Since the day he was born Mike has had no patience for things that piss him off, and now that he’s 5 that encompasses a lot of happenings in the world. The problem is that since he is still a little kid he doesn’t have very many good ways to deal with his frustration and anger.
So, for example, when he gets mad at a brother or a friend at school he will sometimes resort to hitting / pushing / kicking. It isn’t my favorite, but he has always had a short fuse, so this is not a new development.
Strategies we’ve tried are classics like time-outs, just plain telling him to knock it off, asking him to take deep breaths, giving him positive reinforcement when we see that he deals with his anger in a positive way like talking through it or walking away, and that old standby: yelling like a freaking lunatic.
None of this has really worked, and it is hard for him! Not only does he have a short fuse, but he also has high expectations of himself and others around him. He doesn’t exactly take the easiest path through the woods.
But about two months ago I had an idea for how to help him through this. I told him that it is such a special treat for people to be with him. And I know that sometimes he gets frustrated with his friends and brothers and feels like hitting them. But that the best way to deal with people who are frustrating him is to take away the special treat of being with him.
And it worked! Now instead of hitting (most of the time) he will walk away and do something else. And I didn’t have to yell at him for the 100th time. He acts all blustery and big-kid-like, but his self-esteem takes a big hit every time he gets in trouble. He has a hard time brushing it off when someone tells him he did something wrong.
It is important to note that I am not a softie, permissive mom. I’m pretty strict about most things, and my kids know that. So I’m not just “letting him off easy” with this technique. It is just a way for him to get out of a tricky situation on his own. It is a tool he has to help him when his anger takes over.
Last week one of his teachers mentioned to me that Mike’s self-esteem has gone way up, and she no longer sees him hide away under the play structure after someone tells him no. I’ve been working on a number of ways to shore up how he feels about himself lately (I’ll elaborate in future posts) but it makes me so happy to hear that he’s feeling better about being Mike.
Is this going to work for all kids? Hell, it doesn’t even work on all my kids, but stick it in your bag of tricks and see if you come up with a use for it. I’m just trying to add to the list of parenting strategies out there. I hope some other folks get use out of it.