I continue to marvel at the lessons I learn as a mother. About a week ago I got the call every parent dreads. D2’s teacher called me at work one day to tell me that he had a bad, bad day. The day started out normally enough in his toddler class at Montessori but as the day wore on he started randomly slugging his little classmates. He pushed over a little girl on the playground and shoved another classmate at the snack table for no apparent reason.
When I picked up my office line and heard D2’s teacher’s voice, my heart sank. D2 had a very bad day today. He was just off, she tells me. Has anything changed at home?
I’m freaking out. I rattle off a litany of potential causes of D2’s meltdown.
Allergies? Making him wear the brown sandals he hates but that look so cute with his stripey sailboat shirt? Going to bed too late? Watching “Despicable Me” for the 35,000th time?
Excuse me while I just go and pick up my Bad Mother of the Year award.
I call Dr. D. at the office. D2’s-teacher-just-called-and-she-said-he-was-hitting- other -kids and-she-probably thinks-we-are-child-abusers! I’m trying not to get hysterical. Dr. D. is unphased.
Of course he’s hitting other kids. They’re probably hitting him too. Not the response I’m expecting. The thing you need to know about Dr. D. is he’s a clinical neuropsychologist with a specialty in Traumatic Brain Injury. Very patiently he explains to me that toddlers have undeveloped frontal lobes which means they have low impulse control.
Have you ever felt like throwing something at someone in a meeting when they say something stupid?
Umm, yes. What about it?
Well, we adults have developed frontal lobes which helps us control our impulses to do mean or destructive things to ourselves and others. Toddlers hit people because their brains are undeveloped. It’s normal and developmentally appropriate even though it’s socially unacceptable. Just relax.
This doesn’t make me feel better.
At home I ask D2 if he hit his friends at school. He smiles at me sweetly and says yes, I hit Cora, and Beck and Anna. At least he comes clean. We talk about gentle touches and how hitting hurts people. You are a sweet boy, I tell him.
He wraps a chubby little arm around my neck and kisses my cheek. No hitting! I do gentle touch. I make friends. My heart melts. I hug him back. Hard.
I resolve to get D2 off to bed earlier and spend more quiet time with him in the evenings. Maybe it’s just a coincidence but it seems to work. The next week his teacher calls to tell me he is back to his lovable, sweet self.
I remind myself that I need to stop worrying so much and enjoy all of the milestones of the Terrible Twos. I remind myself that it’s not about being a perfect parent or having the perfect child but enjoying the process of learning and discovering life together.
Your turn. What has surprised you about your child’s development or your reactions as a parent to their less than desirable behavior?
Nothing surprises me, they are discovering their world, I just continue to provide them with the guidance and pray they will do what’s right. My children are older, but I remember those days..my youngest did things I never thought, spitting! I almost passed out when they told me, I was mortified! We got through that, now we are at our pre-teen stage, plus my oldest is 16 and just told me the other day she has a boyfriend! That’s when the party really starts. Great blog!
Whitney, it’s so gratifying to hear that other parents went (are going through) the same thing. One mom wrote and told me that her son was a biter (yikes!!!). You are right, it’s so mortifying when it’s your kid. Honestly, I don’t know how I’ll handle it when my son is of the age when he can have a girlfriend. Thank god we don’t have to worry about that right now and just focus on surviving pre-school!
It is tough and no parent wants to have that kid, we had the opposite he would get hit and not do anything. We had to work on that! Now if he does hit someone, usually a cousin these days, I find that they both were actually hitting. Don’t feel bad, I am sure you weren’t the first parent the teacher called and won’t be the last.
And that’s for the frontal lobe lesson…interesting!
Latorsha, you are SO right. In fact, that was my first thought “Oh gawd, I have THAT kid.” It usually is the case that kids are hitting each other (no one’s totally innocent) but we’d all like to think that our kid isn’t the instigator! The last few weeks have been pretty good so I’d like to think we are making progress :-).
We are going through this big time with my almost two-year old. He is very big for his age (about 33lbs) and is a really rough kid. He likes to wrestle and is going through a really bad hair pulling phase. He doesn’t really pull hair to be mean, he just seems to like the way long hair feels (he often falls asleep holding onto my hair or rubbing his – I think it just comforts him).
We have had only a few incidents of him pulling other kids’ hair – usually it is his sister and so we don’t face the public humiliation too often. We do time outs and try to simply explain that hair pulling is “not nice and hurts” – but really he is not quite two and I doubt he understands much of what we say about it.
We had one run in with a mom/child the other day that just made me feel awful. The little girl did not want to share toys and he pulled her hair – which was horrifying, but when I gently told him it was not nice and hurt her and took him off to time out the mom was not satisfied. She angrily told me most of her friends would have spanked their kids for pulling hair. I’m not anti-spanking, but I am not about to spank my little boy when I can’t even properly explain the situation to him. Where he is 6 and doing that we might have a different situation on our hands.
All this is to say – little ones do what they do. It is normal to have some “bad” behavior. Don’t let other parents or teachers judge you or make you feel bad for it.
Heather, I’ve quickly learned that lots of parents deal with this. I think those of us with kids who are big for their age (D2 is 33 pounds too!) feel especially sensitive about our little bruisers not hurting other kids. But just a couple of days ago, we were at a party and there was an 18 month old girl who approached D2. He swung his hand back and clocked her on the head. I had to pull him aside and have the “gentle touch” talk. After that they played together quite happily. So clearly it’s a work in progress but I’m hopeful he’ll outgrow this hitting stage! Thanks for sharing your story. It’s good to not be the only one out there struggling with this!