I totally meant to follow up my previous post (The Sword in the Stone) the next day – and somehow a whole month has gone past. I feel a bit cheated by the shenanigans of Mistress Time at the moment!
Here is my Knight. As you can see, he has earned his sword back doing great deeds and demonstrating knightly behaviour! Not only that, he now has a shield and an embellished scabbard also. He is very happy and proud of himself, and I am pleased to say that since we have been working so closely with him on this he has been enjoying a renewed sense of self-confidence, interest in the goings-on around him, and has been talking non-stop about the things that excite him. It is just so wonderful to have him back … not that the sulky fits, defiance and stubbornness have gone away completely … he is a knight after all – not an angel 🙂
In my last post I wrote about how we were trying to address Sir Knight’s tantrums by ‘earning’ back his sword with good deeds. This became a real struggle for both of us, particularly because it seemed that the good deeds that he was required to demonstrate were defined by us, and whether or not his deeds qualified for acknowledgement was also defined by us (and what kind of mood we were in at the time!) I found myself using it as a bargaining tool – “you can’t colour in your sword later if you behave like this now …”
It was just going nowhere and we were getting ourselves embroiled in a whole new set of tantrums, that we helped to create.
Interesting how we sabotage our own attempts at making our situations better, isn’t it?
There just had to be a way out because the daily (often hourly) battles were driving us all insane. Interestingly enough, at the same time all this was happening, I was reviewing the articles on behaviour management that I had written several years ago when he was only three. Oh, how much have I learned since then!! It gave me cause to ask myself, am I really practising what I am preaching? Here is a perfect opportunity to review my theoretical knowledge and experience of children to the test and to really analyse what is going on here. It opened up a wonderful opportunity to look at our home practices and rhythms and values. As always, working with your children’s behaviour begins with working on your own! When I am able to reach into another wormhole of time I will write about this process!
After such a necessary review, it became clear that nothing positive was going to happen for this thing between our little man and us until we started believing that positive things were going to happen – we had to change our thinking and our approach. Stop getting annoyed, stop arguing, stop yelling at each other … spend more time noticing the wonderful things, more time touching and hugging, more time smiling and looking forward to each others company. We might be expecting him to behave like a knight, but how does he learn what that behaviour is unless we can demonstrate it too?
So the ‘star chart’ idea for the sword was scrapped and instead we muddled through behaviour issues as best as we could, using positive and supportive strategies, and at the end of the day we tried a new idea: the “Shield of Honour”.
We drew this shield up together, because that was the next part of his complete knight’s costume he wanted to earn – the idea being that when the shield was full he would then make this shield with his dad. It was wonderful on so many levels! Each day we HAD to write down two examples of knightly deeds, and if it had been a challenging day we didn’t talk about the tantrums or the rudeness, but only focussed on the good things. Sometimes we had to look hard. In the beginning we almost had to make things up! In the end though, this became such a beautiful ritual at the end of each day that it was something we both looked forward to. How gorgeous to snuggle up with your son and write down all the ways he is wonderful!
Within the week his shield paper was full of affirmations and on the weekend he and his dad went downstairs to cut out and paint a real wooden shield with a leather arm strap on the back. He has then painted his own crest on this (with the cutest … I mean fiercest … lion you have ever seen).
He enjoyed this process so much that it became something he focused on himself. With something to work towards, and a daily reminder about how special and talented he is, his behaviour improved of its own accord. The next thing he did (and it was all his own idea) was to make himself a scabbard for his sword. I helped him trace around his sword on an old bit of blanket, he cut it out then I machine stitched it to keep the shape. He then blanket-stitched around the edges in gold embroidery thread and embellished it with beads and a lion pendant I had stashed and waiting for something like this. I am so proud of him, and clearly he is proud of himself too.
The next thing we are working on is the helmet – just have to work out HOW to make the thing! Obviously we do not want a flimsy cardboard helmet. If we have gone to the trouble of making a wooden sword and shield, and a magical embroidered scabbard, then a bit of cardboard is hardly going to complete the authentic knight’s outfit.
What is wonderful about all of this is that the focus is no longer on what he is doing WRONG. The real benefits are in the time we spend telling each other how awesome we are, and time spent working on something purposeful together. It may be that the sudden plummet into challenging behaviour was a transition into a new phase of development – he is almost seven – and when I reflect on his past, it is peppered with challenges like these just before a plateau where we can enjoy each others company again. Whether this was the case or not, it doesn’t matter: at any time inappropriate behaviour will happen, tantrums will happen, rudeness will happen, but now (and it isn’t always easy!) we are practicing looking BEYOND that and trying to stay focussed on all the great things that happen when we feel good.