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.