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8-year-old not keeping up simple responsibilities, freaking out a lot - Page 2

post #21 of 37

I'd like to suggest something that is a common cause of a lot of this behavior, that I know most people don't think about--what is he eating?  When my friends have eliminated refined sugar, processed foods, and dairy from their diets and their children's diets, they have seen huge transformations in their children's behavior.  Would you be willing to do that for him?


The other thing I can think of that might really help is, we totally eliminated our TV by putting it in storage, so we live in a TV-less house.  What a difference in our quality of life--it is so much better.  We adults watch our TV on the computer screen or iPhone after he's gone to bed...he doesn't miss it one bit.  I know he'll get plenty of TV at other people's homes, so not having it in ours is a tremendous help--to us adults as well.


Be well.

post #22 of 37
Thread Starter 

I have considered trying a very restrictive diet to see if it improves his behavior, but I'm skeptical because he's never shown any sign of being sensitive to dairy, and although we do see a connection between HUGE amounts of refined sugar and bad behavior, he doesn't seem sensitive enough for the small amounts of it in his normal diet to be causing the problem.  Right now is a terrible time to try to make inconvenient dietary changes because I'm newly pregnant and having trouble doing any food preparation!


I think that the main cause of his misbehavior is a tendency toward power struggles.  Partly this is his personality (he just seems to think he should be in charge, and has a hard time accepting that parents have authority) and partly it's years of conflict with his dad, who needs to read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen more seriously.  It's not like I never argue with the kid or have problems with him, but he and his dad really get into it frequently, and I think the main reason is that his dad wants to engage with him as little as possible until there's a problem, then blame the problem on the kid and order him around.  This is the reason I tried to be proactive about setting up a structure for afternoon behavior--to avoid coming home to my partner saying, basically, "I didn't tell him what I expected of him, but I'm angry that he didn't do it, and now--" and being interrupted by the kid shrieking, "Daddy yelled at me!!"  Sigh.


Anyway, yesterday went smoothly, and I think both of them are making progress.

post #23 of 37

I just wanted to comment on the homework issue. I too have an 8 year old. Both my husband and I are junior high teachers (science and math respectively), and I frankly hate the elementary school homework. My daughter struggles with us over homework, and when we went to open house for the new school year we asked her 3rd grade teacher about her homework policy. We were so happy to hear that she has given up on the homework idea. Educational research shows that homework is not that effective and can be detrimental. As a parent I hate her homework, and I gave up on assigning homework of any type 7 years ago.


Last year the homework routine at our house went like this... From her there was approximately 30 min. of whining, arguing, and trying to manipulate us into giving her the answers. For us it was having to listen to the whining, arguing, and then trying to cajole her into doing the homework. Frankly your posts about HW could have been mine. Usually she would try to would fight the doing of the homework for 30 minutes and then it would take less than 5 to complete. She also had to read for 15 minutes and complete reading logs. I got several calls from her teacher about her not turning in her reading logs. I told her if she wasn't going to turn in the reading logs she had to face the consequences at school. That meant she had to stay in for her recess on Fridays to read. If I thought her not turning in the reading logs was really going to cause her long term damage as far as her education goes I would have pushed it, but it won't. She likes to read and will just pick up a book and read unless it is required and then she fights reading. She is so able to do her homework on her own, but I wouldn't expect that from her at this age.


I think it would be a great idea for your son to work with the neighbor. Even if they are not doing the same homework it allows for the social outlet that may make homework more tolerable. In my class almost all of the practice/ classwork that doesn't get graded is cooperatively structured because the social piece really does help people learn. Humans are social creatures and need that social outlet. Where homework doesn't have great effects on learning cooperative learning has been shown to have very positive effects on learning.


Finally, on a side note. We too are having to eliminate TV until later in the evening. I was home with my infant and my daughter all summer. When she would watch TV earlier in the day she would turn into a whiny argumentative monster.When we visit my parents my mom lets her use her iPad and the same behavior changes occur as with TV. I banned TV after I noticed the behavior pattern for the summer, and now she only gets to watch TV when we are watching (usually for 15-20 minutes in the evening.) The next time we visit my mom I am making a no iPad rule. I don't know what it is about the screen time, but it changes my child and not for the better. From my perspective many of your son's behaviors seem on par with other 8 yo as annoying as these behaviors are, and it makes me feel better to hear that it is not just mine who does these things. :)

post #24 of 37

another thought -- even though he is at the same school, he may be using a different curriculum. Many, many schools throughout the US changed math and reading curriculum this year to align with common core standards. For some kids, even though they are at the same school, it's like they were skipped a year. I work at a school and we are having a very high rate of 2nd and 3rd graders not complete homework and therefore be required to complete it during recess times. 

post #25 of 37
Thread Starter 

It's interesting about the curriculum changes in many schools, but my son's school has not changed--they already had a fairly challenging curriculum, as it was an Accelerated Learning Academy until funding cuts but kept a lot of the curriculum anyway since they were used to it.  Everything I've seen in his homework so far has been very similar to what he was doing at the end of 2nd grade, so while he may be a bit out of practice, I think it's totally within his abilities when he's willing to focus and try.


I do feel like the sheer volume of homework (especially now that it's daily) is excessive.  When I was in 3rd grade, all "homework" could be completed during the school day if you were diligent; I had some left to do at home maybe once a month, aside from reading book report books.


I like the idea of withdrawing from conflict over the reading time (he's supposed to do a "log", too; has no trouble keeping track of it and turning it in, but it's usually very sparse) and just letting him take the consequences at school.

post #26 of 37
okay, i haven't made it all the way through the discussion yet, but i got to #9 and wanted to share the impression it left on me...

you wrote:
"This week he will have no TV on school days. His dad is going to check on the status of homework and chore every so often and remind him about using his list. We have been trying to talk about working reading into the day, but the kid is very resistant still, although his teacher confirmed he needs to read outside school."
and my immediate reaction was to recoil... no TV at all? okay, if you insisted that he spend time with his friends playing, or his dad could spend uninterrupted time giving son lots of personal engagement until you got home (at which point he could resume his work), those seem fair things to trade for TV (i have very mixed feelings about TV & the quality of it as a source of fun/entertainment, the bad messages it might be sending our kids, etc.), but it sounds on first glance that you are making the consequence for him being eight, still learning self control, etc., that he gets to have no fun, dooming him to fail & weakening his morale. at 8, shouldn't his priorities be to develop intrinsic motivation, a sense of wonder, healthy interpersonal relationships? it sounds very isolating what you're asking a very young child to do: come home, and no fun (and limited parental engagement) until he does something that just isn't natural for him. if we can step back & not judge him, and just accept that it is not natural for him yet, and not make him the bad guy for the distance he still has to cover between childhood and responsible adult behavior, and try to be on HIS side in these struggles, maybe that negative dynamic would lessen.

his constant attempts to engage his dad seem (to me) the very last thing in the world that deserve punishment. if he is "bugging" dad that much, i think he genuinely needs to. i don't understand how we as attachment parents can practice "belief in baby's cries" for the infant version of our darlings, then begin sorting them into worthy and unworthy affection pleas in their childhoods. it is obviously very inconvenient, but that doesn't make it wrong.

i may be totally misreading this situation, of course. but if i had to guess, at the end of a long day of structure and discipline (and not a lot of personal attention, since teachers have to pay attention to 20+ kids at a time), your little guy needs some personal attention, affection, etc., and he can't be made to feel like it's a reward that he earns. he needs to know and feel unwaveringly secure in the belief that by simply existing (and even in the midst of every single mistake) he is entitled to a limitless supply of family love, affection, attention, and being able to call on the collective pool of mental/emotional resources for problem-solving & encouragement.

i bet he feels really terrible a lot of the time, or he would not be acting up. that is not the way a happy child behaves. perhaps it would help if you could focus on being his allies in his struggles, making him feel that you'll break his fall with love and tenderness, instead of with rigid boundaries he is constantly bumping up against, which are clearly exacerbating his discomfort, he would relax a bit more? maybe not. but if the methods you've been trying aren't working, you could at least attempt a more tender response, b/c you might be surprised. and that might involve a great deal of discomfort, so i'm not implying it'll be easy, but things like kids hyperly bouncing around on a yoga ball, i think we've got to expect these behaviors, and instead of teaching them to stop being boundlessly energetic, teach ourselves not to get so annoyed, no matter how difficult that might be.

i was a child who had some serious behavior problems in 3rd & 4th grade, and everyone around me practiced discipline & rigidity, rules & structure, and nothing at all was working (they sent me to psychiatrists, repeatedly, in their exasperation–the private school was threatening to kick me out, and there were serious gang problems in the public schools). my parents & teachers were truly flummoxed, b/c i was an exceptionally good communicator, and in certain aspects, very mature, but in others, so impulsive & disruptive. my mom struggled against the threats that they'd kick me out & the firm conviction she held that it was inappropriate to place me on stimulant medication to basically "tame" me, b/c she appreciated my creativity & enthusiasm. somehow they let me stay in school, i think in part b/c my mom cooperated w/ requests for psychiatric evaluation, and in part b/c she could have yanked all 4 of us out, and they didn't want to lose tuition for all 4 of us (my 3 siblings were angels by comparison).

then, a teacher came along in 5th grade who changed my life forever. she was always on my side. i stopped being punished, and started being shown boundless affection by this teacher. my behavior improved steadily, and by 6th grade, i was no longer a child with behavior problems. beginning in 7th grade, where i attended a different school, and they had no knowledge of my history, there was no trace of the former me, and i was, shockingly, the kid that my teachers always loved, all through high school. my math teacher wrote me the recommendation that got me into college straight out of 11th grade. i give all the credit to that 5th grade teacher, for intervening at such a crucial point in my life.

i was a challenging, high needs child, but when dealt with like the precocious, interested, high-needs, affectionate kid i was, i thrived. as a kid, my perspective was, why was my 4th grade teacher always picking on me, always mean? i was making very deliberate, BAD decisions every few minutes, apparently of my own rotten, selfish volition, and i was made aware of this as frequently as i made these bad choices, and i truly couldn't stop. it still makes me choke up a bit to explain how incredibly desperately i wanted to be chosen student of the month, yet how this strong, ongoing desire could never overpower the impulses that surged in me when my emotions grabbed hold of me b/c i felt like everything was stacked against me getting it right. sounds a bit dramatic, perhaps, but that was how i felt. when my 5th grade teacher became my ally instead of an enforcer, i relaxed a bit, and my calmer state of being allowed me to do the growing that i so desperately wanted. she also seemed to really care about helping me with the things i explained i found difficult. she didn't ever make me feel punished for the ways that i found adults' expectations of me challenging. and it took a lot of one-on-one, personal attention. i needed a lot of attention. it was just how i was, and this teacher didn't blame me for it, overtly or otherwise. i felt loved & accepted, even (and perhaps especially) when i became the most challenging.

i didn't fully mentally sort out what all that meant or how it worked until much later. but i saw it all articulated by experts in childhood development when i discovered AP. then when i discovered alfie kohn–whose ideas at first seem like a big departure from what common sense would tell us about child rearing–i realized that although he doesn't describe his system as a type of AP, he is basically describing AP for the years beyond infancy. and that's when all these ideas really gelled for me as a coherent system. i really recommend the books "unconditional parenting" and "the homework myth". and if at first they feel too far out in left field, stick with them for a while, b/c it takes a little while to warm up to the ideas if they are initially very different from what you know.

sorry if this got a bit lengthy! ok, now to continue reading the rest of this very interesting thread, and hopefully i don't have a face-palm moment in a bit when i discover that i wrote the same post as someone else and if i'd only kept reading before commenting...!

but i felt such a strong emotional reaction to the bit i quoted, in the "but-where's-the-childhood-fun?" department that i wanted to comment on that before it was lost in the continuation of the thread ("where was that bit i wanted to comment on?")... you know what i mean! =)
post #27 of 37
i think the following statement is quite revealing : "his dad wants to engage with him as little as possible until there's a problem, then blame the problem on the kid and order him around".

your husband has little or no interest in being a parent, basically?? i think the one who is the problem in your house is your negligent husband, and you owe it to your son to take him to task. it could easily be one of your biggest and most painful regrets if you don't.

you cannot change the fact that, as a child, he needs to be paid attention to, and listened to, sincerely, for a large portion of every single day. your husband pretending otherwise is not going to change that, except perhaps to make your son needier & more insecure (and, thus, a bigger challenge).

i think that you know the problem you have on your hands. you stated it so clearly. your husband's attentiveness (or lack thereof) is likely directly correlated with your son's behavior. it's even worse than being home alone in some ways b/c he has to confront rejection repeatedly, on top of his obvious loneliness.
post #28 of 37
Wow, filamentary! I really appreciate your response, as it hits home regarding my 5 year old boy. It really helps put a perspective that I haven't been able to wrap my mind around. My son is exactly like you were, I think, and I know I could stand to be better with him most of the time. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
post #29 of 37
Thread Starter 

Filamentary, you have an overall good point, but regarding TV specifically: It's not the only form of fun in his life.  It does nothing to help him "develop intrinsic motivation, a sense of wonder, healthy interpersonal relationships"; if anything, it has the opposite effect.  It provides a pale substitute for the interpersonal interaction that (as you recognized) he's craving, and I think it's because it FEELS like interaction but is ultimately unsatisfying that it makes him so agitated.  As you probably picked up when you read the rest of the thread, the week with no TV on school days helped him to get on track.  We then reintroduced 30 minutes of TV per school day after homework and chore were completed, and that went pretty well.  Starting today we are trying 60 minutes.


Interestingly, this morning his dad asked me privately if I thought it would be okay to offer 30 minutes of TV when he first gets home and is eating his snack, then hold the other 30 minutes until after homework and chore.  He feels that the kid appreciates a passive decompression time right after getting home.  I suggested that he greet him this afternoon and explain in a friendly, compassionate way that he's considering this possibility but it's important to make sure homework and chore get done, so can they work it out?  So that's the plan.  (This morning would have been a bad time to negotiate anything, since everyone had trouble getting up today.)


 his constant attempts to engage his dad seem (to me) the very last thing in the world that deserve punishment. if he is "bugging" dad that much, i think he genuinely needs to.

I agree: He is expressing a need for more time with his dad.  That need doesn't have to be met by instantly dropping everything to do exactly what he wants and letting him direct the entire course of the afternoon, but it needs to be met somehow.  I have encouraged his dad to connect with him when he comes home, to spend some time talking with him and being positive, to make an effort to hear what he's saying and show that he's heard it before any criticism of HOW it was said (or of anything else), etc.  He's working on it.  I feel he's made some improvement in the past few weeks, although I'm not home to see it.

 i don't understand how we as attachment parents can practice "belief in baby's cries" for the infant version of our darlings, then begin sorting them into worthy and unworthy affection pleas in their childhood.

Around the time children begin to talk, they become more able to conceive of and express desires that are not needs.  That's when we begin teaching them about balancing their needs and desires with those of other people.


 at the end of a long day of structure and discipline (and not a lot of personal attention, since teachers have to pay attention to 20+ kids at a time), your little guy needs some personal attention, affection, etc., and he can't be made to feel like it's a reward that he earns.

I agree.  I don't think we are treating personal attention or affection like rewards that he earns.  I think he could use more attention and affection from his dad, but his dad has been withholding it because he's a self-centered introvert who doesn't always recognize other people's needs when they are obliquely expressed--not because he is purposely making the kid earn it.


The reward we are making him earn is watching TV.  You seem to have confused watching TV with getting personal attention and affection, which is strange.


 things like kids hyperly bouncing around on a yoga ball, i think we've got to expect these behaviors, and instead of teaching them to stop being boundlessly energetic, teach ourselves not to get so annoyed, no matter how difficult that might be.

I'm not trying to teach him not to be energetic.  I'm trying to teach him to stop kicking my bed when I am trying to sleep and I have asked him--repeatedly, kindly, offering positive alternatives--to stop doing it.  I wasn't so annoyed when he initially "forgot" that he had agreed to let me sleep until a certain (very reasonable) time; I became annoyed when his response to being reminded of that was to stick around persistently doing things I was begging him not to do.


Anyway, regarding the after-school situation, I think you are correct that the primary problem is my partner's attitude.  He does not have a good understanding of child development and expects the kid to be more self-directed more suddenly than he is really ready to be.  Also, my partner has issues with his own motivation and sense of responsibility that are getting all tangled up with this--not only is he inclined to be stricter with our kid than his parents were with him in hopes of making the kid turn out better than he did, but he has trouble sticking with his own role in even the most reasonable and agreed-upon plan because he seems to think his actions don't really matter and it's always someone else's responsibility somehow.  It's extremely frustrating to me!!  It's not so bad that I feel I can't trust him to be alone with the kid, but as I've said I felt I had to intervene in their afternoon routine or it was just going to keep getting worse for both of them.


I'm glad that I did intervene, and that we've made adjustments based on suggestions in this thread, because it IS going a lot more smoothly now.

post #30 of 37
you know, after posting that reply, i was thinking to myself, gee, i almost made it sound like i think TV is *the* activity a kid ought to fill their evenings with. which is actually not how i feel at all! my thought process was a little more along the lines of: if he's left to entertain himself more or less, and he is understandably suffering from boredom or frustration in his attempts, and dad isn't willing to give him attention to help him out, then TV, while a poor substitute for developmentally positive activities, is at least fun. trying to neither turn on the TV nor disturb dad sounds just impossibly hard for an 8-yr-old.

that said, i do agree with some of your sentiments about TV being like a drug. a really great analogy, in fact! it provides a level of stimulation that is not created in the natural world, casting a possible dull shadow on calmer, more ordinary, day-to-day activities. and it is more about tuning out and disengaging than being actively creative, imaginative, etc., or any of the things we want for our kids. and, in the case of your son, it sounds like he's almost using it to soothe, or self-medicate in the face of confusing emotions, and we know TV cannot deliver on that count. it's really just a distraction, so the feelings he is escaping during TV time are still just waiting to surface. so i'd be foolish if i suggested just letting him veg out on TV, and that really wasn't what i meant to say.

i grew up without restrictions on TV, and my siblings and i were devastated if we missed our favorite shows, but usually watched TV as a family. and right after school there was never anything on the TV that was anywhere near as interesting as all the other things we did. but i think it helped that after-school time never felt stressful, b/c we had neither chores nor homework to complete (well, not until dinnertime). so admittedly i have a different perspective from my own experience. and still that doesn't mean that i don't think we were getting terrible messages from the seemingly benign shows we watched... b/c i think we probably were, actually! but the kids on TV were nowhere near as mean-spirited as the kids i went to school with, so it probably didn't injure us, since my parents weren't even aware of or attempting to shield us from what i as an adult consider to be the harmful attitudes pervasive in mainstream culture.

if my kid was to attend schools that introduced them to a competitive atmosphere, utilized rewards & punishment, where they witnessed bullying & mob mentality, were assigned homework & grades, i would probably let them watch TV (certain things, not just anything at all, of course). but as my wife and i continue learning all we can in preparation for this very major decision (and we already know we cannot afford to pay for school, so it's pretty much between public school & homeschool), we are almost entirely convinced that we will only feel right homeschooling & therefore we see no reason to introduce TV as a part of life. we were actually discussing just yesterday how, if the kid was in school, they'd feel punished and isolated if we didn't let them watch the shows/films that most of their peers watch & talk about constantly, and "how would we deal with that?!", adding it to the growing list of reasons i need to prepare myself for the task that lies ahead: i need to learn how to become a worthy homeschool teacher, an actually favorable alternative to school. and i need to be prepared to spend what will seem like inordinate quantities of time arranging & transporting the kid to peer-environment activities. whoa. sorry, tangent! but i guess what i'm saying is that i realize for us that our kid is going to do a lot of things so very differently from not only how other people are doing them, but also from older versions of our own thinking as each day passes and we learn & think about all this more. but i don't think TV is inherently bad, either, so that's how on the one hand i might think "why no TV on school days?" for one kid, but simultaneously be thinking my kid will watch little or no TV. we are still discussing how we feel about video games, and computer time.

it's a lot to think about, especially when it never seems clear that there are definitive or universal effects rendered by consumption of these forms of entertainment! but then i wonder, what about books? do they carry any of the same potential pitfalls? and then i roll my eyes at myself and tell myself to relax! ha!

but, regarding books, reading about how your son doesn't want to read gave me and my wife more to talk about (we spent no less than 2 hrs chasing topics of discussion spurred by the initial discussion of your post & ensuing thread). what if the kid isn't absolutely in love with books like both of us were? and if that's a devastating thought, is it for the right reasons – because books are indeed so important, objectively? or because we want the kid to share a passion with us (like how parents often want their kids to play the same sports they did)?

ok, i think i've rambled on quite enough for one post! i think it's pretty clear we're actually very much on the same page, just with different circumstances at hand. and i really do hope that, despite his introversion, your husband can "get" it intuitively, so it comes naturally out of his love for his son, not like a reluctant obligation, b/c it'll be more enjoyable for both of them that way.
Edited by filamentary - 9/16/13 at 3:12pm
post #31 of 37
and i meant to say, this was a really good point:

"Around the time children begin to talk, they become more able to conceive of and express desires that are not needs. That's when we begin teaching them about balancing their needs and desires with those of other people"

my (very anxious, high-strung, high-needs) 6-yr-old nephew (i see SO much of myself in him, it's remarkable) has given me this lesson in some pretty comical ways! haha... he is the kind of kid who needs pretty much constant attention, but that's not the same as needing all the things he asks for, and he is deviously clever at exploiting my lack of familiarity with their routine! i love that kid to death, and (granted, it's in part b/c i'm not around him 24/7) usually manage to muster all my patience when i'm around him, and i can usually redirect tantrums & whining not by giving in to his specific demands, but by tuning in to the fact that he's asking for some intense attention, and suggesting alternative ideas to what he at first seems fixated on (for instance, waking up his little brother). my sister is not an attachment parent, though she does some of the things like cosleeping b/c they feel natural to her. and her husband gets annoyed if my nephews are playing at a volume that competes with his near-constant sports watching on the TV. so i feel like there's perhaps an especially sharp contrast to observe there, as i don't think they always utilize very effective (or, frankly, healthy) tools in dealing with the ways he is challenging (or even just being a normal kid). he gets told to shush WAY too often & it breaks my heart. but he still responds very well to my methods, so that's encouraging, at least.
post #32 of 37
Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post


I do feel like the sheer volume of homework (especially now that it's daily) is excessive.  When I was in 3rd grade, all "homework" could be completed during the school day if you were diligent; I had some left to do at home maybe once a month, aside from reading book report books.


I recommend Alfred Kohn "The Homework Myth". It was an eye opener for me.

post #33 of 37
Thread Starter 

It seems that TV is like the easiest thing he can think of to do, but when we limit TV so that he has to come up with other ideas, he rarely has any trouble doing that.  He often has ideas for contraptions he wants to build and will come up with ways to make them from things he can find around the house, and he's got pretty good sense about not using stuff we'd object to (if it isn't pulled from the recycling bin, he uses it in a way that allows it to be cleaned off and returned to service afterward), not hurting himself, and not damaging the furniture or floor--so the only problem we have with this is getting him to pick up the scraps and put away the markers and such when he's done; the regularly scheduled chores are addressing that.  He would LIKE to have someone to talk to while he's working, but working alone doesn't harm his creative process and may even help it because he's using his own brain instead of demanding that we solve problems for him.  Here's an example of how he made a wind vane with minimal help.  As an extravert myself, I can understand being happier when you are working alongside someone and wanting to talk to someone about your progress, but I also think that at this age he can start learning to resist the urge to interrupt his dad every few minutes.


By the way, I relate pretty strongly to his situation because I grew up with an at-home mom who prefers to be alone, was working on a lot of writing projects, and had a serious spinal pain problem.  Most afternoons after school, either Mom was excited to continue the writing she'd started while we were at school and didn't want to be interrupted, or she was in pain and lying down.  She did everything she could think of to arrange for my brother and me to be independent, because she preferred to interact with us as little as possible until dinnertime.  It's not that she didn't love us or wasn't interested; she just wanted to wait until dinner to talk, unless it was important.  I coped with this pretty well, although it wasn't really what I would have preferred.  I had lists of my morning and afternoon tasks and my weekly chores, like I set up for my son this year, and enjoyed the sense of accomplishment in a way he doesn't seem to have caught onto yet.  It wasn't until two years ago, when I asked my mom what she remembers about being the age I am now, that I realized how much she is like my partner!  Same introversion, same sense of her work being very important even though it's unpaid unless/until a finished project sells, same desire for the kid to just stay happily occupied and not interrupt.  So I've thought about what parts of her treatment of me did any harm vs. just making me wistful.  I remember being sad about walking into the house and having nobody to greet me, being expected to get my own snack, and if I went down the hall to my mom's room to say hi she'd barely look up from her typewriter.  So when my partner stopped walking the kid home from school every day (thus losing the 15 minutes they used to spend walking together, with dad telling a story) I asked him to come downstairs as soon as he hears the kid come home, greet him with a hug, and spend at least a few minutes talking and getting the kid settled before he goes back to work.


 we were actually discussing just yesterday how, if the kid was in school, they'd feel punished and isolated if we didn't let them watch the shows/films that most of their peers watch & talk about constantly, and "how would we deal with that?!"

My dad's solution was to ask which of the shows sounded most interesting to me, and arrange for us to watch it together.  Usually we'd find that the show was dumb, and when it was mentioned thereafter I'd shrug and feel I wasn't missing anything.  Occasionally we'd find a show like "Three's Company" that was entertaining enough that I was then allowed to watch it with parental guidance.  While my dad might have preferred that his third-grader not know about prostitution or drunkenness or homophobia or other subjects that came up in these shows, it was great that he got to be the first to explain them to me, instead of my learning about them from my peers or from the TV without parental guidance.


By the end of elementary school, I'd learned that most of the shows "everybody" watches and talks about are crap, my tastes are not mainstream, and that's okay.  But I also was familiar with some of the mainstream stuff, and that was helpful for getting along.  So far I haven't found this a very difficult issue with my kid.


 but then i wonder, what about books? do they carry any of the same potential pitfalls?

Having been able to read at a 6th grade level by kindergarten, I can assure you that books can frighten or corrupt a child with ideas she's not ready to handle.  The effect is different from TV, but it can be vivid in its own way.  Here again, one of my options was to share the book with my dad so we could talk about it.


 (we spent no less than 2 hrs chasing topics of discussion spurred by the initial discussion of your post & ensuing thread).

That's great!  It's so important to have these discussions before parenthood--later, too, but before you have a child it's easier to talk it through and think about all the possibilities.  I joined MDC when we were first TTC, and we had so many great discussions based on threads here!

post #34 of 37

Hello, I finally have a moment to reply to this thread. I identified so, so much with the difficulties you are having with your son. I was so relieved to read your very detailed thread and to know I am not alone. My daughter is 9 and behaves very similarly. I find it intensely frustrating, but even more heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking because it seems like I can't get through to her at all. Her behaviour, and my responses, led to quite a negative relationship -- more heartbreak.


What I have learned:

* With homework, she needs me to sit with her every step of the way. This is not how I think it should be. It is how it is. Once I accepted reality, I became willing to do what is needed.

* She seems to need an enormous amount of attention, maybe just because she's an only child and I'm a single mother. I constantly work with balancing her need with my introversion. These days, she is with her dad about half the week and with me the other half. During "my" half, life is far more serene if I surrender to my parent identity. I live my own life (i.e., work) the other days. This is working for all of us (it helps that her dad is older, and retired, and can spend all day with her.)

* My expectations cause us both a lot of misery. Lowering my expectations significantly, while still having expectations of her, has been necessary and helpful.

* Boundaries: I have to be extremely clear with her -- black and white, even. And OFTEN (several times per week), enforcing my boundaries in a firm but kind way means that life becomes highly inconvenient. I've learned to accept and prepare for the inconvenience. It still bugs me, but the form of love that she needs (as opposed to the form of love that's easiest for me to give) means I take a lot of steps back, a lot of deep breaths, and attempt to remember my priorities all the time. I tried it the other way and it was hellish.


Regarding your situation, I agree that the main after-school issue is that it's unrealistic to expect an only child of 8 to not only amuse himself alone but also to do his homework and chores alone. If you husband needs to get real work done during those hours, then he is not available to look after the child. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been able to get work done during the day when my child was in the house -- and those happened in the middle of days when she had my full attention for a couple of hours in the morning and knew she would have my full attention again afterwards.


Regarding the disrespect: when my daughter started with the tweeny attitude, I was horrified and came down hard -- time outs, etc. It failed totally and miserably. Now I ignore what I dislike and notice (aloud) the behaviour I like. At first, her behaviour was no better, but both our stress levels were lower. (Biting my tongue turned out to be less stressful than fighting a million lose-lose battles.) Several months later, the disrespect has lessened quite a lot.


Screen time: obviously there's a wide range of opinion on this. For what it's worth, I think 30 minutes/day on a weekday and 60 minutes on a weekend is plenty. My argument is always, there's so much else to do in the world!


For perspective: I am now home schooling my daughter, for a combination of reasons. It took several months of 'unschooling,' but our relationship is way, way, way better. She knows I am on her side. Letting her know I am on her side is one of my major parenting goals. I have been much too critical of her, and had far too-high expectations in the past. It helps enormously that we don't have to be anywhere before 10 a.m., even on my work days. It helps enormously that she doesn't have homework. (Homework is a nonsense at this age, IMHO.) It helps that she's not exposed to quite so much mainstream materialistic boy-band-focussed silliness from school. And we still struggle with her unwillingness to do any formal learning.


Over and over again, I discover that consequences for poor behaviour, time outs, etc. etc., backfire. I've read lots of books and attended parenting classes, so I think I'm implementing them OK. It's just that for my daughter's personality, consequences & time outs are like red rags to a bull. When I can, I bring in humour (not my strong point). I constantly tell her that although I may hate some behaviours, I always love her. Although I am a very straightforward, literal person, I'm learning to dodge and weave and even manipulate to avoid conflict and to get her to (happily) do the right thing.


One of the things going on for my daughter is that, developmentally, she is at her age level in some areas, way ahead in others, and way behind in yet others. With the home schooling, and spending a lot more time with her, and surrendering to her needs a lot of the time, I can meet her wherever she's at, and support her there. This is better than what I used to do: expect her to behave at age level in all circumstances. Not possible, and therefore unfair to her. My intention is that with this extra attention, she'll even out a bit, or at least have the tools to support herself better in a range of circumstances.


This is getting way too long, but I've got more to say about tantrums, too. There are so many similarities between our households.


I sincerely hope 3rd grade is going a little more smoothly now than when you started the thread. And I'd love to know how it IS going.

post #35 of 37
Thread Starter 
Thanks for sharing your perspective!

School is going well. We love his school and see no reason to change it. We think the amount and type of homework are within reason.

I hsve become more convinced that the real problem here is conflict between father and child, and that I can't do a whole lot to fix it--I've become more and more aware of how often they put me in the middle, each of them complaining to me about the other and demanding that I explain to him how he needs to change! So, we are seeking family therapy. We hope to find a counselor who will work with all of us together, and with the two of them in particular, on better communication and realistic expectations.

At this point, my partner is way off the end of his rope in dealing with the kid and often, in my opinion, is not reasonable in how he expects the kid to respond to his approach. Many days, I come home from work to find the kid happy enough doing some craft project while his dad sulks upstairs and has no idea whether or not kid has done his homework or chore. I have to make that happen--and I am not having a lot of trouble getting him to do stuff using positive parenting strategies, but the limited time between my getting home and bedtime and the fact that he's already tired make it tricky--and I resent being treated as if our child is my sole responsibility, especially while I am pregnant with another! I think my partner may need individual therapy to get himself together; looking forward to seeing what the family therapist says about that.

We have been doing no TV on school nights, but some on weekends and days off, for a few weeks now. I think that's helping our son get stuff done with less struggle. Even on days when he has not done his homework or chore, he has been doing something interesting instead of staring at the screen. Today he made a giant paper pencil for every member of his class, for example, and he has been doing jigsaw puzzles and such.

His behavior is still horrible at times, though. It's much more directed at his dad than me, but it's sometimes at me. He talks in a nasty snarling voice, makes everything sound like an argument, goes into crisis shrieking mode at the slightest hint of anything going wrong (for example, spilling a small amount of water on the bath mat), interrupts a lot, and generally is just really aggravating a lot of the time.

Hoping for progress...soon!
post #36 of 37

I am so glad to hear that school is going well!


And I'm right there with you regarding crisis shrieking mode. I have to keep reminding myself that when she panics, I panic (because I don't know how to control the situation, as if that were even possible). So I'm trying to work with MY panic first, and then (BIG lesson) trust her. If she's in shrieking mode, it may be partly bad behaviour, but it's also partly real distress.  Figuring out which is which is way beyond my (maybe anyone's) skill level. And figuring out a healthy response to bad behaviour and distress is tough, too. I bumble on....


Family therapy sounds like a great idea!


You've got a lot going on, between working, supervising your son, and being pregnant. Do you get any nurturing yourself? Sometimes when I haven't been able to look after myself much, I lie in bed and imagine having a massage. Not as good as the real thing, but it does help me relax!


I'm sure they grow out of this aggravating stage. They've grown out of other difficult stages!

post #37 of 37
Thread Starter 

I have a crisis shrieking mode myself--though it happens a lot less often--so I have thought about how I need people to treat me when it happens.  If they panic, that's like evidence that this REALLY IS a big problem, which is not helpful.  Directly telling me that it's not a big problem or "calm down" also is not helpful, as it insults my judgment and hurts my feelings.  What I need is for them to SHOW me that it's not a big problem to them because they know what to do and that I'm okay and they still love me.  So, that's what I try to do for my son.  When he freaked about the bath mat, for example, I said in my calm voice, "It's okay for the bath mat to get wet.  I'll put it on the edge of the tub so we don't step on it and get our socks wet."  After that I gave him a hug.


Yes, I do feel like I could use more nurturing!!!  I try to ask my partner to do specific things for me, because he says he's happy to help me if I only just ask--but the thing is, maybe about half the time he is, and other times he responds with, basically, "How dare you ask anything of me when I'm already overwhelmed?!" or he'll say he's going to do it later in the day but then doesn't get around to it for days and days and expects me to understand and not nag, and both things are really hard for me to handle.


A couple of weeks ago, I finally insisted that he call his parents and tell them we've been having a hard time.  His father is a therapist and sometimes helpful.  This time it did seem that my partner listened to his father's advice more than he does to mine (though it was basically the same advice) and he's coping a little better as a result.  His parents live hours away, but his mom is now visiting his grandfather who's only an hour away.  She suggested that, in addition to coming over there for lunch yesterday, we leave our son with her overnight and have her bring him back today (a school holiday that's not a work holiday).  This is a huge help for us, not having to keep him busy on his day off!  It's also a big step in that he never spent a whole night away from us (he's been put to bed by grandparents or sitter, but we were there in the morning) and this is actually at a distance--but there was no middle-of-the-night phone call, so it must have gone okay.  We never feel much need for "date night" on any fancy scale, but it was nice having an evening when we didn't have interruptions from the kid or a bedtime routine to do on time.  I asked my partner if he would be willing to rub oil into my legs after I shaved them (or would he consider that kind of a hygiene thing, rather than sensuous?) and he was, so we did that, and I enjoyed feeling cared for and being touched.  There's been too little of that lately.  I was glad I'd asked.

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