Constant Vigilance!

He's been taking care of me while I've been under the weather.
He’s been taking care of me while I’ve been under the weather.
Things have gotten better with Wes over the last year, but it’s still a constant effort on my part. With Nikki and E I just had to be there to discipline when things went wrong, but I didn’t do as much pre-emptive work as I do now with Wes. Every morning we discuss behavior, what punishments are we currently still receiving, what behavior caused that punishment, and what behavior will undo that punishment.

For example – I took away everything he owns for hitting his sister a couple weeks ago. The responsive hitting is something we’ve been working on for awhile. His instinct to just hit when he gets frustrated is something I’ve been trying to break. So, now. Every morning we have a variation of this conversation.

Me: Why is your bedroom empty right now?
Wes: Because I hit.
Me: And how are you earning your things back?
Wes: By not hitting.
Me: What should you do if you want to hit someone?
Wes: Take a deep breath…or walk away…or go talk to someone.

I mean – it’s a little less robotic, but you get the point.

And then before every trip to someplace where he’ll be on his own without me (preschool, daycare at the Y, family events) I remind him of what happens when he hits, and lately I remind him of how proud I’ve been recently when he’s gone X amount of time without hitting.

Me: Do you remember the last time Mommy went to BodyPump and you behaved SO WELL? Wasn’t I so proud of you? Can you be that good tonight too?

And of course there’s the basic reminders of things we try to ingrain in him several times a day:

Me: When do we obey?
Wes: First time.
Me: Is it ever okay to kick or hit?
Wes: Never.
Me: If you feel like hitting, what do you do?
Wes: Take deep breaths.
Me: If you get in trouble for bad behavior, what do you do?
Wes: Stop doing it!
(This is because he get’s stuck in tantrums and will progress even as he’s getting in trouble for the tantrum.)
Me: What do you ask yourself when you’re getting in trouble?
Wes: Am I making it better or worse?
(I also ask, “Are you making this better or worse” while he’s in the middle of a tantrum. Stopping tantrums that would otherwise last hours is a HUGE mission of mine.)
Me: When do we use potty language?
Wes: Never at school
(This is a new issue. Although I don’t panic too much because – you know – he’s a BOY. I know his teacher doesn’t like it, but I think it comes with the territory.)
Me: Where do we keep our hands at school?
(We yell that one, for some reason.)

So…it’s a constant thing. And I’ll admit, it’s a little exhausting. I miss the days of simply dropping off at the sitter, or preschool, and not holding my breath until I read the behavior report for the day. I don’t know if I even read Nikki’s regularly – but Wes’s? I read every single word and discuss it with him every day.

But it’s working. And that’s the motivation to stick with it. We talk it out all the time now. We discuss our anger and our emotions and how we avoid tantrums and hitting. The other day Wes was super-frustrated and said, “I just really want a tantrum right now!”

Is he perfect? Far from it. He makes bad initial decisions a lot. But hitting is dropping every week and tantrums aren’t an all-night event anymore. I’m not sure if this is just our life forever with Wes, or if we’re coming to the tailend of a rough few years. Either way – I’m thrilled that we’re at least making progress. We are not in the awful place we were at in the Fall. He’s not kicking me while I’m dragging him out of public events anymore. He’s not screaming at me and throwing toys at my head. He’s recognizing bad behavior and trying to adjust. Maybe it’s age, but I’d like to think some of it is our efforts at home.

Now – if only we could work on sleep issues too. He has to have the light on and gets up often with leg cramps/nightmares about bugs/headaches/alien invasions. At this point I just do whatever it takes to get him to sleep, I figure – one issue at a time is about all I can handle.

4 thoughts on “Constant Vigilance!”

  1. You are ON IT! I know how hard it is to have constant vigilance over a kid’s behavior, and massive kudos to you for working so diligently with Wes to get on top of it.

    I, too, have a kiddo with dramatic/hitting-response issues, and in the name of solidarity I wanted to offer one thing that’s worked for us. (Disclaimer: take it with a grain of salt, all kids are different, you know what’s best for your kids, OBVIOUSLY etc.)

    Like Wes, my daughter’s issues seem to be calming WAAAY down, so lately I’ve been telling her after an infraction: “You got so frustrated that you HIT someone. Wow, you must have been completely overwhelmed because that isn’t YOU. You have learned not to hit when you’re frustrated! You’re not a hitter AT ALL.” It maybe sounds weird, but I think she almost resorts to that stuff because that’s just what she’s always done — it’s like she gets stuck in a negative feedback loop. That it’s part of her identity, almost. So I am trying to plant the seeds of a new identity, as someone who doesn’t act out in those negative ways. The thing is, I THINK IT’S ACTUALLY WORKING. It seems like she’s feeling more confident and more in control when the angry/frustrated feelings hit her lately. Fingers crossed that we, too, are on the tail end of things. Ugh, it is SO HARD.

    So do what I do and everything will be perfect!!! HAHAHA NO. But for real, good on ya for your hard mommy work.

  2. when do we obey?

    i love it…it took me back to a lovely, wonderful, awesome time when i read that! 🙂

  3. Good for you! Keep on it!

    I am a teacher and a mom of 3… my youngest is almost 4 and we have to have good behavior reminders every day, multiple times a day. Keep reminding him, it will stick! (At least that is what I tell myself when I get the negative reports a couple days a week… but not every day anymore!) 🙂

    And I totally agree with what Amber said, keep it positive if you can. Educational theory supports this too… instead of “we don’t hit”, I say things like “use nice hands today”. Praise and reward all you can!

    We will all get there… those 3rd kids are the toughest I think! Mine is 3 but thinks he is going on 9! 🙂

  4. I spent all of last school year repeating the same conversation everyday with my son on his way to preschool……are you going to bite, kick, hit, scratch, choke, etc…. Each one added after some specific instance. I kid you not, if I forgot, he’d do something! The good news for you….this year for junior kindergarten there has been no rote conversation, and, no trouble. Not a single solitary instance of being in trouble. So, there’s hope 🙂

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