(I received the following in a phone call)
“I’m a single mother, and in a few days another single mother and her young child will be moving into our home. When I explained this to my six-year-old son, he just went crazy. For two days he’s been a monster, screaming and throwing things and acting up. I don’t know what to do with him. I’ve tried what the parenting book suggested, giving him consequences and sending him to his room, but he just hits the walls with his fists and toys, and now I’m wondering if I’m doing the right thing.”
(I said the following to the mother—a roughly edited version)
Consequences are the LAST thing we use as parents in giving children what they need. What we need to remember most is that we need to loveandteach them, with the emphasis being on LOVING them. It’s hard to remember that part when they’re screaming, because then they kind of look like little monsters, and then we want to put them in little cages and ship them off to someplace far away—anywhere. If you’re bringing somebody new into your home, it’s most likely that your son is simply AFRAID, and he probably just needs you to love him.
You’re applying consequences to him like you would to a teenager. Your son is six. Why don’t you ask him if he just wants you to hold him? (It was at that point that I recognized that in the background I was hearing the six-year-old screaming. I had unconsciously tuned out that noise. The mother said that she had already asked him if he wanted to be held. I suggested that perhaps it might not hurt to ask him again.
Frightened children—frightened adults, for that matter—don’t hear all that well. We become kind of insane when we’re afraid. She said she’d try that, and we hung up.)
The next morning, I received the following email: “Thank you for taking my call last night. After talking with you I realized I had been treating my six-year-old like a teenager. And I need I to love first before I apply the consequences. I never really understood that until last night. I had been doing it all wrong. I also didn’t understand that I could ask him more than one time if he needed to be held.
“Anyway, it worked beautifully. He was very scared and just wanted me to hold him and tell him he is loved and everything is going to be all right. He has had many changes in his life and gets afraid when another change occurs. With the announcement of two people moving in he became very afraid of change again. When I held him and loved him and looked in his eyes to tell him everything would be all right, he was fine.
“Every day I am learning a new way to parent and love others. I am learning that I still have lots of reprogramming to do from how I was raised. It gets better everyday as I am loved and love others better.”
This mother is doing all that any of us can do. We learn a little more, we apply it, and miracles happen.