"If your child accuses you of being "mean," you must have done something right. "

8-Year-Old Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Question

Sometimes my 8 year old is lovely and I feel so proud of him. Other times like today, I am speechless, humiliated, overwhelmed and defeated.

I picked my son up from boys brigades and he was behaving like an animal. He was running around shouting I’m killing a baby and throwing rubbish on the floor.

I haven’t spoken to him about it mostly because I don’t know how to even respond to the situation and most situations I find myself in and because I feel out of control and don’t know what to do I just want to scream at him.

Answer

Hello and thanks for reaching out to Parent Guru.

Take heart in the fact that your 8-year-old can be "lovely" and that there are times when you "feel so proud of him.” Acknowledging that there are other times when you are speechless, humiliated, overwhelmed, defeated, and feel out of control (your words) is equally important because those are feelings that are counterproductive to being a strong parent. Children not only SEE when a parent is out of control (yelling, screaming, physical aggression), they also sense when a parent FEELS out of control (pleading, crying, sighing, bargaining). When the parent is out of control, the child is in control!

My advice is to continue to work on being the strong parent that you know you can be. When your son makes inappropriate comments, avoid overreacting. Calmly tell him that you are not going to listen to such negative talk and walk out of the room. Without an audience, the talk may simply dissipate. Another option is to have a designated spot (bathroom, laundry room) where he can close the door and rant to himself. Tell him that he can come out whenever he wishes but if the negative talk/ranting starts up again, he must return. Whichever way you choose to handle the situation, relay it in a calm, matter-of-fact manner with no discussion.

As far as throwing rubbish on the floor, simply direct him to pick it up. If he doesn't, pick it up yourself. The next time he asks to do something or asks for you to take him somewhere, decline. Make it clear that since he did not pick up the mess HE made, he will not be allowed to ________ (you can apply this same strategy to his shouting and negative comments also). Refusing to allow him to do something that is meaningful to him is one of the best ways to make your point.

You shared in an earlier Parent Guru submission that you noted a positive result when you successfully implemented Alpha Speech (effectively saying what you mean and meaning what you say). I cannot emphasize enough the power of Alpha Speech in raising children. Speaking authoritatively and with assurance promotes emotional security and healthy development. Will you know that you are doing/saying the right thing 100% of the time? Absolutely not. But your child does not need to know that. They just need to trust that you will make decisions that are in their best interest. As John so eloquently shares - act like you know what you're doing even if you don't!

The bottom line is that your son needs to know that he can count on you to be an effective, strong leader. Look at his pushing of boundaries as an opportunity for you to promote in him a greater sense of security and well-being by demonstrating confidence in your role as his parent. Stay strong and stay determined!

Sincerely,
Sharon Lamberth
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach
sklamberth17@gmail.com

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