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Talking is better than fighting

Doc came home on Sunday night from a weekend visiting his mom and cousins in a ripe mood. He flew into a tantrum like a 2 year old for his dad at bedtime and didn’t come down from the cloud for quite some time. I chalked it up to a change in environment and missing his mom after a good visit.

Last night, I agreed to let him stay up until Dad got home if he agreed to be nice and go to bed without a fuss. We had a deal. Alas, at bedtime he went into another roaring rage over nothing. It took my best effort to bring him down and get him quiet.

Tonight I took him aside to see if I could get him to talk. Not easy with a barely 7 year old. Usually, when asked something important, he just shrugs. But there is something under his skin about Buddy that I’d love to get to and help heal.

“You let me down because we agreed that if you stayed up late, you’d behave,” I said. “Now you’ll have to go to bed early.” He looked disappointed. “However, if you can help me understand how you are feeling or what makes you get so mad, then I’ll let you stay up later.”

He shrugged. No surprise. I went on to explain it in 7 year old’s terms, the upshot being that if he could give me anything, he could stay up. He shrugged some more and we headed for supper. But at bedtime on our way down the stairs, he had something to say. It wasn’t much, it was hardly helpful, but it was an opening. A willingness to communicate rather than be stubborn. It was an important moment and I rewarded him well for it.

It can be hard getting kids to start talking. As Humphrey Bogart said so aptly at the end of Casablanca, “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”