“You have to let me play, Mom,” begs 10-year-old Salem as she and her mother are getting ready to go to the last game of the season. Her volume now increased to almost yelling, “I don’t care if the doctor said I have to stay off my foot. I’m okay. I can do this.”
Her Mom, continuing to make the lunch, calmly responds that Salem has two more weeks in her boot before the broken bone will be completely healed.
Salem continues, now definitely screaming, “You can’t do this to me. I’m going to play and you can’t stop me.”
Salem’s Mom finishes packing the lunch, “Salem, this behavior will get you nowhere.”
Salem, now screaming, “You don’t let me do anything. It’s all your fault I can’t play today. If you’d had the doctor put on a cast instead of a boot, my foot would be all healed by now.”
“That’s enough, Salem,” her Mom says, finishing packing the lunches, “Get your coat; we’re ready to leave now.”
“Oh My God,” Salem screams, “we’re going to be late. You always make us late for everything.” She slams out the door and into the car, slouching down in the back seat, pursing her lips and crossing her arms with grand emphasis.
Silence ensues for about 3 minutes.
Her voice level a bit modulated now, “Please, please Mom, can I play in the game? “
“This is the last time, I’m going to say this and then you’ll be grounded.” Her Mom responds, voice a little raised.
Yelling again, “You don’t care anything about me. You don’t even watch my games. You sit and talk with your friends. “
A moment’s pause – “You don’t even take videos of me like you do of everyone else!”
“I hate you and my friend’s hate you too.”
Notice that Salem keeps escalating, trying to get a reaction from her mom. What she needs are boundaries, and they need to be set right in the beginning of this episode; right at the point when Salem begins her disrespectful tirade. Here’s how Salem’s mother might include those boundaries in a way that’s fair and that promotes Salem’s development of responsibility for her behavior. Let’s redo this scene.
“You have to let me play, Mom,” begs 10-year-old Salem as she and her mother are getting ready to go to the team’s last game of the season. Her volume now increased to almost yelling, “I don’t care if the doctor said I have to stay off my foot. I’m okay. I can do this.”
“I know that playing in this last game of the season is super important to you, and you’re feeling angry. It’s not easy just sitting on the sidelines.” (recognizing her feelings and putting them into words) Mom stops preparing the lunches and turns to look directly at Salem. “I do still expect that you to control the volume and tone of what you say.”
Salem continues, “Well, are you going to let me or not?”
“That isn’t the point, Salem. The doctor made it very clear that you are to stay off your foot.” (giving information)
Salem goes on screaming, “You don’t let me do anything. It’s all your fault I can’t play today. If you’d had the doctor put on a cast instead of a boot, my foot would be all healed by now.”
“Salem, I have asked you to talk in a civil tone and volume. When you scream at me, I feel totally unappreciated and disrespected. If you continue not to control your emotions, I don’t want to be in your company. We will stay home from the game.” (Using an I-Message to give her own feelings and describe the unacceptable behavior. Note that she began by stating what she expected. Then she gave the boundaries and the natural consequence).
Now definitely screaming, “You can’t do this to me. I’m going to play and you can’t stop me.”
“I asked you to be civil, and I told you what would happen if you weren’t (tone a bit clipped) . We won’t be going to the game.”
And now the hard part. Mom has to carry through with this consequence – a task that is doubly difficult because Mom had wanted to go to the game too.
“Please, please Mom. I won’t do it again. I have to go to the game or it counts against me.”
Salem, I asked you twice to change your tone and you didn’t. Staying home is the consequence. Next time you have an emotional situation, I want you to remember to handle it differently. Later, when we both feel calmer, we’ll talk and review some ways you might do that.
Teaching Salem HOW to handle her emotions is the next step in an ongoing process. Teaching this lesson to children is ongoing because teaching is so much more than telling. (Please see blog #1, Will My Kids Ever Learn to Be Responsible” for a review of this process.)
In the blog on punishment (Blog #8), I encouraged readers to look up “punishment” to learn what the research shows about the effects of punishment. With that mind, you may be asking, “So how is this consequence different from a punishment?” Punishment is not connected to what the child did. A punishment might be “no TV tonight.” A natural and/or logical consequence is a result of what the child did. It is natural that when another is disrespectful to us, we don’t want to be with the person at that time.
P.S. It is important that parents always describe the unacceptable behavior, state their own feelings as a result of that behavior, and state the expected behavior – all with an I-Message (a way of stating that does not blame).
copyright 2019 Judy Harmon-Holmes
One thought on “What Does Salem Need?”
Definitely a more constructive way to handle temper tantrums. Shows respect for both your child and yourself