Will the Terror Ever Stop?

Will the Terror Ever Stop? October 11, 2019

When a child returns to a misbehavior, it’s wise for a parent to do a little detective work to figure out if there’s a concrete reason for the change.

Q: Our son who is almost 5 went back to throwing tantrums and have started hitting on a few occasions again. We’re wondering if he’ll ever stop. We have put him back on the 30 sticker program with restrictions. I just need to clarify the restrictions for my son’s continual tantrums and hitting despite being almost 5:

  • No toys (e.g. LEGO, toy cars, dress ups)
  • Confined to room if there was an incidence of either
  • No visits to the playground (is this overkill??)
  • No friends’ birthday parties if any
  • No TV

To me, when a child who had been controlling himself suddenly stops controlling himself, I like to take a look at the bigger picture.

He is allowed books in his room, and some coloring and drawing. Should he be allowed to do craft and playdoh? What about the slide outside the garden or the cubby house and his scooter, and play with the chalk?

Also, should the restrictions mean he stays in his room every day and goes to bed early until he gets his 30 stickers? Or should room time and early bed time be confined to the days he tantrums/hits only?

A: I’m going to answer the question I wished you’d asked first, then answer your actual question. I wish you’d asked why he’s back to tantruming and hitting again. While most of the time, we shouldn’t play detective (i.e., focus only on why our child is doing X), there does come a time when it’s helpful to take a closer look at potential reasons behind the behavior, especially when it’s a regression like you describe (back to throwing tantrums).

To me, when a child who had been controlling himself suddenly stops controlling himself, I like to take a look at the bigger picture with questions like:

  • Is he going through a growth spurt? (eating more, sleeping more, complaining of growing pains in his legs, etc.)
  • Did something happen at preschool or daycare?
  • Did something change in your family dynamic? (Dad or mom not at home as often, etc.)
  • Did something change in his own world? (Friend move away, etc.)

Knowing the answers to these questions—or being able to make an educated guess—will help you help your son. If he’s growing, then he’ll probably need extra sleep and more patience on your part. If Dad’s coming home late every night recently, then you’ll need to help Dad reconnect with Son more deliberately.

When kids aren’t responding to discipline, it’s often because our connection with them is frayed. In other words, we can get so focused on correcting the behavior, we forget to pay attention to our interactions with our children. And those interactions become only negative, rather than affirming and positive. All kids and teens, especially those who are struggling with behavioral issues, need to feel that their parents love them. Words aren’t enough. We should still be showing our kids our love even while we have to levy consequences. So please make sure you’re balancing the correction with the positive, because when a child feels loved (not just hears, but truly feels love), he will respond to correction better.

As for your question, I would take a couple of days hiatus from the 30 days and restrictions to see if you can figure out why he’s suddenly tantruming, and to reset your own positive interactions with him. Then try tickets instead of the stickers with restrictions. I think that would give him some grace and accomplish the same thing.

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