I’ve spent a fair amount of time bewildered by some of the behavior of my 18-month old daughter in recent months. A few months after her first birthday, she cut molars, got a couple of consecutive ear infections, and rounded it out with a UTI in the span of about six weeks. She was consequently cranky and unpredictable.
When her fussiness and emotionalism continued beyond the resolution of these issues, I was confused. Did she feel unwell? Was something bothering her? Where was this coming from? When would the calm and even demeanor that had characterized her previously return? I was ready for my happy, low-key baby to come back.
Eventually it dawned on my husband and me: she felt fine. She’d just developed a dramatic streak during those months. When she didn’t get her way, she was beside herself. When she became upset, she was really upset (floods of tears, clenched fists, occasional falling to the ground). When she banged her head against the sidewalk in a display of her dissatisfaction – this was the drama queen taking the stage.
Now, our son is a fairly strong-willed kid, and we were more than familiar with the inner workings of a tempter tantrum. With willfulness, defiance, and the like. But we had virtually no experience with this type of melodrama – emotionalism carried out to this degree, especially at such a young age. How should we handle it?
Having spoken to several fellow mom friends about this, I’m learning that the drama queen is quite common. My friends who parent children of both sexes have said that a heightened capacity for daily drama is often quite noticeable in their daughters over their sons. And why wouldn’t it be? By and large girls tend to be more emotional than boys and display emotions more readily – we know this from our own experience as women. God made us this way. Why should this not manifest itself from the youngest ages?
I’m incredibly thankful for our daughter: who she is; how God made her; her emotions; the works. I’m not out to change her. But from a parenting standpoint, I’m wondering – how can I help her manage her emotions in such a way that she doesn’t become captive to them, that she can still function in a healthy, self-controlled way? How can I help her avoid unbridled emotion to an extent that can be devastating (let’s face it – we’ve all seen what the effects can look like in adults who’ve never learned to manage their emotions)? What’s an appropriate response – not just today, in her 18-month old life, but as she grows up?
Those of you with experience in this arena… any input? Any helpful approaches to taming – or should I say directing – a blossoming drama queen?