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Ver negative and easily upset son!

(83 Posts)
Italiangreyhound Fri 11-Dec-15 00:30:13

Hi all, advice needed, please.

We have some ongoing issues with DS, he is the world's worst moaner!

He is so miserable at times and it is very frustrating. I really think it is going to make life harder for him, and i wish I could help him find his inner optimist! Is that possible?

Italiangreyhound Fri 11-Dec-15 00:37:01

DS (5) joined our family by adoption almost 20 months ago and we have a birth dd who is now 11.

DS had a difficult start to life so it is totally understandable that he is quite 'fragile' and easily upset. In many ways he has made amazing strides. He is able to do so much, more than other kids who are older than him. Which is all fabulous. He has mastered lots of stuff and most of all he is so confident, if there is a magic act or something and they ask for a volunteer he is up there, if a camera comes out he is all smiles.

We accessed support for ds when he first came - our local council were brilliant. DS has bonded very well, and attached well, lots of things happened that have made me feel this is a very genuine attachment both for him and us. He and dd have worked through their 'issues' and are very like most sibs, arguing and fighting then loving each other!

DS does well at school, seems good at reading and making friends. Quite chatty. Lots and lots of pluses. And of course I love him to bits. He is very easy to love but he is also so negative about everything.

I feel it is going to make life so much harder for him. My mum and sister are very negative and I find it quite draining, so having a very negative son is very hard to know how to tackle. DH too tends to be a bit negative with me. Me and DD are quite positive people. The negativity comes in the form of moaning, nothing is ever quite good enough. Well that is not strictly true, sometimes he is over the top happy! But in day to day life he is often not happy, when the TV goes off, if there are masses of choices of food he still is not happy with what is on offer!

DS is getting quite lazy, things like falling over first thing in the morning and claiming he can't get up! I mean he can, but he kind of needs you to hold his hand, but he only does it at certain times (e.g. mornings). Also gets distressed about the 'effort' of eating! EG complaining he can't get a bit of egg on his fork! So I gave him a spoon and put the egg on the spoon and then he dropped it before it reached his mouth! Then he cries! He cries very easily and I worry that this pattern will be established! Yet at school he is fine. Of course I comfort him and encourage him but I need some advice how to help him discover for himself that these every day things are not so bad. he has attached very well in many ways and settled into life so well, he talks so confidently and is quite wise for his years. It is sometimes the little things that seem to flummox him.

I have discoverer (no surprises there) that telling him not to moan doesn't work! I need to tune into what is bothering him on a deeper level.

Any ideas how to help him feel less negative about things?

tldr Fri 11-Dec-15 01:53:44

First thing that springs to mind is that he wants you to do things for him, probably not because he's lazy, more like because he wants babying, or is looking for evidence you care, or something like that.

Instead of encouraging independence it might be worth treating him as younger than his years and seeing how he reacts.

It sounds like he's saving this for you, not doing it generally or at school.

Maryz Fri 11-Dec-15 09:06:06

It sounds tough for you atm.

These are just my general thoughts about this type of behaviour - I think some children are just negative, and some are positive, and the reactions they get can reinforce that behaviour (ie miserable child, everyone rallies around to cheer them up, they subconsciously think "this is a great way to get attention" and so are miserable again. Naturally positive children are positive around people, get attention, and learn to be more positive.

I think troubled adopted children (like children with SN, sometimes) fall into two camps (generally), the ones who are angry, bitter, furious with the world and discover that getting angry and hitting out gets attention. And those who discover they can get attention by being miserable, needy, slightly pathetic (though I don't really like that word) and generally more obviously attention seeking.

Personally, I think the way to deal with them both is to go along with it, NOT to deal with it like a non-adopted or NT child and persuade or punish them out of it, but just carry on with a slightly detached "oh dear" "what a pity" lets just carry on regardless attitude.

What you mustn't do is take it personally, and that's where my "detach" advice comes in for parents. And when I say detach, I don't mean distance yourself or stop loving them, I mean deal with the actions unemotionally and use emotion outside of those scenarios. So lots of love, touching, hugs regardless of their behaviour, but keep yourself emotionally detached from the extreme stuff. Don't blame yourself, feel guilty, second guess yourself. And remember, they may be doing it for attention, but they don't actually know that.

Don't either prioritise or scapegoat the child who is being difficult at the moment - it could be the other child next week and you don't want them competing to see who can be most attention seeking.

Most important of all, look after yourself. If you aren't emotionally, physically and mentally well you are no good to anyone.

combined02 Fri 11-Dec-15 09:37:46

You always seem so positive, I agree! When I read that I immediately thought of this video which helped me to be more patient - my dc aren't negative but do go through phases of needing a lot of input from me or being easily upset or enraged (food falling off the fork rang a bell!) and I agree with tldr that this is what it is about - needing more mummy time. the vid is only 5 mins.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVtUvwW_Uh4

I would love to know how to make negative adults people positive, if you ever find the answer - my personal view is that being positive is a learned behaviour and a choice, so teaching it to children is the right thing to do, but with adults more of an epiphany would be needed of the benefits of changing their mindset to get them to do so.

fasparent Fri 11-Dec-15 12:09:18

Correct if wrong but seem as if he is finding the honeymoon period is over, and is adjusting too normal family life, Have too explore new ways too stimulate his perception's, perhaps with more inclusions , sport, club's , different things, and choices, only way really too find out his talents and real interest, which all could be encouraged and developed.
Is always a difficult time transitions for such children, You will always know your child best and be able too move forward it just take's a little more time than the norm. Sure all will work out well , good luck.

freshoutofluck Fri 11-Dec-15 19:44:12

I've found it incredibly liberating and boosting of my empathy levels (grin) to re-think "attention seeking" behaviour as actually probably "attachment seeking" behaviour. We're none of us equally emotionally balanced and secure every day, or even at different times of day. If it feels like your DS is finding mornings, or mealtimes, or changes, particularly difficult then (as PPs have said) maybe he needs some baby-style nurturing at those times?

Also, don't forget our children can be extremely good at 'reading' other people, and if your DS has spotted that negativity pushes a particular button for you, you can probably expect him to keep pushing it as part of testing out how safe he is. It's still relatively early days, and those early brain patterns that were used to keep DS safe take a loooooong time to change.

Italiangreyhound Fri 11-Dec-15 20:37:09

tldr thanks, re First thing that springs to mind is that he wants you to do things for him, probably not because he's lazy, more like because he wants babying, or is looking for evidence you care, or something like that. I did wonder about that. I do always try and help him when he needs it but I worry he will be a bit babied by it. He is so competent and capable a lot of the time!

It's certainly not that I mind helping but it is is over-blown. He lies on the floor and flounders like a fish out of water. It is almost comical if it were not just as we are getting ready for school.

yes, I can try and do it without moaning and maybe over-do it. He definitely saves for me. At school, although one of the youngest, he is very capable and the teacher praises him to the hilt (it's almost embarrassing) grin but nice! And utterly new after 6 years with my dyslexic dd, who sadly rarely got praised until a while ago!). sad

yes, Mary I can do the * "oh dear" "what a pity" lets just carry on regardless attitude.* Although I never think of DS as a 'troubled' child as he copes so very well with life and never talks about previous things, is not sad when I talk about birth mum and dad, etc. I know he may be troubled but he is very well attached, even the 'professionals' said so! I do hope he is not fooling us all!! I don't think so. But clearly he does need extra support.

Don't blame yourself, feel guilty, second guess yourself. And remember, they may be doing it for attention, but they don't actually know that. GREAT ADVICE. I am way too emotional with the kids, I do need to detach because you are so right it is not personal! I know that in my heart!

Italiangreyhound Fri 11-Dec-15 20:45:30

Thanks combined02 so glad I asked for help! I was trying to use wish it all away and it was not working at all!!!

TELL ME MORE! Wow so simple.

I LOVE this...

"Kids don't need us to fix them or solve their problems - they want us to stay calm and steady as they learn to ride the waves.

Re my personal view is that being positive is a learned behaviour and a choice, so teaching it to children is the right thing to do, but with adults more of an epiphany would be needed of the benefits of changing their mindset to get them to do so.

I learnt young to change from a rather negative, slightly depressed (not clinically but just unhappy/moany) and shy teenager to being the person who gets together with others, organises, looks on the bright side. I have learnt over the past 30 plus years, since my teens, to not do myself down, put myself down or feel less about myself and my circumstances.

I think sometimes tragedy can make people change, or good things, or positive relationships. I am lucky to have two great kids, a job I love (s0me of the time) a cat, a nice home and a car, ...and a great husband but the new me emerged two decades before we married while I was living at my parents house, with very few actual achievements behind me! So it is me who did it! But I also make tons of mistakes!!

fsparent re Correct if wrong but seem as if he is finding the honeymoon period is over I guess it is although really not sure how long the honeymoon is! I think he feels very at home now so maybe that is it.

About a year in he suddenly changed and seemed a bit more naughty, just as dd accepted him more. He always talked about foster carer a lot but after a year stopped and although I suggested seeing her, he is not that bothered. e said "I'm OK with you!"

Thank you for your enthusiasm.

Fresh re to re-think "attention seeking" behaviour as actually probably "attachment seeking" behaviour. I love it. That is such a good idea.

tldr Sat 12-Dec-15 00:28:14

italian, the way I see it is if he wants to be a bit babied and he is a bit babied then he's a bit babied, worst case scenario is he'll seem younger/less advanced than his peers or I'll seem overprotective or like I won't free him from apron strings.

However, if he wants to be a bit babied and he's NOT babied, then the worst case scenarios become much more significant, re attachment etc.

Your DS sounds similar to mine. His current thing is not 'being able' to dress himself. He totally can, he just won't. But my thing is if me dressing him makes him feel happy/secure/loved then why wouldn't I?

tldr Sat 12-Dec-15 00:29:43

I love the 'attachment-seeking' behaviour thing. Will try to keep that in mind. Also that whilst they may be attention seeking, they don't know that. Useful thread, this.

Italiangreyhound Sat 12-Dec-15 01:06:17

Thanks tldr, how old is your son?

I guess my 'why not' is because I always reasoned he should learn himself as he did not 'need' it, e.g. he could do it. But maybe he 'needs' it for other reasons.

I must admit too he makes himself very ... how can I say it nicely... unapproachable... at these times. And in a way I did not want him to keep behaving in a very unpleasant demanding way because as well as me not liking it, I am worried he may use it with friends and spoil friendships! But I must admit me and DH (to a lesser extent) do get this behaviour. I don;t think school gets it.

It is always/almost always around getting up, dressed, eating food, opening drinks and getting undressed. Occasionally putting on shoes and doing up coat etc. It is not around things like teeth cleaning or bottom wiping. It's just interesting what he finds 'difficult'.

I am going to try doing what he wants in a very matter of fact way and modelling positivity!

researchbookworm Sat 12-Dec-15 01:08:25

Hi Italian,

Tbh he sounds v like my bs (who is a year younger) and given that AC can often have a younger emotional age than their actual age I wonder if it is maybe coming out this way for your son? With our son we have found that a reward chart for doing tasks with a good attitude really made a difference. We agreed a list of activities (ie getting dressed, tidying up etc) that he is regularly asked to do anyway, and if he does them in a helpful happy way then he is rewarded with a star. (He isn't expected to get a certain number of stars for each activity, just a running total regardless of the task achieved).

If he has to be chivvied into completing the task then he doesn't get one. He's still expected to do the task (and we always offer help if he is acting as if he can't do it) but he only gets the reward if he has shown a positive attitude and completed what he was asked to do by himself.

We give him a mini prize, i.e. a sweet (v bad practice I know..) after achieving 7 stars, and he gets to choose a toy in a shop after 35 (slightly random numbers but we adapted an existing magnetic star chart to use in our own way and it just made sense to divide it this way).

We look for opportunities to award stars whenever he is being helpful or particularly considerate, and we never say 'if you do x you can have a star' as we want him to learn to improve his attitude in an innate way rather than us nagging him to do it. Also we never remove stars from the chart if his behaviour is poor.

So far it has def made him more inclined to behave positively. He still has the odd lazy/grumpy moments but if we remind him that he is near to a goal on his chart it usually motivates him to improve!

I know that star charts aren't for everyone but you might find that it helps. I think making it about the attitude rather than the action really makes a difference...

tldr Sat 12-Dec-15 01:25:37

He's 4 Italian.

I usually ask him to ask me nicely first. When he does that I will enthusiastically help him.

I've not seen any hint of it elsewhere, it does seem to be saved for us also. I'm hoping that getting him to ask nicely stops it from becoming habit to just whine til he gets what he wants.

Italiangreyhound Sat 12-Dec-15 01:26:49

Thanks researchbookworm we are doing a sticker chart at the moment but it is a bit hap hazard, e.g. we sometimes forget!

They can have one two or three stickers at the end of the day based on behaviour and stick them on their advent calendar.

Once they get about 20 stickers they get to go bowling or to the cinema over Christmas.

We have done this before and it works quite well... when we remember !!! But I do like the idea of him doing things in a cheerful way or at last without constant complaints!

Thanks for the reminder, I must keep remembering it. DS has cocked things up a bit by insisting on his chocolate from advent calendar in the mornings not evenings!!

freshoutofluck Sat 12-Dec-15 20:42:28

I freely confess the "attachment seeking" phrase comes from Amber Elliott's brilliant book. Every page a gem, I know there's at least one other thread on here recommending it too.

I really like the way you describe the deep need for regression and baby-type care tldr - I don't think you can overdo it personally; they won't be asking for it forever, but the chances are they didn't have great baby experiences and if they're reaching out for you to re-do that with them, that's a good and powerful thing. We saw our paediatrician this week and she specifically checked that we WERE building in babying opportunities (for our 5 year old), because she said it's needed. Can my child physically dress themselves? Kind of grin. Do they need me to help them for emotional reasons? Yes, absolutely.

Personally we don't do rewards or charts, because they categorically don't work for us, and they can come awfully close to triggering that sense of unworthiness or impulse towards self-sabotage. It just raises tensions and anxiety in the house, and we have enough of those already! We do bucketloads of emotion-narrating, reflecting, modelling, and we spend a LOT of time on making a big deal out of repairing closeness if something goes wrong - I want LO to know that things can always be restored, and to learn how to restore relationships themselves later on. That game-plan's pay-off is quite a few years decades in the future though!

Italiangreyhound Sun 13-Dec-15 00:14:46

Thanks fresh very good advice.

Sadly, today totally blew it. DS was just really very demanding and it all went horribly wrong at dinner. Oh well, tomorrow is another day!

freshoutofluck Sun 13-Dec-15 11:30:57

Be gentle on yourself. I know it feels rotten when that happens, but it's another opportunity to show your DS that when adults get a bit grumpy, nothing catastrophic happens, the love doesn't end, and you all start again and say sorry. Hope you have an easier day today. (If mealtimes are a trigger - and it sounds like they are - can you keep them as low-effort as possible for all of you? No-one will die from a few days of beans/egg on toast, while you put your energy into keeping everyone looked after emotionally!)

Italiangreyhound Sun 13-Dec-15 14:22:06

Fresh excellent advice about the food. Had eggs for lunch! He is fine today, I am frazzled and he is fine. That is life! Thanks for the help.

TeamAcorn Sun 13-Dec-15 17:00:18

I'm not about to give great advice just knowledge you're not only one. We have similar age, similar time placed and same issue. I too am a positive person and find it hard. I've been much better at home as thought it was the needing babying/attachment type thing so trying to be extra patient and baby away. Not that I'm always patient. Where I'm finding it hardest is on school run. LO's fine during school, in fact fine for everyone but me, but when he gets this way on school runs in front of his friends and other parents who have no idea of his past I'm finding this more than awkward. I've babied him on occasions and I've lost my patience on other occasions (the can't get up or walk while im trying to push a buggy with younger sibling, in pouring rain was a bit much one day) and I can see I'm being judged for both by parents. LO's getting some funny looks from his friends too, One even asked their mum why he was being like that. It's a really tough one with what to do isn't it! I too am worried it will impact on LOs relationships with others.

So I guess I'm saying....I feel your pain!

tldr Sun 13-Dec-15 17:35:49

I hear you acorn. I used to have coming home from school issues with the other one of mine. She seems either to have outgrown it, or has decided she doesn't want to do it in front of peers anymore because it's stopped, but it has made me aware of how other kids/parents are at that time and I've noticed a few parents are very obviously treading on egg shells.

I hear all kind of desperately apologetic conversations about snacks/scooters/cars vs no snacks/no scooters/no cars from parents who are clearly anxious just to get home before DC kicks off.

My point being, this particular transition seems to cause more problems than you probably realise, and other parents will most likely be sympathising or thanking their lucky stars it's not them today.

Italiangreyhound Sun 13-Dec-15 17:45:19

Thank Teamacorn it is good to know I am not alone but I am sorry for you.

We used to have total moans on the school run! "I can't walk." and "My legs aren't working!" ALL THE TIME.

Eventually it just stopped. I would (when safe) walk on a bit further and really encourage him to come with me, hold my hand, and then would pick up the pace a bit. It was very trying, but luckily it happened outside the immediate 'orbit' of the school so class mates did not see.

I know you did not ask for advice but in your shoes I'd be tempted to talk to your son about this. Maybe just say "I don't mind treating you like your baby brother or sister at home, and I am happy to do it outside home too BUT if you can't walk or if I need to treat you more like your baby brother or sister outside school, your class mates may see. If they see, they might think you are behaving much younger than you really are. So why not keep the snuggles and cuddles and carrying for home?" Or words to that affect? But just assure him that you love him whatever.

I think it is fair for kids to know that getting a name at school can sometimes be avoided, and they can control how they want others to see them in some situations.

I had to tell my dd a lot about her hair (very messy) and when she had a real gum problem she had bad breath, I was worried that she would get called names, but she is not and was not, so I was worrying about nothing, but it was still right to tell her.

And you may be worrying because others may not see him as a lot younger, it may well be fine.

Ironically, in ds's class it is the 'tough-nut' and self assured looking little kids who seem to be having a hard time at the moment leaving mum and dad at the school gate and crying!

All best wishes to you and your little ones.

mybloodykitchen Sun 13-Dec-15 20:48:15

But it's so important to avoid shaming our children isn't it? And that conversation can so easily be understood as 'your friends will think you're a baby'

Actually IME children will put up with a great deal more difference than we give them credit for. I often find when my thoughts tend to 'what will X's friends think' that on closer inspection actually I might be a bit more worried about what X's parents think of me/my parenting. And then I remind myself I'm a big girl and suck it up grin

mybloodykitchen Sun 13-Dec-15 20:50:01

I mean the other child's parents. Not my child's parents. That would be bizarrely introspective.

thefamilyvonstrop Sun 13-Dec-15 21:36:32

I agree mybloodykitchen - I personally would avoid implying that the child's feelings shouldn't be shown in public. I think it could be shaming but also, I think that's about managing your own feelings of appropriate behaviour. Ultimately, if your LO needs regressive "babying" my advice would be to go along with it and allow him to have that experience and revisit it as needed.

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