Thursday, May 21, 2009

More on Faith

In my last post, I forgot to address one really touching scene in "Five by Five" where Faith, who was on the verge of slaughtering Angel, fell weeping into his arms, begging Angel to kill her. I seem to also recall that Faith pleaded in either "Five by Five" or "Sanctuary" that she wanted to be good. Either I'm making it up or I just can't find the dialogue. Regardless, the implication is clear. Faith was absolutely miserable because she just could not control her behavior. Old habits just came much too easily to her.

As a mother, I can't help but think that Faith was acting like a grown-up version of an out-of-control toddler. Both of my children have had their destructive temper tantrums when they were two to four years old. They were absolutely miserable during these outbursts. They literally had no idea how they were supposed to deal with their anger and frustrations.

Parents who deal with temper tantrums by simply punishing their children for their immediate behaviors are missing the point. Something I've heard a lot over the years from not only my kids but other kids are sobbing pleas of "I want to be good" and "I can't help it". Toddlers literally can't control their actions and they are badly frightened. Grownups punish them for being destructive, but don't understand that the toddlers would give anything to be able to stop themselves from doing the bad things. A toddler's absolute misery at not being able to control her actions is punishment enough.

The first steps in dealing with an out-of-control toddler involve making sure the toddler won't harm himself or others. The next step is to make sure the toddler does not cause property damage. After that, it's best to let the toddler keep blowing off steam until his private little storm runs its natural course. The parent must act with a lot of love and patience as he or she guides the toddler through the tantrum, then gives reassurance to the toddler after he has calmed down. After that, a firm but gentle explanation should be given to the child on why the behavior was unacceptable, followed by guidelines on how these actions can be avoided in the future. I don't think it's possible for a parent to ward off every tantrum, but an alert parent can go a long ways toward averting a lot of the more destructive behavior.

Like I said, Faith is an overgrown (and vicious) toddler. I can't say that I blame them, but everyone else (including Buffy, the Watcher's Council, Wesley and Cordelia) were focused on meting out punishment or gaining revenge. Angel was the only one who acted like the concerned parent trying to give her the skills she needed to avoid the worst of her behaviors, for which Faith was eternally grateful. As odd as it seems, I can't help but think of her time in prison as being one long, protracted time-out.

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