We have three kids - our middle child is a 6 yo boy. Our other kids are 8 and 2. We feel like our 6yo really has a hard time just getting along through the day. He's very negative, and easily frustrated when things aren't going his way.
He's very verbal and expressive, so the problem is that when he gets "down" he brings everyone else down as well. We recently went out as a family to a church function, and he complained so loudly the entire time that he ruined it.
We are struggling to deal with it - we have tried discipline (e.g., "If you do a good job tonight you can have dessert!" or "If you do that again, you are going to time out!"), but that doesn't seem to work with him. These techniques worked well with our 8 yo girl, but not with this one... We've also tried doing more positive things with him like playing games together, etc, but he always ends up frustrated if he's not winning or if he's not doing as well as his older sister.
Based on conversations I've had with other parents, a lot of the things that are going on seem to be normal, but we are really getting worn down by the negativity that comes up. What I am wondering is this: Has anyone else figured out ways to overcome a similar situation? I need something for him that he can do on his own that will satisfy him and help to give him some confidence and self esteem.
The way I feel is that he's got a 10 yo brain in a 6 yo body. He started talking early, and has been reading since he was 4 (maybe even earlier). So, it is a challenge for him to find things that are engaging for him that he can actually do... He's capable of doing fairly complicated things with one of us, and he enjoys it, but it is very difficult to find something that a 6 yo can do that will satisfy him. He loves to do complicated science projects, he likes to play with snap circuits, the perplexus balls, etc. It's just that he needs help doing any of those things because they are a little more complicated to get going.
Thanks in advance - any help is appreciated!
Here are some ideas to sort through that might help:
1. Retribution - if by complaining, whining or other behavior the child has made the family life for everyone not as enjoyable then he needs to do something to "make up for it". Ideas would be to do a chore for a sibling, make a card etc.
2. Chores - I'm not sure why this helps. I think it is because it forces kids to give to the whole family and they feel good about it. (Even though they may complain.)
3. Writing or saying happy thoughts. These can be posted on the wall or fridge.
4. Redirection task. I no longer put my boys in time out for an amount of time. They always have a task to do before they can get up. It has to be something that isn't incredibly hard for them, but does require that they think a little. For example, right now I have been having them count backward from 10 in Spanish. (We don't speak Spanish.) It is easy to count forward, but not backward. They'll master that and then I'll have to change the task. Interesting to note- I thought that making them do tasks in time out would make them hate that task. So far - that hasn't happened at all. Just like making them write hasn't made them hate writing. Go figure.
Oh - and as a reference, I have daughters that are 13 and 9 and sons who are 5 and 3. I mainly use these methods for my sons at this point.
We have a hard time finding engaging activities for our boys that they can actually do pretty independently too. Hopefully someone else will have some thought on that. Some of it is the age, but it isn't all the age. Other kids can do it. Some of it is that they are just thinking about things and interested in things that aren't even on most other kids their age radar yet. I keep hoping that it will help when they can read at about a high 2nd grade/3rd grade level so they can read more interesting books themselves......
For instance, the other night we planned to meet friends at a special event at a location I'd never been to. I knew it would be kid-friendly and that there would be food and activities (and friends!) they'd enjoy. Before we got out of the car, one of the boys was complaining. So I stopped right then and told them clearly that they would enjoy the things we were doing and that, under no circumstances, would complaining be okay with me. I told them they needed to be grateful and appreciative of the opportunity to go do this special thing. Whichever of them was complaining at the time (I do think it was the middle, 7yo, but the 9yo can be like that, too) seemed to snap out of that mood before it quite set in. He realized that there was a LOT to look forward to in the evening, and we all ended up making the best of it.
So... Things that might be useful from that experience:
- Nip it in the bud. Stop and talk as soon as the behavior starts up.
- Focus on the positives. Help him see all the good and exciting things.
- Encourage appreciation and a grateful attitude.
Are there things you can do to lessen his frustration? Ways you can make his days easier? What kind of tasks are challenging for him or create frustration? What kinds of things does he really enjoy doing?
Asynchrony can definitely lead to a lot of frustration, so identifying which things are the biggest issues/stressors for him may help you figure out a good way to lessen the overall frustration.
My boys' biggest outlets for asynchrony are generally reading - whether fiction or non-fiction. It can be harder to find appropriate subject matter that's challenging enough, but we've had great success with some books (like "The Mysterious Benedict Society") that were recommended here in PTGC. Perhaps finding other gifted kids to hang out with would help, too? We met some awesome friends by posting to a local homeschool gifted group. It's amazing how well the kids all hit it off!
I know these ideas are all sort of random, but hopefully something in there will be useful!
HeatherB ~ mama to 3 wonderful boys: 03/02; 09/04; 09/07 - and Eliana, 11/13/10!
Founder of Houston Birth Alternatives: Be Informed, Encouraged, Supported birth support group and aspiring midwife.
My DS can be like that - he's only 4, so this may not work on an older child, but:
We stop it as soon as we see it. Any grumping or complaining and we call him on it instantly. I don't let him stomp off and keep it up by himself either. He has to go somewhere and calm down and come back with a good attitude or I keep him with me until I see him turn it around.
I don't allow talking mean or grumpy. I tell him to say something nice or nothing at all. It helps.
It hasn't all gone away, but by far the biggest help is making him notice he is doing it and expecting him to stop.