Winter of discontent

Batten the hatches! You don’t need weather to experience a cold front—just a child in his pre-preteen years

Riley Hunt enjoys the snow with his grandparents’ mini goldendoodle, Charlie. Photo Credit Angela Jacques

Winter is coming. In fact, it’s been festering within my walls since the summer.

One of the subtle truths I’ve learned about being a parent is that your child’s moods are seasonal. Often, they just seem to have a spring in their step and their attitude is joyously refreshing to the point you feel rejuvenated just being around them.

Then there are the times where your little ones are warm and laid back.  Their faces will beam brightly while going about their lives at a gentle, even leisurely pace.

Not as much fun are the days their attitude starts to measurably cool off. They aren’t exactly disrespectful, but their mood will darken without warning and some days they are surprisingly cold.

Those days are the prelude to something worse. We all know when it hits. Your child’s tone gets frosty as an emotional cold front settles in and you will be pelted by blizzards of ‘no’s and flurries of ‘Ieave me alone’s. 

This wouldn’t be so terrible if that were to be the worst of it.  But that cold front will eventually give way to a deep freeze that will threaten to destroy everything within its icy reach. Bundle up with some blankets and hope for the best, because this is the winter of your child’s discontent.

My son is smart, kind and has the greatest sense of humour.  But lately, his behaviour has been terrible. Instead of doing chores or going to bed when asked, he refuses.  Says no like it’s his personal catchphrase.

It’s been rough. Sometimes he will say terrible things to his mother and I, and as a parent, you’re expected to just shovel those comments to the side while you weather the storm that is their evolving adolescence.

Recently my son was being more frosty than usual and was told by his mother to go to his room for backtalking to her. He narrowed his eyes, crossed his arms and said: “Make me.”

A bit of context: his mother is the disciplinarian, whereas I am more laid back. So when I start disciplining him, he knows he crossed a line. I walked him up the stairs, using my body to nudge him step by step. He was a little ball of rage.

He started shouting in my face, spittle flying everywhere.

I get that children don’t always understand the things they say can be capable of hurting others, however we as parents need to make sure we tell them that words can hurt.

“Riley! That is a horrible thing to say! Some things you just can’t take back. I am NOTHING like your mother. You take that back!”

He went to his room silently while I looked over at his mom, who was staring at me with her mouth open. I totally got where she was coming from.

“I know, right? It’s almost like he doesn’t know what he’s saying is hurtful. It’s like he doesn’t think before he speaks.”

That was a couple of weeks ago, and now there are two cold fronts in my house.