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In the wake of my last post about tantrums, I:

– read all the comments
– visited Rio’s doctor, who said she thinks Rio is a perfectly normal three-year-old
– acquired and began reading some books about parenting:

Raising your Spirited Child is without doubt the best book on parenting I have ever read. I’m only about a quarter of the way through it, but I note that Rio has not hit me or her sister since I started reading it. Not only is it completely spot on in describing my kid, it is relentlessly positive and hopeful, and following the very simple advice it gives seems to be transforming my relationship with my daughter. Also, it is helping me to heal lingering hurt from my own childhood, as I recognize myself in these pages and think, “Wow, I wish my mom had read this book. But it didn’t exist then, and she did not have these tools.” Somehow that gives me a gentler view of the power struggle she and I engaged in for the first twenty years of my life.

The Explosive Child is much less appealing on the outside. Who wants to think of their kid as explosive when she could be spirited? Rio saw these arrive in the mail and picked this one up, pretending to read it aloud, “Once upon a time, the sad, angry pumpkin was blah blah blah. This is a sad angry pumpkin, right Mama?” It’s a good book inside though. I’ve read about four pages of it, and while I was reading it, Rio came over and began throwing a tantrum. I turned to her, used the technique I was in the middle of reading about, she stopped freaking and happily walked away to do what I’d asked her to do. Another win.

The thing both these books have quickly impressed on me is that Rio IS different from other kids, and my instinct that so much of the parenting advice that works with most children won’t work with her is right on. These books are full of approaches specific to kids with her temprament, and they seem to really work.

It’s also a self-reinforcing cycle. Once we both got out of the habit of expecting every interaction to escalate into conflict, we started enjoying each other more and now we both expect time together to be fun and interesting. Which is not to say that there are no tantrums or that we get along perfectly. But that scary out-of-control feeling has gone away, and the hitting has stopped.


Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you are the parent of a very active three-year-old. One is prone to occassional mild tantrums. Where by occassional I mean two or three times a day and by mild I mean kicking, screaming and throwing things for ten or twenty minutes.

Let’s say she’s also prone to somewhat more intense tantrums on a less frequent scale. Which means the serious, no-holds-barred, drawing-blood-while-trying-to-gouge-mama’s-eyes-out, throwing-self-down-stairs, punching-baby-sister tantrums occur only every other day or so, and last an hour or two.

How would you deal with this, if you the stay-at-home mother of such a child? Would you consider this normal behavior for a three-year-old, or consult a professional about mental health problems? Would it seem like a red flag that something was wrong in the big picture of the child’s life, something that needed to be addressed and could make things happier and healthier for everyone? Or is this just par for the three year old course, as the few parenting books I’ve read on the subject seem to suggest?

And how would you handle it in the moment?

I tend to tell her that she’s hurting me or the baby or whoever she’s trying to injure, and that the behavior is unacceptable to me. If she persists, I will tell her to leave the room, and go to her own bedroom until she cools down. If she refuses, which she always does, I’ll carry her up there. And she’ll immediately run down the stairs after me screaming and throwing toys and we’ll do the whole thing again.

I find myself sorely lacking in tools for these behaviors. I have a lot of tools for dealing with adults in conflict that don’t work at all with my kid – like trying to reason, asking to take a break or a deep breath, redirecting to a positive aspect of the relationship or a positive activity, giving them what they want, walking away from the conflict or the person as a last resort…none of this gets any mileage with the above-mentioned hypothetical three-year-old.

I know some of my journal readers are adamant believers in never using “time outs” or any other punishment when dealing with young kids. I’m especially interested in your perspective. But the question for everyone:

What do you do when a young child is being physically violent towards you and/or a younger sibling? Also, how do you prevent fits like this from occuring in the first place?

(assume we lead a reasonably normal life: she goes to preschool three mornings a week, takes a gymnastics class and otherwise we mostly chill at home or visit a friend once in awhile. she sleeps about twelve hours a night, rarely naps, and eats a typical healthy diet at steady intervals throughout the day)

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Serena conquers the duck, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

Some of you may recall that in November I dreamed Serena turned into a vampire. At the time I was searching for meaning in the dream by exploring how it might relate to life decisions I was struggling with and larger themes in my psyche.

Today, I was reminded that the gods are charmingly literal. Today, my dream was proven to be precognitive after all. Because today, gentle reader, Serena sprouted fangs!

She has been teething fiercely for a couple of days, but I couldn’t see any tooth buds in the center of her mouth, where I would expect her top teeth to be coming in. This afternoon she lay down for a nap with just her bottom center teeth and woke up with two dagger like canines up top. I was so surprised I thought for a minute she had a splinter in her gums.

Also, she has taken to crawling around the house with a rubber duck in her mouth, the cuteness of which cannot be described. It must be witnessed.

am interested in getting a Spanish class going for preschoolers, if anyone is interested. I have a curriculum and a native-speaking adult and am working on dragging in as well.

(also realized that Rio spent the day away from home today and I felt SO much better at the end of the day than I do when we are home all day together. no homeschooling for us. at least not at this stage.)

Almost everyone I know who does not already have school age kids has suggested this to me. On the surface it makes sense; I know a lot of progressive, educated families with young kids who have limited cash, a parent at home full time and a desire to spare their kids the difficulties of public school.

I know someone who has actually done this, in Toronto. She and a group of six friends rented out a shop-front, hired a teacher and took turns volunteering one day a week in the school, so there was always one parent there assisting the professional educator they’d hired. They only did it for 3-5 year olds, though, because they were lucky enough to have a public-charter Waldorf school in their neighborhood.

So far so good. However I suspect it would be a lot like cohousing: I know a dozen families who think this is a cool idea, but each of us has slightly different needs and expectations about what this dream school would offer. We’d have to hold a lot of meetings to hammer out the details. We’d have to agree on ground rules for consensus and create a governing structure for our school. I have ideas about how to do this, but I’m sure my friends all do too.

We’d have to agree on a curriculum, or lack thereof. “Coop homeschool” could cover anything from unschooling to Waldorf to Montessori to a standard curriculum with lots of parent involvement. There are real differences there we’d have to agree on.

Then we’d have to find a space. An affordable space we all liked in a location convenient to our homes. We’d have to create a legal entity (say, a corporation) that we could put money into that could lease or buy said space.Then we’d have to furnish and decorate the space, and acquire all the learning materials.

And we’d have to interview and hire a teacher.

My daughter goes to a coop school now, that was founded by parents in the 70s, so I have some idea of what work is involved in maintaining one. There are work weekends several times a year, every parent must participate in at least one committee, there are evening meetings once a month and each family volunteers twice a month to be a teacher’s helper in the classroom. It’s not a small thing.

Also, we live in greater Boston, where we are lucky to have several schools that were started by collectives of parents some time ago. Why reinvent the wheel?

To answer my own question: because all those schools are too expensive, slightly too restrictive in their curriculum (except SVS, which maybe goes too far the other way) and not actively coops (that is, they don’t require parental participation in the classroom).

Still, I think it is too much work. My experience with cohousing has taught me to look before I leap into organizing that kind of thing, and I don’t want to spend the next ten years pouring my heart into a dream that will manifest as something more expensive and more compromised than I’d envisioned, too late for my own daughter to attend it.

My firstborn is still a baby, of course, who could not possibly need to go to school. Yet there seems to be some mysterious, active, bright kid living in my house who wants an education. Funny how that happens.

So I’m trying to decide where this mysterious being should go to school. I know a few other people on my flist have kids about her age, so I’m putting my thoughts and research out there for posterity. Behind an LJ cut, since most of you don’t care about kindergarten anymore. 🙂

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