Question from Ashley
But he gets in these moods.... If something happens to sour his attitude or get him in a bad mood, then we'd all better watch out. He can hang on to an angry moment or bad attitude and draw it out for a whole day or more if he wants to. When he gets in these moods, he does everything he can to make everyone else in the house feel as bad as possible. He is mean to his sisters. He pouts for long periods of time and can get disrespectful in ways that are not normal for him. He purposely tries to hurt or anger us by saying the things that he knows will get under our skin. Trying to talk with him or reason with him generally makes him dig in his heels more.
I'm especially worried lately because it seems to be happening more and more often on Sundays. He is only 8, and I am worried that if he becomes sour about church this young, we will have problems later. Something happens Sunday morning that gets the tone a little off. Or maybe nothing happened at all that we can tell, but something switches in him and the whole day is ruined in an instant. He will pout all through church and primary and refuse to participate or even go to class. He will stick his feet out when one of us is trying to get out of the pew, trying to trip us or keep us from getting out. He will tell us that he hates Sundays and that he hates going to church. (He knows that saying these things hurts us.) The sacrament will come by and he will turn his nose up at it.
Sometimes he will go the whole day angry and with a bad attitude and we never really know why or what set him off. He usually snaps back to normal almost as instantaneously as he changed. Usually these bad days go in spurts with rests in between.
So here are my questions:
How should we react to him when he is in the middle of these episodes at home or in a public place like church?
How should we react when it is over? Should there be consequences or should we largely just ignore it unless he majorly crosses the line? And what is majorly crossing the line?
What do you think might be contributing to his attitude and behavior and what can we do to avoid this or make it less frequent or shorter?
Should I be worried that this is going to be an ongoing life situation for us, or could this just be a phase?
We are not perfect, and I am positive that we sometimes do things that contribute to the situation. We are working on being more consistent, improving our reactions to him and our personal relationships with him as well.
Any advice is welcome.
Answer from Sister Tanner....
It is normal for children to be good and then hit a place where they seem to push against all the boundaries. This is normal. You need to show them that the boundaries will not change but that you love them.
You need to find a time to talk with him, perhaps take him out for ice cream, and ask him what is making him so sad that he has such bad days. Express a desire to understand why he feels that way. Then together work out what he might do when he is feeling angry or frustrated. He is feeling these things but does not know what to do with the feeling and acts out. Help him feel validated and help him realize that he can have some self discipline in the situations. If he feels he cannot control himself in his anger then he needs to feel safe in seeking your help.
As far as the problem with church goes, the first thing I would do is be sure that he is not having problems with another child at church and then have a loving talk with him when he is in a good place emotionally...not on Sunday. Talk to him about how much Heavenly Father loves him. You may even share a time when you were young and found going to church to be difficult. Share your testimony with him about how Heavenly Father wants us to come each week and learn of Him and take the sacrament to remember how much He loves us. I would ask him how you could help him have a better experience on Sunday.
One sister did "super star" treats on Sunday which was a special dessert that the children would get that tried to behave well in church. You could even have him help make the treats on Saturday. I would have a FHE lesson on Sunday (all day Sunday) behavior and think of all the fun things you can do together as a family on Sunday. Make it a special day instead of a day to be dreaded by little ones. Have him feel special in his part to get ready for the day. Let him know how much you need him as the oldest child to help with the others. Children love to be needed.
You cannot force faith and spirituality to grow in a child but you can create the atmosphere where it can flourish. We can also create an atmosphere that will drive the spirit away and do it with the best intention of "teaching" reverent behavior.
I do not know your family situation, other than what you have shared, but sometimes a child will get an empty emotional bank account. He may need more love and one-on-one mini moments throughout the week to help fill his bucket.
Remember that if you want to teach him of spiritual things, the Holy Ghost has to be the teacher. You invite, through the way you talk, that spirit into the conversation. The Lord loves him and you and is so mindful of the struggles you are facing. He will give you the answer to your prayers if you ask what is the first thing you need to do to help your son.
Parenting is full of challenges but it is also one of the greatest joys we will experience in this life.
Let me know how it goes!