Fridays are always difficult in our house. Both of my children begin to give way to the stresses of the week past and, right around 4:00 PM on any given Friday, they crumble. Today was no different. As I attempted to fold mountains of laundry, my children both stopped playing to find me. Right in front of me, Baby Bear (BB) pushed Little Lamb (LL) to the floor with dramatic flourish. She immediately began to scream and wail. BB, having very little sensory tolerance for the sounds of his sister’s cries, ran out of the room and began pushing items from whatever surface he could find right onto the floor. It had happened so fast that I hadn’t had time to intervene. Impossibly, only a few moments had passed and yet parts of the house were already wrecked.
There’s no question how much havoc dysregulated children can wreak in seconds, but what caused this outburst? Well, we had reached the inevitable point of After-School Restraint Collapse, or in this case, After-A-Full-Week-of-School Restraint Collapse. This very real, very difficult phenomenon is the answer to the question of why children can behave so wonderfully in school only to come home and lose control. It’s difficult for us adults to manage a busy schedule and come home to more responsibilities. We don’t always handle it in the best way either. Children, especially small ones, have ever so much less ability to self-regulate than we do. So, when they reach their safe haven, all of that tension bubbles to the surface, and it has to go somewhere.
I soothed LL who had developed the hiccups from crying so intensely and, when she felt better, I let her lounge on my bed so I could go find BB. I had to address his violence toward his baby sister. I brought him back into the bedroom, as he had cooled off in the interim. I asked him if he needed a hug and he did. He began to cry. The stress must have been unbearable. When he stopped crying, I lifted him onto the bed so we could be level and I said to him, “You were really upset early when you pushed sister. You’ve had a long week at school and you needed to push something to feel better, right?”
He began to cry again, but this time, he angrily yanked my glasses off my face and threw them to the ground. I picked them up and put them on and, again, asked if he needed a hug. He did. So, I hugged him tightly for a long while and told him I loved him. When he was relaxed, I pointed to LL and told him that it hurt her when she got pushed to the ground. I asked him how he could help her now that he was feeling better. So, he slid off the bed, went around to her, and laid his face against her arm. It was only for a moment and then he ran off, but it was an act of love. For the rest of the night until bedtime, he remained dysregulated, but he didn’t push LL again. And, yes, he willingly helped me pick up some of the items he had upset.