Q: My son is an angel at school but a terror at home. He was even student of the month last school year. But when he gets home, our home is absolute chaos and he is just nasty to me.
A: Many children work to be 'normal' all day long at school so when they get home, they are exhausted. The result is they collapse into negative behaviors. When they are stressed at school, they hold it together all day long and then in their 'unwinding' of the day, they become "terrors."
Due to early experiences of trauma, children can become sensitive to environmental stressors. Their regulatory systems have been compromised and they have difficulty remaining calm and behaved when faced with the challenges of a school setting.
become fragmented and split between home and school. Many parents report
that they literally have two different children in these two different
environments. This fragmentation is not healthy to the child's overall
development of the self so it is important that this be addressed
effectively for the child.
When we look at the dynamic of the school setting, consider the energy it takes for your child to maintain appropriate behaviors at school is far greater than the average student. He may look well put together externally, but internally, he is running at high speed to ensure he becomes the perfect student. Thus, when he gets home, it is as if he has run a marathon; he is exhausted, unable to hold it together anymore.
In order to create more balance for your child, consider ways to reduce some of the major stressors he experiences at school:
As you are able to parent within a love-based framework, you are establishing an environment that decreases the threat of this relationship. If you need more examples of how to parent in a loving way while still maintaining rules and boundaries in your home, see my Q&A book, "Dare to Love." Real examples of how to apply the Beyond Consequences principles are given throughout the entire book.
I also encourage you, as the parent, to check in with yourself. Determine how you are feeling and what messages are swirling around in your mind. It's easy to get into a framework that says to your child, "If you can behave for your teacher at school, then my gosh, I'm your parent...you can certainly behave for me!"
It's very easy to take it personally and to interpret your child's negative behavior as an attack on you. As a parent, you are working so hard as to help your child, to heal them, and to love him/her. Yet, the reality is that they don't know what to do with the stress from school and they are still living in fear of connection with you. The struggle is not with you; it is with themselves. Continue to go beyond the obvious and reach to the core of the issue---fear and stress.
Heather T. Forbes, LCSW
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