Jack has worked really hard on quelling his anxiety caused by the major changes in his life in kindergarten and we are very proud that his obsessive hand sucking has nearly, entirely stopped. Unfortunately, this has been replaced by a need for negative attention, lying and a lot of anger.
Here's the thing...We've been spending so much time thinking about correcting Jack that we've neglected a focus on our responses to his actions and the example they set. I would say as parents Chris and I both have very high expectations in terms of manners, politeness and kindness. One of my anger triggers, which I am positive I inherited from my mother, is my level of embarrassment when the minions behave like jerks in public - this includes reports of them being disrespectful or difficult to any of their teachers or caregivers, which are coming in lately, unfortunately, on a daily basis.
Jack taming the wolf statue circa 2014.
Last night I tossed and turned until I came to a big realization, I am the @$$h0*e. I am setting unrealistic expectations for Jack, who is in a difficult and challenging situation that he has little to no control over, since he's only four years old. As an adult, I've had to make big decisions and dramatic changes to my life because of the impact escalating negative situations have had on my health, happiness and general well-being. I couldn't have made the difficult decisions I needed to without my solid support network of family and friends. When I was feeling really terrible about myself these people reminded me about why I am awesome and this helped me immensely. Why should this need for support be any different for a four year old who is not yet the master of his own destiny? Sure he's still going to face consequences for lying and other major infractions, but perhaps it's time to put away the iron fist and try the velvet glove.
In a revised plan of action to help Jack work through the anxiety and anger he's been feeling lately, we're going to attempt to respond to what he's saying and doing in a more constructive way. When Jack gets frustrated and yells, "YOU GO TO TIME-OUT!" to Chris or I, we're going to take his suggestion and all take a two-three minute quiet time so everyone can calm down. When I ask Jack to do something and he responds with, "Not now, soon though." we'll let it slide, just a little bit. If Jack isn't ready to talk about what's bugging him, we're going to give him a hug and come back to him later when it isn't so raw. In non-stressed moments we are going to talk about other things we can do and coping mechanisms to distract ourselves and calm ourselves down when we're mad, like singing a song or counting to ten. Most importantly I am going to work on praising the little things that he's doing awesome at and reward his good behaviour, because we all need encouragement.
Every once in a while, when Chris and I get snippy with each other Jack steps in and tells us to apologize and be nicer to each other, because we're best friends. It's time to take his lead.
To read about other challenges in adjusting to school click here.
To read about lessons learned in speech therapy and managing obsessive tendencies click here.
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