5yo son: Am I too harsh? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 01-06-2013, 09:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello, I am back after the crazy long Winter break. So, hello to all and I hope your New Year is off to a rockin' start. :) We're all finally healthy and the house is {relatively} clean, so woo hoo. Anyway, in the new year and gradually through the end of 2012, I have been wondering if I am too hard on my 5-1/2yo son. Because this is such a broad topic, I would like to pick 3 scenarios in which my instinct naturally tells me "sure..." but, this little voice says, "ehhhh...?"


1. When my son wets the bed occasionally, I gently remind him that he should go to the bathroom and pee before bed, and then quickly move on to, "Let's get you some clean clothes! What are we going to to today...?" Etc. Yesterday, though, he woke up, turned on his bedroom light (I heard all this action from my bed - it was early), shuffled around for a bit, went into the living room and turned on cartoons. At this point I got up to say goodmorning and to get our day going. I asked him what did he have planned so early in the morning and he matter of factly told me that he had peed in the bed, so he got up and changed his clothes. Later on in the day, when it was time for us to start winding down, I gently asked him to please go take the dirty sheets off his bed (I forgot all about it!! :\) and put them in the dirty clothes basket, so that I could put baking soda on the mattress and add new linens. He did it with no backtalk and didin't seem to mind. Is this shaming?


2. Spills drive me crazy. I can't get control of how much they absolutely light me up, because they're mostly due to lack of care, which is a very important quality to develop in a child - being conscious and careful. I get mad at ME when I spill. It's a thing. I also make him clean up those spills. Is this too harsh?


3. If I don't feel like reading him a story some nights because I am too tired, or if we have completely no turning back badly have overshot bedtime, I'll tell my son that we will have story time the next night. If he begs and pleads, I say "Good night, I love you," and close the door. Does this feel bad to a 5-1/2yo?


Thank you for your personal stories, condolences and warm wishes!


Autumn M

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#2 of 15 Old 01-06-2013, 11:49 PM
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Hey Autumn! Here is what I think based off of the examples you've given. 


1. No, I don't think this is too harsh. I actually would be more insistent that he use the restroom before bed and I would limit fluid intake about 1 1/2 before bedtime. I would very gently explain that while accidents happen and is nothing to be embarrassed about, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to try to prevent it from happening. 


2. I hear you on spills!! They drive me crazy too! So much so that my 5 and 8 year old only drink from cups with lids. Without fail every time I give them a cup without a lid it gets spilled. Maybe by the time they go to college they will have regular cups. lol. I don't think making him clean up the messes he makes is too harsh. Just don't scream at him about it, ykwim? 


3.This pulls on my heartstrings and I would say is where you should make the most change. Sometimes we run late, its a fact of life. But at the same time if we are running late we don't get to not shower or brush teeth. I feel like if its part of the routine, then just do it. The extra 10 minutes isn't going to make much of a difference to you, but to him it will. Some kids need that connection before bed. I have had to lay down the law before when my girls were just being silly and wouldn't settle, but not because I was too tired. Maybe you could have stories you read when you have plenty of time then shorter ones for when your running over time. 

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#3 of 15 Old 01-07-2013, 03:17 AM
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I''d be OK with 1 & 2 providing it's not done in a shaming way, which it doesn't sound like form your description. Here it's just a matter of fact, this got spilled and needs wiping up and helping them if they need it. If DS has an accident I expect him to put the wet stuff in the bucket and ask for help if he needs it.


Bedtime stories are so much part of our routine that it would be difficult for DS to go to bed without it. It's much easier for me to read a short one and have him go down easily than it is to try and save 5 minutes by skipping a step. That said we think he's on the autism spectrum and changes in routine are pretty hard for him to handle.


The compromise for us is that we'll read a short story, or I'll only read a couple of pages. With DD who's slightly older we have a set time at which we stop reading to her, so she understands if we are running late (usually due to her not getting into PJs very quickly) then she will get less story.

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#4 of 15 Old 01-07-2013, 04:52 AM
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1 and 2 seem fine to me, but I don't feel so good about #3. Reading a bedtime story is a loving ritual, and those are very important to children. I read the story no matter how tired I am, but I do expect kids to clean up their own spills, just as I clean up my own spills. Though I will help, and they help me with my spills. I guess spills are just a problem to be solved. "Oh no, a spill. Let's take care of it." We don't have bedwetting issues anymore but the one who did wet the bed when she was old enough to take care of the sheets did without me asking.
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#5 of 15 Old 01-07-2013, 06:20 AM
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Protein as the last thing eaten before bed may help with the bedwetting. In my experience, a drop in bloodsugar can make it difficult to hold pee
Protein helps to stabilize blood sugar.
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#6 of 15 Old 01-07-2013, 06:51 AM
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My thoughts for you:


1. My oldest dd still sometimes wet at 5 1/2 - I would expect her to help with some of the clean-up and cleaning herself up.  I never found it shaming of her (and don't think she did either) - it was all more in a matter-of-fact "this is what we have to do when this happens" tone.  Sometimes she'd start cleaning stuff up without me, on her own, as she knew what needed to get done.  It sound like you're handling it in a similar way, IMO.


2. I expect my kids to help me clean up spills too, I don't think that's a problem.  Sometimes if I realize I've gotten too worked up about it (yelled a bit, or something), I do make the point of apologizing for losing my cool and explain how I was just so disappointed to have to stop everything and clean such and such up at that moment.  


3. We don't actually close the doors at bedtime, so to me and my kids this would feel really bad - if it's your regular thing to do at bedtime it may be less jarring for your kiddo than it feels for me, though.  But what I do in this circumstance (when I'm too tired to do a story at the moment) is I'll let kiddo know I need to go check the dishes or do something else and I'll often turn on a music or story CD for them to listen to instead, if they like.  Along with a regular bedtime hug & kiss.  There are times I've come back to do a short story when it did seem really important to them and I changed my mind about it.  

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#7 of 15 Old 01-07-2013, 08:13 AM
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I'll back everyone else up and say maybe there's some short connection/relaxation thing you could do in the bedtime circumstances.  Like reading a really short story or putting on a special CD. 


What caught my attention though was the second example about spills.  I think making your kid clean up spills is totally normal.  We do it in a matter of fact way also, and we help each other clean up sometimes.  It's not a punishment to clean up when you made a mess.  But I got the sense that maybe you express a lot of anger when something is spilled?...  Accidents happen.  I get mad about wasting a drink I've just poured, or having to clean up a mess, or carelessness.  So I understand that. But I also know that I would feel really bad if someone got angry at me for an honest mistake. I think teaching mindfulness can prevent some accidents from happening.  But I don't think that once a spill happens, it's a good time to rant about mindfulness or anything like that.


Mindfulness isn't something I'm really good at, but I think for me it's about slowing down and taking extra time to do something right the first time, even when I don't want to or it doesn't seem important.  It's not because I don't care, it's just a personal battle about priorities and looking at the big picture.  Maybe for some people it's just hard to learn? (Open to advice here, for me or my kids!  LOL)


OP, it seems like your first two examples are just about having your kid take responsibility.  The last one is more about time and priorities.  You might find that you tweak what you do a bit based on some advice here, but overall you sound like a really caring parent! 

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#8 of 15 Old 01-07-2013, 09:26 AM
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I think you are fine. I dont think that is harsh or shaming in anyway. RE: the story thing, I have a super short story that I will read on nights that I am too tired to put my heart into it. Also sometimes I let my DD look at books at bedtime. If she tells me she cant sleep, or I just dont want to read, she can read. She has a little lamp and she can shut it off and put herself to bed when she is done. She doesnt abuse this privalege, and is usually asleep in 30 min. 

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#9 of 15 Old 01-07-2013, 11:20 AM
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I don't think any of it sounds too harsh.
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#10 of 15 Old 01-07-2013, 11:53 AM
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I don't think it sounds too harsh, but I would try to have a few really short books on hand for those nights you just have no more energy. 

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#11 of 15 Old 01-08-2013, 06:52 AM
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Ok, my thing about spills: everyone makes mistakes. If we react with hostility or anger when children make mistakes then they learn that making mistakes is bad and often by extension that they are bad for making mistakes. I think that mistakes are how we learn the most. The fastest way to learn about something is to go make as many mistakes as possible as fast as possible.


To that effect I started handing my kids shot glasses of water at 6 months old and by three years old they spill less often with cups than the average adult. When they spill I smile and say, "Oops! Time to clean up!" By two my kids know how to run to the linen closet for a towel and they clean most of their messes alone by three. My four year old is quite competent at sweeping up her own dry spills in addition to wet stuff. It's great.


When I over react to things like spills or having to clean up the bed again or stuff like that it is because I feel over loaded with work and suddenly having new surprise work dropped on me causes me to have a panic attack and completely freak out. I'm not rational. So I have practiced in front of a mirror how to say, "Oops! Time to clean up!" without emotion. It's really hard to not over react. I'm rather hysterical by nature. Ha.


I want my kids to be fully capable of cleaning up after themselves so that even if they do something that freaks me out I know that it's not really my problem and I can stand there and work on breathing deeply and soon it will be over and it'll be all good. And the double bonus is my kids don't cower from me AND they are good at cleaning up after themselves. Woo!


Bed time: I am not as ritual focused as a lot of people. I read to my kids a lot during the day--often for up to two hours. If by bed time I don't want to read any more I don't think I should be required to do it. But we tend to have a grown up stay in the kid room with them until they are asleep. So I don't feel bad about saying, "I'm not up for reading, but come here and cuddle me." No one gets mad at me. :)

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#12 of 15 Old 01-08-2013, 06:53 AM
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I would listen to that little voice. Whether or not these things would be too harsh for someone else's kid, it sounds like that voice is telling you maybe it's a bit harsh for your kid. Some kids are more sensitive about certain things and if you are in tune with it you can respond appropriately.

That being said...

I don't think it's unreasonable to ask your child to clean up after his accidents, and it sounds like you are doing it in a very gentle way. I'd consider taking a more proactive approach, perhaps make potty time a part of your bedtime routine so he goes every night. Also, if you are always tell him he should pee before bed so he doesn't have accidents, what happens if he has already used the potty but needs to go again in the middle of the night anyway? Kids can't always go through the night without peeing. Does he know what to do if he has to pee in the middle of the night? Can he go on his own? Some kids would be scared to go by themselves in the middle of the night, so you might suggest that he wake you up, or put a little portable potty in his room right by his bed.

Same with spills, there's nothing wrong with asking him to clean up, but I will admit that one of your statements really concerned me:
Originally Posted by Autumn M View Post

I can't get control of how much they absolutely light me up, because they're mostly due to lack of care, which is a very important quality to develop in a child - being conscious and careful. I get mad at ME when I spill. It's a thing.

Spills are not due to lack of care. Spills are accidents. Many kids don't have the ability to foresee how their actions could cause a spill (i.e. they don't realize if they keep the cup too close to the edge it could spill), but IMO this is a developmentally-appropriate lack of foresight, NOT a lack of care. My first thought when I read this was that I wondered if you were often yelled at for spills when you were a child yourself. It seems like you have internalized a really negative attitude about accidents. This is what happened to me & I have to constantly fight myself to not react when DS spills something. It's easier with him but I get furious with myself when I spill something. DH is always like, Hey, it's not a big deal, just a spill, and he helps me clean it up, and I've started to internalize his reaction instead. And because of that, I realized that's the attitude I want DS to internalize as well.... So I try to react as calmly & compassionately as possible, and help him clean up.

If story time is part of the bedtime routine, I'd do it every night. It probably does feel bad to him to have you just close the door, and the unpredictability (will I get a story tonight?) might be unsettling to him. Maybe a compromise would be to dig up some board books so you have some very short options for the nights when you can't do a long one. Or you could get some audiobooks... preferably cuddle up & listen with him while the story is being read, but he could even listen independently if that's not an option. But, I don't read DS a story before bed... because any kind of bedtime routine strangely seems to lead to utter disaster for us. So if this is often a problem then maybe let DS know you won't be doing bedtime stories anymore but that you will start doing wake-up stories or after-dinner stories or something -- don't stop reading, just move it to a point of the day where you may be able to follow through more consistently.

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#13 of 15 Old 01-08-2013, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy View Post

I would listen to that little voice. Whether or not these things would be too harsh for someone else's kid, it sounds like that voice is telling you maybe it's a bit harsh for your kid. Some kids are more sensitive about certain things and if you are in tune with it you can respond appropriately.

Yes. It doesn't matter if everyone in the world thinks it isn't too harsh if your ds is sensitive and feels that it is. You have to judge by his reactions not anything else. 


ITA with others advice about having short book options, always read but read something shorter if you are tired. My 11 yo still gets grumpy/unsettled/hurt/disappointed if I don't want to read before bed. It's our thing and he likes being read to and snuggling before falling asleep. It isn't fair for me to not pay attention to how late it is getting and to declare that I'm going to skip it without warning him. If he wants to stay up later than me, then he is making an informed choice.


With spills, I always helped clean up. I figured that I would want him to help others rather than have the attitude "You made the mess, you clean it up." So I modeled that we help each other. I help him more than he helps me but I see that he helps others and cleans up his own messes more than I see other kids do when he is in a group and it isn't just our mother/son dynamic.

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#14 of 15 Old 01-08-2013, 09:09 PM
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#1 - sounds fine


#2 - I can't tell, but it sounds harsh.  If spills bug you that much, you probably mutter or make some sort of exasperated sound when they do it (or yell or whatever).  That is shaming.  Letting them clean their own mess is not shaming at all.  A shaming/angry/whatever attitude about a spill IS shaming.


#3 - unless it is for silly misbehavior on your child's part (and even then, only in dire circumstances), I think you should rethink how you handle this and do a short (2-5 minute) story.  Perhaps just a re-telling of the day or something, but losing the bedtime story is hard for a kid.

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#15 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 09:40 PM
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#1 sounds fine, just make sure it's done in a "let's get you cleaned up" kind of voice.


#2 is fine, IF you present it as "oops, let's get that cleaned up." By age 5, my kids knew how to find the towels and wipe up a spill. They'd do so cheerfully. Why? Because I was very very careful not to overreact. Spills drove my dad crazy and I remember spills at the dinner table being a big.huge.deal with lots of huffing and sighing. Remember, your kids are still developing their motor skills. They're growing. That means their  hand eye coordination is off. It's an accident 9 times out of 10.


If they really drive you nuts, then either limit where they can have open cups or close the cups.


#3 We always do a bedtime story. Even if it's just 2 minutes. The one exception was New Years Eve when my 8 and 11 year old stayed up until 1 am.  It's a HUGE letdown for them, even at these "old" ages not to get the story. Maybe you can have a dedicated "2 minute" story -- maybe a book from his babyhood.


I'm finding, running through your thread, that you might be expecting too much of your 5 year old. It's great to have standards. It's great to teach him to clean up. But remember he's FIVE.

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