I watched an interview with Dr Oliver James many years ago and, even though I didn’t have children at the time, what he talked about always stuck with me. Love Bombing is, according to his website, a way to reset your child’s emotional thermostat.
Recently I have been extremely guilty of recognising Miss Rose’s negative behaviour, but not acknowledging there is something causing it. She has always been a cheerful little girl but prone to dramatics and more than capable of throwing a tantrum of epic proportions. However, the tantrums were rare and the cheerfulness was the norm. This, recently, has changed. She has stopped sleeping, started wetting herself, acted out aggressively towards me (fortunately only me), and been doggedly determined to behave as naughtily as possible whilst screaming at me. Her love for school vanished and she has had a huge crash in confidence in all aspects of her life.
For too long, far too long, I have dealt with this behaviour as it happens with anger and discipline. I have had 3AM tantrums of my own and shouted at her to get back to her room and go to sleep because mummy is too exhausted to do this every night. I have told her I cannot be around her when she is behaving like this and walked away from her. I have punished her by taking her favourite toys from her.
I have, in short, made it worse.
Miss Rose is dealing with some big changes in her life. She has started school five afternoons a week and, whilst she loves it, it is very draining for her. She has been told about the baby that is due to arrive in the next few months and has a remarkable amount of understanding about what that means. She has had to witness me crying in pain because I have been bleeding and having cramps which lead to the early scan on New Years Eve, and seen me getting sick over foods and smells. Her little world has changed, and not only is she no longer getting the intensive mummy and Rose time she has had her entire life because of school, but she is facing the fact that when the baby comes she’ll lose that entirely, and that even before the baby gets here mummy is sometimes just too poorly to look after her how she wants. She has lost me.
Of course, I am still there for her. I still spend every day with her, bar the three hours she’s at school, and I still put her to bed every night and get up with her every morning (apart from some Sunday mornings when The Boy gets up with her and lets me have a bit of a lie in… he’s a good egg.) But times are changing. Her life is changing. Her relationship with me is changing.
Her emotional thermostat is on the fritz.
When I started to acknowledge that more was going on with her than just general naughty behaviour I realised the error of my ways. As I said, it took too long, but I got there. I stopped thinking about me and how her behaviour is impacting me, and I started thinking about her and how she must be feeling to act out in this way.
I started taking a more gentle approach.
When she wakes in the night I started going to and lying down with her and giving her cuddles, sometimes sleeping in her bed with her to give her the comfort and reassurance that I am there for her. I can’t do this all the time when the baby gets here, part of why I chose to deal with it the way I did before, but we have time. We have time to rebuild her confidence so she doesn’t need me there, rather than shouting at her so she’s too afraid to ask.
When she’s acting out and being naughty I deal with it firmly, she definitely cannot be thinking that hitting or screaming is acceptable, but I try to make sure she gets the cuddles and kisses she needs and tell her that I love her and I will never leave her. I don’t use removing me from her as a punishment as the fear of losing me is what started this behaviour in the first place. I stay with her. I do not walk away telling her I will return when she calms down which was always a go to before.
Then there is the Love Bombing. I have taken her out of school for two days, yesterday and today, and her beloved nanny and I are Love Bombing. We are focusing on her, giving her our attention and love, doing things with her she loves and making sure she is the absolute centre of our attention. We took her to WaterWorld and, even though her confidence is totally rocked and she was too scared to do many of the things she flung herself at without hesitation last time, she had a wonderful time. Then we took her shopping round the charity shops and she got to play with the toys and look at the clothes and even acquire a new doctor’s kit and space rocket. Then we came home and she had her requested dinner of pasta and carrots, followed by porridge, followed by Weetos. We cuddled up on the sofa watching what felt like hours of Strawberry Shortcake.
Last night she slept better than she has in a long time. She went to sleep at about 7 and slept until 5. No middle of the night screaming fits, no shouting and crying, no flinging herself to the ground on the landing whilst wailing. It wasn’t as long as she needs, and indeed she’s very tired this morning, but it was an improvement. A huge improvement.
Today we are going on the train to Birmingham. We are going to the Sealife Centre and out for pizza. She is going to have another day of absolute Rose favourite activities with tons of attention and focus, then when we get home The Boy is finishing work early so she will get some Daddy time tonight, which she doesn’t get often because he works so hard he usually doesn’t get home until after she’s in bed.
The things Miss Rose loves most in the world are her people. To have the people she loves close to her. The toys, the activities, the trips, they’re great too and she absolutely loves them, but having her people there to love is her favourite above all else. Frequent cuddles, regular kisses, they are her true loves. When the baby comes she will still get those things. She had to adjust to Z sharing her focus when we moved in with The Boy but that’s only part time and Z is more interested in The Boy than me, so she doesn’t have to share me that much. But when the baby comes she’ll have to share entirely and she’ll find that hard. I need to build her up now. I need to give her the things she loves with the promise that she’ll always have those things, even if sometimes I’m too poorly or tired to give them to her in the amounts she wants, she will always, always be loved. Not just loved, totally adored in the most pure and devoted of ways.
Will the Love Bombing work? I hope so. I want her to start next week feeling confident, secure, happy. I want her to know how very, truly loved she is. I want her to be happy, because recently she hasn’t been and that is the hardest thing of all. The second hardest thing is knowing I’ve probably made it worse at times.
But I’m changing that now. I’m recognising it now. My little girl needs me and in a different way than I thought, and dammit I will be there for her!
Let the Bombing continue. Let the smiles reign.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!