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It sounds like you are doing such great work with your son and that things just need a little tweaking. I think you are right on when you say his off-track behavior is coming from a place of fear. Patty wrote this great article about exactly what you are describing: when a kiddo has a chunk of frozen fear and it’s causing them to do almost anything to get your attention.
I’ll hit some of the highlights of the article – starting with YOU getting Listening Time. Do you have a listening partner or 3 or 4. What needs to happen in your own listening time is for you to get to all the feelings around this – how embarrassing it is; how you fear there is something wrong with him and/or what if he never stops? Explore your own feelngs of frustration and powerlessness. – Memories of times when you were small that you didn’t get attention and/or you felt powerless. Exploring all that – ranting, raving, crying, laughing, trembling about all that will help you get to the place where it actually doesn’t bother you at all that he’s shooting people.
In other words, your tension around this behavior is adding to his feelings of fear, of not being wanted, of not being able to feel you, of being bad, etc. Your own listening time will help you see him as GOOD no matter what.
The next step is to RAMP UP THE SPECIAL TIME – do it more often, but in shorter bursts. So – do 5 minutes, 3-5Xs each day. And set a timer!!! It’s really important that there be a end to the Special Time. But do leave a buffer of time. If he gets upset when Special Time ends and you propose that you are now going into the other room to do the dishes (thereby taking your attention from him), you’ve left time to staylisten.
More/shorter Special Time will increase the safety so that he can let that fear bubble up and release it. and more frequent Special Time means more frequent ENDINGS and transitions or separations. You will be giving him more opportunity to feel you start to move away – therefore more opportunity to have a good cry.
Look for other opportunities to set little limits, as well. Perhaps you help him put his shoes on in the morning because it’s faster. You know he can physically do it. So, this morning you cheerfully say, ‘you can put your shoes on sweetie’ The meltdown that might ensue is more releasing of feelings and it’s a good thing. Or perhaps you give him juice in the red cup and he sort of whines for the blue cup. Cheerfully saying, ‘we’re using the red cup today’ is another little limit that has nothing to do with guns or name calling. It’s another opportunity for him to tantrum.
Then keep doing all the great playlistening and rough n tumble play where he gets to take the more powerful role. All that great stuff will increase his confidence and his ability to feel you. Because you are going to get Listening Time and you feel relaxed about the shooting, you might find that the way you playlisten shifts.
All those ideas are how to help him release the fear… 1) Listening partnerships for you 2) more/shorter bursts of Special Time setting a timer 3) look for opportunities to set a little limit early and often 4) lots of play
You can also think preventatively and be a detective for a few days. Is there a pattern to this particular off-track behavior? and can you do some Special Time or rough n tumble play right before the adult friend comes over? You could plan to have the adult friend do Special Time as soon as they get there. That way your son doesn’t have to beg for attention.. You fill his cup up first.
I hope some of those ideas help. You really are doing such wonderful work with your son. What an awesome Mama. Let us know how it goes…
Peace & Smiles,
Parenting by Connection Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
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“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi