Recently, my youngest has been testing my ability to discipline. He’s six. WAY to old to be throwing fits. And yet, over the past couple months, there has been a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of these incidents.
In my mind I can think of a variety of reasons why this could be happening, but I refuse to make excuses for him. No matter what this poor kid is dealing with, there is no excuse for acting out the way he has been.
He knows the “Anger Rules” given to him by his therapist. (Yes, I have both of my boys in play therapy to help them deal with their parents’ divorce, and I would highly recommend that anyone else going through this do the same.) I will remind him of these rules, and also of some of the anger releasing strategies she taught him. They don’t always work.
I have video taped him during a fit and showed him later how he looked and acted. This doesn’t always work.
I tend to over-analyze things because of the way I was treated by his father. If he hits or tries to break things in his anger, that really triggers me and my “fight or flight” instincts come out. That never works.
Recently, I tried something different. And it did work. Logic.
One night, after he had calmed down from a particularly loud and destructive battle over having to take a bath, I got down to his level and told him that he was going to have a bath no matter what happened. He had the choice to take his bath with or without a consequence. His choice, unfortunately, was to take the bath with a consequence that night. He wasn’t happy, but he understood. He apologized for his bad behavior, we hugged, and he proceeded to take his bath.
Not long after, I sensed another meltdown coming on, this time because he didn’t want to get his shoes on and get to the car. I got down at his level and told him he’s going to have to get in the car with his shoes on no matter what. I also told him he could do that with or without a consequence. If he chose to go quickly and get in the car, there would be no consequence. But if he complained any more, caused a scene, or made us waste time, then there would be a consequence.
He looked at me, understood, and got his shoes on without another word.
I have got to be honest. This has been one of those parenting “aha moments” for me. It made me think about my own life, as well. How often do I do things the hard way that leads to a consequence when I could have taken the easy route without one? I love a good self-reflection, and for me this lesson in parenting was also a lesson for me.
I think it’s so important for us to teach these concepts to our children when they are young. I want my two boys to have it engrained in their heads that they will take full responsibility for any and all choices that they make. I want them to know that everything they do affects others around them. I want them to know that they have the choice to do things with or without consequences. And I want to help them realize life is much more pleasant and easy when they make the right choices.