My son is six, nearly six and a half. He's always been prone to epic meltdowns but five seemed to be a magical balanced age where it just didn't happen as much. I've also gotten really good at prevention; I know his triggers and try to avoid them, including (but not limited to :p ) video games, too much sugar, food dyes, overstimulation, staying up too late, not getting enough sleep. Today was somewhat of an overstim and sugar day. We had a special "mom and J" day before he starts school next week. We were supposed to go swimming but a thunderstorm came up and our babysitting time was running out so, for lack of a better option, I took him to the movies. He loves moves but they do get him a bit wounds up afterwards. And I stopped letting him have candy because that makes him really crazy, but I did get him a box of Annie's Fruit Bunnies to have as a treat during the movie.
OK. So we had this fun day, board games, movie, treats, and then home. At dinner he refused to eat and kept putting his head down on the table. He's been doing this a lot lately and it's starting to feel like manipulation. Here's why: he's always been a restless, fidgety dude, and as a fidgeter myself I understand that. But I expect my kids to stay at the table for at least 15 minutes or so whether they're hungry or not, and we all sit together and eat. Often he'll declare he's not hungry when the real thing is he doesn't feel like sitting at the table, but once he gets there he will eat. Tonight he ate a few bites and then put his head down on the table saying he was sooooo, so tired. OK. But I know from the past few times this has happened that I excuse him from the table and he starts energetically playing somewhere or reading, waits for DD and I to be done, and then is totally fine. It appears to me that he just doesn't want to sit at the dinner table and is putting on a little "tired show" to get himself excused. Tonight I told him that if he was too tired to sit at the dinner table then that tells me he must be very tired indeed, and that it means he needs to go to bed right away. He did so happily, changing into pajamas and reading books in bed. But then he expected to participate in the whole bedtime routine with DD. I told him no, that if he was so tired that he fell asleep at the table that it tells me he's tired enough that he needs to go to bed right away, no stories, lights out. He completely flipped out, saying he's lonely, he wants to be with me, etc. He said a few times, "If you don't let me read stories with you then I'm just going to keep crying forever." He has been saying things like this a lot lately..."If you don't ..., then I will...." He's never really challenged me like this before. Is this a 6yo thing?
He has been crying and/or screaming for the past 45 minutes up there. I went up a few times to check on him, keeping my visits brief, and just repeating what I'd said, that it's my job to keep him safe and healthy, and that if he's tired enough to fall asleep at the dinner table then it means he needs to go to bed right away. I told him that I love him, and that tomorrow is a new day, but that now it's time for sleep. He's still just completely hysterical. I'm at my wits end. I don't want to "give in," and I do feel like I need to break this cycle of manipulation we've gotten into. But I hate for him to be this upset for this long. Ideas?
SAHM to 6.5yo DS and 4yo DD. PCOS with two early m/cs. Married 8 yrs. Certified birth doula, writer, editor.
Some stuff I like:
I only have a 4.5yo and a 2yo, so I'm not sure what's developmentally appropriate for a 6.5yo, but I just wanted to let you know I'm reading and listening.
Hang in there, mama. :0
I guess my loose advice is that there's a deeper problem - wanting, needing, liking the close attention or excitement of the day and disengaging from it has always been hard for my kid. I'll try to point out that I think my dd is asking for something specific when she's behaving a certain way, and I dont understand and just need her to be straight with me. I've found she has a lot of fears or feelings about things she's not certain if it's okay to ask for or how to ask. Maybe something like that fits your case?
if you can take 'the mommy out' and read your post as just another MDCer you will notice its totally a classic example of power play.
he wants autonomy, more independence. again VERY normal for his age.
i would sit back and reevaluate your whole parenting. is your parenting changing as he is growing up. mind you this is not a criticism. this is a gentle reminder. this so far has been the hardest parenting lesson for me to learn.
he wants responsibility. he wants to feel he contributes to part of the family too. not just doing chores. that's kinda boring. clean your room. put your clothes away. no - not that. but even small stuff like - menu planning. asking his suggestion say in handling which order to do your own chores, or something that might be appropriate for him. you will be surprised at the answer and the logic behind it. i would start putting bigger responsibilities on him - that is appropriate for him and your family. dd since young loved responsibilities - but hated chores. and yes there is a difference.
he also has the autonomy to say hey mom i really REALLY dont want to sit at the table today. does he really need to sit at the table every single time? and you have the right to say - ok that's fine. but first i'd like you to sit and eat 10 bites of food (and then haggle the number of bites) as i am concerned about your health, and then you can do what you want - or some such.
dd is nearly 10. nowadays i find if we ever hit against a wall like this - the first place i go is to see if my own parenting is appropriate. around that age my life was --- no you cant do that .... uhm wait a minute.... uhm ok you can but i would like it if you did <this> because i am concerned about <this>. my first reaction was always hey i am the parent and i say so. but then i immediately think - really is that rule THAT Important to me. and if it is then she needs an explanation why that is important to me.