You are asking such wonderful questions. It’s clear that you are working very hard to support your son well. I’ll try to answer your questions one by one. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed something…
No tears = no release. I’m not sure the context of this comment from Patty. It’s possible that she was talking about the deep sadness and fear that many of us, particularly boys have deep inside. It is that sadness and fear that drives the aggression and lashing out. But that sadness and fear is covered over by a hard crust. In order to break through that crust it requires:
1) that we get tons and tons of Listening so that we can see them as GOOD no matter what, and we can let go of any agenda about if/when they ever get to the tears.
2) lots and lots of Special Time so that they feel safe enough to let feelings bubble up through the crust
3) lots and lots of rough n tumble play where we take the less powerful role
4) lots and lots of LAUGHTER which increases connection, safety AND laughter IS the release of light fears
Human beings release feelings 5 ways: laughter, tears, trembling, sweating, yawning
Whenever we have an agenda about what anyone’s release (either our child or our LP) should look like, we compromise the safety necessary for any kind of release.
Then you asked some great questions about setting only ONE limit at a time and all the other stuff that might come after that limit. As I’ve said, I need a ton of Listening Time to be able to think well around what comes after I SET A LIMIT. For example, he’s off-track and he’s chosen dinner as a PRETEXT and is refusing to eat what I’ve fixed. “I’m sorry sweetie, this is what we are having for dinner”. Then, YES, I keep in mind that “dinner” is the ONE limit I’m setting and everything that comes afterward is part of the release or rather, his feelings trying to break through that hard crust. Then I get to be present – even on the other side of a slammed door- and LISTEN as he trashed his room, throws things around, kicks the door, etc…. If he is hurting himself or breaking something of value, that becomes a SAFETY limit. Otherwise, it’s just noise and it can all be cleaned up together at another time.
If I do need to set a safety limit, I have found it useful to set it playfully by throwing a blanket on my son. Often his fury turns to giggles as he keeps trying to reach things to trash or reach me from under the blanket. I don’t tell him what I’m doing. I TALK VERY LITTLE WHEN I LISTEN. I don’t tell him to stop doing things. I don’t name feelings or needs. I don’t explain. I don’t tell him to calm down or promise something if he calms down. I am simply PRESENT (in my good moments. when I’ve had enough listening time)
As for you being triggered by his silly talk – GREAT! ask your listening partner to be silly, silly, sassy and give you lots and lots of back talk. Rant and rave at your LP and tell them all the horrible things you are going to do to them if they don’t stop that silly sassy backtalk – duct tape their mouth, put their head in the toilet, wash their mouth out with soap… The more outrageous your threats and punishments during your Listening Time, the more relaxed you will be able to be when your son gets silly and threatening.
I’ll side-step to say a word about SCREENS and limits. Setting Limits on screens is very tricky because of the addictive nature of electronics. They put our brain in a passive state – like a DRUG – and when we set a limit, we get a double whammy . The brain can go right into fight/flight because of the drug withdrawal and all the feelings that were being tamped down by the drug come roaring up and out like a tsunami!!!!!! Just know that about screens so that you can be prepared. It’s great that you are doing more Special Time and I would highly recommend limiting the times that you do a screen special time. Once you’ve established a good habit of regular Special Time in your family. It is OK to save certain kinds of Special Times for once a week or once a month. It’s also ok to set a limit if you sense that there is a certain rigidity or anxiety about the activity your kiddo is choosing for Special Time. You didn’t ask about screens. That’s just my take on them. I think this anecdote could be helpful, and there are a lot more on our website. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2016/07/tv-limit-led-to-play/
Lastly, Bel, a really good thing for you to explore deeply in Listening Time is what does my son’s behavior mean about me? I say that because you mention he seems to love you more since you allow more screens and because a big thought you had about the play area incident was that he didn’t ask you for help. When we equate our kids’ behavior with our worth, or even equate it with “how our relationship is doing” it is very, very difficult to listen to them unconditionally. and nearly impossible for us to intervene playfully. So, I’m so glad that you are working on your feelings. Good for you. You are an awesome Mama and you are figuring this all out.
You can trust in your warm presence. You can trust that you are enough. You can trust that you have the capacity to listen to whatever happens after the limit. You can trust your goodness and your can trust that your son is good.
I hope me elaborating was helpful. Keep your good thoughts and questions coming!!! You are helping us all learn.
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
Follow me on facebook: Parenting by Connection with Kathy
“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi