Did you know that testosterone levels in 4 year old boys double before dropping back to normal levels at about 5 years old? I didn’t, until a friend mentioned it shortly after Aaron’s 4th birthday. She has a son the same age and I’m thankful she warned me about hormone surges, or I wouldn’t have had a clue what is going on with him at the moment! He is very emotional a lot of the time and occasionally throws temper tantrums to rival Tabitha’s, which is something he hasn’t done for ages. But at other times, I can see lovely glimpses of developing maturity.
We’ve been making good use of our calm down basket recently. I’ve posted about it before, but I thought I’d give an update on how it’s working for us along with some recommendations for books that we’ve found really helpful. As well as books dealing with specific issues, we have a mind jar, a massage ball, a hacky sack and a bell rattle in the basket.
Calm-Down Time and Sharing Time are the newest additions to our comfort basket and I’m really impressed with them. The books mention a comforting space to calm down, validation of feelings and scripting, which are tools that we already use so they fit in really well with our discipline style. The publisher, Free Spirit Publishing, also has a Learning to get along series which looks brilliant for when Aaron is a bit older. For now, the Toddler Tools series is nice and simple.
I’ve been on the lookout for something with pictures of different emotions for a while. I was planning to make some little fabric beanbags and draw on them with fabric pen to create my own cheaper version of Kimochis, but then I spotted this pack of Expressions Flashcards at ELC this afternoon. Not something I would normally buy, but they were on sale at half price due to being discontinued so much cheaper than other sets I’ve come across. There are 12 different feelings, with a child’s face on one side of each card and a cartoon on the other side.
When Aaron has a meltdown, we often cuddle up on the sofa together and read some of the books from our calm down basket. He also likes to shake up the mind jar and watch it until the glitter settles. Although we don’t have our basket when we are away from home, he is now used to the idea of taking some breathing space so we can go somewhere quiet to cuddle and talk while he calms down. We did this a lot on holiday as he and his cousin fight quite a bit, and I noticed that he learnt much more from talking about it than he would have done if we had just punished him. We also have several other parenting tools that we use alongside the calm down basket.
You hit, you sit
In our house we have the rule “you hit, you sit”. The hitting child has to sit down on the nearest chair or on the floor whilst I comfort the injured child, which prevents the situation escalating further. I explain that hitting is not acceptable and it hurts, so I will help them stop when they lose control. If they are calm enough to talk, I then ask both children for their version of what happened.
Validation of feelings
I might say something like “you are feeling angry/frustrated/upset because …”. It’s important for children to understand what they are feeling and why, to help them learn to deal with their emotions and to know that we are not minimizing their feelings. We then talk about more appropriate ways to respond to those feelings, such as “when you feel angry you can breathe deeply/use your words/make silly noises/squeeze this ball/hit the cushion/shake the mind jar”. I hope that the flashcards will help him (and Tabitha) to learn about and recognise more complex emotions.
This is something I’ve started doing with Aaron now that he is older. Together we discuss questions like “What is the problem?”, “How can we solve the problem?” and “Was that a good way to deal with the problem?” This helpful post deals with conflict resolution in more detail.
Scripting is giving children the words to express what they are thinking, feeling or wanting in a more appropriate way, for example “I don’t like it when you do that”, “I feel angry when …” or “Please may I have a turn?”. We’ve been using this tool for quite a long time but I continue to be amazed at how effective it can be. At first it takes a lot of prompting and reminding, but even this week I’ve heard Aaron saying things like “I need to be on my own” or “I’m going to my bedroom to calm down” and walking away from a situation all of his own accord instead of dealing with it inappropriately. The Toddler Tools books give some great examples of scripts to use in various situations.
Is anyone else is dealing with hormonal 4 year old boys? I’d love to hear what works well for you.