We’ve all had moments when for some reason our kid(s) just seem possessed and unreachable. It can happen at some of the most inopportune times and leave us scratching our heads for an answer. And of course at times it can push US off the deep end as well.
Now, for some of you this may seem like a no brainer. But for others who may have been thrust into single parenthood, especially dads who up until know relied on “mom” to handle meals, this may be a helpful piece of knowledge to keep in your back pocket.
When my ex-wife and I were still together, we noticed a definitive pattern with our kids when it came to their demeanor. It would happen just about every day around 4 p.m. and would become known within our family as the witching hour. An edginess would creep into the household and little tempers would flare. The kids would get antsy, edgy and at times unmanageable.
Over time we recognized a pattern. A hungry child equalled a kid who quickly lost control of all faculties. You could bank on it. It wasn’t just a minor edginess either, it would be a complete lack of ability to control emotions and actions. With three of them it could cause a complete train wreck. And then of course it hit me. These were the offspring of a man who gets incredibly ornery if he doesn’t eat; a phrase a friend of mine recently referred to as “hangry.”
As an example, twice this past week I noticed one of my kids becoming inconsolable and incredulously uncooperative. One of these moments occurred on a day when dinner was missed due to an early softball game. My youngest started to lose the ability to reason and was growing increasingly whiney and loud. No words, timeouts, or threats of consequences were having any affect. I then noticed myself growing increasingly annoyed and frustrated as well, which was what typically happened before this cause and affect was recognized. But now, recognizing that it was 6:00 and that the kid had missed snack time after school, I stopped dead in my tracks and made a run to Sonic. Within five minutes (literally) of getting food on the kid’s stomach he became a completely different kid. I’m not kidding. It was that immediate and was like watching Jekyll and Hyde. You could literally see the transformation before your eyes.
The beauty of this knowledge is that it accomplishes two things. One, it immediately allows you to put down your own defenses because you’re able to recognize there’s a direct cause of the activity. The second is, you can quickly fix the issue and even prepare ahead of time.
At the same time, pointing out to them the difference and teaching them to recognize that they may need sustenance empowers them to help manage their own mood swings. How liberating it will be once they can recognize how they’re acting and realize they may need to eat something.
So now, pockets and glove compartments have cereal bars and snacks in them. Cucumbers, cheese and crackers await the kids when they get off the school bus. And of course, whenever possible, ensuring meals take place when they should is an essential; even when we’re in a rush in the morning. That’s kind of a “duh” I know, but we all know how easy it is to skip dinner when there’s a 5:00 baseball game or we need to be in four places at the same time on a Saturday.
Now obviously, hunger isn’t always the answer. It could be an earache, something that happened at school that day, or they could just be in a mode. Or maybe, for some reason, today they’re simply struggling with something; perhaps even the divorce. The point to all of this is to consider the source of their actions and not necessarily throw your arms up in the air and assume they’re being brats just for the sake of being a brat. Typically there’s an underlying reason for their actions and our jobs as parents is to find the strength to control our own reactions while we attempt to get to the root of our child’s.
It’s funny isn’t it? How often we take for granted the things we’ve learned about ourselves over the years and yet expect our kids to know and understand their own emotions from day one. Sometimes in the heat of the tantrum it just helps to stop for a moment and recognize your kid is obviously hurting on some level, either emotionally or physically, and needs some guidance more than a stern voice. Easier said than done, but as hard as it can be, sometimes the best thing we can do is stop, listen and be the reasoning voice for both of parties; especially when you’re both a little “hangry.”