It was mid-afternoon when his mood had turned suddenly foul, his behavior bordering on the improper. He was lashing out for no good reason and frequently hiding his face in his hands. It was clear something was brewing, but he wasn’t talking.
So I waited.
And I waited some more.
Meanwhile his behavior escalated, and it was obviously time to dig.
I told him I didn’t want to take his actions at face value, that I wanted to find out what was causing him to engage with his family so uncharacteristically.
He seemed relieved—knowing a consequence was not imminent.
And then he started to cry.
His younger brother was getting an award, and he admitted that though he was proud he was also extremely jealous.
He said he was crying because he didn’t like the fact that he felt jealousy, didn’t like the way it made him feel.
Reason does not customarily reside with intense feelings. So, telling my nine-year-old son that he has had plenty of recognitions and that there are many more to come would never have sufficed.
So I asked him what specifically he didn’t like about jealousy.
He said he hated that he felt that way when underneath it all he really was so, so proud of his brother.
He said he wished he could control his feelings.
But of course he can’t. We can’t. Feelings are often irrepressible and generally ill-timed.
So, I asked him to consider attending his brother’s award ceremony and simply aim to control his behavior—and then just see what happens, see if his feelings change because he made a conscious decision about his behavior.
And he did.
And so they did.
Simple as that.