My older son, who was six, was constantly on the edge for a few weeks. He would cry, letting out his feelings on weekends, and then go back to school on Monday. His first grade teacher told us that he would take a long time on each school task, and sometimes couldn’t finish.
I sensed his tension building up again as the week went on. I had a clue what might be keeping him on the edge; he showed it to me during Special Time. He would order me to run and get something really fast! He would say, “Get it right now! “You are too late! Faster!” Next, he started drawing. He would not want me to see it, or say anything. “Don’t speak! Don’t look! Don’t touch,” he commanded.
He was utterly frustrated and tearing one sheet after another. Ordered not to speak or look, I held onto his back like a koala bear, paying attention to him from behind. When the timer went off and he finished his drawing, he gave it to me like a gift. It ended sweetly, but whatever it was he was going through felt really intense.
A few days later, he was bossy to his younger brother. He was giving orders, but the next moment, stopping him from doing what he asked him do. I went over and playfully said, “Uh oh, there is a bossy bug hiding here!” and lightly picked at my older son’s pants and shirts, pretending to hunt for the “bug” that was making him bossy. But, he didn’t find it funny. Instead, he was upset and tried to bite my hand.
I thought that was a clear signal that he wanted me to stop him. I stopped him and asked what was going on. He would not answer, but struggled and cried. As he struggled to escape from me, my elbow brushed his forehead. He fell over in a great pain, crying hard, “That hurt!”
He didn’t want me to come near, so I stepped back a little. I said I loved him, and would like to hear what happened. I told him he didn’t deserve whatever might have scared him, that he is a good boy and didn’t have to feel that bad. To this, my son gave out a sharp shrill kind of crying. He then came over to my lap and cried more. I think he cried hard for 10 or 20 minutes. Then, his attention shifted and he stopped crying.
After this, his voice changed from sassy and bossy to sweet and his face relaxed into quick smiles. Then, he piled up pillows on our bed saying that it was for me. There were three piles next to each other and he asked his brother and me to sit on them next to each other. I couldn’t believe this was the same boy who didn’t want us near him, and could not be satisfied with anything half an hour ago. He sat next to me and cuddled up sweetly. Then, the two brothers roughhoused and played happily before going to bed.
—Keiko Sato-Perry, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor
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Listen to a podcast of a recent teleseminar “Parenting: Going Deeper”, in which Keiko presented.