Sensitive, emotional, passive-aggressive 4-year-old
I hope someone here can give me some advice or share an experience that will help me deal with my difficult 4-year-old DS. His temperament is cautious, slow to warm up, fearful of rejection, and very sensitive. I understand this because I'm the same way, and so are both my parents. The big problem with this kind of temperament is the fear of rejection and of getting in trouble leads to passive-aggressiveness and emotional manipulation. It's not on purpose; it's just a way of protecting yourself from emotional injury. I finally figured that out about myself, and it's STILL hard to figure out ways to manage my stress and handle issues without resorting to passive-aggressiveness (my default).
As an example, DS will say "I can't have a cookie" instead of asking if he can have a cookie. That way, if I say "no", he's already prepared to handle the disappointment. But even so, he will often break down in tears and tantrums if I say "no" to something he really wants, like TV time or pushing him on the swing. (Sometimes I just have things to do!)
My current conundrum is about school. He loves preschool, but of course he's nervous about it too. The big problem is that while he clings and cries and says he wants to go home, he actually enjoys himself while he's there. I have tried staying with him to ease him into the day, but that just makes it worse. If I basically drop him off and run out the door, I can literally look in the windows and see him almost immediately go from tearful to happy and engaged. Then when I pick him up he is invariably enthusiastic about all the things he's done that day and can't wait to tell me.
The big problem for me is I know there are real emotions involved. He IS scared, and he does want me there, but OTOH, there is emotional manipulation involved. Again, it's not on purpose; it's just the way he knows how to be. There are signs - he will be tearful but then look my way to make sure I'm seeing him, then he might smile a little and go back to the tearful thing (he could honestly be a fantastic actor - he can be very convincing). I need to learn how to deal with this and teach him other ways to handle his feelings and deal with his fears. I honestly just don't know what I should be doing. I was just like him, EXCEPT I was also a stoic and had an adventurous streak, so I was eager to do things even if they really scared me, and I refused to let people see that I was scared. He doesn't have that inclination.
So I'd love to hear your story if you have had a similar experience with a child. Please?