Saturday, August 27, 2011

Brain research and changing attitudes

Scenario 1:  Henry is playing with "his" toy.  Liza, of course, decides it should be "her" toy. A few months ago, Henry would have pushed her down so hard I worried about brain damage but these days he starts with a "no, Lulu" and then attempts to create a physical barrier with his body to protect the toy.  All very good and respectful to baby sissy......until, he sees that she is well on her way to claiming victory over the toy.  At this point, she is flailing her little arms with her new trick of hitting her way to a successful toy take-over....and that little flailing arm waves in Henry's face.  And, he bites.  Hard.

Scenario 2:  Henry and Liza are playing very nicely, albeit always very roughly.  Henry is happily hollering in his loud little way and then..... I hear screams.  Screams of pain coming from Liza.  I ask what is wrong.  She waves her injured hand in my face and he says, "I bit Lulu."  This scenario took me a few times to unravel but I finally saw it in action and realized that as he is hollering for fun, she sticks her fat little 12 month old finger squarely in his mouth.  And, he bites.  Hard.

My reaction:  Scoop up Liza and tell Henry to go to to his room.  He calmly walks in his room and plays with his toys while I nurse Liza until she is calm.  We play one-on-one a bit.  I start cleaning and, um, usually forget about Henry playing in his room until he starts yelling that he is ready to get out.  I yell back that he needs to wait until I come and get him.  I have him tell me what he did wrong - "I bit Lulu" - and then he gives his sissy a hug and life continues.

Is this a timeout?  No.  We've tried all sorts of timeouts and they don't work.  He gets upset.  I get upset because he won't stay where he is supposed to stay.  And, then it becomes a battle of wills.  And, we are both strong-willed.  It was always very ugly and I didn't like it.

Truth be told, it's more of a timeout for me.  I have quiet time to calm down Liza and quiet time to reflect about what just happened.  And, I'm very thankful that something in his brain has clicked and given him the ability to finally go into his room and play for a few minutes on his own.

So yeah.  I'm not upset and punishing him for the biting.  I  always remind him that biting is never the answer to a problem and I make sure he notices that biting Liza results in making her cry and hurting her feelings.  A few minutes later, we will casually discuss things he can do when he is upset instead of hurting and I tell him that I like when he tells me when Liza upsets him so I can be the mama and deal with the problem.

This is a BIG change from just a few months ago when I would get boilingly angry at Henry for hurting Liza.  It seemed so purposeful and hateful and cruel on his part.  I couldn't understand how he could be having so much fun with her in one moment and then push her down so hard that I would check to see if her eyes were crossed.

Then I started reading about positive parenting.  I really like the positive parenting concepts of always showing love and respect to your children but I simply couldn't comprehend not getting angry when Henry hurts Liza.  That is, until I began reading about toddler brain research and brain science and then it clicked.

At 3, Henry's frontal lobe is still very immature.  Brain research clearly states the frontal lobe is responsible for higher mental functions, including self control and impulse control.  He is physically incapable of controlling himself at all times.

Physically incapable.

And, that made all the difference for me.

After more reading, I learned that in order to properly wire his brain for the kind of loving and respectful self-control I so desperately ache to see in my house, he must consistently see loving and respsectful self-control modeled.

And, my former reaction of yelling, stomping my foot and pointing my finger and allowing my emotions to rule the moment is not the way I want my little boy to treat others.

It's hard but I'm trying.

And, I'm pretty sure Henry is too.

Interested in learning more:
Positive Parents
AHA Parenting
Teach Through Love

Yep.  I got it on camera.


Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said...

I love this. It sounds like you're handling this in a wonderful way that is positive for everyone!

Thank you for linking up at Green & Natural Mamas Thursday!

Amanda @ Gratefully Growing in Grace said...

I struggle with the EXACT same situations. I just posted about it on my son's birth board on BBC and got several comments about other moms with the same struggle. We send our son to his room for chill-out time after he pushes, hits, or bites.
I majorly, majorly need to work on dealing with the situation with love and patience instead of instant anger. Sigh.
Thanks for the resources!