Why this behavior and how to handle? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 06-14-2011, 09:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We took our 4 yr old to the zoo today. It is about an hour's drive away, cost us $30 entrance. He had slept well, had eaten, on the way there he was fine. These days he's going thru a complaining phase- 'i don't like this/you/that". So, as soon we enter, he starts up with "i don't want to go to the zoo, is there a train ride" and other random complaints. Also, he's not showing any interest in the animals (how can a kid ignore the giraffe!), acting bored. He can be an attention seeker, so we decide to ignore all this. We focus on talking about the the amazing animals, trying to enjoy the time spent. Now, he starts dawdling, deliberately holding back from joining us as we walk around the zoo. By this time, I am feeling really upset about how this is going, it should not have to take so much effort to get a kid to just enjoy a day out at the zoo! He's acting like a bored teenager...So, I decide enough is enough. Decide to head back barely 15 mins after we entered the place. Naturally, now that he sees we are serious about leaving, he wants to stay back. Does some just for effect crying for all of 2 minutes, then stops. Per usual, our words regarding the situation that just occurred roll off him like water off a duck's back.

 

My question is, how should this have been handled. This bored, negative behavior is nothing new. It drives me batty. Appreciate some btdt advice.

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#2 of 18 Old 06-14-2011, 09:08 PM
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If you think this is attention seeking behavior, stop giving it attention. Trying to engage him, threatening to leave....that's all attention. You said "we" took him to the zoo, so I'm assuming someone else must have been with you and your son. Next time, concentrate on having a good time with the other party, and if your son is a typical kid, he'll follow suit. It takes a lot of energy to act surly; he'll probably stop if he gets no response.

 

Also, did you ask him if he wanted to go to the zoo? Kids tend to enjoy things more when they are part of the planning or making.

 

 

 

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#3 of 18 Old 06-14-2011, 09:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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If you think this is attention seeking behavior, stop giving it attention. Trying to engage him, threatening to leave....that's all attention. You said "we" took him to the zoo, so I'm assuming someone else must have been with you and your son. Next time, concentrate on having a good time with the other party, and if your son is a typical kid, he'll follow suit. It takes a lot of energy to act surly; he'll probably stop if he gets no response.

 

Also, did you ask him if he wanted to go to the zoo? Kids tend to enjoy things more when they are part of the planning or making.

 

 

 



That is exactly what we did. Basically, just ignored him and started talking about and looking at the animals by ourselves while keeping an eye on him. But, then he stopped following us, the distance was greater and I felt it was not safe anymore to do that. And yes, we did talk with him about going to visit the zoo.

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#4 of 18 Old 06-14-2011, 10:12 PM
 
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If he is doing something to seek attention, then he needs attention, so give him attanetion! Don't ignore it, he is so young. It sounds to me like you think he is trying to manipulate you, rather than just seeing him as a child expressing genuine needs, such as needing attention. Also you say he cried just for effect- there is that same feeling I get again. He cried because he was upset- so I think you could look into validating his feelings and the best way a young child knows how to express them, instead of assuming he is tying to pretend a feeling in order to get effect or attention. Just allow him to feel how he feels and express it and try to love, be present, and comfort him the best you can.

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#5 of 18 Old 06-14-2011, 10:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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If he is doing something to seek attention, then he needs attention, so give him attanetion! Don't ignore it, he is so young. It sounds to me like you think he is trying to manipulate you, rather than just seeing him as a child expressing genuine needs, such as needing attention. Also you say he cried just for effect- there is that same feeling I get again. He cried because he was upset- so I think you could look into validating his feelings and the best way a young child knows how to express them, instead of assuming he is tying to pretend a feeling in order to get effect or attention. Just allow him to feel how he feels and express it and try to love, be present, and comfort him the best you can.

Believe me, he gets attention. I am a SAHM right now, he is with me for the most part. It just baffles me, why, in spite of all the love, care and attention I give him, he still behaves like this. Take today's episode for instance, there was nothing that should cause him to be upset. If there is a genuine reason, I will and do address it.
 

 

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#6 of 18 Old 06-14-2011, 11:07 PM
 
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If I enjoyed something, and I kinda suspected my four year old would dawdle (plus I walk fast) I would toss her little complaining self in a wagon and pull her along with us.  "Enjoy it, or not, it's your choice, but sit here and suffer in silence".  She heard "suffer in silence" a lot as a kid.... she was/is just THAT person.  Always dragging her feet, always tired, always hot.  So, if I wanted to get some exercise I had to pull her along.

 

She also ALWAYS wanted a friend along.  Nothing was ever fun unless she could bring someone.. which gets tiring for me. So, we invited someone about half the time.  She loved any event if she had someone to play with.

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#7 of 18 Old 06-15-2011, 09:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snapdragon View Post

If he is doing something to seek attention, then he needs attention, so give him attanetion! Don't ignore it, he is so young. It sounds to me like you think he is trying to manipulate you, rather than just seeing him as a child expressing genuine needs, such as needing attention. Also you say he cried just for effect- there is that same feeling I get again. He cried because he was upset- so I think you could look into validating his feelings and the best way a young child knows how to express them, instead of assuming he is tying to pretend a feeling in order to get effect or attention. Just allow him to feel how he feels and express it and try to love, be present, and comfort him the best you can.



I don't think anyone was suggesting that they ignore THE CHILD. You can give a child attention without feeding into the negative behavior.

 

Also, if you read the OP again, you can plainly see that the child was getting plenty of attention.

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#8 of 18 Old 06-15-2011, 01:47 PM
 
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I would have rented one of those strollers at the start of the zoo and strolled him around while DH and I had fun, or popped him on my shoulders and walked around the zoo.

 

I wouldn't have threatened to leave because I like zoos...nicely kept ones anyway.  Especially after shelling out thirty dollars...was that per person or as a group?  either way...I'd say "Sorry pal, you had your chance to protest before we got here...now we are going to stay until mommy is ready to go home."  and  then because I am a sarcastically cruel mom i'd probably add that if he kept up the whining we'd be moving here forever.

 

That being said I rarely take DS to the big zoos anymore because they require a LOT of walking, more than he is capable of, and he is too big for DH or I to stroll around or carry.  We sometimes visit the city zoos that are smaller, like the Central Park Zoo, But they are not as nice, really.


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#9 of 18 Old 06-15-2011, 01:52 PM
 
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another thought...you could also hand him the map and let him plan the route...we used to live near a really amazing zoo/park that had a children's zo with a playground and DS invented a route that passed by the playground and petting zoo 2-4 X and the ice cream/snack bar 2-3x and it became the tradition that he got to be navigator, telling us where to go and which way to turn, and what was next...it made him less whiny.


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#10 of 18 Old 06-15-2011, 01:58 PM
 
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Believe me, he gets attention. I am a SAHM right now, he is with me for the most part. It just baffles me, why, in spite of all the love, care and attention I give him, he still behaves like this. Take today's episode for instance, there was nothing that should cause him to be upset. If there is a genuine reason, I will and do address it.
 

 


His issue is he is 4.  being 4 is a weird transition from toddlerhood to childhood and it means lots of snark and eye rolling and general growing pains and then just when they are kicking you in the guts for treating them like a little kid they want to have you dress them and brush their teeth for them again...it's weird.

 

I would say, try not to take it personally.  It's not an attack on you, he's not trying to manipulate you or ruin your day on purpose, he's just trying to be his own person and establish his own personhood.  Helping DS feel like a more valuable (as in contribution to the family not inherent worth) member of the family has helped us a LOT.  Since we started giving him jobs to do (weed the garden, rake the leaves, help with dinner, navigate a family outing, etc) it has really improved his attitude and self-esteem.  It might not work for every kid, but we found at that it really improved thing for us.


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#11 of 18 Old 06-15-2011, 02:29 PM
 
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thanks for clarifying that- I will keep my opinions to myself next time, sigh :(

 

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I don't think anyone was suggesting that they ignore THE CHILD. You can give a child attention without feeding into the negative behavior.

 

Also, if you read the OP again, you can plainly see that the child was getting plenty of attention.



 

 

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#12 of 18 Old 06-15-2011, 02:57 PM
 
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His issue is he is 4.  being 4 is a weird transition from toddlerhood to childhood and it means lots of snark and eye rolling and general growing pains and then just when they are kicking you in the guts for treating them like a little kid they want to have you dress them and brush their teeth for them again...it's weird.

 

I would say, try not to take it personally.  It's not an attack on you, he's not trying to manipulate you or ruin your day on purpose, he's just trying to be his own person and establish his own personhood.  Helping DS feel like a more valuable (as in contribution to the family not inherent worth) member of the family has helped us a LOT.  Since we started giving him jobs to do (weed the garden, rake the leaves, help with dinner, navigate a family outing, etc) it has really improved his attitude and self-esteem.  It might not work for every kid, but we found at that it really improved thing for us.




Yes, this totally.  My daughter is 4, same thing. It's just being 4. She gets small chores like sweeping and dusting and putting away her clothes. The snark and eye rolling and attitude grate on my nerves. But it is what it is and we just move on.

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#13 of 18 Old 06-15-2011, 10:06 PM
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thanks for clarifying that- I will keep my opinions to myself next time, sigh :(


Oh, please with the melodrama.

 

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#14 of 18 Old 06-16-2011, 08:09 AM
 
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--

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#15 of 18 Old 06-16-2011, 06:36 PM
 
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I'm on team "Some 4 year olds are just like that a lot of the time; try not to take it personally or blame him or blame your parenting."

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#16 of 18 Old 06-16-2011, 08:23 PM
 
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Sometimes kids are like that, it seems to happen a lot for us when I have paid a lot of money and really don't want that money to go to waste.  I suggest looking into how much it would be for a zoo pass first of all so you can enjoy the zoo in a laid back way at his pace and see if that helps.  Some passes are very reasonable even though you wouldn't think they would be.  Our zoo charges $70 for a twelve month membership and you can use it at a lot of other zoos around the country (plus it is tax deductible). Having a pass and only going places where you can be truly laid back really helps because you don't start off with a lot invested in the trip and it shows in your posture and tone even if you don't think it does. 

 

If it is something you just have to pay for then splurging a little more for the wagon, quietly slow down with a dawdler so they don't feel rushed to transition to zoo mode, a treat to keep them quiet while they chew, a small toy to carry around with them, a game of pretending to put the animals in a backpack to bring home, or finding a play place sometimes helps a lot.  Sometimes at that age I would sit down or get on level with my dd and tell her that we were staying and that she could choose to have a good time or a bad time but we were not leaving.  I would then continue on and focus on myself having fun. 

 

 

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#17 of 18 Old 06-17-2011, 08:34 AM
 
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Perhaps tell him if he ever wants to go somewhere fun again, he is not allowed to act that way or you will leave for sure? I don't have a 4 yr old so I can really atest to the behavior...yet...but maybe you make it really clear that its up to him if you go or not, and that if he chooses to go he cannot act that way, that you want to have fun WITH him, and do it all beforehand a couple times so that he hears it more than once. that way if he does it again, you can be all "i told you this and this....so now we have to leave" i'm sure after a couple times of that he'll realize the fun is up to him and to behave...right?

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#18 of 18 Old 06-17-2011, 01:54 PM
 
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I think that he's telling you to pick fun activities that are closer to home AND that don't stress YOU out (you're going to be put out and whiny yourself if it's not the funnest day ever because you dropped a lot of cash for it--and believe me, I have MORE than been there).

 

You seem to imply that this kind of behavior happens at other times than a high stimulation, high stress (good stress though it might seem) environment.  If this just seems part of his personality, then you're going to have to get control of your own impulses and anger and angst first, so that you can help me learn some social rules about when and where and how to complain.

 

My most difficult to discipline child also happens to have for lack of a better term a natural "eeyore" personality.  If she'd decided that going to the zoo that day was going to be an irritation to her, then even renting a stroller, having a cooler full of her favorite foods, and the promise of a big purchase at the gift shop wouldn't hold in the whining, the fussing, the dawdling, the snark, the pouts, ect.

 

What I learned to do that helped BOTH of us not totally lose control and damage our relationship was to cheerfully and *non-punitively* say, "You know, I thought today was a good day to come to the zoo--but you know what, I'm not having fun either.  Oh well.  Let's get out of here and go get some ice cream/hang out at the park/go home and make a picnic instead.  It's okay to not feel like going out sometimes, I don't either."  The first couple of times I had to do something like that, it escalated the behavior until we got into the car, because to be honest it had been a huge all day power struggle outing at that point.  I learned how to deal with my anger/angst at losing out on $$.

 

As much as it sucked for everyone, until DD had gotten better at expressing her needs without being hurtful, we didn't go on big trips or places that *I* couldn't handle turning around and walking out of if that's what was needed.  Now she's honest if she feels like she's having an off day, I try to accomodate that if I can, but she also has learned and internalized better how to deal with it even if it doesn't go her way.  That's after lots of work at home and school.  Some kids just have a harder time learning how to do that than others, it can be a really fine line to walk sometimes because you don't want to ever crush the "different drummer", but OTOH not teaching a child (appropriately and gently!  You can't blame the kid if you stuff it until you explode because you can't deal with it anymore) how to handle the out-of-sorts/grumpiness doesn't do them any favors as they get older, I'm sure we all know some really unhappy adults who don't know how to avoid peeing on other people's cornflakes. I think with a young kid, it's NOT about being a brat, it's hard for even adults to learn how to deal.

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