Today’s post on discipline is actually a guest post from a very dear friend of mine Annie. I met Annie when she moved to Melbourne and joined our local playgroup. We were both pregnant with our second child, so it is quite fitting then, that the topic of her post is about her beautiful second child!
At the moment I don’t catch up with Annie anywhere near as often as I would like, but boy can we cram a lot of conversation into our catch ups when we finally have them! We talk about an amazing range of interesting things from kids, literature, politics to family complexities.
Annie is an experienced secondary school teacher, who is currently teaching English as a second language to adult international students at RMIT University in Melbourne.
How We Are Helping Our Beloved 8 Year Old Boy With His Temper.
I have often joked to friends that our second child was born so that we would realise this parenting thing is tricky. Our (now 11 year old) daughter, apart from some early sleeping issues, has been a dream and now that we are heading into the teens with her I do wonder what she’s got in store! Our son is a delight in his own way however, whilst we are often complimented on his behaviour outside the home, at home his stubbornness and the way he deals with anger leave some considerable room for improvement. Lately we have yet again ‘re-tweaked’ our methodology and have had some good results. This is what works for us and our gorgeous boy:
Firstly, prevention is so often easier than a cure:
1. Cherish Him And Emphasise Family.
Like so many things in life I believe that raising good kids is about focusing on the positive. Our little man is a terrific kid and the way he deals with anger is just a part of who he is. (I am talking about a kid who is very well-behaved outside the home but who lets it all out at home with noisy dissatisfaction and throwing of things – though he knows better than to hit anyone) He responds very well to being told we love him and why. Recently (thanks PQ- a bit of a twist on the idea) I have been very conscious of pulling him in for a cuddle whenever the opportunity arises. He loves this positive interaction with me and it’s too easy to forget how important touch is. We are also very big on reminding him he is a part of a family unit and that as part of that we all love, respect and look after each other and there is no other way.
2. Do Things His Way When Possible
Now I may not be anywhere near as organised as the wonderful PQ but like most mums I do like a bit of efficiency. I’ve also had to struggle all my life with my negative gut reaction to a change in plan. With our son I have finally learnt to think before I speak (most of the time) and to say yes to his ideas when I can. Putting my mum preconceptions aside has led to long -term changes like him wearing shorts and a t-shirt all winter despite my fears for his health. Short-term changes might be something like letting him scooter to the local shops with me in the rain when I had planned to drive.
3. Keep Him Happy
Unlike me and, like most 8 year olds, our little guy likes nothing better than a physically active day with some challenges thrown in. The behaviour I would expect (and get) from him after a day cooped up is quite different to the child who comes through the door sparkling with the joy and satisfaction of an afternoon kicking goals. He is also old enough to appreciate that one of us has torn ourselves away from the heater and the paper to supervise him and his mate at the oval and we remind him of this when we need him to do other things he wouldn’t choose. When out to dinner we are always prepared with a chess set, book, sudoku etc. We also focus on the positive things ahead (if he just leaves the house with us!) not the negative consequences of any failure to cooperate.
4. Have Good Role Models
As he has got older I have occasionally asked him to think about various respected adult males in his life, including his Dad of course, and whether he wants to grow up like them and how they behave. When Mr 8 was younger my husband was travelling a lot and I made a conscious effort to have the uncle who lived nearby to dinner frequently so there was some non-female energy in the house and a bit of bloke interaction. There was always a great response to this.
5. Use Less Words And Assume The Best
This one took me a long time to learn and I still forget. It’s self-explanatory really. While he is highly literate, more than one instruction completely throws him and he will resort to ‘bad’ behaviour through immediate frustration because he feels he cannot fulfil our requirements for good behaviour ie; can’t remember what we want him to do/keep all the words in his head. Further to this it is important to give him a few moments to respond to information/instructions and not expect instant action. (This is a general bloke thing I think, something to do with saving face?) I make sure to give the impression that I assume that he is going to follow the instruction because surely he wouldn’t do anything else being the wonderful family member he is! I do this by continuing my forward momentum, preparing myself and not looking at him so he doesn’t get the feeling he is being ‘watched’. (I have to be sure he has heard me first – this can sometimes be hard to ascertain!)
6. Don’t Be In A Hurry And Forewarn
Most of us learn this with toddlers! The former is not always possible but the latter usually is and, boy, do they both make a difference!
Of course there will be times when these strategies just aren’t enough and things start spiralling out of control. These are the things that work best for us.
7. Bring Him Close
PQ’s excellent post on this said it all. While 8 is not in the target age range it is still our first strategy and often gets good results (although pretty strongly linked in with making time for frequent positive cuddles I think)
8. Give Him Time
Aah the time-honoured strategy. Sometimes with Mr 8 he just can’t bring himself under control and doesn’t want us to be part of his recovery strategy. He will remove himself to his room (sometimes with some gentle ‘herding’) and usually sob and scream that “It’s not fair.” And I mean SOB and SCREAM. This is an incredibly frustrating thing as a parent, not least because we usually don’t have time for the tantrum and also because it makes us feel like crap parents. This used to be a daily occurrence and allowed us frequent reflection on our parenting style and what on earth we could do to stop things getting to this stage. It is happening less often recently and I suspect this is linked in with better use of the strategy discussed in the first point and perhaps him getting older? (He will be 9 this month) Who knows really?! We usually give him a few minutes to scream then go and see him and calmly restate the required behaviour. If possible we start the “bring him close” strategy at this point but it will sometimes be 10 minutes before he is ready for this. If at any stage he calls for us we immediately go.
9. Focus On Behaviour, Encourage Him And Show Consistency
When the crisis is over, we remind him that we still love him, though not his recent behaviour, and try to point out to him (when true) how much more quickly than previously he got things under control. Very occasionally we have used a threat in the heat of the moment which we have to follow up on. With our boy the only thing that has any impact is missing a quarter of his team’s football game on tv. We only use this if his behaviour is seriously impacting on his sister or us as its effectiveness is far from guaranteed. (Believe me we have tried consequence guided behaviour and it rarely works when he is angry. We do use it at other times when he is calm though. Eg;Help Mum by putting those clothes away and then I will have time to play with you in 10 mins. – Time has to be given with our boy, nothing vague like ‘soon’)
10. Worry Less
I am prone to anxiety over the adult I am helping create. Are we being too strict? Are we being too lenient? I remind myself that the strong convictions and stubbornness of my son will stand him in good stead as he makes his way through life. And I comfort myself that his teachers are more than
11. Remember The Siblings
It is a fact that parenting our son takes a lot more of our time and energy than parenting our daughter. She is not unaware of this and often resents the impact his behaviour has on her life. It is hard to address this but we try our best. Fortunately, as an only daughter, she and I have frequent opportunities to bond with shared activities and I tell her how special it is to have her. It is more of a conscious effort with dad but they have developed a café habit that took a little manipulation in the beginning but is serving its purpose well now. I think sometimes there is no choice but to have different special experiences with each child provided they understand that the family unit, whomever that may include, is the cornerstone. Both of them know that no matter what they are loved and they belong. As I tell my daughter, our 8 year old, with all his noisy passion is, and always will be, ours – just like her – and that’s special.
How do you help your kids deal with anger?
For further posts on discipline you may like to read: