Monday, June 30, 2008

When a Child Threatens to Run Away

Family counselor and TV therapist Randy Rolfe had a client whose 8 year old kept threatening to run away. His mother was at a loss what to do. She had told him he couldn't, had told him he wouldn't last an hour by himself, told him to go ahead - she didn't care, told him his father would be furious, and told him to stop being silly. Yet nothing worked. Almost every day he would be packing up his favorite clothes and toys and fighting with her at the door.

Randy talked with her about what he might be feeling. His father had been away a lot on business, and she had been very busy keeping the house together in his absence. They wondered together if he might be upset he was getting less of her time and attention. She protested that she did everything for him and loved him very much. Randy asked if she had said so lately. She admitted she had not. So they rehearsed a short dialogue.

The next time he threatened to leave, she said, "I guess you are really angry at me. You must be really angry if you want to leave home. I guess I haven't been listening to your problems, have I? Well, why don't you tell me exactly what's bothering you that's making you want to leave, and I promise I'll listen."

He didn't say much, just that he didn't know what to do with himself when she was so busy all the time. She gave him a quick hug, thanked him for telling her, and offered to go to his room to play video games for a little while before supper.

He never threatened to run away again.

Take Home Tip: When you feel your frustration growing because your child is doing something really unfathomable, just ask him what he's feeling and give your total attention without judgment. Most weird behavior is an attempt to get attention when all else has failed. Read Randy's books You Can Postpone Anything But Love and The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents for other creative answers to tough situations.

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