My newly turned seven year old has never been the easiest child, but we could see he was a rational being (for the most part!) and understood boundaries and limits. Now, it's like a switch flipped or something. He is difficult, angry and totally defiant. He thinks the best way to get attention is to annoy someone. He calls me mean and such other names. Flat out refuses to behave. Worse, he has started some hitting at school- and this is known to be a very supportive, gentle school environment. He has never done this even when he was a preschooler! He has no homework, dislikes sports, takes piano lessons once a week which he says he now hates to practice. He used to love playing music on the piano, he is fairly good at it, so it really saddens me to see him giving up on it. So, practically no pressure of any sort. I make sure he eats well, balanced screen time, consistent sleep routine. So, why is he behaving like this? It's taking a toll on me and I cannot understand why he is like this and how to handle this.
I would appreciate some been there, done that advices.
It could be developmental. All kids go through phases like this again and again. Pushing boundaries, checking to see how parents and caregivers will react, etc.
Or it could be that some need he has isn't being fulfilled and he can't tell you that so he is acting up. Check in with his teachers, see if you can id any triggers at home. What about setting up some low key rewards for good behavior too?
normal. normal. normal.
i have talked to teenagers who remember this stage and found it more difficult than when they were teens.
the only explanation i can find (mind you this is my own theory, many dont agree, but i feel i am pretty right about it ) is this is the first teenie weenie beginning signs of puberty. the begining of hormone changes. i have seen far too many 6 and 7 year olds go through this phase. including mine.
here is the key - define boundaries. be empathetic. be compassionate. but yet draw a line. the rule in our house has always been - take it out on mommy but not others. dd went back to hitting, swearing, you name it she did it - but only to me. she would hold herself elsewhere but let it out when she came home.
choose your battles carefully and stick to it.
being the mother of a tween, i have discovered there are huge amounts of normal behaviour that is not talked about. things like depression a year before the real puberty hits - all the crying and bad grades, and the 'tween' 7 year old.
instead of pushing him away or trying to discipline him - increase your cuddle time. increase one on one time. watch diet. follow the golden rule. rest, exercise, hunger. increase protein and some carbs too as they are growing super fast and really need the energy. watch for the sugars. manmade or natural.
be empathetic. reflect his feelings. redefine your no nos if you need to - make sure they are not too strict - and then stick to it.
it was an extremely confusing state for dd. she didnt want me to comfort her and yet she wanted me. she hated me for the moment and then felt terrible for thinking that about me.
the flip side of this is - this is teh end of childhood. once they come out of this stage - oh boy are they so grown up. it was shocking for me. looking back i wish i had known that this was the last of her 'baby' stage. i probably would have hugged her more.
I don't know, meemee. The negative attention seeking has always been present in varying degrees...I wonder if there is some underlying anxiety. I try and stay consistent with the diet, rest and activity routine. As an only, he does not have to share our attention. In fact, last week I spent an entire day filled with his favorite things to do. But, make one demand of him and out comes the negativity and whining. He's very touchy about his feelings and is easily hurt and upset by the slightest thing that someone says or does that he thinks is bad and mean. I wonder how help him develop some resilience and positive thinking. Tried the "tell me atleast three things that made you happy' advice which was met with eye rollage...he dismisses most of my attempts to help.
quirkylane, he is not really motivated with the rewards, but I have not persisted on that front! His school is a small knit community and pretty low key, they don't even have sports. I also cannot pinpoint any one trigger...basically, he has a low frustration point and perhaps some degree of anxiety overall.
what i have seen with my dd is to look at the demands i am making of her. if its a chore = she whines. but if its a responsibility chore then she loves to do it. things like making dinner. doing the laundry. doing part of the grocery shopping my style (compare prices and decide). she was doing all this at 7. the thing is to give him tasks where he feels he is also a contributing member to his family. not just a child cleaning up his mess. if you can find a couple of taks that he can be responsible for - that stretch him beyond what he has done now might inspire him.
this negative thinking and low self esteem - seems to be part of that stage. one thing i noticed with my dd was not to make a big issue out of it. those positive thinking didnt work on her - because they felt false. you have to find an organic way of doing it. sometimes i'd do spontaniously by expressing MY own gratitude. little things like so grateful that the bus came on time, that i am so happy to see all the green. surround him with positive rather than trying to draw that from him. at that age when consciousness develops the kids are very sensitive to their surrounding and can sense falseness a mile away (not all but many do).
i dont think you can stop him from feeling. but if you empathise with him that will be very helpful. dd gets sad from others action or news. sometimes REALLY upset even when it has nothing to do with her. all i do is sit with her and be while she gets those feelings out. the key is getting those feelings OUT!!!! not stopping them - because really you cant.
i recall at that age - being more aware of how i spoke and what i asked. if i told her clear the table - whine. but if i told her that i was really tired and could barely stand up and that i'd really appreciate if she cleared the table - she never whined. i made very clear what was a command and what was a request. the difference is command is not a choice. you DO it. but if i make a request i am open to hearing yes or no. and sometimes i heard no. sometimes that would irk me but i'd hold my tongue. then she'd explain later why she said no - and i'd be so angry at myself that i was so angry at her earlier when she was just having a hard time.
i dont know if i make sense. its a time when they dont want to be seen as children anymore but as contributing members of the family. they dont want to be treated as a child. you have to figure out how to do that - what that means in his language. once you are able to be on teh same page as him, its not that bad.
but while it is bad - hang in there. its not going to be like this all the time. its a phase. and let me tell you its going to get even more negative. but remember the most important point. our kids watch us to take their lead. even as tweens. so be a little more aware and voice your thought process. it will help you son out a lot.
plus its also a lonely stage. i mean yeah parents are there, but they want kids their own age. so maybe get him involved in some extra curricular activities if he isnt already in something - esp. physically. make sure all his needs are met - social, emotional, physical, intellectual. it makes a big difference.
most important take care of yourself. its hard for us to see our kids go thru this. if you are well taken care of it helps with your own frustration.