Let’s play nice

November 2, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Liam loves his cousin Evie. We determined earlier this year that they are both spirited children, which is why they play so well together. But it’s also why they fight so much, too. Typically, Liam and Evie will go off to his room and play for a few hours, and then I’ll hear him yelling. Oh boy. Then Evie will storm upstairs, declaring that she’s mad at him, and then I’ll hear him wailing downstairs. From what I can gather, their fights usually stem from Liam telling her to play a certain way, she doesn’t want to do it, and then he yells or hits her. She’s mad because he lashed out, and he’s mad because she won’t play the way he wants her to. Usually I’ll get Liam calmed down in his room, give him a “Shaver break”, and then I’ll let Evie poke her head in and see if he wants to play again. By then he’s forgotten why they were fighting, and they can go back to business as usual. Until the next argument.

On Halloween night we let them sleep in the same bed. Now, we knew that Evie wouldn’t last the night. She never does. Either they have a big fight or Evie gets scared and decides to sleep on the couch. But they beg to sleep in the same bed every time they visit, and I keep thinking one of these nights they’ll actually make it. Not this time, though. Apparently Liam wanted Evie to tell a story a certain way, and when she wouldn’t, he gave her a choice. We’ve talked a lot about compromise and giving people choices. His choices were A) Do it the way I want OR B) I’ll punch you in the cheek. Ummm…not really what I was going for. So, of course, she stormed out when he punched her. And he started crying. And I came downstairs to see what all the hubbub was about. I explained to Liam that hitting was an unacceptable choice, and how would he feel if Evie punched him in the cheek? Then Evie came back downstairs and said she was ready to forgive Liam. Of course, Liam refused to apologize (another issue we’re trying to tackle), but she didn’t mind because, as she put it, “Liam can’t punch that hard. He just hit my ear and it didn’t even hurt!” Fair enough, I guess. They lasted about another hour before Evie started crying for her mom and moved to the couch. Then Liam got all upset that Evie left, and I had to lay with him in bed until he calmed down and fell asleep…just about 10PM. These children!

The next day, lack of sleep made their fights more fierce and frequent. At one point I decided to try a different approach. I grabbed Liam’s hand and marched him upstairs, then I instructed him to tell Evie, “Let’s work this out.” Then I told them to put their thinking caps on and come up with a solution, a compromise, that will help them get through their conflict. And it worked! They went downstairs and started playing again! But then Jill, who was languishing on the couch with a sick Milo all day, overheard their “compromise.” Liam apparently told Evie, “You’ll have to do it my way or I’ll have to punch you. That’s the only compromise I can think of.” I guess she chose his way instead of the punch this time.

I’m not sure how best to handle all of this aggressive behavior. I’ve tried talking with them before hand, explaining to them to play nice and not hit. But in the heat of the moment, all the rules go out the window. My saving grace with Evie is that she’s so much bigger than him that he doesn’t do much damage. But when I caught him shoving her in the trampoline, I immediately told them to get out. I threatened him with a spank if he wouldn’t come out, then followed through when I had to crawl in there and pull him out. It’s not my favorite form of discipline – it seems contradictory to teach him to stop hitting people by hitting him on the behind – but sometimes he needs a shock to snap him out of his screaming fit. Thankfully he doesn’t get physical with his other friends, probably because we only spend an hour or two with them at a time. Something about spending an entire weekend with his cousin brings out the pugilist in him. He’s also so unaccustomed to having someone else to argue with all day because he’s an only child. Evie is practically like an older sister to him, albeit much nicer to him than a sibling would probably be.

Our other point of contention is saying goodbye. Whenever his cousins have to leave I’m faced with huge tantrum about it. He does this on play dates with friends, too, though usually only when they come to our house. I’ve tried giving him warnings, I’ve tried getting him to finish up what he’s doing before they go. He seems particularly upset when his play is interrupted. For this trip I decided we’d do something special – we settled on pie at The Village Inn. I told him after Evie and Milo left, we’d go and get his special treat. I talked it up all morning. As they were playing, I gave him a 15-minute warning, and reminded him what I expected from him. No crying, give Evie a hug and thank her for coming. We went over it several times. He agreed that was what he was going to do. Then he had a one-minute warning, and he started to break down. I reminded him what was at stake – PIE, Liam! Pie! I even told him we could change it to something else – a trip to the World Treasures Museum, or maybe we could bake cookies. I told them they could jump 10 more times in the trampoline. Evie happily counted to ten while she jumped, but Liam started wailing in the corner. As soon as Evie left the trampoline, he was in the throes of a full on fit. True to my word, I said no pie, no trips, no special activity today. Jill and the kids left, and I was so angry that James had to come down and calm the boy. Ten minutes later he was contentedly playing in his room, and he’s been on his best behavior ever since. 

I queried my Facebook friends to see if they had any suggestions for making goodbyes go more smoothly. Hopefully I’ll have some ideas to try moving forward. Likely this is part of his larger issue with his emotions, and it’s something he’ll outgrow over time. Let’s hope he’s not still doing this at age 10!

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