My son turned 6 a few weeks ago. He has always been a happy well-adjusted kid. I've generally mothered somewhat attachment-style, with the philosophy that it's ok for him to feel his feelings, and we are happy to talk about and address them, but it is not acceptable to try to hurt others. Emotions are the keys to understand ourselves and each other. I have been a single mom since he was 18 months old and he sees his dad once a week. Please don't include advice for dad or trying to collaborate with him in any way here because that's out of the question. So, last night my son started calling me names when he was taking a long time brushing his teeth and it was way after bedtime, and I tried to get him to give me the toothbrush (I brush his teeth for 1 minute when he is finished due to dentist's recommendation. Soft teeth.) I told him what I usually tell him, that I'd like to listen to what he has to say but not if he is using disrepectful words. He got angrier and grabbed my phone to start playing games. He had 3 minutes left (he's allowed 15 minute a day) but I took the phone away because it didn't seem appropriate to let him sit there playing games while telling me that I sucked. Finally he became so angry that he yelled about how much I sucked for about 1/2 hour, and that I wished I was never alive, and he ran into his room and slammed the door (first time ever on all of these things), and then spent the next hour sitting alone in the dark on the couch, as he refused to go to bed and it was my bedtime, so I went into my room. I welcomed him to come when he had reset and was able to speak respectfully to me. He didn't come, so finally I lured him in with a lullaby on my phone that has
always been a sweet beautiful thing we do right before bed. But, the whole situation was awful, and this morning he seemed like he didn't know what to do with himself. Didn't want to talk, read books instead of eating breakfast (also totally new behavior), and was unhappy going to school. We have weekly "house meetings" where we talk about things we appreciate and things we'd like to change, and he says he has some stuff to talk about. But, I don't think he's on board with the concept that sometimes things can't be changed, but that I will always try to meet his needs the best I can. Please, any advice on how to deal with this kind of thing going forward? How to possibly prevent it, and if can't prevent it, to work constructively with it in a way that we can both learn from toward growing a happy child?
Welcome to six. Have you read Your Six Year Old by Louise Bates Ames? A lot of of parents struggle with six year olds, especially mothers.
Partner to R ('03); Parent to T ('07), A ('10), and E ('13)
Six is an age where kids push for independence so I would also suggest finding ways he can be independent.
Here is acps -collaborative problem solving approach take on your post.
It is extremely difficult to deal with problems ' in the moment'. At most we can try and defuse a situation , help him calm down and try to find a good time to pro-actively deal with problems. Telling a kid that he needs to talk in a respectful way can be a trigger to more frustration and anger., also trying to teach him a lesson that he cannot play with your phone and at the same time talk to you in a disrespectful way was a trigger. What we need to focus on is not his ' behaviors' but the conditions or underlying problems that give rise to these problems Instead of looking at emotions , lets look at his concerns and perspectives. These and not naming emotions are the building blocks to solve problems. The problems seem to be occuring around bed time - playing games , the teeth brushing ritual . Once we have a good time to talk and are bonding and connecting - the 1st stage of the cps process - the empathy and info gathering step would look like this Mom- I have noticed that brushing teeth in the evening before bed time is difficult for you or not going so smoothly , so what's up ? In order to solve problems we need info from your ds and may have to drill down to get more info. Once we have a clear idea of his concers , then we can express our concersn and then try some cps - not easy
Wow, that was a tough night! But I have to say it sounds like you did a fantastic job. The only thing I would suggest would be to follow up right away with whatever it was that he said he needed to talk about. Don't wait until the weekly family meeting, but do wait until everyone is in a more resourceful state ( aka. has gotten some sleep and isn't in meltdown mode). My guess would be that it was more the time of day and him being tired that triggered the melt down, especially if he himself stated that there was something he needed to say. Everyone's resources are lower when tired, so it sorta makes sense. If something is bothering a person and their resources are depleted meltdowns are almost always the result, regardless of age.
Once his concerns have been addressed I do think that it would be appropriate to let him know that his words hurt and made you feel very sad. Then ask him if he was trying to hurt you. Chances are he will say no, then you can ask what he was trying to do. From there brain storm ways that would be more appropriate to communicate how he felt. On the off chance he says he was trying to hurt your feelings ask why, which will almost certainly lead to him having trouble communicating how he felt then you are back at the brain storm part. And for yourself remember that children don't have the ability to distinguish the intensity of the moment from the long term reality. But again it sounds like you did really, really well.
The teeth brushing sounded more like a coincidence than anything else but in case that did have something to do with it maybe try those chewable tablets that stain the teeth purple and show where they need to be brushed. There is also yummy tasting fluoride the dentist can give you to use after regular brushing for soft teeth. And consider that the habit of good oral hygiene maybe more important than perfect baby teeth that will ultimately fall out anyway.
Edit to add: Just reread the part that he didn't want to talk the following morning. Don't drop it, it sounds like he has something really important to say. You can try empathizing with how hard it can be to talk about something when anger has gotten the best of a person but that there is no reason for shame, it's just a part of growing and learning. If you can't break through with understanding and sympathy go with how you felt. That may trigger anger but it will hopefully get him talking...
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