Friday, November 16, 2012

Calming Caddy

Here are some really cute pictures of Henry:

I want you to see them because that is how I think of him.  But lately he's been having some anger issues.  Something will set him off and he just seems to explode!  He curls up his fists and makes a mean face and his whole body just shakes.

He was mad because somebody laughed at him
If he's mad at me or Ken, it usually stops there; but if he's mad at a peer or sibling, he has started hitting or throwing things.  Definitely not what I want to see!!  In the heat of the moment, his behavior makes me mad. I have yelled at him, spanked him, or sent him to his room.  That makes him more angry and it makes me feel awful because I knew that my solutions were not helping the problem.  In fact, in calm retrospection after the fact, I recognized that my reactions were probably making the problem worse.

I emailed the guidance counselor at the kids' school and set up an appointment.  Ken was off from work and able to come too, so we both heard the same information at the same time.  Here's what we talked about:
  • Anger is a healthy emotion--there is nothing wrong with being angry
  • Kindergarten is a tough time, especially for boys--kids have a lot of rules and regulations placed on them and they don't get much chance to just run around
  • Being the middle kids is hard--you don't get all the privaleges of being oldest or all the "cute points" for being youngest
  • Anger management strategies can be taught.
So with that in mind, and some other ideas from the guidance counselor, Ken and I headed off to the Dollar Store.  We picked up a little shower caddy and some other items to put together "Henry's Calming Caddy"
  1. pinwheel (I cut off the point at then end and wrapped the stick with electrical tape to make it sturdier)
  2. glitter jar (water, glue, glitter, food coloring--glue the lid on and shake)
  3. shark ice pack with cool beads inside
  4. lotion
  5. "puzzle links"  They click and you can make cool shapes out of it.
  6. mini tissue box
  7. coloring book and crayons
  8. bubbles
  9. play-doh
  10. squeeze animal 
Frances was with Ken at ballet last night, so it was a good time to talk to Henry about being angry.  I drew an outline of a body and asked him to show me where he felt the anger.  He identified his head, arms/hands, and feet.  Then he said something so significant that I immediately wrote it down: "I feel like I have long nails and I can scratch so hard."

I was so proud of him for being able to articulate what it feels like to be angry. (And I made sure to tell him that.)  We went on to discuss tools. I explained that tools are the special items that you need in order to do a job.  If you wanted to clean the living room, your tool would be a vacuum cleaner.  If you wanted to build a shelf, your tool would be a drill.  I explained that tools were different than toys because toys are for playing with, but tools are doing a job.

Then I reminded him that my most important job as a parent was to help him to grow up to be the best Henry he could be.  And I told him that in order to do that I wanted to help him by giving him some tools he could use to control his angry outbursts.

By this time Ken was home, so he kept an eye on the other two while I took Henry in my room and showed him his "Calming Caddy."

He was very excited to see it. I reiterated the part about these items being tools and not toys.  One thing that I think will help with that is the fact that there are duplicates of all these items in the toy box.  We talked about what happens when he gets angry and how this basket could help.  If he feels angry and wants to calm down he can come in my room and get some of his tools.  Or sometimes Mommy and Daddy might recognize that he needs to calm down and send him in there.  We hid the basket under our bed and told him he can sit on the floor down there to use his tools.  He can even lock the door to keep siblings out.

After I was done explaining the caddy to him, I asked him to go get his pajamas on and get ready for bed and then we would have time for a cartoon before he went to sleep.  In the hour or so between our conversation and bedtime, he got "mad" six times.  I use quotes because I could tell that he wasn't really mad.  Some minor annoyance would occur and he would say, "I'm mad!! I need my tools!" and then he would stomp off to my room and shut the door.  The two times I got up to check on him he was happily playing on the floor with his new toys tools.

I decided to go ahead and let him because he was using the correct vocabulary and procedure. I knew that having a whole basket of new items that were just for him would be too hard for him to resist.  The real test will come the next time he is actually mad. I anticipate it will happen sometime this weekend. I promise to report back.


  1. Rabia, you are such a great parent/teacher.....Ken is, too. You guys are always in my prayers.

    1. Thanks Mommy! It means a lot to hear that from you. No lunch break today, so I forgot to call you!! <3

  2. Hi Rabia, this makes so much gave me great pleasure to read about you calmly and logically going about making a difference for Henry, while simultaneously staying in charge, maintaining your cool, respecting his feelings, giving him a safe way out. I teach children with severe to profound disabilities and we so these sort of things all the time - trying to provide something to help a child get through something they dont understand. Looking forward to seeing how it works for you. You might have to tweak some of the tools when they don't work, but that's to be expected too.

    PS Yes I did make those apples. I'll see if I can find a tutorial for you, otherwise I'll write one.

    1. Thanks for the insight! I need to write a follow-up now that he's used this for a few days.

  3. This is a great idea! I am sure my 5 year old daughter would benefit from this!! Du you have directions for the glitter jar?

  4. This looks like a well thought out solution to a tough problem. You are moving in the right direction!!

  5. Genius! Absolutely genious (?). (genius?? genious??)
    (there are days when I just can't spell!)
    Following from sits.

  6. I love the way you, your husband, the guidance counselor, and your little guy all worked together as a team. What a great way to solve an issue like this! I am a huge advocate for feeling your feelings--and helping your children be able to talk about them, to label them, and to handle them in appropriate ways. All emotions are acceptable. Your children are going to grow up with a wonderful tool set for living a happy and healthy life!

  7. What a wonderful idea. I applaud you for seeking out a solution to help him. His drawing speaks volumes. Thank you for sharing. Visiting from SITS.

  8. Stopping by from SITS! This is an amazing idea. I wish I'd know about this when my kids were little. Wonder if it'll work for teenagers????

  9. I love this post. I think so few parents take time to teach children how to deal with all the various emotions in their formative years. Consequently they end up being teenagers who still don't know how to deal with them and some end up in jails and prisons as young adults because someone never taught them appropriate ways to deal with anger.

    Kudos to you for turning it into a very positive teaching time. That's what I call proper home grooming. You should be proud!

  10. What great ideas to use with your kids learning how to cope with anger when it arises! You are so plugged in to your child and his needs...good for YOU!!! :) Happy SITS day!!

  11. A caddy of tools could be used for any emotion, like fear. Thanks for the post and the idea I just got. Enjoy your SITS Day.

  12. This is a great post. I have a hot tempered child, I think I will put together a calming cady for her. Thanks!

  13. What a fantastic idea. Really smart, letting him be part of the solution.

  14. A calming caddy is such a great idea! Also a good thing to have on long car rides to keep kids occupied!

    Visisting from SITS

  15. This sounds great. I would an explanation of how each thing 'works'. The tissue box? Pulling out tissues are cathartic? The ice pack and lotion? I want to use these with my daughter am confused on those ones. The others I get for calming down or helping with taking breaths...

    1. Hi Anon, Hope you're checking back to watch for answers, as I don't have another way to contact you.
      The tissues are really just for cleaning his face when he is mad and crying. But he is certainly welcome to pull out all the tissues if that makes him feel better. I'll just stuff them back in afterwards.
      The ice pack is more of a squishy, sensory item. It's cool to smoosh it around and watch the little beads go around each other.
      The lotion is for applying to hands or arms or legs. The tactile aspect of it can be calming. Plus if you use scented lotion that can be calming as well. Lavender is good for that, but Henry breaks out with lavender for some reason. This one is blueberry.
      Hope that helps! Thanks for stopping by!!


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