Thursday, March 20, 2008

Expressing Anger or Frustration (the children)

Yesterday we had a date with a girl in the neighborhood. Trev and she met a couple of years ago, but somehow they didn't establish a friendship or meet regularly, though her mother and I see each other often and wave and say hello.
She lives on the next street.
The day before yesterday we went to a neighborhood playground, viewable from their home, and they came over to say hi and to play. So we made a date for Wednesday afternoon, after school. (Just giving you this background in case we meet often, which I suspect we will, and you'll know from where she and their friendship came.)
Yesterday while playing tag on the tramp whenever Trev would get close, she'd drop into a curled position, which meant "I'm safe, you can't get me." Every time Trev got within a couple of feet, she'd do this.
Well, eventually he got really frustrated and would "aaaaargh!" and hit himself on the head with his fist. He's been doing this a lot lately. Well, not a lot as in constantly, what I mean is that it's his current method of dealing with frustration.
Like thump, thump, thump, "Stupid Me."
I always stop it. "Hey, hey, hey, don't hit my son," I say. Probably (definitely) I should change that to "your Self", as he needs to be valued for his Self, not for being my son. Initially I just wanted to convey that I love my children and feel protective of them, and can't allow mistreatment of them. But I can see now where I need to change that wording.
Anyway. Thank God Jo (mom) was there, because she noticed my distress, and asked "Does he do that often?" "The last couple of weeks, I said."
I stopped him, and asked him if he was frustrated (obviously) and he said yeah, and I told him, "Well, why don't you tell Al that you don't really want to play that game any more?" Which he did, and her conclusion was to not go into "time out" so much, and then they had a great time playing tag.

Now I'm feeling really lame because it took this incident to bring it all the way to the front of my mind, and to notice [ahem] that I may want to do something about this. (You know how some things don't make it to the front of your brain for a while? They just sit on the back burner? It's like being only partly conscious of it happening.)
So now I've really started thinking about this.
Clearly it's an expression of anger or frustration.
And I absolutely have a problem with it.
Self destruction is absolutely not okay with me - there are healthier outlets for expressing anger or frustration. Belittling one's self, hurting one's self can only lead to other self destructive things - shame, not believing in one's self, etc. I'm just not okay with it.

So! I'm in pursuit of healthy outlets for anger and frustration.
Absolutely I don't want them to zip it up.
Absolutely I don't want them to turn it upon themselves.
Of course hitting another is not acceptable, either.
I don't particularly like "YOU IDIOT!!!", either. Which has been a favorite previously.
It is not my intention to have them express that's in a way acceptable to me and my preferences, or to repress it and cause them harm.
But, on the other hand, if I have tools (that I was not given as a child) that can help transform this normal emotion into something that does not have to take over your life and debilitate you (as a child and as an adult), I would surely like to pass that on! Breathing, practicing mindfulness, etc.

Ideally (where I would like us to be) is a place where Trev recognizes the signs of frustration building, and he calls for an end to it before it culminates into such great heights. He has excellent communication skills, usually, and maybe it's just a matter of practicing and remembering them. On the other hand, who is to say that isn't what happened? Could be that it's only difficult for Me to deal with the way he chose to deal with his frustration, and it wasn't that big of a deal, to him.

I think this rainy sort of day (with a clean house!) is a perfect one for breaking out Naomi's Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves again. Seems I need a refresher course.

I'll take all insight that you have to offer, Friends.


Stephanie Ozenne said...

Little to offer here - I have the same problem. I try to tell Emmett when something is making me angry, so he's perfectly comfortable telling me when something I'm doing is making him angry. That's fine, but it sort of leaves us stuck. I'm not sure what to do after that, so let me know what you figure out!

I do try to get him to focus on something good, even in the face of disappointment and anger. Sometimes snuggling before bed when we're nice and calm I'll talk about finding the bright side. I'll say "Suppose you went to get ice cream, but they are all out of your favorite flavor" and ask him to find the bright side. That one is easy - you still get ice cream! Of course it's easy when you're calm and not upset, but I figure practice can't hurt.

And I just remembered a situation I am so proud about! We were at a bouncy place and a friend of Emmett's had a ball that he WOULD NOT share. Emmett really wanted a turn but the friend just kept running away. Emmett was very upset, crying and yelling. I was getting frustrated too - frustrated that the kid wouldn't share, and frustrated that Emmett wouldn't let it go.

I managed to stay calm (woo hoo!) and sit with Emmett while he had a drink. He was still crying and complaining about his friend. I told him that we can't change his friend, and I didn't think his friend was going to share. I pointed out that right now, wanting that ball was keeping him from having a good time bouncing. He didn't want to go home, so I told him the best way to stay and have a good time was to *stop wanting* the ball. It wasn't fair, but if he wanted to have a good time, that was probably the best way. It took a while but he calmed down and played some more.

Of course, as soon as he didn't want the ball any more, his friend let him have a turn.

Since then, I've reminded him once or twice about how he was able to have a good time after he stopped wanting the ball, and of course how proud I am that he managed to do that.

I just asked him again, and he said he still wanted the ball but he wanted to have a good time more. (beaming over here) Full disclosure - he's also still talking about how mad he was. :)

Mama Podkayne said...

We are having the same issue here except the hitting is not self and the expression is,"You're STUPID!" I don't know where Lil'Bug picked that up but it drives me up a wall.

I'm working on it too. I model good behavior, explain to her that it is not how we do things in our family, ect....but nothing is making its way through.

Anonymous said...

this is an issue for us too. jerome has been hitting himself for the past few weeks and using the word stupid..."i'm stupid" "your stupid" "it's stupid". it is distressing. eli the baby has started copying him. uuggh! mostly i don't know how to deal with it properly yet.
when isee them hitting themselves or each other i begin the "i see your angry. can i help? what do you need?" and just try to listen and take things from there.