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4 yo fine at home, goes silly/loud/rude at relatives!

(10 Posts)
Wavylines Tue 07-May-13 12:51:09

(It's a long one- sorry!)

My 4yo boy is generally loving and fun etc, etc. He occasionally gets a bit high-sprited at home but nothing time-out doesn't solve to calm him down.

My problem is that whenver we visit relatives, (which includes both sets of grandparents plus aunties and uncles, any combination) or they visit us, he becomes very silly in behaviour, almost obnoxious sad he won't say hello, or if he's asked any kind of question ie how was pre-school, would you like a drink, let's have a look at that car, is it your favourite? etc he will ignore it and then when prompted by me, might shout the answer out (not looking at the person asking the question). Then he might follow it up with some silly noises, pulling silly faces, sticking his tongue out etc. (This happens 9 times out of 10. He has been ok on occasion, but that's quite rare.)

He calms down a bit after a while, but by the time it comes for us to leave/relatives to leave, he always finds a reason to not say goodbye nicely either. Or if he does say goodbye he just yells BYE without looking at them. It all just upsets and infuriates me.

I am on a knife-edge during visits that he will be rude or ignorant at any moment. He's better with my parents than PIL but only marginally. There has hardly ever been an occasion where he's just said hello and goodbye normally without a performance.

I remind him before relatives come/we go there that it's nice to say "hello" and "goodbye" properly, and if they ask him a question, it's nice to reply properly, that they love him and want to see him and it's upsetting when he is rude etc, and shouts, and won't answer questions, and ignores them. and he agrees all of that, but it all goes out of the window once they have arrived.

I take him off privately several times (plus stern word in public if immediate response is required to something, if appropriate) and have a word with him about behaviour, reminding him/telling him strongly (depending on how rude he's been) which has effect for 5 minutes (on a good day) but then he's off again being silly. I have also noticed he plays more aggressively at relatives/when they visit, slamming cars into each other, throwing his building blocks around etc and making lots of noisy sound effects (more so than any other time).

He has no behavioural issues at pre-school, or parties etc. (apart from occasional usual 4yo high spirits). He concentrates well on tasks, he's popular in pre-school and has lots of friends, boys and girls. He is very intelligent, he talks a lot and asks a lot of questions and makes some amazing observations, he is intuitive in knowing how someone is feeling, he empathises, his eye contact and body language are all great. He's lovely with his little sister. When his friends come over to play he falls over himself to share all his toys and play games with them, he is ready to offer them his favourite/newest toys to play with, and there's much giggling and "Shall we do this?" and "would you like to have this car" etc. He is really really polite!!!! So it's not that he has a communication problem. We speak often about behaving right and wrong, being kind and so on. He knows all this.

I asked him after the last time, why he had behaved like that with the family who love him and he said he was shy hmm he really is not shy! But even so, is there anything else I can do to try to deal with this? Or will he just grow out of it? Is it his age??

I am sick of having to trail him at relatives gatherings in case he is behaving badly. I loathe worrying before every event how rude he might be or not be. I am also sick of prompting him to answer questions or just be generally normally communicative. It would be great if at the beginning of a visit, Grandad said "so did you enjoy your holiday?" or whatever, and he would just say something normal like "Yes, there was an amazing pool and I went down a big slide!" or similar (this is how he would talk to his Dad and me... but not family?!) instead of ignore/prompt/ignore/shout answer (often not even the right answer but something random hmm).

BTW when he visits them on his own he is generally fine with the odd small tantrum (getting rarer) but only in line with his age. It's en masse that seems to cause a problem?

Where am I going wrong? sad

cathan Tue 07-May-13 13:51:26

However this problem started, I think it has become a vicious circle for you both. Because you're anxious, you behave differently with him so he acts differently in response. Stop warning him in advance about the right behaviour. Don't follow him round, expecting trouble. Try to act as if you were visiting friends - relax and try to enjoy the visits instead of behaving as if you're both on trial. Your son's relationship with his relatives may improve if he doesn't feel under pressure to "perform". And if he misbehaves, punish him as you normally would, without any extra pressure. Hope this helps

flossymuldoon Tue 07-May-13 14:05:09

It sounds exactly like you are talking about my DS who's 3.8. In fact. It's spooky.

Wiith my DS it's because he gets anxious and a bit overwhelmed/excited.
I think there may be some truth in what your DS is saying about being shy. His choice of words may not be 100% accurate but it would suggest to me that maybe he's a bit self concious (sp).

Try and relax, and don't add any extra pressure as that will only increase his anxiety. I ask DS is he wants to sit with me and he quite often does until he has relaxed a little.

Wavylines Tue 07-May-13 15:52:53

Thanks for the replies (and reading the epic OP!!)

cathan it's only recently that I have tried to pre-dispose him to behaving nicely, in my heart I knew it was probably futile and in fact could make things worse. I was just desperate after the latest series of uncomfortable visits, to have one half-ok visit where he was at least acceptable in terms of greetings and conversing with family. I will try to relax a little, but it's hard - I do feel judged especially by one of the GP's and also if there are any family friends present, I really cringe thinking that they are thinking DS is a brat sad and that I am failing to bring him up nicely sad

flossymuldoon I do think that for all his confidence in lots of areas, DS does get anxious and overwhelmed. DS was the first grandchild and from the start he was naturally the centre of attention of every visit (mainly from the GPs) to the extent that even the aunties and uncles would tell GPs to back off a bit and just be a bit more relaxed! My sister would say, "Can everyone just stop staring at the child?!" grin as say, round the dinner table, he would have five or six people constantly looking at him and commenting on what he was eating etc. (not so much any more, that was when he was very little). So maybe that hasn't helped. At least DS is fine around his friends and his dad and I.

I have found that bringing a game for DS to concentrate on, or finding an activity for him to do (eg tidying something up) has helped. He settles in better. The only trouble is that the GPs naturally start asking him questions and flooding him with attention from the moment he arrives. I have tried saying to them "just ignore him for a little while, let him settle in" on arrival, my parents are better with that but PIL think that's pandering confused especially FIL, plus neither PIL are the sort who like being told what to do, so they don't really go for that.

More recently PIL have started saying "Hello XXX" in a brisk sort of tone that would make me nervous (it's just their way) and then follow it up with "Oh so you're not speaking to me today?" also in a brisk sort of way. This is guaranteed to set him off (his response: "Noooooooooooo!" accompanied by squirming and head to one side) whilst I brightly try to gloss over it "oh DS is a little tired today! Come on DS, shall we get the game out?" etc.... Probably making it worse grin

LibertineLover Tue 07-May-13 15:56:21

Same here wavy my 5 year old is a lovely kid at home, but does exactly as yours does when strangers or even family members ask him questions, goes shy and over compensates with daft behaviour.

Will be watching with interest to see if anyone's come through the other side! smile

Andro Tue 07-May-13 16:36:56

Wavylines - your second post is making me feel suffocated just reading it, your poor DS! Some children take longer than others to learn how to cope, your really need to try and find a way to take the pressure off him. When you're at home, can he have a 'safe zone' where he can go when he's feeling overwhelmed?

Wavylines Tue 07-May-13 20:35:36

Hi Andro yes at home we have plenty of space for him to go and play elsewhere, but the awkwardness starts when the relatives arrive and (naturally) expect to see him at the start of the visit. He will start off by going a bit loopy which would be fine if he was happy-excited but he is generally over-excited quickly, turning into silly/rude. (within 5-10 mins).

I am grateful that at least this behaviour is not all the time, it's specifically for relatives (!) but even though they are his family and are meant to love him unconditionally (and I'm sure they do really) I still can feel the vibe that his behaviour is a bit tiresome and why can't he just be sweetness and light, neither of theirs were like that, their neighbours' little 4yo boy always say "hello Mr and Mrs X, how are you?" when he sees them, etc. (they don't say this but that's the thought bubble I think I see).

I don't want to be seen to condone rude or ignorant behaviour (I don't like seeing him like that) so it means I spend quite a bit of time smoothing things over between him and GPs. My parents (esp my mum) are a bit more understanding but as I've said, PIL are not and don't let me (or him) off the hook with "oh he's alright Wavylines, don't worry, he'll come and chat when he's ready". They just keep trying to communicate even when it's obviously not working.

Then sometimes I feel like I'm selling him out to GPs by making excuses for him, and I should just STOP trying to "make it better" by, butt the heck out and ignore everything unless he is actually directly rude in a "your shoes are horrible" type way... But if I did that, is it the green light for more of that behaviour? confused

Wavylines Tue 07-May-13 20:48:01

Libertine it's good to know I'm not on my own!! YY to the strangers thing too. He is actually marginally better with strangers than family but the capacity is still there for things to go haywire. It's hit and miss depending on whether he takes to them or not!

Andro Tue 07-May-13 22:13:15

It's not about you condoning rude behaviour if he's unable to cope, it helping him learn to cope.

What you're describing sounds an awful lot like a stage fright type reaction; greetings, direct questions and goodbye's all turn a spotlight on him, he panics and either goes blank (and says nothing) or acts out (which is inappropriate). That this is not an issue with friends suggests to me that he doesn't feel the need to 'perform' with them, but he does with family.

Your DS has already told you that he feels shy, could you try role play with some of his toys to dig a bit more into how he feels in certain situations? Shy is catch all term, but finding out if he feels scared, overwhelmed, on show, anxious, pressured etc and what he's feeling at what point might help you find coping strategies for him (does the build up to a visit start to make him stress or is it when he's faced with the people he's expected to 'perform' for?).

Imo, the behaviour is just the way the real problem manifests, all the punishment/correction in the world won't change it without the root cause being found.

Wavylines Tue 07-May-13 22:44:53

Some really useful stuff there Andro, thanks.

I could try role playing, I'm not sure how to start it off ie overtly or covertly, ie "X, shall we play at saying hello to people who come to visit?" or, letting general play morph into "let's pretend Teddy Baxter's got visitors coming!". He is pretty bright so will quickly realise either way that I am trying to get him to talk about something he finds uncomfortable, but if I am able to engage him, that could be very useful.

In a ham-handed way, that's what I've been trying to do with reminding him about how and why we say hello, goodbye and generally speak with people, before visits/visitors, ie giving him coping strategies, but that does not, as you note, address the actual problem - it's just papering over the cracks & doesn't work.

I guess I just find it hard to believe that he would find family members hard work sad before I had DS I thought it would all be like a Werther's Originals advert grin when it came to grandparents, and he does enjoy the company individually with family members but group get-togethers are just a nightmare. He looks forward to GPs etc coming but when they actually arrive at the door is the point it all starts to go wrong.

As his little sister grows up I am hoping they will play together more and therefore he won't feel the pressure to be centre stage at gatherings.

Maybe for the next few weeks/months, I could get the GPs on board in advance of visits etc to explain that sometimes, DS feels a bit overwhelmed on arrival and if they could all just say Hello in general and then chat amongst themselves and wait for DS to join in gradually, that might work (although like I say, PIL in particular would feel that sort of thing is pandering, new-age nonsense). To make matters worse, his younger sister (2) is always thrilled to see the GPs etc, so in a way it takes the pressure off DS, but then he sees her being made a fuss of, so it draws him nearer but then the following attention sends him into a tizzy. He does love all GPs and aunties&uncles etc individually, he has spent hours with all of them doing different things but he just falls apart for the group meetings.

Anyway definitely some food for thought. I will pick a quietish moment and see if I can draw him into some role play. Thank you for the advice.

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