Thursday, November 17, 2016

Parenting Perspective: The Chapter on Supporting Your Self-Punishing Child Begins

My son is sensitive and loving, a true old soul. But with this aspect of his personality comes the "self-punishment". Combine this with anxiety (I talk about his anxiety here) and numerous developmental delays and a typical day presents that many more opportunities for my own personal growth. This perspective is critical to save my sanity. My sweet boy is gift to teach me greater patience, a deeper love and to value and hold onto every precious moment...

I love this photo of him. I think you can see a bit of his precious soul through his eyes and smile.
My six, soon-to-be seven year old, has made frightening, devastating, comments. From "I don't want to live" --- and shying completely away from concretely discussing it only to comment, "I can't tell you what I sad again because it would make you really, really sad." This is certainly want breaks my heart the most but then there are moments like yesterday where he declares his own punishment.

He started crying, balling. In the moment I couldn't understand why but soon learned the trigger (within a series of items) was receiving cereal instead of toast for breakfast. Anything pertaining to making a decision, he gets COMPLETELY overwhelmed. Even the option of having both so that he does not necessary have to make another choice becomes, yes, another choice for him. The crying, red tears, tears streaming down his face --- after nearly 40 minutes he realized this is not an acceptable response for the situation and that there should be a consequence. He begins:
  • You need to take away my Pokemon card, forever.
  • When I get home from school, I am just going to stay in my room for the rest of the day. 
  • Don't have a birthday party for me. I don't deserve it.
And, he continues... continues declaring punishments for the next 20 minutes.

I had to leave for work and this stayed with me all day. Last night I spent the evening reading a spectrum of articles on "when a child self punishes"; "how to support a child who self punishes"; "understanding a child who self punishes".  Additionally, I have reached out to various local therapists to meet and discuss so I can better get out of my own head on this subject. I am by no means an expert but I can say, reading other parents' perspectives last night on similar circumstances helped so I thought I would share my situation, thus far, albeit with no particular resolve because sometimes I know you need to hear "I can relate"; "You are not alone". And, from the "expert" articles I read last night, a common them was:

"This is a surprisingly common issue for children." 

With that, again, you are not alone. Yesterday was not the first time we have gone through this situation. This has been going on for nearly two years and as he matures the consequences seem to be getting more in depth rather than lesser. 

I will update as we make our way through this parenting chapter... With some positive resolve, here are a few strategies I found from "When a Child's Guilt Goes Overboard" that we are going to try. 

"Here are a few suggestions, but you should find what works for your family:
  1. Change the self-talk. Tell him he may apologize but he may not “insult” himself. That is your son he’s insulting and you don’t want to hear it! Explain that it is not his job to give the punishments, it’s your job. He can express his feelings once, but then needs to move on to something on the list.
  2. Draw or write an apology note. No matter how small or large his mistake, this gives him a way to focus on the person he upset instead of himself, and express his remorse.
  3. Make a gift of some kind. This is a great way to use some creativity making someone else feel good, and he will probably learn that this makes him feel better as well.
  4. Spend some time alone. Separate from a punishment, he can go hang in his room or some comforting place.
  5. Use that energy as exercise. Running off his mad, even if it’s at himself, is a healthy way to get these feelings out. A punching bag in your basement, a jump rope, push ups or sit ups are healthy ways to push out his mood.
  6. Do a good deed. When he is feeling  like he is a disaster as a person, have him do something kind or helpful for the world. Clean up some litter, rake for a neighbor, do an extra chore around the house.
  7. Create art or music or stories. These are excellent media for ridding ourselves of negative emotions."
SOURCE: When a Child's Guilt Goes Overboard,  Ask Doctor G: Parenting & Youth Development Expert,, accessed November 16, 2017

Thanks for letting me connect and being a part of your day... hold onto a positive perspective throughout the challenges of your own parenting journey. Each present tremendous opportunities for growth and development... through that growth and development, we can empower, inspire and support.

With gratitude... have a wonderful day! xo