Acting Out

Dear Miss Faith, My three year old is having such a hard time lately, acting antagonistic towards his baby brothers, and no amount of helping him or punishing him is seeming to work. I’ve tried everything I can think of and I’m at a loss…It seems like he has lots of opportunities to get his big energy out…what do I do when nothing seems to work?

Dear Mama,

Oh, big hugs to you! When I have a kid who’s acting out, and I’ve set them up for success as much as I can (lots of time outside, well-fed, rested, giving them social cues, etc.), sometimes what they need is a big infusion of love. It feels hard to do when you just want to punish them, but that’s why punishing the behavior isn’t effective–that’s just giving them less love, and they need the opposite. When I start feeling like a child is doing things ‘just to get at me,’ I know something radical is needed to shift something around. So I tell my assistant that I’m going to start a Pouring In the Love campaign with this child. I do it for a week, and things have almost always shifted dramatically by the end.

Pouring in the Love My Pouring In the Love campaign is basically just what it sounds like. I do things with them that I know they’ll like. I make eye contact with smiles, and give lots of hugs and kisses. I notice things I like and appreciate about them, either out loud or just in my head. At night, before I fall asleep, I picture them in my mind as their best and highest self, who I am enjoying. I pour in the love.

Of course, it doesn’t work right away. What does tend to happen right away is that I gain a little more patience, but inevitably I start to feel annoyed and triggered by what they child is doing, and then it’s time to bring out the big guns. I’ll take a deep breath and slow down, then really look at the child. “Wow, you’re having a hard time,” I’ll say. “Let’s do something special, just you and me, so that you can find your contented-self again.” Then, I do something so I can just pour the love into him. It might be making a cozy fort and snuggling inside and reading stories together, it might be brushing hair together, or maybe I light a special candle and get a bowl of warm water, put a few drops of lavender oil into it, and wash his hands in the warm water, pouring love into him as I do it. I carefully dry each finger, then put some lotion on his arms. Then I’ll wrap him up in a big hug and say, “That feels better. Now you’re ready for the rest of the day. And if you feel yourself getting jumpy inside, come to me and I’ll give you another big hug, just like this one.”

Even if you have a household full of other children, you can still do these special activities; the other children are usually happy to watch. Doing these special nurturing activities helps children calm their nervous systems, and helps us reconnect with them, and helps us see them again as their highest selves. They almost always respond, and I almost always feel better, too.

Warmly, ~Miss Faith

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