At my wits end about ending things on a good note

(15 Posts)

DS1 is 4. He has many, many lovely qualities - he is funny, kind, generous with his things, and extremely loving. However, I am becoming increasingly frustrated with his behaviour whenever we do 'nice' things.

More often than not, if we go out somewhere (to play with at one of his friends' houses, soft play etc), I can't get him to leave without a massive fuss and/or tears. He doesn't want to go home, which he repeats continually, and things can spiral pretty quickly.

It hasn't always been like this, but it has been going on for almost a year now. It's wearing me down and making me feel like there is no point in bothering because I know what is probably coming sad

This weekend he had to miss 2 birthday parties as he has chickenpox. He was disappointed (obviously), but understood when we explained that it was to stop other children catching his chickenpox. Because it was such a nice day, we decided to try and treat him a bit. We had a picnic in the garden, some games, and tried to give him lots of positive attention. It all ended in tears though, as soon as it was time to start packing things up.

I've tried ignoring the fuss, to the point of having to drag him out from under a table/chair and strapping him kicking and screaming into a car seat. It kept happenening.

I've tried explaining that I/DH will not want to take him places if his behaviour doesn't improve. He appears to take it in in the moment, but a few days later (even with a reminder), the same.

The only minor success I've had is priming him on what I would like while we are on our way out, eg "when it is time to leave, what should you do?", then talking about the 'desired' behaviour. I then follow this with a 10 minute warning (and quick reminder), before a cheery "Right, shoes on!". It has worked sometimes, but it's so bloody hit-and-miss.

I general, he is extremely excitable and is quite hard to wind down - getting his attention is tricky when he is in that state. This probably doesn't help, but the 'leaving' problem is different. It gets to the point where he sometimes just sobs loudly, not listening to anyone.

Anybody have any ideas?

PavlovtheCat Sun 01-Jun-14 22:57:33

shock have you got my DS? I have no great ideas to add, but wanted to say our 4yo is much the same, also like it when it comes to bed time as that is the 'end of whatever he is doing' and he really really doesn't like stopping whatever he is doing, whatever it is. Meltdowns are usual at the moment.

I shall watch this thread for the advice that others give you and sorry I can't be much more helpful than giving a hand to hod, and some earplugs.

Thank you! I have been feeling that my DS is the only one - I never see other DCs acting this way. The odd raging tantrum, yes. Complete meltdowns every time, no.

I'll take the earplugs, and the hand, and feel a bit more normal now I know it's not just me smile

Kleinzeit Sun 01-Jun-14 23:12:25

I think the “not wanting to leave” tantrum is very very normal, especially if he’s tired. Try not to over-stress about everything having to end "nicely", if he had several hours of good fun then even quite a lot of fussing and sobbing doesn’t spoilt it.

What you are doing is right. The priming beforehand, the ten-minute warning, and keeping things cheerful and riding out the storm if there is one, is indeed probably the best way to go. I would just try not to let it bother you when it doesn’t work. Once you’re in the car or safely home, do remember to praise him for getting ready and going to the car so calmly (which may trigger tears in itself if he's really overtired but do it anyway). If there’s anything that he wants enough you could try fixing up a bribe for going straight to the car with no fuss, but he may be too tired and overstimulated for that to work.

Especially if all he’s doing is sobbing. If he’s not kicking out and biting people you really don’t need to worry (just don’t ask me how I know that) grin

PavlovtheCat Sun 01-Jun-14 23:16:34

I have a DD, she is 7 now, and she never acted like this, so it's hugely new to us too, and we have wondered if it was DS, rather than an age thing. Several people have said it is a 'boy' thing, but I don't really like, and don't necessarily agree that there are particular 'boy' behaviours, like we can just put it all down to his 'boyness' I am prepared to be corrected of course!

I find I cajole, persuade, bribe, encourage, give in much more than I ever did with DD. We found the 'rinse and repeat' method worked well to get DD to change behaviours that we did not like, bedtime routines in particular were improved with just being consistent. But it doesn't work with DS! And leaving anywhere makes me, like you, dread taking him places, as the end result is always so stressful. He does an 'angry imp' dance (done it ever since he could stand up in his cot) when he does not get what he wants, in relation to something ending (anything, not just out, but watching a movie before it's finished, playing lego because it's bedtime, turning the tele off/putting down paper and pens because we are going out), and he has been prone to this to some extent from time to time throughout his life, but it has markedly got worse/regular for about 6 months, maybe a little less. The intensity has increased though and I am wondering how much of it is due to tiredness/growing - maybe having mental and physical growing spurts. I wonder also if he is hungry more than we realise as eating often helps the behaviour that can lead to behaviour that you talk about, that wound up state.

But, re going out and about, have not found a solution other than simply 'right, well, I have your shoes in my hands, if you won't put them on, we will go without you'. DH has taken him to the car without his trousers on when he has refused to stop what he is doing and get dressed (or when he has changed his trousers for the umpteenth time as he doesn't like certain waistbands, leg lengths, etc but that's another thread!)

Funnily though, at pre-school he is a gem, lovely behaviour, they laugh when I say he has had a tantrum that morning, they don't believe me! hardly has meltdowns (although when he does it's around not wanting to stop doing something) and has no problems leaving to come him even though he loves it there.

Dragonlette Sun 01-Jun-14 23:18:58

Dd2 does this too sometimes. She's 4 as well.

Sometimes the priming and the warnings work, other times she rolls her eyes and says "I know, I haven't got to tantrum" then does it anyway hmm

I felt like the worst mother in the world last week when I took her to the cinema and she had a huge tantrum in the lobby as we were leaving, I had to chase her round the bloody queue of people waiting for the next film, then hold onto her hand quite forcefully for the 10 minute walk back to where we'd parked the car. She screamed and sobbed the whole time, shouting "OW,OW, OOooow, you're hurting me, my arm, my arm, my arm" while she kicked at me to try and get me to let go. Everyone seemed to be staring, and other small children were watching us go past saying "why is that girl crying so much?". I was MORTIFIED!

strawberryangel Sun 01-Jun-14 23:20:16

Have you tried bribery? I used to meet mine at the bottom of the slide on their last go (after a warning) with a chocolate bar. Or park next to an ice cream van!

I know it isn't an ideal solution, but perhaps it will work for long enough to break the cycle.

PavlovtheCat Sun 01-Jun-14 23:23:04

dragon I take it all back about DD never doing this. You have just reminded me! DD did it, but think she was younger!? Oh I can't remember in supermarkets mostly, less about leaving somewhere though, and more about not wanting to go where we did. I remember well holding her hand and her dragging herself along the floor in sainsburys doing just that 'ow, stop! your hurting! stop hurting me! how!' and DH then just lifting her under his arm with her kicking and screaming 'put me down! you're hurting!' like DH was trying to hurt her or kidnap her, DH was mortified as everyone stared! Those were not that common though.

OP, seems like it might be an age thing?! <crosses fingers>

mawbroon Sun 01-Jun-14 23:23:26

DS1 was a bit like this. He is very sensitive to his emotions (still is at 8yo) and when he was a bit older than 4yo, he managed to explain that saying bye to his friends was very sad and he didn't like it.

We got round this by me explaining that DS1 found saying goodbye very difficult but that he had still had a lovely time, thanks for having us/coming to visit etc (it happened both at ours and when leaving others) and leaving swiftly, usually carrying him and probably his shoes too.

He got over it eventually!

Dragonlette Sun 01-Jun-14 23:32:47

Dd1 never did this, so it's taken me completely by surprise with dd2. One of dd1's friends had a really long phase of having a massive meltdown at the end of every event (coming to play/us going there/meet at park) and I used to wonder what her parents were/weren't doing to provoke such a reaction in her every single time blush

Well, whatever they were doing then, I'm apparently doing now with dd2. I do believe it's just a personality and age thing, and it's purely the luck of the draw as to whether you get a child who tantrums or one who calmly accepts everything that needs to happen. I was lucky with dd1, not quite so lucky with dd2 (she doesn't sleep well either sad)

Kleinzeit - you are right, of course. He hasn't spoilt the whole day - that has just been my perception. That also means that when we each remember the day, we probably have very different recollections. I'm focused on the tears at the end, but for him he probably just remembers that he saw friends or had fun playing.

He isn't biting, and it's extremely rare that he gives a frustrated kick at something or (even rarer) someone. That is something to be grateful for smile

I do think some of it is tiredness and overstimulation, but I can't see any way around it. I try hard to give him time to rest, and sometimes nap if he seems to need it, but he plays HARD, and seems constantly on the brink. Maybe I need to try finishing things even earlier? I probably dread the meltdown, so put it off a bit.

Pavlov it's interesting that you say your DS is happy to come home from pre-school. Mine too. He loves it, it is really fun for children as it is on a farm and has lots of outdoor activities. DS is very confident and happy being places without DH or I, yet it is probably the only place I can take him home from without a fuss. I have taken him to a couple of children's screenings at the cinema too, and he left without fussing, but the film had very obviously ended. (I also hope it is an age thing)

I did laugh at your 'angry imp' description - there our DSs differ. My DS has a 'happy imp' dance, when he is very excited. When angry he just goes from quiet to screaming rage.

strawberryangel I am absolutely not against bribery. When it comes to stopping what we are doing though, nothing is more attractive to him than what we are doing. He doesn't care what else is on offer, even though it should logically be more attractive.

Dragonlette We can't both be the worst mothers in the world! It is mortifying though. I never let him see that I'm embarrassed, but sometimes I wish the earth would open and swallow me.

It has been going on for nearly a year, I think, but it just seems to be getting worse. And what makes me even more frustrated is that in all the time that this has been going on, I have never once given in and let him have his way. But yet he continues. Please let it be an age thing.

Coughle Mon 02-Jun-14 00:03:29

We've been having similar for a couple years now, not just over goodbyes but any sorts of transitions.

Here are a few things that work well for us:

Focus on the new activity, not the "leaving"... So reframe the " warning" as a fun reminder: "Guess what, after we finish eating we're going to get in the car and play a game/watch a movie on mums smartphone/eat something yummy"

If the new activity is not fun then MAKE it fun! Cheap little toy, silly singing and dancing, etc.

LOTS of support and validation for his emotions. "Wow, you're crying really loudly. You must be so sad about leaving. It's okay to be sad. You can cry as much as you want."

Lots of praise. "You really don't want to leave but you're still doing it. Good for you. It's not easy to say goodbye, well done you."

Be silly and exaggerate. "You don't want to leave. You wish we could stay here all night. Where would we sleep? Do you think we would get cold? Ooh that sounds fun! I wish we could stay here forever!" (While strapping him into his carseat)

mawbroon - that made me remember, DS has said that he is sad to leave places. He does use quite emotional language to describe things in general, but I hadn't really considered that he was feeling genuine sadness, as opposed to disappointment. Thrilled to hear he got over it though smile

LongDivision Mon 02-Jun-14 12:24:42

what helps for us (although DS is much younger) is:
-waving and expressing a proper goodbye to toys, objects, the building, etc.
-while leaving, a very detailed reiteration of all of the lovely things he just did - "that was a fun bath, wasn't it? you played with the boat and made it go up and down on the waves, and then you blah blah blah". Somehow putting it into a past narrative allows him to access it and continue enjoying it just enough to get him out of there.

mandbaby Mon 02-Jun-14 14:44:48

My 4YO DS is just like this too! The only time in recent memory that I recall him NOT behaving like this was when I took him and his brother to the park a couple of weeks ago. (Normally, outings to the park are done along with Dad too, but it was a nice sunny day and Dad was at work so we had a picnic in the park and played afterwards - just the 3 of us).

After about 30 minutes playing, I told them that in 15 minutes we'd be going home. Then 5 minutes later told them we'd be going in 10 minutes. I gave them a 5 minute warning, and when it was time to leave, they both happily left.

Whether or not they complied because of the countdown warnings or because Dad wasn't around (they can sometimes play up more for Dad) I'm not sure.

Have you tried this technique? I'm trying now to do it with everything we do so nothing comes as a shock and they have time to get used to the idea. ("In 20 minutes, we're going to pack away our toys and have a bath", etc). Might be worth a try?

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