Advice From YidParenting

By Rabbi Yitzie Ross

Q: My 11-year-old son is a normal, fun-loving child–until he gets into a bad mood. He’s not especially physical, but he gets everyone around him in a bad mood. He snaps at his siblings, challenges my authority, and really ruins the whole atmosphere. It’s come to the point that I walk on eggshells around him to try and keep him happy. Any ideas?

T.

Brooklyn

A: Your son is one of many who have this problem. This is truly one of the hardest parts of being a parent: trying to prevent the moody kid from affecting the easygoing ones and the overall atmosphere in the home. I don’t need to tell you how frustrating it can be, both to the parents and the siblings.

Most importantly, I will tell you that “this, too, shall pass.” I’m sure you feel like you’re losing it, but he will mature and you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief. It won’t happen overnight, but the incidents will become less frequent as time passes. There are many tricks you can try, but it’s really a waiting game. You’ll have to wait for him to mature, after which he’ll be able to understand himself and his moods better.

I can easily spend a page or two commiserating with you (as can many other parents). Although there is no easy fix, there are a few things that can make dealing with him a little more bearable.

  1. The best solution is to determine what sets him off. It might be the bus ride home, the supper menu, or that he’s hungry or overtired. Keep a private diary to see if you can narrow down the possible suspects. You’d be surprised how well this works.
  2. When he’s in a good mood, take him on a one-on-one trip somewhere distracting, such as bowling or to the batting cages. While you’re playing, casually discuss with him how frustrating it is when he gets in a bad mood. See if he’s open to any ideas. This is not the time to vent on him; you’re merely asking for his help.
  3. Is school a trigger? If so, try and see what you can do to alleviate some of the stress. It’s amazing how easygoing many teachers can be. Let them know that you need help getting him home in a good mood.
  4. Set up an agreed-upon “calming location” where he can go to chill out when he’s getting upset.
  5. Do not reward him for calming down, since there should not be a positive consequence for the initial negative behavior.
  6. You can compliment him if he calms himself down. You can also reward or compliment him for staying in a good mood when something frustrating happens.
  7. If he becomes uncontrollable, don’t raise your voice, as it’ll make things worse. Calmly keep repeating, “I can’t discuss anything with you when you’re upset.”
  8. If there are other children around, you want to show them that you’re still calm. You can tell them: “Your brother is upset, but that’s not the way a ben Torah should behave. It would be much better if he spoke calmly so we could listen to him.”
  9. Remember that at this age your son is going through hormonal changes. He himself might not be fully aware of what to do, and can use your help.
  10. Let him know that you love him and always will. Once a child calms down and begins regretting what he’s done, he needs some reassurance. You can say, “Although I am disappointed that you lost control, I love you so much. We’ll figure this out together.”

On a side note, I would like to point out one thing that I’ve heard from many parents. Although electronics (iPad/tablet, etc.) might seem great for calming your son down and distracting him, it can actually have the reverse effect. v

Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e‑mails and read the comments, you can visit www.yidparenting.com.

 

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