This week’s lesson in parenting: It is very hard to help a child cope with their extreme emotions when you are feeling your own extreme emotions. It works that with grief and depression and anxiety and most…importantly: anger.
I’ve mentioned the problems Wes has with his anger and with tantrums in the past. We went through a bad couple of years where I felt like there was no end in sight. We got some outside help, he got a little older, I learned a lot and things and it seemed to be better overall.
Except for a few incidents. Last night was one of them. And it was terrible.
Part of me thinks maybe it’s time to get some outside help again. But if you’ll recall our insurance debacle from before and then the insurance completely uprooted us and the clinic that was covered closed down. We have found another doctor that is now covered, we went to her for Nikki’s anxiety, but she would NOT be a good fit for Wesley. But – ever since that other clinic closed down – there have been random doctors from that clinic popping up in other offices and still taking our insurance so I think I’ll try find someone else.
BUT MAN. There is also a part of me that kinda blames myself. I reexamine last night’s downward spiral and see many moments where I could have handled it differently. In retrospect, I see I didn’t do what the previous counselor suggested because I was too busy coping with my own anger. I was doing my best not to lose Which is VERY HARD TO DO when he is being so disobedient and mean. It always starts so benign. He’s just being disobedient and contrary and rude as hell. So, I tell him to do something: He has to quit playing screens, go to his room, stop watching TV, put up his Pokemon…SOMETHING. And he refuses.
A lot of time – like last night – me sending him to his room is the first step to a horrible tantrum ending in aggression. He never seems to want to obey that one and I go back and forth: Should I quit sending him to his room since that’s the one that seems to always start the spirals out of control? But here’s the thing: If I stop doing that thing that makes him angry, he never learns to deal with the anger. As we talked last night after the bad stuff was over I pointed out, “If you had just gone to your room that first time when I said it, none of the rest would have happened.”
But he refuses. And refuses. And I make threats and then I have to follow through and HE STILL REFUSES. I threatened to throw away his stuff (which I’ve done before) and he said, “I don’t care. You bought it all so it would hurt you not me.” And he refused again and I tried to physically carry him to his room but he’s big and that’s hard and he was really angry and it just escalated fast and I had to focus all of my energy on staying calm (it’s really hard to do when your kid is trying to hurt you both emotionally and physically) and stopped even trying to figure out how to cope with his meltdown. I couldn’t even respond to him anymore because I was just trying not to lose my own shit. And then Nikki got involved because she worries and doesn’t like it when Wes gets angry with me and then he just got even angrier and it just was terrible.
Eventually he broke, he always does, and he starts getting angry with himself and we haven’t had an episode like last night in a long time and I forgot how exhausting it is for everyone. He cried. A lot. I cried. Nikki cried. We talked a lot about how apologies are great but they don’t erase what happened. “I will always forgive you Wesley, but I can’t forget the things you said or did.” He cried so hard and this is always oddly reassuring because when you see your child demonstrate such terrible anger (which I hadn’t seen from him in awhile) you feel oddly better when you see remorse later. It’s like the small token of reassurance that the demon that came out for that brief moment doesn’t have full control of their personality.
It’s just hard. In so many different ways. It’s hard because I was very angry and while I didn’t lose my temper, I also didn’t do anything to diffuse his because I was so focused on not losing mine. I know for SURE I did not handle it exactly how his last doctor would have recommended I handle it. Now, I also know I didn’t make it worse. Years ago I would yell and scream in response to his terrible tantrums and I don’t do that anymore. I know that is wrong. But getting it “right” is very difficult in the moment. “Seeing Red” is very applicable, I was just so angry all I could focus on was staying calm and not ANY of the diffusing or even redirecting techniques we had talked about before.
So…part of me says, “Call for some help!” But the other part of me says, “Yeah – but – you didn’t apply the techniques the last doctor taught you, so why don’t you still use those first before you see more help.” I do feel like when I’m focused one some of the diffusing techniques and when I focus on directing him to cope with his anger instead of focusing on coping with my own, I can keep him off the wrong path. And last night I couldn’t do any of that because I was trying to make sure that I stayed on the right path.
Parenting is hard, yo. Especially when you’re trying to learn the same lessons you’re trying to teach your kid. It’s hard to be a teacher and a student at the same time.
19 thoughts on “Hindsight.”
Where was Donnie? You cannot do it all. You cannot. You are human.
He was not home which tends to be when Wes is the worst unfortunately because he’s scared of Donnie. *sigh*
I know you said you didn’t do what the dr told you – but I do not think getting EXTRA help for Wes would hurt – help him by getting him more help and next time try to do what they told you to do- in these types of situations, I don’t think you can have too much help – if he’s learned to cope even a SMIDGE better, it might also help you be able to focus and do what the dr said you should do in response.
My youngest pulls stuff like this too–he is so loving and sweet except when he’s cursing and refusing to do what we ask. 🙁 He hates being alone, so going to his room flips him out even more. WHEN I have the patience and emotional energy, I use techniques from “No Drama Discipline” which is an amazing book with a great tool kit. http://www.amazon.com/No-Drama-Discipline-Whole-Brain-Nurture-Developing/dp/0345548043/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1452606756&sr=1-3&keywords=the+whole+brain+child
It sounds like you did the right thing in trying not to get angry yourself. That is the first, most important thing. That DID help the situation, so even though things didn’t go perfectly, it was better than it could have been if you’d lost your temper.
If it makes you feel any better, my son always has his “moments” when my husband isn’t home, too.
But you DID do something. You showed him it is possible for someone to be very angry and still keep it together. You were a living example. That’s a long-term payoff, but it’s a payoff. And it’s certainly better than going down the road with him.
I think I’ve mentioned that we have a very similar dynamic at my house. When we have one of those epic blowouts, I always tell myself that what I do afterwards is even more valuable. Forgiving, hugging, reminding my son that our love transcends the anger is all very important. Also, I try not to worry if my son feels badly afterward. He SHOULD feel badly. That’s part of the learning process. I just need to help him direct the feeling badly outward into apologies and forgiveness instead of inward into a shame spiral that will fuel more anger. Make sense? That’s my theory anyway.
A couple of books that have helped me are “Duct Tape Parenting” by Vicki Hoefle and “Parenting Without Power Struggles” by Susan Stiffelman.
My husband has a similar problem with our daughter that you have with Wes. They get locked into the pattern of conflict, like a dance, and can’t see a way out. The other night she didn’t want to brush her teeth and it just escalated. My thought was, so let her go to bed without clean teeth, so what? Or give her a consequence, like one less story at bedtime. But he saw it as a power struggle that he had to win at the expense of their relationship. It makes me sad.
By the way, I’m not saying this is what you’re doing, just giving my experience.
That’s what some of the “diffusing” techniques are about. Diffusing the power struggle. Our counselor does say I need to hold my ground about what I’m trying to enforce – but that there are ways to change the tone of the situation so that it becomes less about power and more about “this is a step we need to take to move on with our evening, will you please take this step?” kind of thing if that makes sense.
Of course I didn’t do any of that last night 🙂
My heart goes out to you. I agree with the commenter who said that it’s great that you have some tools in your toolbox that you want to try again from the last doctor, but that does not mean that you cannot seek help again now for both your sakes. I know it takes a lot of energy, time and money to find a good doctor that’s the right fit, but it’s an investment that can pay off in better behavior, sooner. Good luck!
THe shame spiral is TERRIBLE. He was hitting himself and trying to scratch his skin off – it broke my heart. 🙁
Oh, it’s terrible, I know. My son has gone into full-scale “I HATE MYSELF” moods from it. That’s when I actually think it might be helpful that I have a temper, too, because I can say “I get angry, too. I know exactly what you are feeling. I’m still a good person and you are too.”
I have no advice or anything but wanted to offer empathy and hope things get better.
I have one of those kids too. One thing I try to do is avoid consequences that require active participation, especially in the moment. So, they don’t get sent to their rooms, but maybe they have to do extra chores later after they calm down. Or they miss out on something that I can make them miss whether they like it or not. But also, for us, the consequence has to be small enough not to feel overwhelming, so the extra chore might be picking up five toys per time they hit (self it others), our missing one minute of an activity per infraction. The book easy to love, difficult to discipline was a life changer for me.
Just, you know, hugs. I don’t know what techniques the doctor suggested but I agree with Monica and Cherie above that not losing your temper is still a super important modeling behavior for him to see and a really good thing in the grand scheme of things. I guess it just takes a lot of time and repetition for it to sink in. Wes is still little and you’re both still learning, and I agree with somebody else above that how you handle yourselves after the fact with showing love and talking about it is also really important. It seems like you’re doing so much good. He’s got a good mama!
What if you made Wesley tell his father what happened when he calms down? Would this help? Not you telling Donnie about this incident but Wesley. If Wesley had to own up to his actions of aggression against you with the guy he’s afraid of, it might deter it in the future.
Can I be totally shallow and superficial and tell you that you that you are stunning and this is a beautiful picture of y’all? xoxo 🙂
I LOVE THIS PICTURE OF US! Not at all shallow and superficial, in my opinion 🙂
I’m just impressed you kept it together- I’m still (still, still) working on that one (I’m here because I put myself in time out just now, actually). Good luck figuring out the way forward, from my perspective you’ve done amazingly so far.