For one week I kept track of all the things that make my boys (especially my four-year-old) very frustrated and upset. I want my boys to learn that it is okay to feel angry or upset. You are human. You are going to feel those emotions your entire life. It’s not a sin to FEEL angry. It’s only a sin if you DO something wrong. I want my boys to know it’s okay to feel angry or upset, but it’s not okay to yell, hit, throw things, etc.
I picked the top 5 things that annoy Caleb
- Getting dressed (if he doesn’t get his shirt on right the first time, he is upset!)
- Daniel stealing his toys
- Daniel wrecking his train track
- Basketball (missing the hoop)
- Something falling apart (tower of blocks falling down, etc)
Jared and I decided to model these 4 situations for Caleb so he would know how to react when these frustrating events occur. I got an extra shirt and pair of pants. I tried to put my shirt on, but couldn’t seem to get my arms in the sleeves. I told Caleb, “I feel sad. I can’t get my shirt on.” (I made a point to tell him how I felt so he could know that mommy gets sad too, but when mommy gets sad she doesn’t yell, throw things or flip out). I asked Caleb what I should do. Should I give up? Should I start yelling? Should I throw the shirt? We talked about how everyone makes mistakes and that is a good thing. It is how we learn. We kept repeating (throughout the entire evening) the phrase, “Oh well, try again!” I tried again, but couldn’t get my arm in and said happily, “Oh well, try again!” I repeated that two more times as I failed to get my arm in the sleeve. Finally, on the fifth time I did it! I told Caleb, “I feel so happy because I didn’t give up. When we keep trying, we are able to do things we never thought we could. I am so happy I kept trying.”
Next, I started playing with dinosaurs. Daniel and Caleb joined right in. I had some dinosaurs next to me that I wasn’t playing with directly and my husband took one (he’d been prompted to do so and he made sure Caleb saw it). I said, “Caleb, daddy took that dinosaur. That makes me feel angry. I wanted to play with that dinosaur.” Caleb furrowed his brows and went over to daddy and tried to take the dinosaur away to give it back to me! I stopped him before he could take it away and asked, “Is it okay to take toys from people?” Sheepishly, he shook his head and said, “No.” I asked him a series of questions: Should I yell at daddy? Should I hit daddy? Should I take the toy away? What should I do? We have trained Caleb to trade with Daniel when he wants Daniel’s toy and I was so proud when Caleb shouted, “Trade him!” I got another toy and asked daddy if he wanted to trade me. He agreed and we played happily for a few minutes. Then we repeated the scenario. Daddy took another toy and I said, “Caleb, I feel angry. Daddy took that dinosaur and I wanted to play with it.” I asked the same series of questions and Caleb told me to trade. This time, however, daddy didn’t want to trade. I asked Caleb what I should do. He said, “Take turns!” I set the timer for one minute and told daddy that when it beeped, we were going to trade. The timer beeped and we traded. I kept setting the timer for one minute and we traded back and forth.
Caleb got a Little Tikes basketball hoop for Christmas, but he doesn’t like playing with it because he always misses (he’s definitely our perfectionist: “If I can’t do it right the first time then I’m not going to do it at all!”). We had daddy shoot some balls and miss on purpose. He said, “Caleb, I missed! What should I do? I think I need to practice. I’ll shoot it again until I can make it.” The other phrase he would use when he missed was, “Oh well, try again!” The only downside was when Caleb said, “Ha, you missed!” We told him not to tell people they missed. We should just say, “Oh well, try again” and encourage them to keep practicing and say, “You can do it!”.
We did similar things when my husband and I wrecked each other’s train tracks or knocked over each other’s towers. With these two activities we made sure we said the phrase, “Oh well, try again” multiple times or “Oh well, let’s fix it!”
This family home evening was to focus on coping skills for anger to help our kids develop more patience. Our kids are going to get angry. They need to know what’s not okay to do, but they also need to learn things they CAN do when they are angry. They can run back and forth down the hall, bang a drum, spend some time alone in their room, ask their brother to trade his toy, take turns, etc. They need to understand how to be a critical thinker – to analyze the situation they are in, identify the problem, and come up with some solutions.
I loved this family home evening because it was problem solving out loud. It helped Caleb understand that mommy and daddy feel angry and upset, but they don’t flip out. It helped him think about possible solutions and decide what the best thing to do was. Then he saw that solution put into action and how it solved the problem and helped everyone be happy. I think it also helped Caleb to understand that we make mistakes and not everything goes as smoothly as we envision it, but when we can’t do something the first time (or we make a mistake), we choose to say, “Oh well, try again!” instead of becoming angry, upset, or giving up.
A few days after doing this family home evening lesson, I spilled some milk on the kitchen floor. I was irritated with the thought of having to clean it up and said, “Ugh,” but Caleb cheered, “Oh well, try again!” I turned around with a big smile and said, “That’s right, Caleb! Oh well, try again!”
Someone once gave me some wise counsel. She said that family home evening works because you are teaching children what to do before they need to use it. She said that you couldn’t teach a child when they are angry or upset. They are not able to learn. The best time to teach a child is NOT when they are misbehaving. It is when they are emotionally available to learn – when they are happy and content. That is when you should discuss what they should do in certain situations.
The entire week after family home evening, I tried to problem solve out loud. Every time I came across a problem (even if it was a small one), I talked out loud about how I was going to solve it. For example, I lost a pen one day and said, “Caleb, I lost my pen. That makes me feel sad. I wanted to use my pen. Hmmm, maybe I should look on this counter. Maybe I should clean off the counter so I can see what’s on the counter.” When I still couldn’t find it I simply said, “Oh well, try again!” I looked a few more places and then told Caleb I would just get another pen. Sometimes I just tell him what I’m doing and sometimes I ask him questions to see what he thinks I should do. Children aren’t born with problem solving skills. It is something they develop over time. The better they are at solving problems, the less angry and frustrated they become. I’ve really learned that our job as parents isn’t to try to solve our children’s problems (or make sure they have as few as possible), it is to teach them how to solve their own problems.