Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lifesaving Device

Someone in this house has developed a habit of whining through most of the late afternoon and having willful bouts of anger when he doesn't get his way. I won't mention his name, but it begins with a Z, and these days--it ends with a sigh. I'm sure the heat isn't helping any, or our crazy summer schedulessness that keeps little ones up long past regular bedtimes. He's hot, he's tired and he's cranky. Poor kid.

I've noticed, too, that he isn't enjoying it any more than we are. He's a smart boy and usually cheerful-- I think he's just as put out and surprised by his own emotional upheavals as the rest of us. It seems to me, too, that after he starts a fit he actually reaches a point where he wants to stop, but it has so escalated that he isn't sure how to make up and be pleasant again, so I taught him a trick. I gently pushed the sides of his mouth up to a smile. "That smile," I told him, "makes everything better. If you just come to me with that smile, you won't have to cry anymore and everything will be fine again." He smiled for me weakly and I made a big deal of it, kissing him all over. Then I set him up with a coloring book and some pencils and went off to make dinner and feel very pleased with myself.

I didn't know if it would ever work again, but I frequently reminded him of his magical smile that has the power to make everything better. Then today, when he became enraged that I wouldn't give him a sixth piece of gum he dropped to the floor writhing and screeching. This landed him in his room with the door closed. From the hall, I could hear him kicking the floor and screaming into the carpet. Then suddenly it stopped.

It was quiet for a moment, then the doorknob turned and the door opened. Emerging from his lair was this puffy-eyed, red-faced toddler with sweaty, matted hair sticking up in every direction. His shirt was twisted, his pants wrinkled, and his forehead indented with carpet prints. But most importantly, plastered to this child's face was the biggest, phoniest, forced grin I have ever seen and you can believe it made everything better.

15 comments:

Jennie C. said...

Aw! Poor little guy. I have an overwhelming urge to hug him!

Amy said...

Aww, what a sweet story! God bless him!

Beck said...

Poor little guy.
The Girl has has a miserable, whiny summer. I'm working with her, but somedays it just feels hopeless.

Johane said...

It's amazing how much of a difference a smile can make... even if it's your own!

You are one smart momma Suzanne, and so full of patience. God Bless!

Suzanne Temple said...

Thanks jennie, amy and beck.

And johanne, that's kind of you to believe that about me, but the truth is that I seem to be more patient when something big happens that I know requires my patience. Then I happen upon a spill or a mess or something and I snap. Sad, but true.

Cheryl M. said...

Suzanne, what a gift you are to those little boys! :)

Jill said...

Great idea. I'm trying this out on tomorrow's first tantrum. :)

Cindy said...

Love it! Going to add this to the arsenal.

Kristen Laurence said...

That is too funny - we did the exact same thing with Madeleine when she used to whine a lot. It works beautifully.

Muddy Mama said...

Magic smile? Magic momma! Good Job, Suzanne!

Stephanie said...

(applause, applause ...!)

I am, I can, I ought, I will ... HE is, HE can, HE ought ... (please, Lord?) ... hallelujah, pass the punch, HE WILL!!!

Nothing more beautiful than the successful transfer of self-commanding willful obedience. (Golly, I'm going to have a good day after reading this! Thanks for telling it.)

Goslyn said...

What an amazing kid. And the magic smile is a great idea.

Love the painting at the top - is it one of yours?

Suzanne Temple said...

Thanks goslyn, but no, that's not my painting. It was just a stock pic I found.

Amelia said...

I have a 5 year old whinner myself. I am going to try this one out.

Thanks,
Amelia

annemcd said...

This may very well be an answer to my prayers! I'll try this on my angry little man tomorrow! Thank you!!