Sky and The Angry Tiger

September 2, 2015

 Sky face was tear-stained and my arm was bruised from where she'd been kicking me.  My whole body was tired from trying to hold her while she flailed and Sky's eyes were red from the intense rubbing she does when she's stressed these days.  I was doing my best to calm her after one of her rages and we were finally moving towards regulation.  Sky had stopped rocking, was breathing slower, and nodded her head just a little when I asked if I could go get her a graham cracker.  This tantrum had started when Sky asked for something she knew she couldn't have and quickly grew out of control in part because she hadn't eaten much that day. 
  When I came back with the graham cracker, Sky was still where I'd left her waiting on her butterfly rug (a good sign- if she'd been hiding, we might have had to go through all this again before I could get her to eat).  I sat down across from her on the floor, gave her the cracker, and asked, "Sky, did you feel like you were in control of your body just now or did it feel like there was an angry tiger in control?"
  She didn't take her eyes off her graham cracker but answered in a tiny whisper, "Angry tiger".  She nibbled at her cracker, then looked at me and asked, "Mama, how do you know about the angry tiger?"  Sky looked so relieved, like I'd opened a secret door she didn't know she was trying to keep closed.

  My heart broke for my sweet girl as I pulled her into my lap.  I told her that we all have an angry tiger inside of us; that some of us are just better at keeping the tiger in its cage than others.  We talked about why her tiger might have gotten out that day, and how she didn't like it when the tiger was in control.  I told her that I know how hard it can be to keep the tiger in his cage but that we would work on it together.  She was laughing and smiling after just a few minutes, back to the best version of herself.
    I have been searching for years to try and find the words to help Sky identify how she feels in her out of control moments and I finally found it the other day.  Being able to name that feeling as "the angry tiger" is a huge break through for us.  While the sort of rage that prompted it is getting rarer as she gets older, it's also harder for me to help her calm down from them when they do happen because Sky is getting stronger and knows that she can hurt me.  We don't do time-ins any more for just that reason. 
  I want so badly to give her the tools to make the road of her life a little smoother so I'm so hopeful that the combination of a growing self awareness and the words to identify how she feels inside will help the next time she has this kind of tantrum.   I know that it might take a while for it to work but it already feels so freeing to think that I can ask her "Sky, are you in control or is the angry tiger in control?  What do you need to put him back in his cage?"  

  
  Do you have a child with big feelings (as we call them in our family) inside?  How do you help them through their tantrums or overwhelming times?  

See where I'm linking up here

  

6 comments

  1. I have known people who have gone through this with their kids, but I never experienced it. My boys would have tantrums, but nothing major and usually it was when we were out in public and if I just walked away they would jump up and follow. Something my pediatrician taught me when one fell out on the floor during one of his check up visits. I went to scoop him up and the doctor motion me to stop and to continue out the room. My son kept screaming, but he eventually ran out (still screaming) to me. I continued to walk away and the tantrums lessen. Don't know if you are able to do the same because no 2 kids are alike, but it worked for me. Best wishes. Found you over at #thoughtsforthursdays

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. We do walk away from Fire (our 3 year old who came home to us at 3 months) and it works just like you described. Unfortunately, Sky doesn't have the same solid grounding that he does and walking away just reinforces her feelings of unworthiness and exacerbates the behavior. Happily, she mainly has these kinds of breakdowns in private (we've been told that this means that she feels comfortable enough with us to be her true self, so I guess that's good?) but when they have happened in public, I've been able to pull her close and "talk her down" enough so that we can leave or push on.

      Delete
  2. Great post - we have one little boy whose angry tiger comes to the surface often. Thanks for letting meknow I am not alone.
    Jill
    http://www.rippedjeansandbifocals.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jill! It is so comforting to know that others are going through similar things, isn't it?

      Delete
  3. I love this analogy. I hadn't heard it before. We have definitely seen an angry tiger in our house at times, and to be honest I don't think I always handle it in the best possible way. I love how gentle you were with her. Sometimes I lose my patience during these things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Erin! You're so sweet but believe me, I yell way more than I should, especially lately. I love my girl but man, she is good at pushing my buttons (as they say, negative attention is better than no attention, right?). So often, I have to remind myself to pause and take a deep breath before reacting, because at least with Sky, my first impulsive response is usually the wrong one.

      Delete

Our Charmed Life. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.