My son is six, nearly six and a half. He's always been prone to epic meltdowns but five seemed to be a magical balanced age where it just didn't happen as much. I've also gotten really good at prevention; I know his triggers and try to avoid them, including (but not limited to :p ) video games, too much sugar, food dyes, overstimulation, staying up too late, not getting enough sleep. Today was somewhat of an overstim and sugar day. We had a special "mom and J" day before he starts school next week. We were supposed to go swimming but a thunderstorm came up and our babysitting time was running out so, for lack of a better option, I took him to the movies. He loves moves but they do get him a bit wounds up afterwards. And I stopped letting him have candy because that makes him really crazy, but I did get him a box of Annie's Fruit Bunnies to have as a treat during the movie.
OK. So we had this fun day, board games, movie, treats, and then home. At dinner he refused to eat and kept putting his head down on the table. He's been doing this a lot lately and it's starting to feel like manipulation. Here's why: he's always been a restless, fidgety dude, and as a fidgeter myself I understand that. But I expect my kids to stay at the table for at least 15 minutes or so whether they're hungry or not, and we all sit together and eat. Often he'll declare he's not hungry when the real thing is he doesn't feel like sitting at the table, but once he gets there he will eat. Tonight he ate a few bites and then put his head down on the table saying he was sooooo, so tired. OK. But I know from the past few times this has happened that I excuse him from the table and he starts energetically playing somewhere or reading, waits for DD and I to be done, and then is totally fine. It appears to me that he just doesn't want to sit at the dinner table and is putting on a little "tired show" to get himself excused. Tonight I told him that if he was too tired to sit at the dinner table then that tells me he must be very tired indeed, and that it means he needs to go to bed right away. He did so happily, changing into pajamas and reading books in bed. But then he expected to participate in the whole bedtime routine with DD. I told him no, that if he was so tired that he fell asleep at the table that it tells me he's tired enough that he needs to go to bed right away, no stories, lights out. He completely flipped out, saying he's lonely, he wants to be with me, etc. He said a few times, "If you don't let me read stories with you then I'm just going to keep crying forever." He has been saying things like this a lot lately..."If you don't ..., then I will...." He's never really challenged me like this before. Is this a 6yo thing?
He has been crying and/or screaming for the past 45 minutes up there. I went up a few times to check on him, keeping my visits brief, and just repeating what I'd said, that it's my job to keep him safe and healthy, and that if he's tired enough to fall asleep at the dinner table then it means he needs to go to bed right away. I told him that I love him, and that tomorrow is a new day, but that now it's time for sleep. He's still just completely hysterical. I'm at my wits end. I don't want to "give in," and I do feel like I need to break this cycle of manipulation we've gotten into. But I hate for him to be this upset for this long. Ideas?