceful parenting: Tackling Distress Tantrums with Brain Research

Great information on tantrums can be found in this article. I'm finding though, that it is easier said than done to remain calm and be a peaceful presence when Pookaloo is screaming and I just WANT HER TO STOP!

For example, last night, she woke up and was in distress. I picked her up from her little toddler bed and cuddled her, which often settles her. Last night, she was restless and continually moved and intermittently cried out. (Why precisely is a mystery. She's still working on those lower molars. She has a runny nose which could be a new cold or could be allergies. She also turned out to have a wet diaper, see below.) I was still half asleep, and I didn't want to get out of bed, and I didn't want to nurse her in bed (something which is increasingly less comfortable as she gets more and more teeth).

At first, we were soothing. "Shh... relax, go back to sleep."

Then, we were irritated. "SHHH! Why don't you just RELAX and SLEEP!"

When she kept escalating, I got up. I discovered the soaked diaper and changed her. I took her out to the living room and started to let her nurse, but she was as restless and fitful at the breast as she had been off of it, and it was painful to me to have her pop on and off repeatedly.

I started wondering why I felt so angry and have been so easily irritated with Pookaloo this week. I asked God why, and the response came quick and convicting:

So you don't have to feel other emotions you don't want to face: fear and helplessness.


  • Fear. Of failing as a mother. Of failing as a wife. Of the unknown future and uncertainty surrounding Papa Bear's job. That the subtle tension and low-level bickering in our marriage will escalate or devolve and destroy our marriage. That I don't really know what I'm doing and will be found out.
  • Helplessness. I can't do anything to make our future more certain (besides pray). I can't do anything to MAKE Pookaloo sleep well or grow faster (or slower!). I don't have control over anything but myself and there are many times when I don't even have self-control.


I cried harder, and so did Pookaloo. Papa Bear joined us and I said, "She needs so much and I feel helpless to satisfy her." He just gently touched my arm and listened as I continued crying and venting. Then he took Pookaloo in his arms. She writhed and cried harder. We gently touched her and murmured again and again that she was loved and safe until she finished crying and began to fall back asleep. We made it back to bed and had a reasonable good sleep the remainder of the night.


This morning, as I thought more about why I feel so emotional, it occured to me that it may be because I'm working my way through Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. This reading has triggered some painful memories and started some deep emotional work in me.

Parenting is hard work. In some ways, I'm a double parent, because I'm re-parenting myself so I can be the parent Pookaloo needs and deserves.

Grace is the answer. I'm not perfect. God covers my shortcomings with his grace. In turn, I offer that grace to my daughter and husband.

Grace gives me the courage to try again today, and tomorrow and the next day and next ... Amen.

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