I've posted some things before about my son. He is... challenging. Always has been. Very needy, very energetic, demanding. He is an only child and definitely can give the impression of being "spoiled", although he is not. My husband and I have firm rules we try to consistently enforce. However, he is really into challenging them. Our main rules we find that we have to consistently, on a day to day basis, enforce with him are no name calling, no hitting, no yelling inside the house (in general or at the pets), picking up/trying not to make huge messes (as in, please don't throw all the folded laundry on the floor, that kind of thing), and limiting his whining/dramatic groaning. Is this a pretty normal kind of thing for his age? He's actually going to be 5 next month.
He is pretty shy with strangers and doesn't like to really be around/talk to other people but I try and get him to library storytimes, take him shopping, etc so he can at least see normal behavior modeled in front of him. I think he has a lot of anxiety (not sure if that really affects the behavior I am talking about) and has had nightmares for years. I have been considering homeschooling for a long time, part of the reason being I really dread to think how he will "mix" with school--i.e. I feel as though he will be quickly labeled a "troublemaker" and quickly learn to have a bad perception of what school is all about. That is what happened with my husband. He had an extremely troubled childhood/teen years with basically no support in his home life/neglected and was able to eventually succeed in life but carries a load of baggage from it all. We do not want that for him but DH is not a particularly reflective person so he isn't able/interested in trying to apply lessons from his life to aid our son. I feel like DS's attitude often takes after my husband's in that he often looks for/expects the worst to happen, has a hard time dealing with setbacks, etc. I'm really easy going, glass half full kind of person, so I do my best and feel like everything will work out, generally. Which I think will be true for my son... in time he will grow and mature into a reasonable person, but I feel like perhaps I need additional tools/perspectives on how to guide him towards that. Any advice, tips or commiseration?
Having an only child is tough. You're more than just the parent, you're the playmate, a friend, etc. It's a lot of work. Hopefully some other parents with one can chime in for you, since it's been a while since we were a one-kid household.
These are good. I support any rules where the focus is treating other people well. With the no hitting rule, the only exception I would encourage is giving him changes to sword fight and "battle" for fun. Not hit people out of anger, but because it's a game.
This one might not work for a few more years, though it's a nice idea. Yelling and being loud is normal kid behavior, not even really misbehaving. Yelling at the pets (as long as he's not mad about it), is par for the course.
Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
13yo ds 10yo dd 8yo ds and 6yo ds and 1yo ds
Thanks phathui5. It definitely can seem like a lot of work at times. It's hard because as much as I know that playing with other kids would benefit him, he really acts opposed to the idea, says he doesnt like other kids, etc. So... I dunno, I just try and give him a little exposure every week. He actually does well, generally during those times. But then says he hates it, later. He does that with a lot of stuff. We do five him an opportunity to sword battle. We have some of those styrofoam-y type swords that we play with from time to time. I'm glad to see you think that's a good idea. Maybe we'll try to incorporate them more. And I appreciate your comment about yelling in the house. I guess we need to be more relaxed on that one :) Thanks again and any other comments would be appreciated!
This is pretty normal behavior, but this is also the right age to be learning that this behavior bothers other people and needs to be limited for that reason. It is the kind of behavior that kids are able to control starting at 2 or 3 years old, but the ability to keep controlling it all the time, even when stressed, develops very gradually--and I think most of us never get it 100% perfect!
My son has been an only child (that's about to change!) and has been very challenging of our rules a lot of the time. He and his dad particularly get into conflict because dad wants to order him to behave properly without modeling pleasant behavior himself. Although our son challenges me, too, I think the reason he does it less often and I'm able to get him under control more easily is that I focus on hearing his feelings, empathizing without condoning the behavior, and setting a positive example.
Name calling (and similar disrespectful speech) often turns out to be linked to the way we have been speaking to our son without realizing it. He will take the more direct approach of outright calling us "stupid" whereas we may have been rolling our eyes and sighing when he doesn't understand exactly what we mean on the first try. I find that the best approach, when he calls me a name or is speaking as if I'm an idiot, is to act hurt rather than angry. Instead of saying, "No name calling!" I say in a sad voice, "I don't like the way you're talking to me." Very often I will hear, "Well, *I* don't like the way you keep saying, [exaggerated imitation of the tone I used] 'Rinse your dish and put it on the counter,' like I am too dumb to know that and you're really sick of talking to me!!!" It is tempting for me to respond by explaining that I am in fact tired of reminding him what to do after eating and tired of seeing dirty dishes get left on the table if I don't remind him--but we will have a much more successful interaction if my response is, "Oh, I'm sorry that hurt your feelings." and then I get right back to whatever we were talking about right before he called me a name. If he is persistent in speaking in a nasty way about a subject, though, and it's anything like optional (for example, he wants me to play with him, but everything I do is "wrong" and he's using a nasty manner to tell me so), then I tell him, "I don't want to do this. It's not fun for me. I'm going to do the laundry now." or something that I can move on to--it's okay for him to follow me, but it's not okay for him to go on badgering me to return to the previous activity; sometimes I need to give him a time out to make him stop.
With hitting (or more ambiguous grabby rough behavior), "OW!" comes first but should be brief unless you are seriously injured. Then talk about what he was trying to achieve, if you can tell: "You want to turn the TV back on. Hurting me will not make that happen. You have had enough TV for today." or, "You want to see the card from Grandma. Hurting me will not make that happen. When you stop grabbing at it, we can sit down and look at it together." Don't ask why he's hitting unless you truly can't tell why. Try to offer a positive way to achieve his goal--unless he's come up against a limit (you're not going to allow more TV today, etc.) in which case you state the limit firmly and don't negotiate and calmly repeat, "Hurting me will not change it." if necessary.
For yelling, make sure you're not yelling, "STOP YELLING!" I know that sounds silly, but I've heard myself do it, and I hear it a LOT from other adults. If you say anything loud to make sure he hears you, make it, "SHHHH!!!" Then use a quiet voice to say, "Use a quiet voice." If he seems angry about something (rather than just loud), go into acknowledging his feelings and explaining a better way to deal with them, as above. Watch out for raising your voice when you're angry with him; if he tells you to stop yelling, say, "Sorry," and go on in a quieter voice. (I'm embarrassed at how many hours of my child's life I have wasted arguing with him about whether or not I was yelling. It's so tempting! But it accomplishes nothing.) If he's yelling at the pets and this frightens them, point it out: "Fluffy is scared by your loud voice. See how she's huddling down? You are very big to her. Use a gentle voice so she won't be scared."
When he messes up your stuff--like the laundry--stop him as quickly as possible (I usually swoop in and grab the kid with my arms over his and pull him a few feet away, preferably into my lap) and explain: "I folded the laundry because I want it to stay folded and clean. It does not belong on the floor. I'm going to pick up the laundry and put it away now. I'd like you to help." If instead of helping he throws more on the floor: "That is NOT helping. I see that you need to go away from the laundry. Stay in your room for 5 minutes." March him to his room and firmly close the door. (Honestly, this doesn't always work with my son. Sometimes he won't accept that we've put him in time-out and keeps coming out. All I know to do about this is to hold firm about my expectations and to tell him how disappointed I am that he's not cooperating.) If a particular mess-making opportunity persistently attracts him, try to avoid it: Fold and put away the laundry after he's in bed, or whatever.
The mess of his own stuff he's refusing to put away is Problem #1 with my kid recently! We are trying to address it several ways: Choose a specific smallish area that you want cleaned up completely, set a time limit, and set a reward for completion: "Put away everything on that table by 12:00. Then we can go see the Bears movie." Explain clearly and firmly what it means to put things away: "Everything you want to keep needs to go in your room, in your desk corner, or on the art table." Offer help tackling a mess: "You hand me things and tell me where to put them, and when my hands are full I will take the things upstairs." Find a way to work gradually on a big mess: "Okay, you can watch the Easter special ONLY IF you put away at least two things from that pile during every commercial break." Admit that messes are difficult: "Boy, it's hard to put away so much stuff! I wish we had that clean-up machine from The Cat in the Hat!" Stop him from getting out new stuff before the old stuff is put away: "No crafts in the middle of the floor where we have to step over you. Crafts belong on the art table. When you've picked up the pipe cleaners, there will be room on the table to work on your bean picture." When a space finally is cleaned up, make lots of positive comments about how much you like the clean space.
That's possible, but our experience is that our son behaves much better in school than at home. He does not challenge teachers or peers as often or as strenuously as he does his parents. He seems to understand that the school rules are necessary to manage the group. Now, partly this may be a difference between my son's personality and yours--he's always been better behaved in public than in private since he was an infant, and although he can be shy he does like people and enjoys feeling part of a group--and it may be influenced by his having spent many hours a week in a school-like childcare center beginning at age 2. But I hope you won't write off the possibility that school might be helpful to your son's behavioral development.
Also, if you are already having problems managing your son's behavior at home (and it must be wearing on you, dealing with him 24 hours a day) then homeschooling is probably not going to help with that--you'll just continue as you have been, with the added stress of trying to get him to do school things. You may find that working with teachers--who, even if they aren't perfect and even if your son challenges them, will have some new and different approaches--helps to give you some new ideas for working with him and also some time off so that you feel refreshed and ready to try again.
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