12 Mar The Law of Opposite Behavior
My ten-year old had a rough start to the week. His classroom recently switched to online homework and it’s a lot more tedious and time-consuming than what his regular paper packets used to be. He’s been trying to put some homework time in before school as to preserve his precious free-play time in the afternoons.
For some reason, as he began his computer work, he was angry. He huffed and puffed. He guffawed and groaned. He got physical with the papers and folders on the desk. He kicked his chair.
The more I tried to get to the bottom of his frustration, the angrier he became. Eventually, I gave up and let him carry on. I figure sometimes I have to let a behavior, a mood or a morning run its course. When he finally shut it down, he was still in a miserable mood as he left for school. He returned in the afternoon with the same frame of mind. It was not pleasant.
During this time, my younger son was a delight. He was courteous and patient. He was thoughtful and kind. He listened the first time when asked to do something and was in general, winsome company. This charm carried into dinner, even while his older brother continued to stew.
Since the boys had soccer practice after dinner (they are on the same team), I had to tell my eldest that if his cranky behavior spilled on to the field, he would have a very early bedtime. This made him very mad of course. He thought about this some and by the time we made it to the field, he had a complete and utter turnaround.
He hustled and gave his all. He ran his hardest and shot goal after goal. He respected his coaches and his teammates. He even began to have some fun.
How did my youngest respond? He got cranky. He was annoyed every time his brother scored. He was moody and mad. He was tired and sad. When practice was over he angrily complained about all the injustices he had experienced. In the car he kept his sour mood while his brother’s delightful transformation continued.
How do siblings manage this? Why is one always an angel when the other one acts up? Do they have a schedule or a morning meeting where they discuss when and where each one gets the cranky title throughout the day? You take breakfast, I’ll take soccer practice sort of deal?
The yin and the yang of this particular day was a little more than I could handle. I’m hoping to attend their next scheduled cranky meeting so I know which kid to avoid and when.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent