Thursday, January 8, 2009

Luke's Lessons on Coping

Luke does not like to feel sad. Or hurt. Or disappointed. He doesn't know what to do with these emotions, doesn't like how they take over control of his feelings, and doesn't like the vulnerability that goes with them. His way of dealing with these emotions is to convert them to anger. Anger is something he understands. Anger is power. Anger doesn't make you feel like crap.

The conversion from sadness, disappointment or hurt to anger is a visible transition, though it occurs in a nanosecond. And if you aren't ready for it, if you aren't paying close attention and gauging his emotions to know when something may disappoint him or hurt his feelings, all I can say is watch out. Because being prepared is the difference between blocking a punch and taking one square in the eye. Because with Luke, anger comes with hitting. Not all the time, but sometimes. And he has very good aim.

Obviously this hitting is unacceptable. Fortunately, if I can look on the bright side, he has kept his hitting in the family. It is usually his brother, my mother and me that are the recipients of Luke's wrath. We are working with him on better ways to cope with this anger. We are learning to predict when it might happen and trying to head that off. We are giving him ways to deal with it, like taking some quiet time for himself in his room or beating the tar out of a pillow. We are even talking karate lessons, hoping he will learn discipline a la Mr. Miyagi of the Karate Kid.

We talk to him in the way parents of the 21st century talk to their kids. We talk to him about his choices and making good decisions. Well, Luke's choice is to bop me on the head and deal with the consequences. Not the choice I would have hoped for, but he is a live-in-the-moment, spontaneous sort of fellow. And then he tells me I made him do it. He didn't have a choice. I thought our discussions about choices and making good decisions were going no where, but then he told me after he had a screaming fit: "Sometimes you just have to yell. It's not your brain. It's not God. It's not Jesus. It's your decision." He's right. Sometimes you do just have to yell. And yelling is better than hitting.

Little by little, Luke is coming up with his own ways of coping. Rather than giving us the chance to say no to something and disappoint him, he is answering his own questions. This goes something like: "Mom, can I have potato chips? No." A sentence like this is said very quickly all in one breath, not giving me time to say no and break his little heart, which of course makes me want to say yes just to see the happiness on his face.

He has also convinced himself that he didn't really want what he was asking for. This goes something like: "Mom, can I have some candy?" "No baby, not before dinner." "I was just teasing. I didn't want any." Which of course makes me want to say yes just to see the happiness on his face.

Which leads me to wonder if he is coping, or if he has just figured out another way to put one over on me. Did I mention how smart he is?


ambergail77 said...

This is great. I swear they make kids so cute so we don't choke them. I have been trying to 'explain' things to my 3 year old son. I often ask if he understands me when I didscuss rules about hitting and kicking. Now when he is mad at me he will shout 'do you understand?' at the top of his lungs. Apparently I don't.

Kellan said...

He is so cute - I would have a hard time not giving into this. They are smart - aren't they?

Have a good weekend - Kellan

Loth said...

My older son went through a phase of hitting when he got angry, but he came up with a variation on the theme: he hit himself. He used to slap himself around the head, really hard, which I found very difficult to deal with. I told him no-one is allowed to hit my children and that includes my children and that seemed to help, oddly. Strange things, boys.