Sometimes play and laughter can be what a child needs to help them overcome what’s driving their outward expression of anger and annoying behaviour.
Here’s a story with my 5.5 year old daughter.
We had had a fun day with friends for Easter. Emily had been playing all afternoon with close friends and, of course, had consumed a lot of chocolate eggs. In the car on the way home she was asking the same question again & again…. & again…. & again. No matter which answer we gave, she kept on aggressively asking. When we got home, we opened the ‘wrong’ door for her to get out of the car, so she stayed in it howling and shouting at us. Once finally inside our home, she obsessively started drawing and banging her pen into the paper, breaking her pen. She then stomped to her bedroom & slammed the door. Oh what a fun way to end the day…..!
I tried to enter her room but knew that if I pushed it, we wouldn’t really get anywhere, so I told her I was just outside and would wait for her whilst I was tidying up.
She came out angry. I moved in close and she moved away.
So I tried to connect – to break through the prickly barrier and reach my loving, fun daughter somewhere inside. I grabbed her playfully and lay down on my bed, rolling with her on my tummy from side to side. I was on the corner and so whenever I rolled either side, it seemed like Emily was going to fall off onto the floor. I held on tightly to her and playfully moved from side to side pretending to nearly drop her on the floor. Slowly the prickles started to move and the laugher started to flow. My moves became more dramatic and there was increased laughter as Emily appeared to come perilously close to being dropped onto the floor. Full laughter and warm connection flowing between us.
Eventually I had to ask her to get off – I’m 20 weeks pregnant and was starting to feel squashed. She happily did so and a playful energy had returned to both of us.
It was my husband’s turn to put her to sleep, so now that harmony had returned, I left them to it. However, she kept ‘playing up’ and running away from Evan and then whining that she wanted me to put her to bed. We playfully tried to get her to go with Evan but she kept on wanting me so I cuddled up next to her whilst she settled down to sleep.
What she had really wanted and needed was that physical connection with me. I’d hardly seen her all day and she just wanted to have a cuddle & reconnect with me before going easily to sleep. She also needed a way to deal with the chocolate / sugar hit that had overwhelmed her. Sometimes ‘bad’, ‘naughty’ or annoying behaviour is simply expressing a desire to connect and feel loved – physically and emotionally. Or it is a child in overwhelm – either by an external situation or by an internal reaction (in this case food).
By responding with less connection – Time Out, getting cross, punishments – the behaviour will usually spiral to get worse, or the need will initially be repressed and the ‘naughty’ behaviour will leak out at another time. By responding with love & connection, the child’s innate need is met and the child’s equilibrium can return.
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