Butting Heads With My Boy

We’re going through a phase with my nine-year-old son where he’s just turning everything into a confrontation. It really sucks.

The littlest reprimand spoken in a calm voice, or even the warning of consequences if he doesn’t do what we’re asking him to do, will escalate from stubborn refusal or passive aggressive ignoring us to full-blown digging his heels into his position and battling us in a test of wills that, inevitably, ends in our son crying his eyes out because I’ve threatened to take his video games away.

I am not at my best when I’m being ignored or lied to, which are both favored tactics of children. In the past I’ve been very guilty of blowing up at him, all of which I made certain to apologize to him with a calm and genuinely regretful admission of “I lost my temper and shouldn’t have yelled at you like that. I’m sorry.” I believe I’ve got a better control over it than I used to, but it’s necessary to raise my voice when he does things like throw his toys at his mother. That was a new one.

These are rough parenting times that I feel need to be shared more openly and more often. People so freely share parenting victories and heartfelt stories that it can feel like you’re doing something wrong when you’re in the depths of a screaming match with your only child. Like you did something wrong in the past to have created the conditions from which these battles arise. Like no one else is going through these tantrums and fights and blow-ups.

So yeah, in that spirit of sharing, we’ve been having a rough couple of weeks with our son and it’s rare when an argument doesn’t break out sometime during the day. Transitioning out of video game time is a stare-down and dinnertime is regularly a disaster. I love my boy and I love being his dad…

…but right now, things are really tough.