I’m a work at home mom and I’m homeschooling my 5-year-old son. Something I didn’t understand before having children is that they experience these developmental cycles of finding new independence and self-reliance. This causes them to test every boundary you and society has placed on them (a frustrating time for parents), and then upon finding the borders of their mental kingdom once again secure and inviolable, they settle in to being regular ol’ kids again.
This cycle happens from the time they find their own hands and feet as babies through the dreaded teen years. I thought it was just teenagers that did this, but it happens at every step along a child’s path toward adulthood. (Hence the popular term, “threenagers.”) Heck, now that I think about it, probably the midlife crisis is just another iteration of this psychological cycle. My son is going through one of these cycles right now—oh, joy.
Recently #authenticson found some new independence, which is both wondrous and bewildering.
(This was probably triggered when a tree branch fell on him causing two harrowing trips to the emergency room, see last week’s article, An Unexpected Ritual of Manhood.) All of a sudden, it’s like fighting a cougar to get him to bed. But, also, he’s brushing his own teeth and will walk into dark rooms on his own. He fights and scratches and kicks and hits when he doesn’t get what he wants. (I thought we were done with that three years ago!) But of his own free will he offers up heartfelt apologies afterwards and even sheds tears thinking about how badly he behaved. He just feels every feeling more strongly than he used to.
So, I’m letting him feel his feelings.
When I wish I could smack him, I meditate instead and wait. When he’s ready to listen, I calmly explain why his behavior is unacceptable until he bursts into tears and apologizes profusely and sincerely. He is funnier, smarter, cuter, and more wonderful than he has ever been. And he is also more exasperating.
Trying to discipline a child by yelling or threatening (even gentle threats like if you don’t stop this, I will take away a privilege or a toy) will not work when they are in the throes of one of these developmental stages. If I come in strong to try to make him stop acting like a crazy person, it only adds gasoline to the fire. Instead I wait until after the fire calms to glowing embers, and then I go into “let’s have a heartfelt talk” mode.
He listens and explains how he was feeling, and I want to encourage more of this. I don’t think I’m spending enough time asking him questions and talking about my own emotions during that critical moment in the process. I know that these moments are integral for helping our boys navigate the traditionally female-dominated space of being in touch with our feelings and knowing what to do with them. We can always do better, but we are also always doing our best.
Be kind to your children, be kind to yourself.
Originally published on https://authenticmensjewelry.com/2019/05/12/mothers-day-at-authentic-arts/
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