Background: Today dd (age 7) came home from school with a present. One of the wealthier high schools in the neighborhood has chosen our high poverty school to help out the holiday time for one of their service projects. They take the 5th graders shopping so they can buy presents for their family, and then they buy and donate presents for each of the kids in grades K-4. (Since there are close to 600 kids at our school and only 75 of them are 5th graders, this is quite an undertaking!)
So, when dd brought her present in, she wanted to open it right away. We said that since Christmas was only a week away and this was a Christmas gift, she'd have to wait.
From her crying and wailing, you would have thought that the world had come to an end. She went up to her room to cry. She came back down and sobbed. I tried to hold her on my lap, but she wasn't ready. She went upstairs again and cried. When she came down, she was ready to be held. I sang her some songs, and she relaxed and we talked.
While talking, here's what came out:
-She was disappointed because her class didn't get to watch the Polar Express for their class party like she had been hoping.
-They didn't have time at the morning assembly to call up the kids who had perfect attendance for the end of the term and she was really hoping to be called up (because she's never been called up for anything special).
-She was on sensory overload. The kids at school had been super loud all day because the mascot from the high school had been there dressed up in a Santa suit ("there was a cougar in a Santa suit!"), and so they were screaming pretty much all recess, and they'd played games in reading class (musical chairs) that also involved a lot of noise and screaming.
Here's what I noticed:
-She was coming down off a sugar high (partly our fault because we donated cookies to the end of term class party).
-She was tired.
She's processing the fact that her grandma is dying and that's adding stress.
So, when your kids act out, remember, it's probably more than the one thing. If I had just responded to dd's whining and crying over the present, I would have missed the bigger picture. If I'd just said "oh fine, open the present, it's not that big a deal to me" I would have missed the other things that were bothering her. It's easy to do that. I don't always have the time and patience to wait for dd to be held and talk to me about what's going on in her head and heart.
When I do take the time though, things resolve more quickly. Dd got her emotions and her issues out. It feels like it takes more time, but in reality, it doesn't. It's a good reminder to me to take the time to really listen.