I knew towards the end of the week that Michael’s anxiety with returning to school would be culminating in higher stress levels for him and us. What I did not know, is how he would push my buttons to get me to take notice. This should not have come as a surprise. We are working with the school psychologist to help Michael learn to self-regulate and manage his emotions. This is so hard for him. It is made harder that part of him is this little tween with major attitude telling me he doesn’t like my rules, he wishes he could live with his Bff, and I’m too strict. Then other days the anxiety affects him by making him more clingy to me. He checks what room I’m in the house. He asks me a million times if I love him. He asks me if he can live with me one day. It is so stressful for me and even him. I know he is scared and does not know what to do. The other day though, it was so difficult when he began pushing my buttons during a fight about bedtime. He wasted so much time getting through the routine, decided to throw water on the floor, and then got angry when I said I would not be lying down with him due to his rudeness. He insulted me, tried to hit me. I was so mad. I didn’t take my own advice about retreating to a calm corner and yelled right back. I even half marched half dragged him back to his room and ordered him to get dressed or I would record the whole ordeal and email it to his school. I’d threatened this once before when super angry and was not proud, but it seemed to work. He started to listen and even apologized.
I realized I’d fallen right into his trap of overreacting to his overreacting. This is the worst thing a parent can do, but when you’ve had a day of constantly putting out behavioral fires from your child, most parents would have their not so compassionate moments. I learned that I needed to find out how to connect more to Michael’s anxious state, and really find ways to help him manage his own anxiety. He thinks Dad and I will always make him feel better, not knowing yet that he really does have the power. I need to show him he is safe and capable. He is a smart kid and will get it with enough repetition. Plus pair this with the hard work he is doing with the psychologist on finding strategies to handle his anger and he will learn. What I realized I could have done but didn’t, are the following:
- Keep a similar routine going: Michael got up late and that messed it all up
- Show child you are really there listening: Dad and I have been so busy around the house and with work that Michael may have felt pushed aside. That is when he acts up.
- When angry, step aside and tell them why: I forgot to go to my calm corner as I did in the daytime. It was not pretty.
- Don’t take them personally or their comments, but explain calmly that violence, verbal or physical is NEVER right: There were moments when I yelled instead of staying calm. When someone hits you or insults you, it is normal to overreact. Try to remember your child is in distress and don’t take them personally.
- Show them a safe place they can go to vent: Redirect them to a safe place to vent and don’t talk to them unless they need you to.
Exceptional Parents, are you always the calm in your child’s storm? It’s ok if the answer is no. You are human. You make mistakes and forget to pace yourself, and let’s face it, having anyone say hurtful things to you is hard. Just remember, if you stay calm and keep yourself level, you are setting a good future example for your child to regulate their own emotions. And don’t be afraid to seek professional help for your child. They will benefit from many different types of approaches that will teach them how to handle stress and their emotions. Until next time