"How do you parent a child who is red/yellow when you are a white/blue? My son and I are so entirely different and he's so impulsive (almost destructive) that it completely shakes my world. I often find him sneaking downstairs and turning on the Wii (which we only permit on Friday and Saturday as a privilege). Even though he receives consequences (extra chores, etc.) the benefit from sneaking still outweighs the consequences he receives.
He is extremely smart and creative, however, I find it hard to adapt and allow him to explore. Just a small example is that when I came into the kitchen, he had poured most of my white vinegar into a large pitcher and added a lot of baking soda to it to see what would happen. Of course, a nice reaction occurred (like a volcano) causing messes in the kitchen (not to mention "wasted" ingredients). My personality is such that I was upset by the experiment because I would have preferred to do that in a more controlled environment where I could measure out the amounts, etc. I ended up pouring out the concoction down the drain which resulted in him screaming, crying, and locking himself in his room. Apparently he had wanted to show his dad when he got home. He's 6.
This is just one example of MANY impulsive and messy things (some dangerous, like running away or approaching every stranger -- good trait, but not when I can't see him). Needless to say, I have no idea how to channel his enthusiasm and spontaneity in a good direction. His motivation is definitely video games, however, I don't want to corrupt his little spirit by allowing him to play too often. When he plays he gets angry and so focused that nothing else matters (hence the Friday/Saturday rule right now). My sister suggested that if I let him play video games more, then maybe he wouldn't try to sneak so much.
I am reading and enjoying your book right now, and I'm realizing just how different I am from my son. I also have six children, so it's hard to find one on one attention for all of them. It's hard even going in public because he has a hard time following orders and frequently runs off. I've had to put him in the shopping cart multiple times to keep him with us. Am I being too strict and rigid? How do I allow him some "free" time and trust that he won't get hurt? We live in such a different world today than the one in which I grew up.
Any advice would be great:)”
There are many things I could say here but due to time I will only mention a few. With the advice I give, please discern yourself, for your son, since you are entitled to inspiration for him. I haven't seen the two of you in action, so I will do my best to advise. The very best advice I have in my book and audio seminar. I talk about this very issue in detail, and about being in front of the television too much. But, here are a few thoughts.
About Computer Games
First, your son is obviously obsessed with video games. He is showing you his weakness. That is something you should be grateful for and discuss with him. Ask your son if he likes having someone else control him. Discuss this. Then ask him what he feels when he thinks of the video games. I am guessing he feels some sort of excitement and yearning to play. See if you can determine with him how his body actually feels. Then you need to explain to him that if he gives in to that feeling he is allowing something else to have control over him. At this point you need to explain to him that this machine is controlling him even though he doesn't realize it. Together make a plan to keep him safe from being controlled by a device. This is real freedom.
Do Not look at these kinds of devices as mere objects. They have been proven to be much more than that. There are many adults who get sucked into them and end up choosing them over their real life relationships. They can be very dangerous. I will never remember making a promise to my husband. He looked at me one day after playing a Play Station game at another person's house and said, "Honey, promise me you will never let us get one of these things. Because if you do, I will play it too much." He knew it could control him and he was worried he would want one and waste valuable family time on it. I have kept my end of the bargain, and he remains free and mine!
Electronics have the same effect on my son. However, now that he is aware of it he can more easily choose self control.
If you have to, get rid of the device. If you want to still use it on certain days, put it up in a secure place when it is not in use so that you don't have to fight it each day with him. This will give him the freedom he needs and improve your relationship.
Essentially, he is being dishonest with you with his sneaking around, so you are falling out of love with him. When you can't trust someone's motives you feel betrayed. This leads to loss of love. Pray for increased love for him as you try to create an environment where he doesn't need to manipulate you.
People often use the excuse, "children who get more of what they beg for don't crave that thing" as a reason to not define certain boundaries, so I am not surprised that you were told to just let him have more Wii time. However, one indulgence does not stop cravings for more. Not for more of the same or for more different indulgences. Children don't know how to reign themselves in. They don't even always know what is good for them and what is bad for them. This is why they have parents. We have to look at them and their experiences with wisdom so that we can keep steering them in the right direction.
I have learned that children beg for exactly what the DON'T need. I talk about his in the called “Janet's Junk Food Principle” part of my book. He is showing you his weakness, so keep him safe.
Are We Over Protective?
This brings me to my second piece of advice regarding his safety and you being over protective in these times we live in. Your son is only six years old. His main focuses should be family and loving to learn new things with the family. He doesn't need to "get out" more or be more social at this time in his life. I believe in the philosophy of insulation. Children need more of it. In order to find peace and happiness in life children need to be ultra secure. This security is formed at home. It is a "cottage industry" as some would say.
The less he is out with the friends and on electronic devices the better at his age. He needs to be building club houses with you and his siblings. He needs to be making topographical maps of the world out of salt dough, and learning how to construct catapults. This would the best kind of play for him. Not only should he play with you, he should work with you too. Take him through your day as a shadow. I know as a mother of six you probably have plenty of shadows, but love them and recognize that they want to learn how to be an adult by following you through your day. Work with them. Let them get their hands in what you do. This will get him "out" mentally more than anything else. You will be giving him vision of what it means to be a parent and giving him real life skills which will increase his security. Insulate him.
Now, a side product of insulating can be isolating. I know the word isolate sounds bad, but it isn't. A person shouldn't need social interaction to be happy and secure. This is a social flaw we have integrated into society. I could go into more detail about this, but I can't due to time. If you isolate your child somewhat from too much friend time and computer time to have increased amounts of family time you are not really isolating. You are actually creating a more lasting social experience than he could ever have with a device or a friend; family unity.
In short, it doesn't sound like you are doing a bad thing at all by protecting him more from the device. If you protect him more at age six, he will be ready to act more like an adult at age 14. Trust me on this one. I did the very same thing with my now fourteen year old son, who is now very mature and grounded for his age.
Controlling A Red Personality
My last bit of advice I can give you today is don't power struggle with a red personality. I know. I am one. It sounds like you are trying to gain power first and then hoping for an open heart. It doesn't work like that. The heart must be open first and then the behavior can change. If he is making a science experiment without approval, don't waste the moment. If the ingredients are ruined already then do the experiment with him for a few minutes and discuss the reaction which is happening.
Then ask him to come to a different area for a minute to talk. I would probably sit down and discuss how I am like vinegar. I am meant to preserve things and bring balance to the family, but if someone disrespects me, as vinegar, they are like baking soda and make me boil over. I would go into what I do when I boil over and ask my child if he likes that. After discussing this analogy we would make a plan for a positive consequence for every time he comes to me to ask for permission to do stuff like this and maybe a personal negative consequence for when he doesn't follow that instruction. I hope this helps. Start with this for now.