No child is perfect and my partner and I reassure ourselves of that every time we have a particularly bad day. Our sons are good boys – on the whole, but truth is not a day goes by when we are not reprimanding both of them pretty much throughout the day. It may be mostly for minor things, but even then it’s the persistency of the minor offences that make them worthy of the telling off.
In particular this is true of our youngest who has just turned 7, he is a sweet little boy, affectionate and charming and comes across as though ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ and that is him – it’s not fake at all – it’s just that there is another side, a side that is always just beneath the surface. He defies us, he makes bad choices, he constantly pushes his luck and maybe most worrying of all is that he doesn’t play well with other children so he is always squabbling and fighting – especially with his brother.
We know he is carrying demons from his past and that he struggles with them, we know he is angry and volatile. However, we feel there is something else, something that… well, ‘compels’ him to be naughty. There are times when he seems positively disappointed with himself for his behaviour and maybe even shocked by it.
We don’t look for excuses for the misbehaviour and as we are not big on ‘labelling’ children we are not about to rush him to a child psychologist to be ‘diagnosed’ – with or without a diagnoses the same is true: we have to get to understand him and deal with him for who he is. I often worry that diagnoses becomes an excuse for parents to overlook behaviour they struggle to deal with which ultimately is at the child’s expense.
Recently for the first time we may have had a little insight into his struggle.
We are on holiday and we were at dinner with relatives, we have a strict bedtime routine at home and the boys are in bed by 7pm, as much to maintain the routine they have always known as for giving ourselves a few child free hours at the end of the day for all the chores that are not easy to do with them around.
It does mean an early start each morning, but my partner and I are fine with that as we have always been ‘morning people’. However, others find it difficult to fit into our routine, especially as early bed means early dinner and when on holiday with others that is almost impossible to achieve.
So it’s late for our boys to be out and our youngest is struggling, he is past the grumpy stage we always suffer when he is overtired and now just wants to sleep. He puts his head on my partners lap, but because of all the activity around him he struggles to turn off.
My partner strokes his head and talks softly, he randomly starts talking about when our son is grown up and a big man, he asks ‘so what do you want to be when you grow up?’, the response is not so unusual I guess ‘ I want to be a superhero’. However it is then followed by a ‘but’.
‘I want to be a superhero, but in my head it makes me want to do bad things, not good things’.
We think this is an amazing insight into his ‘inner psyche’ and that it does indeed confirm our suspicions that the struggle he has to be good is not as straight forward as it should be.
We are not phycologists and we certainly can’t claim to understand what this means, but it feels significant and we can see and accept that for him the ‘naughtiness’ is something that he sees as being beyond his control.
It doesn’t excuse his behaviour, but we feel that it does somewhat explain it and knowing that helps us accept it. We recognise that we must stay firm and continue to address his bad behaviour, but at the same time somehow acknowledging his difficulties with it.
How? We have NO idea, but as with much of our parenting we will grope around in the dark until we strike something of value.
Nothing other than our attitude has actually changed because of his ‘revelation’ and I am sure we will still be dealing with his difficult and challenging behaviour for sometime ahead, however what has always felt like such a difficult part of our lives now just ‘feels’ a little less so.
I guess our children are not there to give us answers, but without doubt they are there to be listened to and to learn from.
It is just a shame that sometimes in the chaos of our day to day living, it is so very difficult to allow ourselves to hear them.