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Teaching boundries to a "big" kid

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I need some wisdom from my fellow mamas (and possibly a bubble bath.) My 6.5-year-old son (B) is pressing all the wrong buttons lately. I’m really feeling very tense around him all the time, and I hate it. Something tells me that my expectations might be somewhat high – but even if they are, I feel like I need some strategies in place or I’m going to go crazy.

One note though, he is very smart and very sensitive. Lately, I’ve been disintegrating into harshness toward him – unintentionally, or course. He just can’t handle it. He gets anxious, and sad, and overwhelmed, and then acts poorly as a result of those feelings. It is just very hard on him. So whatever strategies I come up with – they are going to have to be very gentle ones.

He is continually crossing boundaries in 3 areas, as follows:

1)He interrupts constantly, oblivious to whatever might be going on around him. It’s getting ridiculous. His brother will have just fallen down and will be sobbing and screaming, and I’ll be trying to cope with him, and B will walk into the room and launch off on a speech about “the mating habits of horseshoe crabs” or “if you were a math problem, mom, which one would you be…” or “isn’t it cool the way that such and such does such and such…” What I have been doing, is taking a deep breath, and saying “I like to hear your ideas, but I need you to chose better times to share them, because right now I’m not able to listen.” But it seems like I say this about 20 times a day, and I feel like the general concept isn’t really sinking in. Worse than that, he often interrupts to demand something from me. Like I’ll be getting everyone’s plates filled and on the table, and he’ll start demanding his drink. I feel like, if he just looked up and paid attention to what I was doing, he would see that I am getting everyone food, and getting everyone drinks, and I just haven’t quite gotten to him yet… That is the crux of it – I need him to pay attention to what I’m doing before he speaks. And he just doesn’t get it.

2)He interferes when I’m trying to teach his brother things. He tries to get involved and “help” parent his brother – offers ideas in the middle of stressful interactions, and causes a situation that has nothing to do with him to get much worse. Again, I’ve said things to him about 20 times a day for I don’t know how long.

3)His body is always moving, and always in someone else’s space. I know this is typical for a little kid. The trouble is, he isn’t little. He is 80 pounds. And he is a constant ball of wiggling action. He is constantly flinging his body into people and things, and getting directly in people’s space, and accidentally tripping people, or bumping people. It’s awful. I’m so afraid that nobody is going to like him anymore, because he does serious damage. He seriously hurts people this way, unintentionally.

Part of it is that he is bored easily. As long as I keep him busy with jobs and activities, then he does really well. He needs to have a sense of what he is supposed to be busy with all the time. Every minute. The trouble is that I can’t be responsible for giving him things to do all day long. Some of the day – yeah, I can handle that. But I can’t be responsible for filling his every minute anymore. He has toys, he has games, he has access to a computer, he has chores, and he has a lot of things to fill his time. I need him to take advantage of those things to fill his time, instead of following me around causing difficulties. But he doesn't respond at all to being told to go make his own fun.

So, I don’t know what to do. All these boundary issues seem serious, and overwhelming. I feel like there need to be consequences, and structure, and he needs to learn! But I also feel like he needs to have his esteem and dignity kept in tact. And I just don’t know how to do it.

post #2 of 10

Check out the archives for a head start, but from your discription, I'd say very possible. If you think so too, you can modify the environment a little and get better results as well as easier living for all.

If you want any hints, I am one too. So I can give you my insight.

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks Alexander, but I don't think so. We have a family friend with aspergers, and I've done some reading. B does seem oblivious in many social situations, but other than that it just doesn't fit. (I would still love to here any specific strategies you have for the problems I detailed, if you think they sound familiar.)

He is extrodinary empathic for one thing. When he *is* aware of what is going on around him, he shows a lot of tenderness and concern for people, and constantly "tries on" other people's points of view. He tends to be a "thinker" more than a "feeler," but he still definately has that sensitivity. He cries when someone else is sad, etc.

He also shows no particular inclination towards a fussy routine, or needing things a "certain way." He eats what's in front of him, wears the clothes he has without complaint, etc...

With his body issues -- I've thought about sensory integration problems. Because he does seem to have a need to feel things very deeply, and it would explain why he throws his body around so much. He also chews on his clothes, and prefers to eat with his hands.

Argh. Maybe though, I don't know. I'll do a little more reading. One thing though, he really has no issues at school. All his teachers adore him. He has a little group of close friends. Things seem great, there! Mabye its me. Maybe I just bring out the worst in him. Sigh. Or maybe I need a bubble bath!
post #4 of 10
Ask him for help with these problems.

1) Come up with a secret word, and when you say it he needs to step back and look at what is going on.

2)Think of one or two things for him TO HELP when you are helping his brother. He could give him a pat on the back and move away, he could draw a picture/ write a story where his brother is successful, ???

3)I think my youngest has some sensory integration activies, he is much younger but I try to keep some ideas of things for him to do in mind. I try to think of this as an itch that has to be scratched, those muscles are begging for some stimuli how can he do that with out hurting anyone? If company is over he is the one I usually ask to move a chair out for one of our guests, or there are usually a basket of laundry or two that can be moved to the laundry room or back to the closet. Mine is still little enough that hanging off of my arm is a good solution, but how about a chin up bar or a mini tramp?

You could sit down together and make a list of things for him to do. Maybe on strips of paper in a jar where he could go pick his own activity. Or it might be better if he had a sequence of things to do- create several 2 hour blocks of activities. Then post the list (or jar) and point him in that direction.

Just some thoughts
post #5 of 10
He interrupts constantly, oblivious to whatever might be going on around him
I love the secret word idea. It seems like your response might be too long and that is why you feel tired of it. It is great that you validate his ideas, but I don't think it always necessary, particularly during stressful situations.
He interferes when I’m trying to teach his brother things
What about just saying "thanks, B" and leave it at that?

His body is always moving, and always in someone else’s space
Does he get plenty of outlets for his energy? Does he have a space where he can be wild? Maybe he would benefit from organized sports?

These are just suggestions, but don't really address the over-riding issue of "getting boundaries". We have a 5.5 year-old ds who also has some quirky personality traits. I was feeling just about as frustrated as you sound and basically decided I was going to back off. I was getting so annoyed and wouldn't let anything slide. I felt that if I did, he would just get worse. Needless to say, I felt like taking lots of bubble baths! It seems like the small stuff is so huge when it is a fundamental personality issue, but in many ways, it is his issue to work out and I trust he will find his way. Now I focus on appreciating his positive behavior/interactions and offering guidance on the really egregious issues. It is not like this has been a magic solution and he is a whole different person- he will probably always struggle with anger and frustration. But *I* feel much more loving towards him and feel like I am better able to give him tools to deal with his issues, rather than feeling like I need to change him.

Just brainstorming...
post #6 of 10
I've been going round and round with my dd about some of these same things. Some of it is boundary issues, some of it is egocentrism. I think, though, that we are beginning to make some headway. I was *very* angry with her one evening and I was getting the usual glaring, spacey "poor me" look she gets when I am trying to discuss something with her, get her input, ask her to talk to me about what's going on, etc. It had to do with the whole not eating her lunch because she is talking thing that we have been working on *all* year! It gets better, then it backslides. Anyway, I lost it and started hollering. I told her I hate it that this is what happens, that I don't like myself doing that, it's not good for her, not good for the baby, etc. I asked her why she does not respond until I am *yelling.* At some point during the conversation she sobbed that she thought no one liked her. Well, I went with my gut on this one. I am gonna get flamed for this one, but I felt the right thing to do was to be honest with her. This has been a problem for some time. People *don't* like to be around her when she is acting a certain way and I tried to get this across to her as gently as possible. This issue of family members and friends not liking her (her behavior) has been very stressful for me, particularly because I am a single mom. It has not ever seemed to concern her. She just doesn't care what other people think. Or so I thought. I explained once more about being aware of other people, what they are doing, what they want, what they are feeling, what they think, etc. and to take that into account. Give a little. Be flexible. We don't live in a vacuum. We need other people. We need to help them. We need them to help us. And so on. I'm beginning to see glimmers of understanding. We talk about certain behaviors as not being likable. I know it is not the same things as with your ds, but I'm hoping somewhere in my rambling you will see something that will set off a spark for you to see your situation from a different perspective.

I also am experimenting with the Feingold diet. I began to wonder recently if her *constant* talking was not a form of hyperactivity, and her inability to pay attention to others a form of attention deficit disorder. I already knew she was sensitive to artificial colors and oil of wintergreen, but now I am trying to see the effect of removing artificial flavorings, preservatives, and natural salicylates. I read in a Mothering article that often what they most crave is what they are sensitive to. She is nuts for apples and especiallly apple juice. Apples are a natural salicylate. I took those out of her diet for a couple weeks and she seemed much calmer, less talky, and more able to have socially appropriate behavior, considering others, etc. Then she had some apple juice at school the other day and was my theory proven and how! So now there are definitely no more apples or juice thereof in this house!!
post #7 of 10
mamaduck, I think I'm raising his twin. Sometimes your posts about your ds just give me the chills because I could have written them (though not as well).

All I can really offer is empathy. The interrupting, the seeming lack of attention to "what's up" around him, the paper chewing, all of it.

And ds is so smart, and so sensitive, and so verbal. It really freaks him out if we are harsh with him.

post #8 of 10
Big !!

I'm going thru the exact same things with my almost 6 yo ds. I know how frustrating this is.

post #9 of 10
I have an 8yr old dd, and many of the same issue. I must say, she is getting better as she grows older. Except with her older sister. The 8 yr old is just completely annoying, rude and even mean on purpose at times, to her in particular. In her face, in her things, yelling stuff into the phone when she is talking to her friends, just acting like a pill. Then she will draw her a picture and write her a note that she is sorry she is such a poopy sister. She will pick her flowers, and even cleaned her car..(you have no idea how horrible this car was euwwww). I just do what I can to guide, and assist and let the consequences happen. Like big sister will not take her to Perkins with her on the school late start, little sister has to go to day care instead.
My heart goes out to you and your boy. From reading your posts here there and everywhere, I just want to say I think you are an awesome mom and your son is lucky to have you as an advocate for him.
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone. It helps that I am not alone with this.

I must say -- even though he can be annoying and doesn't seem to recognize boundries, he is sweet and never intentionally rude..... so I guess we're pretty lucky.
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