Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Help with my 3 1/2 year old.

Angie writes,

Dear Stephen and David,
I recently attended the "Wild Things" seminar in Knoxville and I came home feeling gained some insight about boys. I have your book and have enjoyed reading it. My question is, my son seems to be "glued at the hip" with me. My patience is wearing thin. I give him some responsibilities (i.e. puts his dirty dishes in the dish washer, cleans up toys, etc.) which he is very good at, but he competes with his ten year old sister for my affection. The flip side of this behavior is that he can be very aggressive with me as well and has struggles of not minding me. I'm at my wits end trying to understand all of this. My husband is quick to spank him, but I am not keen on spanking. There are periods in a week where it seems that he stays in trouble. His behavior at day care shows none of this according to his daycare teacher. What would you advise? I would appreciate any advice. Thank you and God bless.


Thanks for coming out to hear us in Knoxville and for purchasing the book. I'm glad to hear Wild Things has been an enjoyable and helpful read. I hope it can be a resource as your son passes in and out of the next four stages of his development.

In hearing you talk about him being "glued at the hip," I am reminded of the conversation we shared with moms on Sunday morning about one of the unique callings you have in the life of your son of being safe. With explorers, being safe often translates to being "glued at the hip." In that stage of his development, you really are the center of his universe. The majority of his basic needs are met in relationship primarily with you. That will change as he graduates out of this stage, but for now it's true.

With that said, you are wise to create some opportunities for him to grow and develop in the care of other trusted adults. It's great to hear you say he is able to go to day care and doesn't struggle in being dropped off or spending a few hours away from you. I'd look at expanding that through some Saturday morning outings with Dad or some Sunday afternoon trips with grandparents or friends. The more opportunity he has to explore the world safely in the care of other adults, the more confident he feels being away from you and quite simply, it gives you an opportunity for a break (which every mom needs!).

His aggression is likely a response to stimulation as is common with explorers. He may be overstimulated (too much going on around him) or understimulated (bored by being home with you for an extended period of time). He may at times be aggressive as an expression of intimacy. Do you remember me sharing the story of when my own sons were explorers and would run and head butt my wife? It's an Explorer's way of saying "I miss you, I want to be with you and I can't get close enough to you." He will need you and his dad to help him redirect his aggression toward something more useful. Have him hug you and use his words to tell you what he needs or is feeling and then affirm him for doing so. Tell him how great that felt compared to his aggressive response. I would encourage your husband away from spanking based on this evidence. He sounds like he is needing more redirection than discipline.

Keep in mind that explorers feel alot of strong emotions but can't put words to those or don't know what to do with them. Choose books to read that are rich with emotional content to help expand his emotional vocabulary. And then talk about the characters following the story. I love Kevin Henkes books (Wemberly Worried, Owen, Chester's Way), as well as Eric Carle's books. Both authors allow the characters to feel things strongly and put words to that. Secondly, use as much role play with him as you can. It is a great teaching tool for Explorers and matches boys as experiential learners.

I hope that's helpful in thinking it through with your Explorer.