"boring" sons, is this a gender issue? or should I do something different?(and tantrums) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 07:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I am wondering if this is just a gender issue, or if I could be trying something different, or other maybe good ideas people here might have.

 

With my daughter, she was willing to try anything. She also came up with a lot of her own stuff. But I could come across a fun craft online and introduce her to it and it led to months of doing a variety of things. When we read books on Colonial Times, she made her own costume from stuff she had and paper too, and whatever else to be like the colonial days. She also tried to grow her own garden, and whatever else to be like those days. My son, who is 17 months older than her, would come along and do stuff with us without complaints so no issues there. He did not tend to come up with his own things. But as I introduced him to things, he tried them without objecting. He never got in to anything like she did or excited, but he still went along.

 

 

Now I have two sons in the middle. They are 7 and 9 yrs old. No matter what I try to do with them, they are just not interested. In fact, I have big problems with my 7 yr old in that he throws A LOT of tantrums. Their entire days seem focused around when they will get the computer. I set down 2 hrs each evening in which they can have it and that is all they want to do. Now it is 100 degrees out so I feel like I should not say no to computer time, but even when it was decent weather, my 7 yr old would scream all the time, throwing tantrums, demanding new toys and computer. The tantrums are actually the biggest problem. But the point of this post was initially supposed to be about how to get them to do something else.

 

They are willing to play Legos. They do that much of the day. If I come up with something for them to do and try to do it with them, the entire time, IF I can get them to do it, the 7 yr old will say "if I do this, will I earn my computer time?" and "is this my school work?" Which means the same thing..if I do this, will I get the computer? Honestly, I am a little sad over the whole thing. I feel like there is so little I can do with them. It gets the worst when the 7 yr old throws his tantrums. (I have been very consistent with his tantrums and thought he would be done throwing them by now, but they are still happening, I am beginning to suspect learning issues and such with him).

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#2 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 08:37 AM
 
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It sounds like a few things might be going on. Your two younger sons don't sound as self-directed in their interests as your older DD and DS. Not all children are. To some extent, we have a similar dynamic in our family, where my oldest two kiddos have extremely focused interests that they spend a great deal of time and energy pursuing, while my 8 and 6 yos are much more aimless about what they might want to do and would happily spend all day in front of a screen or computer if I allowed it.

 

In part, I think it's a function of age: my older children have had more time to learn skills that they are finally starting to see the pay off for, and that reinforces their interest/commitment. The younger ones are still pretty fluid in their interests, and often need some significant support from me to pursue things they are interested in. And I think sometimes they look at their older sibs and what they can do and feel "useless" in comparison, which only serves to make them less committed to learning something new. Ah, the intricacies of large family dynamics, lol.

 

Anyway, what we do around here is that I *do* enforce the younger ones actively working on things, for some period of each day. Sometimes I call it schoolwork, sometimes not. This might be needing to read a book for an hour on some subject they like, or my coming up with activities related to something they have expressed interest in. And sometimes they moan and complain, but usually they will participate happily once we get into it a bit. But....it definitely requires my active involvement, both to get them going and keep them engaged. Still, for us it's a better alternative to them constantly watching Netflix or playing the Wii.

 

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#3 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 09:20 AM
 
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I set down 2 hrs each evening in which they can have it and that is all they want to do. Now it is 100 degrees out so I feel like I should not say no to computer time, but even when it was decent weather, my 7 yr old would scream all the time, throwing tantrums, demanding new toys and computer

Obviously this isn't going to solve all your problems, but it makes more sense ot me to have the 2 hours of computer time a day to be in the afternoon (or during the hottest part) and leave the evenings for playing outside when it is cooler.


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#4 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 09:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Having the computer times in before evening made it worse. They did not want to get off and the older one (who has sensory issues) could not come down off the being wired from the computer so he would meltdown and be awful. 

 

Having it in the evenings did but back the tantrums, believe it or not. I don't get asked for the computer during the day. But, the part where every single thing I ask the 7 yr old to do gets met with "will this count as my home work so I get computer?" They do play Legos a lot during the day now. 

 

Right now, I have had to put on my "teacher face" and force ds7 to just do his school work. See, when I was a teacher, long long ago, I would greet the classrooms I worked in with a smile and be all nice. I got walked all over. This other teacher told me to stop being so nice, I was being targeted to be walked all over. Once I started putting on a stern face and stopped smiling, the kids actually did what I wanted. A couple years later, when subbing, I was being nice again. Again, another teacher told me to stop smiling and being nice. That is why I could not keep control of the classroom. I went back to acting like I was in a bad mood and the kids started doing what they were supposed to. I was not cut out for acting like that all the time so I quit teaching. (I felt like being a teacher did not really mean teaching anyway, it just meant trying to coralle kids for several hours and keeping mass control). 

 

I wish we could reach a point where I could take them to the park and have them happy to be there. Or, do something...anything. I have all sorts of books of crafts and activities and games and such. But all we do is sit around waiting for the next computer time. On the Lego playing, they do not want to play with their Legos. They want new Legos. These days, all Legos are in kits. Once a kit gets scattered, they want another kit. They just got a new kit last week, now they want another new one this week. The answer is no. But the 7 yr old will scream bloody murder and fall to the ground over being told no. 

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#5 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 02:34 PM
 
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My son has had phases where he wasn't able to handle daily computer time. When it's almost a given that he'll get to use it, he focuses on that. When he gets into that mode, I cut off computer time completely. When computer time isn't coming, he grumps for a  day or two, then  gets busy with other things... generally, I won't let him on for a month or more when that happens. My fear is that he'll end up one of those guys who lives in his mom's basement just plays WoW 24/7!!

 

He's been okay with being on the computer for a short time (30 - 45 mins) daily for quite a while now. We have company every Saturday night, and it's a free-for-all for the kids on the computer then (from 5 when people arrive, until 9 or so, when I put them to bed) 

 

Do they have anything like mechanno, or building toys where they can use little motors in them? Do they have any tools/access to bits of wood to play with? They might be old enough for more of a challenge than crafty things. What about bikes... are they allowed out in the lane to ride? My son isn't really into guided activities, but he's got a bow and arrows he built himself... things like that. He likes looking around on the Instructables website for ideas (though you may want to helicopter a bit... some of the ideas could be a little dangerous in the wrong hands!)


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#6 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 03:12 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa1970 View Post
 See, when I was a teacher, long long ago, I would greet the classrooms I worked in with a smile and be all nice. I got walked all over. This other teacher told me to stop being so nice, I was being targeted to be walked all over. Once I started putting on a stern face and stopped smiling, the kids actually did what I wanted. A couple years later, when subbing, I was being nice again. Again, another teacher told me to stop smiling and being nice. That is why I could not keep control of the classroom. I went back to acting like I was in a bad mood and the kids started doing what they were supposed to. I was not cut out for acting like that all the time so I quit teaching.


I understand that this was your experience. Is it possible that there might be a way for you to convey "I'm not joking, I'm serious about what I'm telling you, this is not negotiable" without feeling you have to act mean? Something more like an "It is what it is" no non-sense approach?

 

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#7 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 03:36 PM
 
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The things that you mentioned that got your daughters interested were history and arts and crafts.

 

I read somewhere that moms and sons tend to have different reading interests, and moms sometimes don't pick out books/topics that their sons are interested in. So have you tried to branch out with what you're introduce them to? How about sports? Geology? Woodworking? Baking? Sewing? Gardening? Weather? Biology? Botany? Natural History? Dragons? Dinosaurs? Middle Ages? (Ok, I'm done brainstorming, but you get the idea.) If your idea of what is fun doesn't match what your kids are interested in, it is hard.

 

My 9 year old is interested in: Sports. Baseball and basketball, primarily, but he'll watch almost anything. We've used this interest to get him reading the newspaper (sports page), work on math (calculating batting averages and ERA; probability), and writing (describing sports events). It also gets him a lot of large motor time because he's playing a lot with the kids in the neighborhood.

 

Is there a way you can similarly leverage your boys' interests? Lego robotics (math & science), lego comics (reading -- see the Brickmaster magazine (our library has them)), storytelling? You could have them write and film a lego stop action movie, if you've got a video camera. If you don't, what about writing a lego comic?

 

And I will say that one reason my kids are in public school is that they don't perform well for me. That's not a call for you to put your kids in school, but I think it is a a pretty common dynamic. I personally am not comfortable switching into the role of teacher and task-master. If you homeschool, you've got to do that, and it can be hard for both you and your kids to negotiate the dynamic sometimes.


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#8 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 05:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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They have Legos, Snap Circuits, this really cool construction set, those things. I also have science kits. I guess they do do those things. It does not involve creative play as much (they follow instructions with all these things so they building what is in the books) but I guess maybe it is just different and not "boring." Thanks for helping me see it that way! I am also cutting back on the computer. I told them no computer for the next few days.

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#9 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 06:18 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa1970 View Post

They have Legos, Snap Circuits, this really cool construction set, those things. I also have science kits. I guess they do do those things. It does not involve creative play as much (they follow instructions with all these things so they building what is in the books) but I guess maybe it is just different and not "boring." Thanks for helping me see it that way! I am also cutting back on the computer. I told them no computer for the next few days.

 

Also, some building toys can also be used for make-believe play. My son really liked Bionicles. He liked building them and then creating adventures for them, and also taking them apart and making his own creatures out of them.  He also  really liked Playmobil (lots of knights & vikings etc.).  Do they like to take their Lego kits apart to build new contraptions?

 

Other ideas -  Do they like cards? At 7 & 9 I think they are old enough for games like Hearts. Definitely OK for Go Fish & Old Maid. They could also try and build houses of cards.

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#10 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 07:33 PM
 
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I have three sons (6, 4 and 2...so a little younger than yours). With my boys, they need to be doing something physical - arts and crafts, reading, etc. are fine for short bursts but they really love active stuff. Sports, wrestling, sword play (foam swords, of course), treasure hunts, etc. We are at the beach right now and they spend the entire day in the water, boogie boarding, body surfing, jumping waves. When not at the beach they beg to ride their bikes or they start wrestling in the middle of the room. They have a tremendous amount of physical energy. On rainy days they tend to beg for the TV or video games. Maybe your sons just need some time to release some energy? 


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#11 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 08:41 PM
 
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I think you should just tell them no computer, period.  Don't frame it as a punishment for their behaviour or anything, but just say that you read that computer use is bad for developing minds, and that you've decided to turn it off.  They'll probably be upset, but just stick to your guns about it and take them somewhere fun that day.  Maybe you could bring them to the pool or a fair or somewhere special....

 

It seems like if you just say no for a few days, then they'll still have the same problem of always looking forward to the future, and just waiting a little longer for their computer time. 

 

I think this looking forward thing is developmental.  Kids this age are just starting to have an accurate concept of time.  They're starting to understand how long a certain amount of time feels, and how to count down time in their heads.  My son just started doing this counting down/waiting thing too.  He's 7.  He doesn't do it about the computer, but he does it about going on vacation, having barbeques at grandparent's house, etc.  He's even saying how he can't wait until next summer, and we haven't even finished all the fun things we're doing this summer!  He knows that he can go the carnival again next summer and read the next Harry Potter book/movie.  It's kind of funny, but it does make me sad at the same time.  The counting down time thing is a manifestation of a certain loss of innocence, I think.  He no longer lives in the present like a little child.  

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#12 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 09:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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They are counting down to their next birthdays. The 9 yr old has it right, but my 7 yr old thinks it is over a year until his next birthday, LOL. They were just discussing it in the car.
 

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I think you should just tell them no computer, period.  Don't frame it as a punishment for their behaviour or anything, but just say that you read that computer use is bad for developing minds, and that you've decided to turn it off.  They'll probably be upset, but just stick to your guns about it and take them somewhere fun that day.  Maybe you could bring them to the pool or a fair or somewhere special....

 

It seems like if you just say no for a few days, then they'll still have the same problem of always looking forward to the future, and just waiting a little longer for their computer time. 

 

I think this looking forward thing is developmental.  Kids this age are just starting to have an accurate concept of time.  They're starting to understand how long a certain amount of time feels, and how to count down time in their heads.  My son just started doing this counting down/waiting thing too.  He's 7.  He doesn't do it about the computer, but he does it about going on vacation, having barbeques at grandparent's house, etc.  He's even saying how he can't wait until next summer, and we haven't even finished all the fun things we're doing this summer!  He knows that he can go the carnival again next summer and read the next Harry Potter book/movie.  It's kind of funny, but it does make me sad at the same time.  The counting down time thing is a manifestation of a certain loss of innocence, I think.  He no longer lives in the present like a little child.  



 

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#13 of 17 Old 07-03-2011, 09:33 PM
 
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I give my son several options that are acceptable to me and have him choose. That way he feels like he has some control in the situation. I don't know that it's necessarily a gender issue; my daughter often acts the same way.

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#14 of 17 Old 07-04-2011, 07:25 AM
 
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Do they get outside enough - in the morning or evening  (I know it is hot during the day)? 

 

My youngest could get testy but I have been literally sending her into the yard for as long as she last 2-3 times a day and it helps.

 

 

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#15 of 17 Old 07-04-2011, 08:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It is 100 degrees here. SO, we are not really going outside now.
 

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Do they get outside enough - in the morning or evening  (I know it is hot during the day)? 

 

My youngest could get testy but I have been literally sending her into the yard for as long as she last 2-3 times a day and it helps.

 

 



 

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#16 of 17 Old 07-04-2011, 08:23 AM
 
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Are they driving you or each other insane due to boredom?

 

I think if their behaviour is not-so-great due to boredom you might need to do something about it.

 

If their behaviour is OK (or typical), it might be wise to reflect on living with the boredom.  Being bored isn't horrible - and I do not think we should rush in to fix it.  You gave them the resources (building sets and the like) - that is your job.  It is not your job to entertain them.  I think learning to self entertain is a wonderful gift - and at 7 and 9 they are still young - no need to hand wring over it yet (not saying you are).

 

Let them sit in their boredom and see if they can find ways to move out of their boredom.

 

I must admit I do try and do something so we have a little flow to our day (example - the pool opened this week and we will swim almost every day for about an hour) but otherwise I let my 8 yr old do what she wants.  If she flops around the house - she flops around the house.  I only intervene if flopping turns into grumpiness and turns into negative behaviour.

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#17 of 17 Old 07-04-2011, 01:17 PM
 
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My kids started to go a little nuts about using our iPod Touches, and we had to just quit letting them use them. We did that several months ago, and after a couple of days they stopped asking to use them. We started letting them use them again a few weeks ago, and all the behavior issues came right back so, no more iPods again. Not really as a punishment, just because we recognize that these devices apparently cause too much strife in our lives, so we don't need them around. 


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