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I travel a great deal for my job. Most weeks I'm gone from Sunday Night until Thursday Night, and sometimes I'm gone through the weekend as well. I have two children, a 5 year old and a 3 year old. I used to have a lot more time to spend with them because I was working a job with flexible hours: I could pick them up from day care most days, cook dinner, and be there for all the activities and sports.

I'm worried because my son, who is 5, is starting to act out more with punching and kicking. To be very clear, he doesn't punch or kick his little sister or the pets or other kids, just his mom and I. We've actually had a bit of a breakthrough on this particular issue, he's stopped punching and kicking his mother, and he doesn't kick anymore, but he still punches at me when he gets mad on the weekends. And he gets mad a lot, over pretty much anything.

I'm not so worried about the violence itself, because he doesn't bully people who are weaker than him, like his sister, and he never tries to hurt animals. We get very good reports about his behavior at daycare. In general, he's still a very gentle kid. I think he's upset with me in particular, and really at a loss to use any of his other tools to deal with it. He does say sometimes that he wishes I didn't have to go away, or that he wishes that his mom had to go instead, but he really doesn't like talking about it.

What can I do to help him handle this situation?

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I take it looking for a new job isn't really a possibility right now? –  John O Jul 13 '12 at 15:50
    
No, looking for a new job isn't going to work just yet. I'm going to be doing this for a while, at least another year. –  philosodad Jul 13 '12 at 17:49
    
If it is indeed the reason for the tantrums and punching, then I don't know that you can expect a 5 yr old to come to terms with it. It's not certain that this is why though, so maybe you need to explore other possibilities. –  John O Jul 13 '12 at 17:52
    
Are you sure that his violence is linked to your leaving? What if you took a week's vacation and stayed home-- do you think that the violence would cease or greatly diminish? –  mmr Jul 14 '12 at 19:07
    
@mmr pretty sure. When I first get home, he punches me. Then he stops until it starts getting closer to the time I leave, when he starts up again. –  philosodad Jul 15 '12 at 3:51

2 Answers 2

I used to be in a similar situation - working 100 hour weeks, being away a lot, and rarely seeing my 3 kids.

My partial solution was to make sure I really focused on them when I was at home - playing with them, doing fun stuff and generally trying to make up for the rest of the time I wasn't there. Phone calls in the evenings I was away helped a little, but they aren't a substitute.

Being very consistent with your wife as to how you approach discipline and reward is also essential - if you are the threat (ie "you'll be in trouble when Daddy gets home") that definitely won't help you. Additionally, if you don't make time for your wife when you are at home this will also be picked up on by your kids.

My only full solution was to quit that job entirely and set up my own company... possibly not a useful solution for you right now.

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+1 for "consistency with spouse" –  mthomas Aug 28 '12 at 19:28
    
GREAT ANSWERS! +++ for focus on kids when you are home and consistency with spouse!!! –  balanced mama Nov 15 '12 at 14:41

In addition to Rory's answer, have you thought about talking to your son about it? Ask him if he is angry with you and then listen to what he says. It might go a long way and you could even brainstorm with him some ideas he might like.

Perhaps, he is stressed/angry because of the change in your schedule (in which case a talk where you show your five year old you care to listen to his feelings about it, even if you can't change your schedule, AND Rory's ideas should do the trick). However, five is also a BIG YEAR developmentally and socially. A 5 year is beginning to make symbolic connections they haven't made before, also, many five year-olds start school and expectations in their ability to do all kinds of things rises along with responsibilities AND they start caring a great deal more about the relationships (like with their parents and family) and friendships a great deal more than they have in the past. There may be a few factors at play here that neither of you are really aware of.

Even if his anger/frustration/distress are purely about you being around less, there may be some symbolism in your absence for him that is inaccurate - like that you don't love them as much as you used to. Talking to him about it will allow you to clear this right up.

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