Friday, May 3, 2013

Fighting His Emotions

My wife regularly joins my son’s weekly psychotherapy session. Yesterday, Kai said he was hungry so he and the therapist went to the clinic’s snack room. When they returned, the therapist told my wife that Kai told her that he wants to have a fight a particular boy in his class.

“R___ is going to make Level 4 tomorrow,” he said as explanation.

My son’s public therapeutic school uses a level system. Students transfer to this school because of behavioral challenges they have had at their neighborhood school. When they first enter the therapeutic school, they are considered Level 1. As they pass progressively tougher standards, they attain higher Levels. When they reach Level 5, they may start the process to transition back to their neighborhood school.

Several of Kai’s former classmates have gone back to their old school. All of those kids arrived at his school after he did and made enough progress to go back, while he is still there.

Kai came close to making Level 4 himself last month before he had a major incident three days shy of the threshold. Now, with R___ due to hit the milestone today, Kai will be the last child in his class who has been at the school for more than a couple years who has not yet reached Level 4.

For a boy who has trouble linking all the pieces together in his mind, the result is that he wants to fight R___.

He doesn’t understand that R___’s achievement really has nothing to do with him. That he should not be angry with R___, and should instead be a good sport and congratulate the other boy. That he, too, can make Level 4 if he continues to have the good days that he has had lately. And that he will damage his chances if he chooses to take out his anger by starting a fight.

The psychotherapist who was with my wife and Kai at the time he declared his intention to start a fight explained that Kai gets angry because he doesn’t want to feel sad. She said that it is difficult for him to feel sad emotions, and so he channels it into anger instead.

And so, my wife, especially, is feeling sad for Kai. She wonders how he feels seeing so many of his classmates being lauded for their accomplishments while he finds it so difficult to stay safe even for one day. She wonders if he thinks less of himself for still being at the school while other classmates have moved on.

In the past, Kai never seemed to care too much when he told us about another student achieving a Level change. Whether his feelings about it have changed, or he is just now able to better express his feelings, it is apparent that he really does care, and that it bothers him a great deal.

Last night my wife emailed Kai’s teacher. She gave her a heads up about how Kai is feeling. And she asked her to take extra care of Kai today.

We understand the value of a Level system. We know that Kai has to earn his achievements.

But I think it’s also important to understand how a child may be feeling, and to provide a little extra support at times.

And today might be a time for him to get a little extra TLC.


  1. I am sooo glad he has you as his parents and you are going to be understanding and supportive
    I think his feeling is a natural one to have - its easy to feel jealous
    It requires a lot of maturity to not do so in fact

    1. Yes, it is easy to feel jealous. But we are trying to think of how he would feel if his classmates reacted to him like that. Thanks, K.

  2. I think this indicates that he cares about his progress. Although the manifestation of it took a wrong turn, at least the fundamental drive is there. Although it will take time and effort to guide him onto the correct track...I think it is far easier to correct than is apathy.

    I know you may not see it as a good sign least now, all it takes is steering instead of trying to get him moving in the first place. With consistent gentle direction changes...even a 180 may be effected...and you will become closer in the process. Your support of him in his low times will always be remembered warmly by him. He will trust your future guidance as a result. Keep up the good fight, your goal is worthy one.

    1. It is nice to know that he seems to care. And I know that he is making progress. Hopefully we are providing the right direction and will continue to see more progress. Thanks, Shiroi!


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