Helping Kids Learn Personal Space/ Boundaries - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 01:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We have a nearly 5 year old son who is exuberant and wonderfully affectionate/active.  On the other hand, his actions can often become dangerous and seemingly violent to those around him.  From what I see, it seems to be the age-appropriate stage of testing boundaries, learning to connect with others, and generally figuring out where one's space ends and another's begins.    He doesn't intentionally do things to hurt others (usually), but so often forgets to be mindful of those who may be in his path.  He has a little sister, so I really worry at times about letting them play alone long enough to, say, take a shower.  :)  He is also roughly the size of your average 6-7 year old- about 50 inches, 50 lbs.  So his wonderful, abundant energy and playful movements cause real pain and damage pretty regularly.

 

He responds very well to books and videos better than to a one-on-one conversation with me or his dad.  We have been reading one of the "Kindergators" books called "Hands Off, Harry", which is somewhat helpful.  I'm looking to explore the topic more with him in the form of books and videos.  Do any of you have recommendations for such resources that you've found helpful?  I don't want to shame him or punish him, but too often I get close out of frustration.

 

Thanks!

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#2 of 9 Old 04-21-2013, 11:40 PM
 
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How does this "exuberance" manifest itself? How does he react when he hurts someone?

 

What are you doing to teach him how to manage his body and movements to he doesn't hurt people?

 

I don't know about books and videos, but maybe you could try things like  "try to behave for an hour as if the other people are made of glass" ? Or "Try to play like your hands and  arms and legs are feathers, and only touch people lightly"?

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#3 of 9 Old 04-22-2013, 12:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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His exuberance is like a junebug stuck in a lantern- just bouncing off everything and flying around (ok, not literally flying, but it's a good impression) so fast and enthusiastically. He is so physical that his shows of affection literally will bowl me over. His favorite hug needs a running start, and kisses could crack a tooth. I am tempted to let negative reactions from others be the natural consequence, but I fear for their safety! He just is completely unaware of his great strength and size (for a nearly 5 year old), that the impulses just take the wheel without thought of others' perception or comfort.

I will try the ages you suggest. I really am unsure of how to keep his focus on such a game for over 5 minutes, but I am certainly no stranger to repetition. So much so, I fear, that he quickly tunes out my voice.
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#4 of 9 Old 04-22-2013, 12:37 PM
 
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Has he had his vision tested? It may be he is having a hard time judging distance because he has something going on with his eyesight.

Personal Space Camp is a book listed as similar to Hands Off Harry. Raising a Thinking child might give you ideas for helping him build the emotional awareness he needs to read his friends body language. Realizing that other people had a different opinion about being touched, especially roughly, had a big effect on my DD at that age. I use the preteen book and love it because the author has concrete examples and an approach that increases awareness for the whole family.
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#5 of 9 Old 04-22-2013, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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When he hurts someone, I think he either doesn't notice it, or internalizes some shame that he won't speak about. I can't see that he really learns from it, though. Depending on his mood he'll either quickly apologize or keep on doing the same thing. I can tell he feels some deep shame when others reject him for some reason. It's like he's an unfortunate combination of highly sensitive and painfully unaware.
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#6 of 9 Old 04-22-2013, 12:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for the suggestions! I haven't tested his vision, but it seems quite keen in my observation. I suspect it is more awareness and focus, but will look I to vision testing to be sure. smile.gif
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#7 of 9 Old 04-23-2013, 10:08 PM
 
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Instead of talking so much (wearing out your voice) maybe you need to do more physical  correction? What I mean is like a yoga teacher or a karate teacher or a ballet teacher.

 

If he almost knocks you over with a hug, state calmly. "I love you, but that was too rough. Let's try it again, gently." Then practice, a couple of times?

 

If he is bouncing around, try placing your hands gently on his shoulders and say something like "Show me how you move calmly". Or model for him how to walk or move through space in a calm and collected manner?

 

Maybe see if there are some ballet or martial arts classes nearby?

 

Also, is he getting enough physical exercise? Sometimes when my DS was young and rambunctious and "bouncing off the walls" I would have him do jumping jacks or sit-ups.

 

Good luck!

 

 

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Originally Posted by Mama Amie View Post

His exuberance is like a junebug stuck in a lantern- just bouncing off everything and flying around (ok, not literally flying, but it's a good impression) so fast and enthusiastically. He is so physical that his shows of affection literally will bowl me over. His favorite hug needs a running start, and kisses could crack a tooth. I am tempted to let negative reactions from others be the natural consequence, but I fear for their safety! He just is completely unaware of his great strength and size (for a nearly 5 year old), that the impulses just take the wheel without thought of others' perception or comfort.

I will try the ages you suggest. I really am unsure of how to keep his focus on such a game for over 5 minutes, but I am certainly no stranger to repetition. So much so, I fear, that he quickly tunes out my voice.
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#8 of 9 Old 04-24-2013, 07:27 AM
 
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Could be sensory-seeking behavior. There are ways to meet that need that might temper his interpersonal behavior. Making a kid sandwich with couch cushions is one that I remember (so that they get the compression/pressure sensation on a large part of their bodies).

 

I noticed this about 5 year olds when mine were that age -- they don't get boundaries and they don't read cues from others and they seem genuinely confused when others react negatively and don't seem to be able to connect it with their own behavior. They haven't developed the empathy to get that others might not like what they like. I feel pretty strongly that adult intervention is important, that it's not okay to leave it up to other, less aggressive kids to do the teaching (though those kids also need help learning to set limits appropriately).

 

My son had a classmate who was still doing the run-and-smash hug to me when he was 10, and his parents still seemed to find it cute and "boyish." Um, no, his face was right at breast level and he was quite capable of knocking me down. Not okay. I'm glad to hear that you are aware and addressing this. In that situation, I found it helpful to anticipate the behavior and demand that he not do it before it happened. I know that flies in the face of making sure kids have lots of chances and aren't accused unjustly (yes, a little sarcasm there), but I think it's important that others have lots of safety and aren't hurt unjustly. After a few repetitions, he would stop himself before getting started (and I know that it was a conscious choice from the look on his face).
 

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#9 of 9 Old 04-24-2013, 10:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you! That feels like some spot-on advice. I need to get less verbal and more constructively physical, for sure. And I love hearing others' perspective of kids with low spatial awareness. Sometimes I do wonder if I am overly sensitive and ask others to state clear boundaries for him do they I annoy just nagging and unfairly prohibiting behavior that might be welcomed. So many parents encourage their children to ignore their own boundaries to avoid making someone else feel bad, but that makes it so much harder for kids like my own to play appropriately and
without my constant correction.

Again, thanks so much for these excellent suggestions!
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