Harnessing the Beast with a Pencil

Pre-School kids learn how to spell phonetically. That means they break a word down into how it sounds and spell it that way. There are little pieces of paper all over our house with sentences on them that actually make sense if you understand Jolly Phonics…

 ”I em going to the bech” “my sista liks pastar” etc. I love that my son is doing homework off his own bat… it’s too cute.
Well, it’s cute until you discover that your 5-year-old is also using his pencil as a tool for controlling his feelings:
Then it becomes a little more complex.
It was somewhat reassuring that our child did not choose to argue face to face with his foe, knowing from experience that he would probably lose. He obviously felt wronged, and wisely chose the mightier of the two weapons available to him.
This was the first time we have seen him channelling negative emotions into a non-aggressive form of activism. He didn’t exactly grafitti the loungeroom wall, but this little note was left in a place where the subject of the matter would find it. And the words of the son cut the father deeper than any sword.
It’s a tough gig to be a child with a whole bunch of crazy new feelings, which get quashed on a fairly regular basis. Before the age of reason, children can rarely control intense emotions, and often get sent to another room until they are calmed. Their whines and whinges are met with frowns of disapproval and their wails are shut down with a dummy. Especially when it happens in public.
They haven’t finished building their filters yet, and every time a grownup shuts them down, they learn to hold in a negative emotion. They learn to stamp down the feeling, because it’s not appropriate to show it in that way, at that time. But when is it appropriate to unleash the rage? The frustration? The sadness?
Even the most contained pressure cooker needs a release valve.
Kids need to learn methods of channelling their feelings so as to reduce destruction and carnage. It takes a long time to learn this when you’re a kid. Hey, I know a lot of adults who struggle with it (myself included). How tired are you this week? Have the kids ever driven you to breaking point? What behaviour do you show when you break?
You probably raise your voice somewhat. If you’re like me, you might even slam a few doors.
But what do we say to our kids when they shout? “Shhhh, is that really necessary? Talk to me in a calm, quiet way and maybe I’ll listen to you?” or “Hey, we don’t need to slam doors, do we? Have some respect for your house!” Oh dear, it’s a bit ‘Do as I say and not as I do’, isn’t it?
According to experts like Tricia Jalbert, who writes about ‘Managing Anger’, adults should be role modelling appropriate behaviour all the time. We’re supposed to show “healthy responses to strong emotions”, teaching our kids that it is possible to express how we feel safely and effectively.
I would urge you to have a read of the Attachment Parenting International article about methods of managing our own anger: it’s very good. Sigh…
http://theattachedfamily.com/?p=1308
I know that I should practice Staying in the Present, Naming How I Feel, Lowering My Voice and Counting To Ten.
Just between us, though, I must admit that nothing in this world helps me quiet a red misted rage than slamming a door really really hard, or running really really fast, or getting out the boxing gloves and laying into that punchbag. Of course, the kids have seen me do the door slam thing from time to time, and I admit that it’s not the best course of action. I have had to explain away my behaviour, especially when I saw it repeated shortly thereafter. Our children do need something physical to do with their feelings sometimes.
Sports and exercise is the obvious answer.
We found them mini boxing gloves and a punch-bag to thrash at with all their might. We bought them a trampoline to have time-outs in, where they could bounce themselves ragged, whilst chanting voodoo ill-wishes under their breaths. And now, there’s something else.
Words and Pictures.
After a conflict in the playground today, our boy copped the full blame and was made to apologise, when really both children were at fault. The other child got off scott free, according to the accused. I was interested to hear, “I’m so angry with that boy, Mummy. It wasn’t fair that he didn’t say sorry to me and I’m going to do something about it!” When I warily asked him what he planned to do, he said, “I’m going to go home and draw a picture of him, and then put a cross through it. That’ll teach him.”
I could have laughed, cried and hugged him all at once. So funny, and perhaps a little too close to the voodoo thing I alluded to earlier, but hey- it worked! Nobody was hurt, the anger found a vent and the scales leveled themselves. Tomorrow they’ll be besties once again.
So, now you’ve all gone off and read how to be the perfect parent who can control their anger at all times, you won’t have to worry about how to channel your child’s intense emotions into a safe outlet. Or yours, for that matter. Well done!
As for me, well, I will be giving my son a whole lot of pens and paper for his 6th birthday this week, and not the sword he’s been asking for since he was 3.

Maybe together, we can right the wrongs of the world.

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