Sunday, February 6, 2011

Guest Post! The shy and frustrated...

Oh yeah, I'm big time, now. I have a guest poster!

Parenting expert, voice of reason, grand-nanny Mahna supreme. So, maybe it IS my mother...but this woman is my rock, and has given me some of the best advice over my *cough cough* 31 years. I have made no bones about it that I have to work at empathizing with Miles's extreme shyness. I will forever need to work on my sensitivity to his needs and understand what it means to be an introvert. Now, coupled with him really settling into his "tiring twos" stage, I have found myself calling my mom many mornings for that voice of reason to give me the strength to be not a perfect mom, but the best mom I can be. I recently received this e-mail from my mom after a morning filled with a tantrum that when you need to get out of the house by 7:30am, no one has the patience for. (Of course, he was a perfect angel when he was dropped off at school by Eric). I thought it too universally helpful not to share--with her permission, and my editing to remove some non-relevant and identifying information--(ie, don't mind the ellipses sprinkled throughout)

Dear Alison,

I of course had lots of thoughts in the shower about our conversation. (She's a shower thinker, too!) First, please know that when I give you advice and all, that I do not think you should "be perfect" or that I am disparaging how you are handling things. I think you two are doing great. The realization is that there are no parenting techniques that will assure no tantrums or meltdowns. There are just better and worse ways of dealing with them. Felix will have his day at some point, too...You made the astute observation that kids keep pushing until they find those limits, and it's ultimately easier on everyone when parents know to establish firm limits (calmly as possible) sooner rather than later. Again, I wasn't all that good at that when I was a young mother.

Also, with the tantrums, try in the moment to remember that it's intense, intense for the children, but they get over it quickly. It's their unskilled way of coping with overpowering feelings they have. As you so wisely observed, giving into their demands doesn't avoid tantrums because that's not what it is about, so stick to your guns, keep them safe, and remove yourself if you need to. You can say "I love you, but I am too angry to be around you right now." I remember finding refuge in the bathroom back in the day. You are modeling an effective way to handle anger for them even though they don't have the maturity or skill to do the same. The world is a huge and scary place for little children; they don't have much control over most of it, and they are figuring out where the lines are.

I felt close to tears when we were talking about being shy because I can be brought right back 55+ years to the days when I was plagued with shyness...we also did not know about personality traits and all in those days, so I am sure it just seemed like I was being obstreperous rather than grappling with crippling shyness/introversion...I hope that my ability to support you will enable you to cope better than I did...So, try not to fret about the future, and deal with now the best you can which will give Miles the advantage of good modeling to grow and learn from.

I think the less said and done about it, the better, too. He is not even 3, and people should not be judging a little child for not having great social skills at that age. That was one of the things I really admire about [my friend]'s teaching skills. She acknowledges that small children are making their ways in the world, trying to figure it out and looking to us to guide them. She has firm expectations, but she does not expect them to be perfect. As Miles grows, you can model for him and give him the social tools to use in interacting with others. You may even give him a "script" to use, if needed. When Miles is older you may be able to say "That was hard for you," and help him feel proud when he copes with a social situation. Again, I wouldn't do so at this point, because the less he is made to feel self-conscious or shamed about his shyness, the less crippling it will be.

You mentioned how easily Felix handles social situations, and that made me think several is better to celebrate children's positive attributes than to focus on their shortcomings. I think you kids are such remarkable, talented and intelligent human beings, and we have the utmost faith in and admiration for all of you.

Think about it. It's like the old story that if everyone placed a bag of their troubles on a table and examined at them all, we would all pick back up our own problems rather than those of others. Similarly, I know, there were not any other children I would have chosen over you kids, no matter how difficult things might have been at times...try not to take it to heart when they tend to attribute their easy time to their superior parenting skills. Self-righteousness can be irksome. Just hold that knowledge in your heart. Again, would you ever trade anyone else's child for yours?!

Nope! She's right.

I am always here to support you and commiserate with you and admire you. There is a reason people so euphemistically say parenting is the hardest job you will ever love!

I love you so much,

Love you, too...


  1. Thanks, Alison. I am honored to be a guest poster.

  2. What timely advice as we had a day of the worst tantrums ever on Saturday!

    And I am also experiencing the challenges of parenting an opposite personality!

  3. What a great email to get from a woman you greatly respect (and who managed to raise some kids into adulthood quite well). In case it makes you feel better, I will share that we deal with the tantrums on a regular basis, too. I found myself throwing Ella's clothes the other day as she was insisting on her fourth outfit of the morning. I had to step away and remind myself that it was not worth getting so worked up over. No one bothered to tell us that sometimes parenting is just not fun. I applaud you for setting limits, though, and getting through it. I know it's not easy.