We had a behavioural consultant come in today to talk with us about ideas for dealing with Nathan's tantrums. They've been getting a lot worse and I wanted a fresh perspective to make sure I wasn't missing something.
We had a very long fight with him last night. He refused to put on his pajamas and diaper. He fought like he was possessed by some kind of raging spirit. We got it on, he stripped it off. We put it back on and had to restrain him (something I never like having to do). He fought us until 11:30 at night when he finally fell asleep.
Then he woke up at 1 and started all over again. At that point, I'm exhausted and worried he'll wake Alex up, but I know I have to win this fight. I can't teach him that if he makes us miserable for long enough, he'll get what he wants. Not to mention the fact that it's bloody cold here to try and sleep without pajamas or covers.
At 4:30, he gave up. My sweet little boy was back and he asked me to put on his blankets and make up his bed. I tucked him in and kissed him and told him that I loved him very much. He sleepily told me I was the bestest mommy and that he loved me too.
During the fight, he kept telling me that he didn't like me and he wanted me to go away forever. I told him that those feelings were okay. And they are. I don't take them personally (or at least, I mostly don't). He's angry and upset and can't separate his feelings from the moment. Most kids can't. And again, I can't let "I don't like you" be a guilt excuse for giving in. He was upset that I wasn't upset at his declarations. He told me that it wasn't okay. That he was angry.
I'm actually proud he was able to put some of this into words. Especially since he was so upset.
I try to walk a fine line with my boys. While certain behaviours are not acceptable, feelings are always okay. I always try to separate the action from the feeling causing it. And I try not to tell them they shouldn't feel a certain way.
I think I can be fairly certain what the trigger of this particular tantrum was. Dave and I weren't there for the usual bedtime routine. My parents came in to help (which the boys normally love). But it's been a consistent trigger. Nathan's worried about being separated from me and when it happens he starts to lose it. I'm not sure why he's so anxious about being away from me right now, but there's no denying its a factor.
This is one of the big questions I put to the consultant. Should I indulge his concerns and make the effort to not be away from him while we work on his anxiety? Or should I encourage him to accept that I go away sometimes but work on his coping skills? It's one of those situations where the answer isn't clear to me. It's hard to learn something when your mind is screaming with fear. But learning he can use his emotional response to restrict my actions isn't a good precedent. It could be the start of emotional blackmail which would be very upsetting to both of us when it had to be broken.
I'll talk about the consultant's recommendations tomorrow. Right now, I'm beat.