This is my first post, let’s see if I can do it right…
I’ve been following Hand in Hand for about two years now and I’m not sure if I’m doing things right when I set a limit.
My 7 year old son tends to stuff his feelings and he usually cannot get to tears unless he gets hurt physically, or when I set a limit around an item he really wants to play with..
Here’s an example. When he comes back from school, I know he’s hungry so I ask him to eat. The rule we have established is that he gets to choose a snack that he likes as long as the lunch I packed for him is finished. Usually he leaves the veggies in his lunchbox, so that means he has to eat the veggies that he doesn’t want to before he gets to choose a snack. So he would rather run off and play.
I let him play as he pleases for a little while but then I see his irritated behavior, such as picking on his little sister. So I try and establish a connection through special time. He is a very serious type and it’s not easy to do Play Listening with him, as when I fumble around he looks at me like I’m just an idiot and tells me to stop. As a matter of fact, if I don’t stop, he will loudly protest.
Sometimes, special time will accentuate his irritated behavior after it’s done. At which point I figure he’s primed for release, but if I don’t set a limit to push against, he just simmers in his obnoxious behavior. Nothing horrible, just uncooperative, snappy, grumpy, and defiant.
What typically happens next is I go back to asking him to eat his veggies. He won’t, and instead will pick up something like my phone. I tell him he can’t have my phone, and I use it as a limit and take it from him.
But once I take the phone from him, I can’t find a place to put it that he can’t get to. Even the highest shelf in the house he will find a way to climb it. Since I don’t really want to risk wrestling with him with a phone on me, and he’s definitely going to try and get it regardless of where I place it, I end up having to physically restrain him from going to the shelf where I placed the phone.
Now, it’s not always my phone. Sometimes it’s something like his legos, or a toy that he’s trying to keep away from his sister – I suppose if it were a ball or something we could turn it into rough and tumble play (a sort of a two-person “monkey in the middle”), but often I end up finding myself trying to restrain him from going to get the toy that I had to remove from him.
Eventually he gets through it with tears in the end but there’s a lot of anger that comes out in the process. And what it feels like is that I’m creating more anger for him, instead of helping him release it. My question is if I’m usually creating the limit where I’m having to restrain him initially NOT because of safety but because I don’t know how else to keep him from crossing the limit, is that breaking his connection with me more? Once I restrain him, within a few seconds it does turn into a safety issue, since once he’s angry enough he comes at me after I let go of him.
I’d appreciate any feedback, tweaks or ideas on how I can improve getting him to release his feelings without what it seems like tormenting him.
I can very much relate to what you are saying about setting the limit on the object and having to place it out of reach and then feeling you need to restrain your son. I have a very similar situation going on with my oldest son who is 6. I don’t know if I have any advice for you other than to share what we’ve done and learned mostly thru HIH. I would love to hear what the moderators have say but mostly what it comes down to for us is setting the limit on the object he’s after then allowing all the feelings. I will stand between him and the object, he will kick, and scream and sweat and even try biting and I stay listen thru it. These episodes can last a while. AS for connection this process of me holding the limit and allow all his aggression and big feelings has certainly brought us much much closer. He’ll say he hates me after the storm has passed and he may even go off and sulk because he didn’t get the object he was after but a while later he’s usually back with a hug and an I love you or something like that. It’s also over the longer term that I’ve noticed big changes. He’s been able to manage his impulses a bit better and I definitely feel a closer bond with him. It seems like every time we have one of these episodes we build another step in our relationship. Hang In there, it does get better one step at a time. Best wishes
Thank you Chelsey! It’s good to hear your input. Perhaps I can do as you do by getting between him rather than restraining him as soon as he goes for the object. That might open up more ways for it to become a game for my son rather than a struggle.
It’s grea that you are posting here about what you are trying and how it’s going. Thank you for adding support Chelsea. It’s so great to be learning this new language of parenting together as a community!
First, I hope that both of you have LISTENING PARTNERS. It may be very difficult to do what I am going to suggest unless you are getting some good Listening Time yourself. You can post here in the discussion board for a listening partner, or you can join the Parenting Club Facebook group to find a LP. You have to have a Listening Partner to use our Listening tools. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2016/08/listen-launch-post-what-is-a-listening-partnership/
Secondly, what I am going to suggest is that you Set A Limit EARLY AND OFTEN So, Mika, when your son comes home, if the LIMIT you are setting is that you have to eat what’s left in your lunch, and he is not willing to eat what’s his lunch, the he is OFF-TRACK. He CAN’T THINK. When you give him a double-bind choice: “if you do this, then you can get this” ; that is only FRUSTRATING for the both of you. He can’t think. So he can’t think well enough to make such a choice.
I want to stop and caution you about expecting a child to be able to think around the subject of food – especially when they’ve been away from you for hours and have not eaten for hours. Two things have happened. 1) their blood sugar has dropped and when your blood sugar drops, your brain is STARVED for food and you CANNOT THINK. You can get off-track very, very easily. 2) Since he’s been away from you for HOURS, he is super duper DISCONNECTED.
In order for a child to be able to think, choose what to do, play well, etc. they have to feel SAFE AND CONNECTED. Your child has been away from you all day. 1) they don’t feel safe and connected. 2) their brain is starved for nutrients. It’s a recipe for disastrous off-track behavior: disconnection exacerbated by brain starvation
The SOLUTION is for you to 1) provide CONNECTION first thing – offer Special Time and/or rough n tumble play so that your kiddo feels connected. 2) SET A LIMIT: “sweetie, we’re going to finish what’s in your lunch box and have some turkey” (some kid of protein is crucial) BEFORE we go play.”
If you are willing and able to do this: FEED HIS CONNECTION and FEED HIS BODY, then I really believe that he will be able to move much more easily through the rest of his day.
Honestly, MIka, if you handle his connection and protein needs, I suspect it won’t get to the place of struggling over an object. He might have a huge upset when you set the limit about eating first, and that’s a very, very good thing.
The last thing I would say, is that IF, after you feed his body and his heart through a meal and some Special Time, IF he still asks for a toy or object that you don’t want him to have, then YES! You need to BRING THE LIMIT to your child. You need to put your body between them and the object. or you need to put your hand on the object as if you are going to put it away. Then you LISTEN to their huge feelings of upset. KNOWING that it’s not about the object. There is some hurt stuck in their emotional processing center and they need to POOP it out. So we LISTEN.
Here are some articles that can help
Special Time checklist: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2014/11/make-special-time-child-checklist/
Setting Limits: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/setting-limits-with-young-children/
Setting Limits video http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2014/11/setting-limits-childs-unreasonable-behavior/
As for your last question about having to restrain him. My guess is that if you set a limit earlier, and feed his brain, it won’t get to this point. Again, if he is still off-track after he eats, the you can become silly and playful – again setting the very FIRST limit. But setting it PLAYFULLY. I think this podcast will give you some ideas on both setting limits early and setting them playfully http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/what-to-do-when-your-child-just-wont-listen-replay/
This is our job – recognizing the very FIRST time that they CAN’T THINK and then setting the limit. Listening Time in our partnership will help with this.
You are such an awesome Mama – both of you. I look forward to hearing all the great ideas you figure out in Listening Partnerships because you ARE going to figure this out!
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
Thank you SOOO much for all the input!
The last couple of days have been much better – and for the days that aren’t better, looks like I’ve got a lot of reading to do!
I appreciate your support.