Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Tough Phase

Jack is talking more every day. It is very cool to get more insight into what he's thinking. He is very excited to share his thoughts and opinions with us.

Too bad his thoughts and wishes don't always align with those of his parents...enter the boundary enforcers...

Cue the ominous music...

Not getting your way or not being able to express what you want can lead to big enormous powerful feelings of frustration. Have you ever been extremely frustrated in a conversation with another person and just wanted to shake some sense into them or walked away from a conversation thinking you'd like to hit something?

No? Hmmm....well you're very lucky and probably not gonna get the rest of this post then.

Back to Jack...when he gets frustrated these days he starts swinging or kicking or both. And he's a very strong little boy. What's a Mom and Dad to do?

I have friends that spank for hitting. Dr. MacDonald of Communicating Partners recommends silent restraint as in your child loses his physical freedom yet does not get your attention. Supernanny would put the child in timeout I think. Still other people recommend reading books about hitting together. Other people recommend giving your child words to express their frustration or acceptable alternatives like punching a pillow. Patty Wipfler of Hand in Hand recommends restraining your child while calmly and firmly telling the child "I won't let you hit".

We've been in this phase in varying degrees of intensity for quite some time now.
We've tried all of these methods, yes all of them. What surprise that Jack needs an approach that is individualized to him!

I don't know what the answer is but I do know what I believe and what I want. I believe that Jack tries hard to do what is expected of him. I believe that Jack cares deeply for me, his mom, and for his dad. I know that he does not want to hurt us. I know that it's frustrating to not get my way or to feel that I'm not understood or that my feelings are not considered. I know that I want Jack to know that I am here to help him and guide him.

This morning, as his frustration bubbled over yet again, I looked right into his eyes as I restrained his arms and legs and said, "You know how Mama helps you when you are having a hard time riding your bike?" Jack was puzzled enough to stop wiggling for a moment and said, "Yes." "I am going to help you keep your hands and feet to yourself, too." My sweet boy said, "Okay" just before wiggling an arm loose landing a swat on my leg as he said, "watch shapes!"


Marie (mother of Jack, born May 2005)
Check out our blog at for glimpses into our busy life with a boy who is busy growing and developing in his own way in his own time


Staying Afloat said...

Wow, do I get this.

In terms of individualizing, I can say that sometimes with our kids, the individual part is that a good, useful approach takes seven times as long to work.

And of course, there's the whole idea that a typical stage takes place in our kids at a later age, aka they're bigger. That silent restraint thing is a little harder on E., who's big, and Jack, who's strong.

I wish you so much strength,

Rachel @ Grasping for Objectivity said...

I'm so sorry - I hope that the perfect solution bubbles to the surface soon!! I'm positive you'll find it - you're one determined woman!

Mary @ Parenthood said...

That is tough! We've been contemplating this too. E doesn't hit often, but when she gets very frustrated and tired she has been known to throw the odd tantrum, screaming and trying to hit her dad especially. She's very small so physical restraint is an option but we don't use it because it seems somewhat disrespectful to me. As an adult I would be very upset to be physically restrained until I was calm. We tend to physically remove ourselves from the situation. There was a picture book we read with her about biting that also helped (Teeth are not for biting, Biting hurts. Ouch!) We repeat that if she bites, and if she hits, we say: hands are not for hitting. Hitting hurts. Ouch! Then we ask her what teeth or hands are for. (eating or gentle touches) if she's crying too loudly we answer for her, then tell her that the noise is too loud and hurting my ears and that we're going to give her some time to calm down, and that she can come out when she's had a chance to compose herself. Sometimes (not often enough) I offer to pray with her for a calm heart. She usually says yes and it's remarkably effective. I don't know why I find that surprising!

So those are the two strategies we use, but always looking for new ideas!

Marie said...

Thanks for the encouragement ladies. It is getting so much better. I'll try to do a post soon. Well, I want to make sure we are really mostly done with this phase first.