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BEGGING for help with my son.

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
Okay, ladies, first of all, I realize I am probably going to sound like a horrible person in this post, but I'm not. I am normally a kind, thoughtful, caring, sensitive person. For some reason, I cannot be any of these things when it comes to my 8-year-old son. Let me start by saying that he is absolutely the most difficult person I have ever encountered in my entire life. He is argumentative to the extreme, corrects every little thing anyone says, criticizes constantly, and pushes boundaries 100% of the time. He has a very, very, very difficult personality, confirmed by lots of people who know him well and even some who don't. He has quite literally been this way since he learned to talk. But I am realizing that I can't change him -- I can only change me, and that's what needs to happen. I HAVE TO find a way to be a loving, patient, kind, gentle mother to him. So that's why I'm asking for help here instead of at one of the parenting boards.

The problem (with me) is that I have allowed myself to decide that, while I love him, I don't really like him at all. I don't like being around him. I don't like talking to him. I don't like doing things with him. Very rarely do we have a conversation that doesn't involve arguing, putting each other down, or yelling at each other. I treat him like an angry child would treat another child, not like a mother should treat her child. I am not patient with him. I remind him 24/7 how awful his behavior is. I have said things to him that I would NEVER have imagined saying to ANY child, much less my own. If I don't change, he WILL remember me as being constantly annoyed & short with him his entire childhood. I don't want it to be this way. I want him to have happy memories of his childhood. But I DON'T KNOW HOW to be any other way with him. Even when we are doing fun things together, he is complaining about literally everything (the weather, the color of someone's hair, the way I said a word wrong, and on and on and on) & is NEVER satisfied. I don't know how to be happy with & loving toward a person who is THIS difficult.

Any suggestions or advice is very much appreciated. Even if you have to beat up on me a little bit, I understand... I know I am at fault here, and you can't possibly make me feel more guilty than I already feel.

(For the record, I have two other children who I have completely peaceful, happy relationships with, so I don't think I'm some freak with the inability to love & nurture a child.)
post #2 of 46
Does your ds have perfectionistic tendencies? People who are perfectionistic often are critical of others. And perfectionism is often rooted in anxiety. Being overly critical is a way of deflecting. It might be a place to start thinking about why he is behaving the way he is. As much as you dislike the way he is behaving (and I get that it's hard!)- it's probably very uncomfortable for him as well.
post #3 of 46
Thread Starter 
I really don't see him as being a perfectionist about himself, he just seems to want everyone else to be perfect. He doesn't get upset if he doesn't do something correctly. He makes straight A's but has been known to bomb a rare test for whatever reason every once in a while & doesn't seem to mind at all. He's not competitive in the least -- in fact, he's the opposite of competitive, whatever that is... doesn't care at all about winning versus losing, never gets upset if he loses at something. He does seem somewhat anxious to me, but I am so not into putting my child on meds for behavioral/emotional problems... so do you have any suggestions as to where I would start to improve this for him? He has a very secure, stable home life, we are constantly together as a family, and other than his own complaining/arguing/breaking rules, there is honestly nothing stressful in his life, at least not anything I know about. He does go to public school, but he is very open about any little thing that goes on at school that he doesn't approve of, so I feel like I would know if he was having major problems/stress at school. I just don't know. I'm at a loss here.
post #4 of 46
I'm hoping that someone else will have some suggestions, but I will share something that has really helped me. If you can find a picture of yourself as a young girl, really look at it and try to remember how you were as a child - feel everything you can. Keep it close by and when you find yourself getting riled at things that ds is doing, think about the picture of you. See if you can find something that will promote empathy.

I don't think that you should blame yourself for how your ds is reacting to his world, but since it's pervasive and consistent it does mean that he doesn't know how to change it - and it is affecting his relationships with other very significant people.

Another thing about perfectionism is that it can often present as underachievement. "If I don't try, then I can't fail." And wanting everyone else to be perfect is a way of displaying the need for control - and we all want control the most when things seem really out of control. And some kids can really hold it together at school, but break down at home with the family. Just because you don't know of any obvious stressful triggers - like problems at school - doesn't mean they don't exist for him.

Have you read any of Chansky's books? "Freeing Your Child from Anxiety," or "Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking?"
post #5 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by becoming View Post
He does go to public school, but he is very open about any little thing that goes on at school that he doesn't approve of, so I feel like I would know if he was having major problems/stress at school.
Can he let anything roll off of his shoulders, or does he need to vent/complain?
post #6 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LauraLoo View Post
Can he let anything roll off of his shoulders, or does he need to vent/complain?
I feel like he vents about anything that bothers him, but he is SO talkative, and SO much of it is negative talk, so maybe it just seems like he's telling everything when he's not? This is a very helpful thinking process, though. I know one of the problems is that I no longer have any sympathy OR empathy for him, because I'm just so exhausted by him & just want him to be satisfied for one single minute. I feel completely worn out & like I have nothing good left to give him. I have good intentions every single day when I'm picking him up from school, but within minutes (sometimes SECONDS) of picking him up, he's either whining about what we have to do that evening, asking what we're having for dinner & then complaining about whatever I tell him, even if it's something he likes, or breaking rules, like drawing on the dashboard of my brand new vehicle with a pencil, for instance. These examples make it seem like maybe he needs to be able to make more choices? But then I think, even if he chooses something, he ends up not being completely happy with his choice. It's exhausting being his mother.
post #7 of 46
How often do you hug him? How often do you thank him for anything? ("Thanks for putting your coat on like I asked you to," etc.) How often do you tell him that you love him? The magic formula is 5 to 1 -- five positives (hugs, "I love you"s, compliments, thanks, etc.) for every negative or criticism.


And how much exercise does he get? How much sleep does he get?
post #8 of 46
Have you considered a psychological evaluation for him? Perhaps some therapy for you both?


s

-Angela
post #9 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by A&A View Post
How often do you hug him? How often do you thank him for anything? ("Thanks for putting your coat on like I asked you to," etc.) How often do you tell him that you love him? The magic formula is 5 to 1 -- five positives (hugs, "I love you"s, compliments, thanks, etc.) for every negative or criticism.


And how much exercise does he get? How much sleep does he get?
I do tell him I love him many times a day. I also tell him that there's nothing he could ever possibly do that would make me love him any less.

I could be better with the hugs/physical contact with him... he seems a little resistive to that kind of affection in the past year or so (kind of in an embarrassed way, like "Moooom..."), so I don't want to force it, but I will start offering it more.

I definitely don't tell him thanks for things he does without complaint, so that's a great idea. (I kind of have the mindset currently of, "You FINALLY did something I asked without arguing!", which of course, I don't say, but that thought process prevents me from feeling truly grateful that he's cooperating.)

I like the 5-to-1 formula, and right now he's probably getting 1-to-5 I will keep this in mind.

He gets plenty of sleep (10 hours on weeknights, at least 8-9 on weekends), but he could get more exercise, and this would be good for me, too, so we can work on this together. Although he's so skinny that he may blow away with more exercise...

His DIET is pretty atrocious... this could probably account for some of the issues here. We are pretty horrible eaters compared to most MDC families. Lots of processed stuff, and we eat out a lot. Plus he takes hot lunch at school, so there's no telling what he's eating there. I can start sending his lunch to school; he's been requesting this anyway.

Angela, therapy would be great for both of us, I think, but we live in a very rural area, no therapists for probably 60 miles in any direction. I am actually thinking of trying antidepressants for myself just to see if it makes a difference in how I deal with him. I have an OB/GYN appointment this coming Tuesday, so I think I'll talk a little about this situation & the effect it's having on me.
post #10 of 46
My kid (age 5) is like this... *I* was like this as a child... I didn't really 'get' that I was constantly complaining, I just felt that I had something to say. It was often painful trying to understand other people and the world, and I was pretty darn unhappy at times and made myself unhappier through my negativity. I just have a feeling of something missing, something wrong inside and it seems he does too. I guess I 'got over' much of it such that I can behave normally , but I can't say that I worked through it or overcame it and I think it really is still deep part of me and probably affects how I now interact with my own child. I can't explain the why to any of it, I just see it happening in my child and hope that I can change it for him some way, somehow.
post #11 of 46
He sounds completely absorbed in himself. If you can't do counseling, is there any way you could get him to see the great big world around him and the people in it? Could he volunteer at the animal shelter, food bank, senior center, some place? Just something to adjust his world view a bit and realize that he is not, in fact, the center of the universe. That revelation can be both humbling and freeing.

On a lighter note, maybe injecting some laughter and humor into daily life could help. For example, start him off in the moring with a pile of $5 in dimes. Every time he's negative, argumentative, dismissive, any of the behaviors/attitudes you're trying to address, he has to put a dime in a jar. Whatever he's got at the end of the day is his. You know what motivates him; maybe money isn't it. But something tangible, visible, incentivizing, might help him redirect.

I really think he needs someone other than family to talk to. A school counselor, a church minister, someone.

I know you're aware of this, but please don't underestimate the impact of his behavior and attitudes on your other children. My brother was much like your son is and even decades later my sisters and I are scarred by it and somewhat resentful that are parents didn't take the bull by the horns and not let our brother run roughshod over our family life.

Be strong. You can get this train back on the tracks.
post #12 of 46
I second anxiety, insecurity, fear of failure. It sounds as if he is projecting and deflecting. How does he treat his dad? Any other siblings? At this age, I would be worried about 1) a possible mental illness or 2) something deep rooted in his life that was really bothering him. Depending on other symptoms and a bigger picture (which I can't get on the internet of course) I would also be wondering about possible abuse.
post #13 of 46
I don't have any advice...only hugs. He sounds like my sister. She constantly complains about everything. I remember having a conversation with her and willing her to say something positive with my mind...it didn't happen. She doesn't take responsibilty for her actions so it is always someone else's fault.

But she is 24. It has gottent o the point that I can't stand to be around her very often. She wanted to come and stay with me for the birth of my first child and I told her no. I couldn't bear to have her negative attitude during this time.

Good luck.
post #14 of 46
Can you make it into a joke? When he is complaining about something trivial (and not everything IS trivial - the trick is to know when he has a genuine problem and when he is being glass half empty about something) can you ham it, take it and run with it? Like my DD complained to me that her breadstick was broken (she still had both halves) and she went on and on and eventually i lay on the ground and yelled "my bread stick is broken and my leg fell off and now the SKY IS FALLING!!!!" and she had a fit of giggles and climbed all over me and we rolled on the ground and ate the breadstick while the sky fell. It sounds like he takes himself very seriously, which isn't good for anyone of any age.
post #15 of 46
I have found great success in keeping silent and focusing on my breathing.

Unless there is an immediate physical danger, I don't say a word for a few minutes. I am looking at the person who's words are creating my anger and I just take deep breaths. That way I have some time to listen and not react. Sometimes I do not say a word after time has passed as the issue was resolved by the child venting to me, or I reflect back what they are saying or I respond. Taking the time to distinguish which is the best route has created so much more peace internally for me, thus more peace in my home.

-Melanie
post #16 of 46
omg, i could have written you OP word for freaking word. my ds2 is exactly like this. i am so in tune what what you must be going through every day. its hard to love your kids but not like them, aint it?

we have a strong family history of mental illness. take this fwiw, but i strongly recommend you have your son looked at by a professional. begin journaling every. little. detail. do that for about 3-6 months and then take him to a mental health expert, even if you have to drive 100 mi away.

my ds will likely end up w/a dx of biploar disorder and obsessive complulsive disorder. your ds sounds a teeny tiny bit narcissistic (is he the hero in every story, or does he just bitch about other ppl?), please dont be offended, but you did post for our input.

we do eat very well, ds2 has had no vaxes, and i was full on AP from ds1 so ds2 got all the nursing and slinging he needed. while i'm sure any child would benefit from an improved diet, it sometimes goes way beyond that. what you describe cant be fixed by "better parenting". some have foudn success with fish oils. i will be starting that soon, but in these types of cases, i dont fault a parent for going allopathic and trying meds.

GL
post #17 of 46

I'd x-post

in Gentle Discipline. The negativity does have to be countered somehow and I've seen great posts and book ideas on that side.
post #18 of 46


While I don't think an improved diet would "cure" this, it certainly couldn't hurt. It might even help a smidge. I do Fiengold ( you can Google it) and feel so much better, less emotionally volatile, when I eat this way. Can't hurt, might help and then there would be more energy left to get to the root of dealing with his negativity. There are lots of healthy ways to eat, but I would guess the main thing would be whole, fresh foods, whether someone does Feingold, Traditional Foods or is a vegetarian, etc.

Some people do have more negative personalities. And yes, being around them can be exhausting and depressing. I've learned to just let them talk, I don't have to change them or their attitudes. I just either mirror back to them what they are saying or say something like "Oh" or "uh huh" and I try not to take any of that negativity in. It's not mine. It's theirs.

When it's your child, though, I can see why you might want to help him be more positive so other people will enjoy being around him. In general, most of us do not enjoy being around someone who makes us feel bad.

An evaluation by a good therapist might be worth the drive. Not to necessarily have him put on meds as you said you don't want to put him on medication, but to see if there are any behavioral therapies that might be helpful for him or if there is anything you can do to help you cope with his negativity.


Just another
post #19 of 46
Thread Starter 
First of all, I'm relieved at the tone of the responses. I have so much guilt because of the way he is, the way he thinks... like it's my fault he's this way. But then I look at my other two children, who are generally happy, easygoing, positive little people, and I think, this is his personality. This is who HE is, not what I've made him.

blessedwithboys, narcissism has never exactly crossed my mind, but you hit the nail right on the head. That is the perfect word for him. And PP who said he feels like he is the center of the universe, you are exactly right. If something bad happens to our whole family (change of plans or really any kind of disappointment), he acts as if it's only happening to him. He blames someone or something else other than him for everything that happens to him, everything he does, every way that he feels. It's never him. He also doesn't seem to have any empathy for other people (okay, very rarely I will catch him saying something that surprises me, that lets me know he is capable of feeling for other people, but this is very rare & at random), and he doesn't seem to have remorse if he hurts someone's feelings or hurts one of his siblings physically. I would love to know how to help him own his emotions & take responsibility for the things he says & does, and I would love to teach him empathy, if that's something you can teach? Is there any way to improve this without intensive psychiatric therapy or medications? My fear with therapy/medications is making him feel like something is seriously wrong with him... I don't want him to think he's "damaged," although I'm probably making him feel that he is anyway with how I've been reacting to him.

Thanks so, so much for all of the advice without judgmental undertones. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.
post #20 of 46
I don't have any advice. I am interested in reading what the others have to say though. My 5 year old DS .. has been exhibiting behaviors like this also. I also don't like him very much, and it's hard to admit ..you are very brave. I have a great relationship with my 2 other kids. I am not really sure why .. but I've never been able to "bond" with him .. like I did with the other kids. He is very "demanding" child. If he doesn't get his way he will throw a major tantrum, to the point it's just worth to give him what he wants for him to shut up. He has been telling us no a lot. And he has learned "I can if I want to". It is really hard to deal with it. I hope we can learn to work with this behavior. It is tough.
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