Q. I keep losing my temper with my six-year-old son; he’s just so infuriating! He never listens to me, always does naughty things like stealing chocolate from the kitchen, fights with his four-year-old sister and never responds to me when I ask him to brush his teeth or go to bed – he turns everything into a fight. I hate the way it makes me react, too; I become ‘shouty mum’, which just escalates the issue, and we both end up in tears. How can I respond better to his tantrums? Name supplied
A. The underlying tone of your letter is that you feel very alone with this challenge, and I’m not sure how much that reflects reality. I’d like a quick health check of your own support systems – let your GP know that you are struggling (some childhood ailments can look like bad behaviour at first), and check whether his school is seeing any changes. Ask both for suggestions; I’m still grateful more than 12 years later for one local parenting course at a critical time.
I can’t remember if that’s where I first learned my favourite technique: love bombing. You set aside at least two hours with no distractions (no sister; no mobile phone; no household chores) and the child is in charge of what you do. It doesn’t have to cost money, and you don’t even have to leave the house. The intensive feeling of positive attention can help to reset the stress hormones that are affecting both of you.
Given the age gap, it might be that your son is at school, and feels that his sister gets the best of you while he’s not there. It’s way too complicated for him to put into words, but he knows that he has your full attention when he takes chocolate. It’s not his fault or yours, but you have more power to break the pattern than he does. Think of it as a chance to teach your son about the power of love.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.