Rondel is a little boy with huge emotions (he takes after me in that way…). Seeing Limerick moving towards or touching one of “his” toys (meaning, any that he has used in the last week or so or assigned a personality to, especially a car) can send him into instant motion, screaming and pulling Limerick away. Not having the right tool on hand to accomplish something – like his preferred type of towel for wiping his eyes or nose – or one of us not being able to do something he wants us to do, like reach a toy from the backseat while driving or pull a random object out of a place where it is stuck, can render him completely mentally immobilized, unable to proceed, to let go, or to accept another option. And he tends to express that feeling of being helpless and stuck by yelling rather forcefully at whoever is near and trying to help…
There is the flip side of his silliness, his excitement over everyday joys (he literally ran around the room in circles glowing when he saw my brother the other day), his overflowing affection for the people he loves, and the happy stories he creates – but none of that negates the fact that he’ll need to learn how to cope with and appropriately express his more negative emotions as he grows.
One thing that’s been helping him lately is to remove him from the situation (which he hates) and sit with him until the worst of the emotion passes by, and then talk about what happened, what ideas we can try next time, and what we can do to amend or move on right then. So in the instances with Limerick, we’ll discuss what exactly made Rondel upset, and I’ll try to get him to come up with different ways he could approach the situation (like asking Limerick nicely to play with a different toy, or to let Rondel have a turn, or offering him something else in trade) and suggest some if he can’t think of any, and then I’ll let him know what I would like him to do to make things right with Limerick (usually saying sorry). As we have done this more, I’ve seen Rondel attempting to implement those ideas in the moment, and I’ve seen his understanding of the concept of an apology grow. I know a lot of people argue that you shouldn’t make a child say sorry – but I want him to learn and practice the habits of courteous behavior, and one of the most important of those behaviors is apologizing. It also gives him something he can do to fill the breach made by screaming and hitting and angry feelings, and that is empowering.
However, I’ve been thinking it would be nice to have an alternative option for times when I can’t take him away for one-on-one time! I can’t always leave what I’m doing, or leave Limerick, and it is hard for him to just be sent away on his own. So I’m thinking of making a “calm-down corner” for him to go to (either on my direction or of his own choosing) when he is feeling angry, exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious, sad, or just in need of some space and quiet time. One of my coworkers recently gifted us a massive pillow puppy that I am planning to put there, under a little hanging canopy to clearly set the space aside from the rest of the boys’ bedroom. Then there will be a small basket of toys that are just for the calm-down space: exercise balls to squeeze, bottles with water and glitter or other objects in them that can be shaken, a few soft toys to hug, and maybe a book or two. I talked with Rondel about the idea and he thought it was a good one – so we’ll see how it goes! I’m hoping to start making the canopy and toy basket this afternoon after work.
What are some of your techniques for helping your intense children learn to manage their emotions? I want to give him as many tools as I possibly can, so he’s able to stay on top of those waves instead of letting them pull him under the water.