Gathering Kindness Stones

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“I don’t yike you guys. I don’t yuv you either. I don’t yike ANYBODY.”

This is Eddie’s go to response when he is angry or frustrated or disappointed.  We never taught him to say these words, and we have NEVER said these words to him or to each other.

But this is his response to not being able to play Mario Kart or having a toy taken away or being denied a cookie after dinner or…well, you get it.

At first we were just glad he was using his words at all.  Up until recently (and really he still does this from time to time) he would furrow his brow and grunt or give little screams at us when he was upset.  Grunts and screams that interrupted what we were trying to explain or say to him.

“Use your words, Eddie.”

Between our efforts and practice at daycare, Eddie slowly started to use his words.

“I AM SO MAD RIGHT NOW,” he would say with gritted teach and fists clenched,  pushed down toward the ground. His scowl–complete with flared nostrils–was enough to burn a hole in your heart.

And recently he has started adding, “and I don’t yike you. Or yuv you.”

It’s as if he doesn’t know how else to put words to his disappointment or frustration.  As soon as he feels he has been wronged, I watch the temper rise. I can almost see the boiling instantly begin.

You know how when a cartoon character gets really mad, the blood rises up to his face and he turns all red and steam blows out of his ears?

That happens to Eddie.

He has also started to give ultimatums.  For instance the other day he colored (on purpose) on the kitchen table and I calmly said, “Eddie. You know we don’t use the crayons on the table.  Just on the paper, please.” I knew he was tired and being defiant because he was transitioning back to daycare after a week off for spring break.  We had just gotten home and I knew he was temperamental.

But what happened was a shit storm.

“FINE!  I WILL TEAR UP THE PICTURES I MADE YOU AT NAE’S HOUSE!” and he proceeded to rip up the pictures that he had held on to so carefully the whole drive home.  The pictures that he had spent the entire 10-minute drive explaining to me about the “dinosaur with the really looong neck because I like T-rexes.” The pictures he asked if I wanted to take to my work and hang up. He ripped them to shreds with tears flowing down his face.

Before I could stop him, he had shredded his pictures.  I didn’t know whether to cry for him or be angry.  He was so distraught.

“I AM GOING TO THROW ALL OF THESE CRAYONS IN THE GARBAGE!!” he was shouting as I was still trying to figure out what to do.

“No, you’re not, Eddie.  They are fine and don’t need to be thrown away.”

I calmly took them from him and he started screaming and crying LOUDLY.  So I sent him to his room to calm down.

Recently, in an attempt to curb his mean comments (and occasional unkind behavior),  I set up a Kindness Bucket in the kitchen.  I have a little baggie of stones next to it called Kindness Stones.  When he displays kind and loving behavior, we put Stones in the bucket.

These are easy for him.  Over spring break he had gathered almost all of the Kindness Stones in his bucket just by being himself: giving Charlie the last cheese it (unprompted), helping me with laundry, volunteering to swifter the floors, picking up his toys as well as Charlie’s.  All of these things he just does without being asked to, so it’s fun to call his attention to how many times he is kind during the day.  And he LOVES it.

He loses stones from the bucket when he is unkind.  If he pushes his brother or screams in someone’s face or tell us he doesn’t love us, he loses a stone.  We are trying to teach him that he is a really REALLY kind boy, but sometimes he does things that are unkind. That hurt his family.

We even talked about what he thought would be a good reward for earning ALL of the Kindness Stones.  He told Cort he would really love to have dinner–all of us together–at Red Robin.  Cortney and I agreed that was a fabulous idea.  So that is what Eddie is working toward.

The problem is that he gets SO frustrated lately.  When he loses a kindness stone he will yell, “FINE!  TAKE THEM ALL OUT!  ALL OF THEM!”

It makes me so sad.  Of course I don’t take them all out.  And I explain to him there is no way I am taking all of the kindness he has shown away for one small act of meanness.

I know it’s his age.  He is three-going-on-four.

I know he is still learning how to express himself.  He feels his feelings but doesn’t know what to do with them or what words to put with them.  Let’s be honest, I’m 35 and I STILL have trouble putting words to my feelings sometimes too.

Sometimes, when he blows up and just says, “forget it, take it all away!” I know how he is feeling.  How many times have I wanted to upend my desk at work or throw my laptop out the window?  How many times have I felt like I would rather just have someone take all the good away if I can’t have it my way?

Cort and I are struggling with this phase.

We know he needs our guidance.  He needs our love and patience.  He needs our safety while he figures it out.

But he also needs us to let him know that is not the best way to deal with being frustrated, disappointed, angry, or sad.

Yesterday, after he lost his mind once again and we sent him to his room, Cort and I were deciding who would go talk to him once he calmed down.  Cort “won”.

“What are my talking points on this one?” he asked.

“Um. Hey Ed. Here is your shit.  You lost it upstairs?” I offered.

“Heh.  Right on. I’ll just give him his shit back.”

That is what Cort did. He helped Ed find his lost shit, as I took a kindness stone out of his bucket hoping he would earn it back quickly.

And he did.

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