Affectionate Then Temper Tantrums
Hello! I have an 8 –year-old who has what I've named Jekyll-Hyde syndrome. The boy is the most affectionate, loving, giving sweetheart at times; but, his temper changes him to mean, hateful, screaming "I hate you" as he stomps off "Hyde". These quick tantrums dissipate as quickly as they come. But I have to say they seem to accrue daily now. I recognize frustration, but I don't understand the reason behind the frustration all
the time. How do I deal with the "I hate you" screaming? We've tried calmly talking, time outs, getting upset, holding his hands and asking him why...? I'm tired and I have lost my patience with the hurtful words; please help.
My name is Melanie Miller and I am one of the Positive Discipline Associates that answers questions sent to our webpage.
The next time your son stomps off screaming “I hate you”, check into your feelings. At first you might feel angry. Look underneath that anger, take some time to have a quiet moment by yourself and allow yourself to feel the feelings. I’m wondering if there are some feelings of hurt, disbelief or disgust.
All these feelings are “good” to have (uncomfortable but good!) because they can give you a clue as to why he is saying and doing the things that he is. By recognizing your feelings, you can slow down and begin to understand the purpose of your son’s behavior. His behavior does have a purpose! Often when our children are saying hurtful things to us it is because they are feeling hurt and have the mistaken belief that they don’t belong so they will hurt others as they feel hurt.
He may feel hurt from something that happened between him and a friend, he may feel hurt by something that you said or did. Most importantly is the fact that he feels hurt and until you deal with the hurt feelings, his hurtful words will continue.
The next time he yells angry words at you, try some of the following:
Take a moment to calm down and then say something similar to “Your behavior tells me that you must feel hurt. Can we talk about that?”
Allow him to express his anger and hurt in non hurtful ways. Let him know that it is OK for him to say that he is angry at you or hurt by something you said or did. Often our kids need our permission to be angry at us. Let him practice saying “Mom, I’m angry at you” or “Mom, I feel hurt by what you said”.
Model when you feel hurt. Share your feelings when you feel hurt. A simple “wow, I sure felt hurt when that clerk spoke to me like she did”. Or “I feel hurt when you say that you hate me”.
Avoid punishment. When parents use punishment, it is easy for parents and kids to get into a cycle of revenge. The child misbehaves, the parent punishes, the child retaliates with more misbehavior (sometimes hurtful behavior) and the parent punishes again. The cycle continues until one party steps out of the dance. Since we can’t make our kids step out of dance, we as parents get to move from punishment to solutions. (All these suggestions can be examples of solutions)
Use reflective listening and curiosity questions. Ask “what and how” questions. Reflective listening and ‘what and how” questions may sound like: “It sure sounds like you feel hurt by something. Help me understand what is going on. Could it be that you feel hurt by… I’m still a little confused, share more and help me understand.” Use a tone of curiosity in your body language and in your voice.
Model mistakes and make amends. Celebrate your’s and your son’s mistakes. Talk out loud about the mistakes you make. Model making amends when needed. We’re all human and as parents and kids we make a lot of mistakes. Recognize them, celebrate them and find out what you can learn from them.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Thank you for contacting the Positive Discipline Association website!
Melanie Miller, M.Ed.
School Counselor and Parent Educator