Where was all the anger coming from? How could I tell if he was going through a phase or showing some early signs of serious struggles? My best friend gave me a piece of very sage advice. She pointed out to me that my son wasn't acting the same all the time. When we visited with friends for example, he didn't fight with them or call their children names. He did have the ability to control himself and censure his behavior at times. It helped calm my mind but I still didn't have a solution. Our biggest response had been natural consequences, usually a withdrawal of some type of privilege that was linked to the offensive activity. If he trashed his brother's room then he would have to clean it or do his brother's chores for several days. Mostly though, his consequence was taking away TV time or time with his friend. A favorite message in those days was, "You don't get to be rewarded with hanging out with your friend if you treat your family like crap."
|an exercise of chest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
In the midst of the worst of his negative, argumentative behavior, I asked him to join me as my workout buddy at the gym. I had to lie to the YMCA about his age so that he could be permitted to use the equipment but it was worth it. About 6 months after our gym routine had begun I looked at him and didn't see the anger. "Do you feel different? You don't seem as upset or on edge as you used to. Have you noticed a change?" I asked him. He shrugged his shoulders and gave an understated, "Yea, maybe."
His intense attitude may have subsided all on its own just by getting older and allowing all the initial prepubescent stuff to settle down. Maybe it was the physical exercise. Maybe it was the two boys being separated and going to different schools. Maybe it was just the realization that we weren't in a battle with our son as much as we were wrestling with his out of control feelings and behavior. Maybe it was just a super lucky alignment of the stars and all of the things I just listed melding at the right moment. So here is my reflection that I'm trying to remember for other things in my life:
- When you are in the middle of a struggle it can be hard to see a solution. Don't give up.
- Being honest about the hard parts of our lives/parenting is so much easier than pretending that things are "fine" and it's a lot less lonely.
- When agitated, frustrated, antsy, or full out angry, push ups might help and definitely won't hurt.