Why Is My Child Acting This Impossible?

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com

The last few days my son has been a very particular shade of ‘Oh my God are you f*cking kidding me?’ He picks fights with everyone, won’t answer reasonable requests and jumps through the house playing Tarzan all day. One of those things on its own would be a challenge, but maneagable. All three of them put together make for a deadly cocktail of ‘I can’t take it anymore!’

His ‘bad mood’, as he calls it’ started with the fact that he had to play Joseph in the Kindergarten nativity play last Friday morning. He was so nervous about it and really didn’t want to, but he’s the eldest boy and thus gently pushed towards areas in which he can grow.
There were no parents who came to watch, it was just the class group who participated in the play and the two regular teachers who guided everything. They’d played this scene with different children playing different roles for about two weeks. But still, the idea in itself already stressed him out so much that he wasn’t able to fall asleep on his own the night before.

On Friday afternoon, the bad mood really kicked in. I tried to distract him, tried to divert his attention so he could play by himself, tried to take him with me doing errands so the other children and other caretaker (my mother) would have some relief. It barely helped.

There are other contributing factors as well: It’s the start of the school holiday so the regular structure of the day is gone. We had a sleepover which was fun, but also a little busy and the stress caused lack of sleep for all of us (it’s a ‘one for all and all for one’-policy at our house when it comes to sleep deprivation).

So I did what I usually do, when I’ve completely overwhelmed and nothing seems to work anymore: I raged and kicked and screamed (only partially figuratively). And then I tried to reflect on what he really needs.
My son needs peace and quiet to unwinds. He needs safety. Not just a little but the motherload. He needs assurance and understanding. He thrives on one-on-one time. Most of all, he needs to know he is loved even when he acts impossible.

So today we built the train track together. He climbed a tree, alone. We went on a bike ride, just the two of us. He took a nap, a prerequisite for watching a movie, and he watched that movie. The evening wasn’t perfect but much more smoothly than the last 3 days had been.

Looking at what he needs also entails looking at what I need. For me to be able to give my son what he requires to feel safe, I need to have something to give. I must be mindful to protect my own boundaries. And that peace and quiet he needs, I also want that.

Through parenting, we learn what our kids’ manuals look like. We learn what ticks them off and what makes them feel understood. We learn what soothes them and what bores them. We get to discover what they love together with them.

When they behave erratically, or when there’s pressure on the relationship, we tend to throw out that manual and opt for the one we adopted from our parents. Yet, when we do that, we miss out on crucial tools to help us and our children through difficult times.

Writing out a manual for my two lovely angels, for moments in which they’re not so angelic, might be one of my resolutions for 2021.

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