It is so great that you are here! What an awesome Mama – both because you’ve been listening so well to your boys AND because you know you need more support. I hear you! My son just turned 13 and over the last couple of years, I’ve reached out to fellow Instructors with older boys, to avail myself of their wisdom and support.
I’ve learned a few things – both from those who’ve gone before me and my own son. I hope some of these ideas will help…
Yes! It’s true. No longer do they melt down and no longer is it clear that they can’t think. What comes out of their mouths seems somewhat connected to reason. So, it’s easy to get sucked in by all those words. I’ve learned to regard much of what my son says as part of the emotional release. It’s not tears. It’s arguments. But if I’ve answered him once or given him ONE reason and he keeps trying to negotiate and argue. I have to tell myself he CANNOT THINK. Patty’s advice to set limits early and often is doubly true as our kids get more verbal. It’s EXHAUSTING to negotiate and make agreements and then have them not be able to keep the agreement, because they COULDN’T THINK anyway!!!
The other thing I’ve learned is to set ONE limit at a time. Particularly when you get all those words and/or my son starts to throw things around, I would then try to set a new limit. Again, the words and the throwing things around are part of the emotional release.
Because our kiddos are out in the world more now, they are learning really quickly that they need to have a harder crust in order to survive. When I am getting all that hateful talk spewed at me or my son starts to throw things and slam his door, I have to think, “Wow, sweetie, you are showing me how isolated you feel and how much you are hurting”. So, I hang in there and listen as he throws things and listen through the door when he slams it.
I actually do not contain my son unless he is about to hurt something of value and/or he is trying to hurt me. Then I have found tri-fold kids’ mats and blankets to be very useful. I can hold the mat in kind of a semi-circle and let him pummel the mat, or I will throw the blanket over him and then often, it turns playful. I have found play to be far more effective with my snarky 13 yr old that directly setting a limit and staylistening. For example, the other day he asked if he could go to the after school program. I said, ‘no sweetie’. He started in with ‘why?’ I think I told him the reason (homework) but he kept asking ‘why’, so I broke into the Carpenter’s song “Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near? Just like me, they long to be close to you..” It got him laughing and protesting, ‘stop, Mom’. Dancing does the same great thing as singing. Gets us reconnected and gets him unstuck.
The other thing I’ll say about containment is that Patty says, we absolutely only do it for safety, and we try to contain them with as much kindness as we can. So, when I could contain my kiddo (he’s 9 inches taller now), I would get behind him, try to take us to the ground, gently and put my chin in his shoulder, so that I could put my cheek next to his. When he would howl in protest, I’d say, “sweetie, I don’t want to hold you. If you can stop hitting and we can be safe, I’ll let you go”. Of course he’d agree and I’d let go – being prepared that he might go for me again. If he came at me again, I’d have to get behind him. But often, he’d then direct his attention to throwing things. I’d have to judge… is this part of his release or do I need to bring a safety limit. Most of the time, I’d then go for the blanket or pillows to try to dance with his release.
I could NOT do any of this without LISTENING TIME – almost daily!!! I have had to rant, rave and cry almost every single day about how hard it is, how much I hate my son, how I no longer want to be a parent (I’m a single adoptive Mom), how there must be some drug – for either him or me….etc. I’ve also had in person listening partnerships where my partner has thrown pillows at me, wrestled with me and just stood in front of me towering over me (as my son can now do). Bringing ALL of it to my LPs allows me to be clear on what ONE limit I’m setting (although a SAFETY LIMIT trumps all), be clear if I need to set a safety limit, think really well on how close to get, how playful to get, when to get playful… I need regular LPs in order to not take his behavior personally. In order to see that he is GOOD no matter how crusty he gets. And every once in awhile, I have a day like today when I’m just loaded for bear and I’m the stinkiest Mama on the planet.
So – get a bunch more LPs – this is a great community of parents where you can find several. Be easy on yourself. See your boys as GOOD – I know you already do – Keep giving them lots and lots of SPECIAL TIME to increase the safety and keep posting!!!
Your courage and commitment is inspiring to us all! Let us know if any of this helped and let us know how it goes…
Peace & Smiles,
HAND IN HAND PARENTING
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