I guess the first times Luísa told me I was stupid, I was really offended. I probably used some violence in my reaction. I won´t be specific, I can´t even remember exactly what kind of violence I used (screaming probably, threatening, maybe a combination of that with a more physical input of my state of mind).
I thought that I couldn´t stand her calling me stupid. I thought that I shouldn´t let her do it to me. As in, ¨I can´t accept my daughter telling me this. If I let her call me names, she will not learn to respect me.¨
Luckily, both for me and Luísa, I quit that old way of reacting and I started to respond more intelligently. Now, I think that taking it personally is really stupid.
I learned to take her ¨You are stupid!¨ as an alarm that something is going on and that I have to devote my full attention to that ( focus on my kid and not on my own misguided feelings). I realize that it´s a sign of anger. And I´ve been reading a lot about how when kids are aggressive, that´s hiding a underneath fear. So I start addressing what can be causing Luísa to be so angry that she will scream ¨You are stupid!¨.
I start by acknowledging what she feels: ¨I see you are very angry. You are so angry, you even say bad things to me¨. I ask her what is making her so angry. Usually she won´t say what it is, but I´m smart enough to guess or get close to the reason. So I ask: ¨Maybe you are angry because I´m not letting you watch a film (or whatever seems to me at the moment).¨
She might agree and keep angry, or she might just keep angry. I let her be angry. I tell her it´s ok to be angry at times. She might even go into a fury, if for instance I have to physically not let her do something (like grab my computer, or whatever). She will try to hit me and bite me. And I just prevent myself from being hurt. I can do that.
On occasions, we can turn the anger into laughter, like when we start screaming together, the louder that we can.
The best thing for me about this process is that I´m keeping my cool. I can see through the misbehavior and work with her, instead of feeling attacked personally or feel that my child is becoming a bully.
I talk to her later about it. I recall the episode, I tell her I don´t like to be called names. I understand that she sometimes has anger about something and we might find other ways to release it. So far, she doesn´t take my suggestions (hit a pillow, spit outside, scream outside). I´m not very creative about it. So I tell her this too (that I can´t find that way by myself). I say that we can think about this again and how to do it differently. Even if we can´t find a good solution now, we can still work on it.
When other people are involved it´s harder for me
When she does it to a friend, I do more or less the same. I feel a bit more self conscious because I expect the other parent to want me to correct Luísa in a traditional way. I don´t know if they want me to, I just feel bad. I´m just learning to deal with these strong emotions myself and I know it´s not the way that people around do it.
I was once having lunch with a friend who is into spanking. I´ve been talking about positive parenting, I even lent her that book I talked about here: Your Competent Child.
Luísa and her boy were playing while we waited for our food. While they were at it (far from our eyes), Luísa hit the boy and he came straight at me, wanting me to retaliate. I took Luísa far from the table, knelled down and talked to her. Then I asked her to just be at the table until we finished (not as a punishment, but so I could prevent anything else). When we came back to the table, the boy asked her mom if I had hit Luísa. His mom replied to him ¨No, she doesn´t spank her¨.
I think we all felt uncomfortable at the table.
One of my favorite blogs is ¨Good Job!¨ and Other Things You Shouldn´t Say or Do. And to my delight, while I´m working with the ¨You are stupid!¨ in my house, Jennifer recently wrote When Your Kid Spits at You which is exactly the same thing. If you need some parenting model and practical advice, go to her blog.
In that article she says that ¨your kid spitting at you is not a pre-meditaded disrespect. But it it a sign of anger.¨
¨Overwhelmed young people literally can’t self-regulate and don’t have the wear-with-all to say, “Excuse me Mom, I’m really angry right now. I feel like no one is caring about what’s going on for me. I don’t want to go to that party. I feel like I haven’t had enough time with you. You’ve been with the baby forever and now I’m supposed to just get in the car and I’m hungry and I want to play with you and I don’t give a shit about some friend turning four.”¨
The spitting itself, Luísa reserves to strange people. She hates strangers to say how beautiful she is, or much worse TOUCH her. I came to hate it too. Why do people think they can pet kid´s heads just like that?
When someone does that mistake while I´m not watching, I realize what happened as soon as Luísa spits at the person (she might scream ¨You are stupid!¨ too).
I usually say ¨I´m sorry she spat at you (or screamed at you), but she really doesn´t like people she doesn´t know to touch her.¨ (I hate how puzzled they look at what happened)
Then I kneel down and I tell Luísa: ¨I´m sorry that woman touched you, she shouldn´t have done that. I know this makes you angry. But spitting on people is not ok. I can´t let you do that either¨.
I don´t know if I´m dealing with this in the right way. I later talk about it and tell her that she might try to spit on the sidewalk instead. ¨It´s ok to be angry when a stranger touches you¨, I say. ¨But some people have no idea how this can be upsetting, they cannot control themselves, we have to deal with it ourselves¨. I tell her about how when I was a child it really pissed me off too and how I also hate that anyone will do this to her.
I´ve held a few hands on air already, no kidding. Someone was about to touch her and I prevented it like if I had a karate reflex.
To be honest, I don´t want to restrain my daughter too much when people touch her. I myself feel like screaming at them ¨Go and touch your mother´s head, leave my kid alone!¨. But I was so trained to please strangers, I still smile at them and feel awkward instead.
I´m pretty sure I had a good old education and I learned to behave. I hope I can help my daughter to express herself in socially acceptable ways, but I don´t want her to swallow her feeling the way I learned to do. I don´t want her to just behave.