Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jealous 4 year old

I have an almost four year old son and a 4 month old daughter. My son and I have always had a very close relationship, mostly co-slept, he has been very jealous (which is understandable) since his sister was born. Lately, he has become really really difficult to deal with. Arguing about everything. I try and listen and empathise and be present with him. He lashes out, hits, bites, spits, swears (honestly it is terrible and I think he has picked up some awful language from friends at daycare) his favorite is to tell me he doesn't love me anymore. I am exhausted. At night he wakes and wants to be with me while I'm feeding my daughter and yells at me to face him. It is getting out of hand and I'm exhausted, and I'd hate to say it but am feeling some resentment towards him.Help.

It sounds like your son is really feeling disconnected from his true self and he’s feeling scared, hurt and confused about the whole thing. At his core, and all of our cores, he is a positive spirit, and with that his natural state is to love, laugh and have fun. He knows this deep down, and his anger is simply an indicator that he’s not himself and he needs to reconnect to it again. With his hurt and disconnection, you have become the easiest target to blame. And with his level of anger he is crying out loud and clear to help him find a feeling of security, laughter and fun again.
Children know that’s it’s the natural state to feel good, to jive about, laughing and playing. They haven’t been conditioned to think that some things simply have to be done. Taking care of a 4 month old and being told that has to be done, really doesn’t sound like fun, especially when it probably puts off play for a later date. In some ways, on a deeper level, he sees you stressed, tired and involved with a little someone who he may feel makes you stressed, and he’s upset that you can’t be at the connected state of laughing and playing together like you use to. Motherly love of staring into a 4month old’s eyes for hours, as connecting and awe inspiring as it is for us, doesn’t make a 4 year old burble. So, although your son’s behaviour is a reaction to his feeling off, I find the best process is to take focus away from the problem and what he is presenting to you and focus on helping him get connected again, so he can deal with his new life from a better feeling place.
But how do we get our children connected? It sounds like right now, your son is feeling pretty at sea, so even if you tell him all is well, from his perspective he won’t believe you, in fact he won’t even hear you. He’s going to have to feel it in order to understand it.
We are sensual beings. We sense moods, atmospheres and people’s opinions. Children are so in touch with this. Therefore, often they sense our stress, they feel our looks and opinions and rather than change how they are in order to help, they tap in to the stress and cause more of it. It really can create a vicious circle. So, the first place is to start from is you and how you feel, because that’s where you have control. Take some time, even before bed, and get yourself feeling better. Take your focus off of the situation, avoid talking about your son’s jealousy or behaviour for a bit, because you can’t feel good looking at a problem, so appreciate a hot bath, go through happy memories, count your blessings, and then offer up the problem of conflict. One way to offer it up is to close your eyes and imagine life through the eyes of your son. Try to get into his skin so you can sense what he feels like. If you can’t do it, don’t worry about it. Rather, put some time in on focusing on all the things you appreciate him. Imagine his laugh, his smile, his eyes, think of him when he was a baby, and also, try to recall anything he did that made you smile in the previous day.
The reason I suggest doing this is when we shift perspective on a person, and stop seeing only what they are showing us, but remember them as Who They Are, we allow them space to connect again to that deeper level. Sure, what they are doing is “fact”, but it’s not them, so when we see our children as themselves, they can feel more comfortable getting connected again and start acting the way we see them.
The next day, try to only see the good in him. Thank him for small things, talk to him a little older. Involve him on an emotional level. I know this probably seems like a lot of work, and you’re probably tired and stressed, but I promise you, by feeling better the night before and shifting focus, you’ll start to see a change. A 3 year old can seem highly demanding, but they can also be so much fun. Ask him questions, make funny jokes, play games when the baby’s sleeping. Focus attention on fun with him and you will see connection starting to return. Even if it means setting chores aside for a couple of days to get connection back, it pays big time. If he’s not interested in joining in, go to a little effort to make him smile. Make his lunch into funny faces, put on a favourite movie that you can cuddle up together with, take him to the park and play in the sand with him.
If he starts to yell and get mad again, look at him with love and understanding and ask the important questions. Who is talking to him like this? Does he like being talked to like this? It makes you feel awful and makes the house sound horrible (yucky is a common phrase in our house), you need his help to make a safe and happy home. How can you do it together? Than go get some music and dance together, change the feeling space from where he was at. Sometimes he might not join you there, but keep your heart light and looking at the bright side, he’ll know deep down that it’s the natural state. Distraction is key so he can remember what it’s like to feel good and join you there. Feeling off and angry can become a habit and it’s easy to slip back into it all the time.
As far as while you are feeding your daughter in the middle of the night and him lashing out, as you start to see him clearer you will be able to start making deals and also, understand that he’s been feeling pretty lost. Facing him means actually a lot, as a back turned in bed can feel very isolated. Can you have one arm around him while you feed sitting up? Can the baby be in the middle for a bit? Can he sleep at the foot of the bed and you could hold his foot? Give a little bit on some things, but only when it feels relieving. If he’s learning bad language at day care I would clarify who is doing it and if it’s directed at him at all. If he is being an example of how people are treating him outside home, than he has more reasons to feel “off” than a new baby sister. It might not be so much jealousy after all. Therefore, love, love, love him, hug him, play with him, connect with him. Find that connection within yourself so you can clear away what’s being presented to you and see him as the pure positive, beautiful, growing, and vibrant young man he is.

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