Don’t you love it when your child teaches you a lesson you’ve spent months trying to teach them… and by love, I mean absolutely hate because you’re annoyed in the moment? Well, that happened to me this week. My five-year-old did a little reverse parenting on me.
- I may have yelled at my two-year-old when he closed the fridge door on an open bin.
- I had flashbacks to my sister doing the same thing a few months ago and cracking said bin.
- It was morning and we were running late for school, hence I was already stressed.
My 5 Year-Old’s Lesson
- He scolds me (while my younger son cries at the top of his lungs).
- He tells me to take deep breaths.
- He reminds me I shouldn’t yell when I get frustrated. (But I’m too mad to take his advice so he keeps repeating it.)
- Deep down, I know he’s was right and, eventually, we do a breathing exercise together and it calms me down.
It was only then that I truly appreciated how incredible my son is and how much he’s grown and matured this year.
At the beginning of 2022, I received a disturbing call from my son’s school. He repeatedly banged his head on the floor at school and tried to bite himself after getting upset. That was the beginning of a three-month period when I got dozens of calls and emails detailing similar situations. He would bang his head with a water bottle, try to climb the fence at recess, knock over stools… and my personal ‘favorite,’ scratch at his eyes.
- No one could account for the change in behavior
- Everyone assured us there were no big changes in the classroom or bullies
- The biggest change at home was Daddy started working weekends
When asked, my son said he thought about hurting himself all the time. (WTF!? He had never alluded to that before in his actions, behaviors or words.)
Looking for Answers
I immediately started working with the teacher and school to identify and rectify the behavior to no avail. (Mind you, we’ve had a calming corner in the house for nearly two years). I bought children’s books and board games focused on dealing with big emotions. He even started seeing a therapist.
I’ve never felt so helpless and guilty. I mean, this problem had to be my fault, right? I’m charged with molding and teaching him how to be a person who makes good choices and responds appropriately to situations. And here he was punching himself in the face because he had mac n cheese instead of chicken nuggets in his lunch box.
I was trying all these things to help him but nothing was working. My husband and I even fought over whether to get him evaluated for sensory processing disorder (SPD). That’s when the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. (I learned about that after the school’s behavior analyst mentioned sensory issues several times during our conversations.) I initially bristled at the notion and wouldn’t even consider it. My child had a disorder? I don’t think so.
It’s hard to put your pride aside and acknowledge your child may not be “perfect”. (Honestly, who came up with that ridiculous word anyway?) Everybody is uniquely different, and those differences should be celebrated! I should want to identify the best ways to support my child if he does have a unique way of learning. So, after giving myself a lecture, I let go of my preconceived notions and scheduled an evaluation.
The pediatrician didn’t see any signs of SPD and said intellectually advanced children typically had lower emotional intelligence and it takes time for the emotional intelligence to catch up. She told us to keep doing what we were doing and be patient with him. We had a conference with school leaders and instituted a sticker reward system in the classroom for following directions and using calming strategies. We also kept reinforcing the calming strategies and talking about what to do with big emotions. By the end of the year, his self-harming behavior decreased significantly.
We had no issues throughout summer camp, and now my son reminds me to use calming strategies.
So, on reflection, I’m insanely grateful for my five-year-old’s life lesson in the middle of the kitchen on a Tuesday morning. I’m so proud of him for the hard work he’s put in over the last few months—the student has become the teacher it seems.
And it just goes to show, no matter how old you get, sometimes you need a reminder to…
I love how you are able to tell the story and show how, we as parents and grandparents, can learn from our child/grandchild.
I thought I had a fairly good hold on being able to take a breath and a step back but when my grandson had his first meltdown on me I had no idea what to do to help or even how to help. I have learned a lot from him, taking cues from him to help him. Because after all it is about him and not me.
Thank you for sharing your lives with us.
-we do miss seeing you on air in ETN but you have the greatest job!