My older son, who was six, had been constantly on the edge for a few weeks.
He let out his feelings by crying on weekends and then go back to school on Monday. His first grade teacher told us that he would take a long time on each school task, and sometimes couldn't finish.
I sensed his tension building up again as the week went on. During Special Time he gave me a clue about what might be keeping him on the edge.
He ordered me to run and get something really “fast!” He said, “Get it right now! “You are too late! Faster!”
Next, he started drawing, but he didn't want me to see it or know what he was doing. “Don't speak! Don't look! Don't touch,” he commanded.
He was utterly frustrated and tearing one sheet after another.
Since this was Special Time and I was ordered not to speak or look, I held onto his back like a koala bear, paying attention to him from behind. When the timer went off and he finished his drawing, he gave it to me like a gift.
Our time ended sweetly, but whatever it was he was going through felt really intense.
A few days later, he was bossy to his younger brother. He gave his brother orders, but in the next moment stopped him from completing the request.
I tried play. I went over and said lightly, “Uh oh, there is a bossy bug hiding here!” and lightly picked at my older son’s pants and shirts, pretending to hunt for the “bug” that was making him bossy. But, he didn’t find it funny. Instead, he was upset and tried to bite my hand.
I took that as a clear signal that he wanted me to stop him. I held his hand and asked what was going on. He would not answer, but he struggled and cried. Then, as he struggled to escape from me, my elbow brushed his forehead.
He fell over in a great pain, crying hard, “That hurt!”
He didn't want me to come near, so I stepped back a little. I told him that I loved him, and would like to hear what happened. I told him he didn't deserve whatever it was that might have scared him. I said that he was a good boy and shouldn't have to feel that bad.
Hearing this, he began a sharp, shrill kind of crying. But then came over to my lap and cried more.
I think he cried hard for 10 or 20 minutes before his attention shifted and he stopped crying.
His voice changed from sassy to sweet and his face relaxed into quick smiles. He piled up pillows on our bed and told me they were for me and then asked his brother and me to sit on them next to each other.
I couldn’t believe this was the same boy who, half an hour before, could not be satisfied with anything and didn't want us near him.
For a while he sat next to me and cuddled up sweetly and then the two brothers roughhoused and played happily before going to bed.
What's causing your child's aggression? Read Are Secret Fears Driving Your Child's Aggression?
Do you want more suggestions on how to use Special Time? Get our free video series.
Find out about Hand in Hand's Five Listening Tools can take you and your child from angry to calm.
Keiko Sato-Perry is a certified Hand in Hand Instructor with a masters in Education and lives in Palo Alto, CA.