Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tough Moment at Home, Good First Week at School

The evening that we got back from visiting Kai’s grandparents, my wife was not feeling well so she went to bed early. So, it was time for some father-and-son bonding.

It didn’t go so well.

After his bath, I asked Kai to practice piano as he usually does with Mom. He did not want to play without Mom there to help him.

But since he had not practiced in the days we were away, I told him he had to play anyway.

He played half of one song and stopped, saying that the second half was too difficult. I encouraged him to keep playing, even if it is difficult, as it would be good to practice.

He did not like that idea.

He got mad. He pounded on the keys. He told me to go away. He said he would not play anymore.

I responded that he had lost his iPad privileges for the next morning.

That is when he really got mad.

“You are so mean! I don’t want you here. You go live somewhere else!”

After that, it took awhile, but he started to calm down. He apologized for the things he said.

I told him that it was fine to apologize, but it did not change the fact that he would not get to use the iPad. He has been getting more and more disrespectful to me and my wife, and I wanted to teach him that he couldn’t always undo that with a simple apology.

But that made him mad again.

“I hate you! You are evil! Get out of the house!”

Too often I allow his words to get me upset. On this occasion, I was determined to stay calm.

Our evening routine is that after Kai plays piano, we play a game together until it is time for him to go to bed.

On this evening, though he was mad at me, he still wanted to play a game. And with Mom sick in bed, he realized that he had no one else to turn to.

“I forgive you so you can play a game with me,” he said.

I told him that I did not want to play with someone who said such mean, hurtful things to me.

“Kai, you can play by yourself, but I am not going to play with you. You have ten minutes to play before bedtime.”

He responded, “But I don’t want to play by myself. I want you to play with me.”

I softly repeated that I did not want to play with someone who was so hurtful.

I sat quietly in the kitchen while Kai continued to try to persuade me to play with him. Every so often, I would tell him how much time he had left before he had to go to bed.

He said that we would have to get up early the next morning so that we could play together then.

I explained that it was not going to work like that. If you make bad choices, you don’t always get a chance to make up for lost opportunities later. So, you had better try to make good choices.

Soon it was time for him to brush his teeth and go to bed.

Our bedtime routine is for me to read a book with him. On this evening, I told him that he could read all by himself.

I could see that he was starting to feel more sadness than anger. So, I stayed in the room with him while he read.

When he was done reading, he apologized again. This time it felt more sincere.

I talked to him about how much Mom and I love him, but that it hurts us when he says such mean things to us.

I repeated that he would not get to use the iPad in the morning, which is a fairly big punishment for him as he loves to use it while eating breakfast. This time, he accepted it without anger.

He asked if I could stay in his room until he fell asleep. I said I would.

We said, “I love you” to each other. And then he fell asleep quickly.

The next day was his first day of school. And though he couldn’t use the iPad, he was in a surprisingly jovial mood. From several days before, he had been talking about how he did not want to go to school. But we saw none of that on this morning.

He cooperated with his morning medicines and was ready to go when his taxi arrived.

When he came home from school, he was still very happy. And so we were, too.

An email from his teacher confirmed that he had had a great day:

“…I just wanted to send you a message telling you how GREAT Kai's first day was! I can't tell you how many changes there were… that Kai handled wonderfully. I was amazed…”

He has now been back in school for one week, and every day has been consistently good. It is a remarkable change compared with the last couple weeks of summer school when he destroyed several shirts.

I don’t know if the events of the evening before he started school had any impact on his behavior at school. But I do know that he has been a lot more respectful, and happy, at home as well.

It is a nice change. It is a good start to the new school year. And I am enjoying it.


  1. It is hard to be a parent, we have a job to do and sometimes it isn't an easy one! I think you did a great job, good work! Happy to her that Kai is doing so well in school! Great fresh start!

  2. A happy ending. Something went right. Whatever it was...keep it up. For me...this was one of your greatest happy ending articles. This is such a huge step for Kai. He will have more and more of these very good times I think.

    1. Shiroi, we are encouraged by these recent events. We know that a big challenge remains teaching Kai to handle his anger, frustration, and disappointment in more appropriate ways, but hopefully this is a positive sign. Thanks!

  3. Yuji-What a great report!! I am impressed that he was in a good mood despite losing the IPad! Hoping the good days continue! :)

  4. Well done for keeping your cool and sticking with the punishment. It obviously worked well, though I know you'd have been nervous about how it would affect the back to school routine! Great news that all has gone well so far.


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