Attitude … a Cry for Attention

Unraveling the vulnerability that lies beneath tantrums.

I have just been struck with a disrespectful, piercing one liner that stuns me immobile for a few seconds. My jaw drops, my eyes blink, I am aghast. Too slow to react or subconsciously choosing not to respond, I have no comeback. I close my mouth, take a deep breath and reluctantly, I let it pass. An image of an animated teenage girl doing the horizontal headshake appears in my mind and taunts me, “Seriously girlfriend, what’s with that attitude?” I almost laugh out loud and it disperses my fury for a brief second, before I switch back to mom-mode and I am once again exasperated by the inexcusable impertinence.

Days on, I am still unsettled, trying to understand what triggers such impudence from this child. One afternoon, I hear her obstinate voice ring in my head. I put aside the book that I’m reading. The voice speaks “I am annoyed. I am angry. I can usually handle everything, so why can’t I now? I do not need anyone’s help. I certainly do not need your help. I am fine. Leave me alone. Can’t everyone just leave me alone?” I decide to ruminate on the emotions arising and dedicate the next few minutes to explore them. I settle comfortably into my reading chair and close my eyes. This is how I connect with and listen to my intuition. I call it meditative reflection.

With eyes closed, I bring up an image in my mind of my child. I notice that I have appeared in this scene too, as a ten-year-old child, beside her. I take a few deep breaths and allow myself to be drawn in. I experience a twinge of pain in my chest. I realise it is more a feeling of frustration than anger. I can feel determination. I feel the immense weight of self-expectation. All of a sudden like an explosion, the sensation of self-worth being crushed into a pile of rubble arises. The emotions are powerful.

Unexpectedly, I am reminded of an incident during my childhood when I felt great disappointment in being unable to complete a task, to my satisfaction. I recall my mother’s consoling words “But no one expects you to….”. And my fierce retort with fists clenched, a deep frown and angry tears “I do!” In this moment of inward reflection, I feel my face contorting and my brow furrowing. My body temperature rises.

If I had the opportunity, what would I say to the younger me, at this moment? I would say that while it is important to be determined and have expectations of you, remember, be kind and forgiving too. Practice self-love.

The next time your child sucker punches you with attitude, take the time to reflect, dig deep, step into the shoes of a child and you may gain a deeper insight. It is unlikely that a child is motivated purely by insolence or disrespect. Instead, you are likely to discover during this inward reflection, that your child is seeking compassion, quiet support and assurance during times of anxiety, fear or self-doubt.

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