Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

Dealing with drama March 15, 2009

Filed under: Emotions — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:12 pm

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?

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2 Responses to “Dealing with drama”

  1. Crystal Says:

    I must admit that with three boys and one teenage daughter who was never a little drama queen and is not one to this day, I don’t have loads of experience as a mom dealing with this trait. But as a nanny to various families with almost all young girls and caring for girls in my home-based child care business, I have a bit of experience with the drama queen tendency. My m.o. has always been to ignore it. Many times this means allowing the queen to continue in her emotional outburst/tantrum for a long time while showing her that it’s not affecting me or getting her the results for which she’s looking. I understand this tends to be much easier to carry out when it’s not your own child. By no means do I want to squash the blossoming emotions in her spirit, but I don’t tolerate emotional exaggerations very well.

    I’m not really even against drama queen behavior or temper tantrums – sometimes toddlers just need to get their frustrations out, and I totally empathize with that need. But I don’t allow them to get anything out of it from me either so it becomes a learned habit. As Dr. Phil likes to state, if the behavior continues, then they’re getting something out of it. And you have to ask yourself, “What are they getting? And can they get it in a different way?”

    My goal would be to train the child to identify her emotions in as controlled a manner as possible, sympathize with her and either offer solutions, redirection or affection. I know: much easier said than done, esp. in a toddler! Most likely this training would have to take place after a tantrum has just run its course, and the child has calmed down enough to interact. The act of ignoring the emotional outburst and then attending to the child afterward seems to work well.

    Good luck! Let me know how it goes – what ideas you implement and if and how they affect the DQ syndrome! Great website, S.!

  2. heartpondering Says:

    Thanks for the comment Crystal – helpful, reasoned, and practial. This part in particular “sometimes toddlers just need to get their frustrations out, and I totally empathize with that need. But I don’t allow them to get anything out of it from me either so it becomes a learned habit” was echoed by another friend whose daughter was melodramatic at the same age as mine and had useful input.
    She said:
    “The mantra I adopted was, if there is an audience, there is a show. When she acts like that (and she still does) I calmly tell her that I cannot understand her when she is shrieking/crying/scraming/flopping around. I tell her that she is losing control and move her into her room. I tell her that I’d love to help her when her body and voice are calm. Then I leave the room and she goes nuts for about 5-10 minutes. Then she actually comes out and seems ok. She just has to freak out every once in a while and I give her space and time to do it.”
    I am trying to take this tack myself and am finding that the steps I am taking along these lines seem both fair and seemingly effective to date (not too much experience yet).


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