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Spoilt DS (4)

(19 Posts)
MoJangled Fri 23-Jan-15 23:02:00

Seeking to invoke the wisdom of mumsnet!

DS (4) is an only child, not by choice. He's very sociable and looks forward to having playdates. But he's also used to having all our attention and not having to compromise with siblings. I'm getting increasingly concerned that he's heading for being a brat. On every playdate he gets overwhelmed and either hits, or verbally attacks, his little friend. He's big for his age too... I always come down on the behaviour and make him apologise, but it doesn't stop it repeating, or him spoiling games if the other child is winning, or go off in a sulk on his own leaving his playmate alone and defeating the whole object of a playdate. He doesn't care about any consequences apart from withholding bedtime telly, and I can only take that away once a day.

He so wants to have friends and play, and it breaks my heart to see him hanging on the edge of groups at the playground when I take him, but he's heading in the opposite direction. I'm already sensing mums being less open to playdates when he's hurt their kids, quite understandably.

Do I go medieval on his ass? Do I nurture him through it all? Help!

BertieBotts Fri 23-Jan-15 23:06:52

How long are playdates? I'd keep them shorter and micromanage a bit. You direct the games rather than letting him direct them. (Totally my idea of hell so I sympathise if this sounds awful!)

DS still goes off in a sulk on playdates at 6 yet gets totally hysterical when it's time for them to leave. TBH I just try to leave him to it but intervene if I hear him being mean or poke my head round and do a friendly reminder to be nice.

Also I have found you have to pick playdate activities and/or friend combinations carefully - with DS' best friend in the world at kindergarten, he has a rubbish time at home because he's 1.5 years older and they just don't have the same interest in toys. They're fine if they can run about together but they can't do that in the house. So I tend to try and get out when we have that friend over now.

MoJangled Fri 23-Jan-15 23:17:49

Oh god the leaving times. He hasn't given anyone a goodbye kiss or hug in 2 years, hates people leaving, I feel your pain!

You're probably right re shorter and outdoor playdates. I tend to let them go on as long as possible (see note above, plus the general lonely only thing) but I suspect it's not working.

I need some macro-scale intervention though. He shouldn't think hitting is OK - and 'I only hit when he annoys me' isn't good enough. He hits me too, incidentally, whenever he gets frustrated or angry - seriously not OK...

BertieBotts Fri 23-Jan-15 23:22:33

Oh no, agreed on that point. But yes keep playdates shorter. As he gets older he'll be more able to deal with longer playdates.

BertieBotts Fri 23-Jan-15 23:24:07

DS at the moment has developed an alarming habit of literally hanging on to his friends, I have to peel him off. Today he grabbed hold of his friend's dad's arm as he was trying to get his child into the car! I had to pull DS away and then hold him so he didn't run after the car, I was worried he'd do something dangerous. Then the total collapse and meltdown when he sees they are really gone.

He will see him on Monday confused

MoJangled Fri 23-Jan-15 23:35:49

Your poor little love of a DS. Mine goes off, exuding clouds of gloom, into the lounge while people leave, and then sobs that he didn't say goodbye / wave them off. It's tough being unable to control your social life isn't it!

Sometimes I think it's the excitement at the start of a playdate that makes things blow up, but thinking about it, most of the problems have happened after an hour or so... Thanks for the advice.

CharlesRyder Sun 25-Jan-15 21:49:01

Do you think that because you feel sorry for him that he is an only that you give him extra attention and maybe let him think things will always go his way?

My DS is 4.6 and an only entirely through choice. We never worry about him playing on his own or try filling his time for him. I think as a result he's happy entertaining himself so the ends of play dates are not the end of the world.

Do you prep him heavily for play dates? I always tell DS ahead of time how long it will be, what the options of activities will be and remind him about behaviour (sharing, saying a polite thank you at the end).

If DSs play dates usually went wrong I would not have them and would try again when he was a bit older. I guess, again, that comes back to not feeling guilty about him not having a sibling.

I do feel a little sad for DS that he will not have a sibling as an adult but right now I think he has a much better calmer life than he would have if he had close age siblings. Do you really look at people with several small children and think 'how lovely'? I think it looks like a nightmare!!

MoJangled Sun 25-Jan-15 22:37:38

CharlesRyder you're onto something about the guilt. And I don't want my precious time with him spoilt, so although I do pick my battles, I let some things go. Maybe too many - although I've never overlooked hitting maybe overlooking other things sometimes gives him the idea that I might.

I like your heavy prepping idea. By chance I did that today, and it went better, although I'm not sure whether it would have worked if the red mist had descended. I'll do that more.

I do look at big families and think 'how lovely'! Its partly why I'm persevering with (good manners during) play dates. Both DS and I need a bit of company or we both get under-stimulated. I think it's down to personalities - I know one only DS who loves car trips, but I get a sad little voice saying 'why am I all alone in the back, Mummy?'

fattymcfatfat Sun 25-Jan-15 22:42:07

My ds was an only child for five years. I jave always used the naughty corner with him. It taught him that if he cant play nice he cant play at all....hes now 6 and I have a 1yo dd and another baby on the way....mental I know....and hes fantastic. He is kind considerate and always uses manners. Your ds will grow out of this but you need to be firm. This is difficult when its your only baby but hes no longer a baby, and part of growing up is understanding what is and isnt acceptable behaviour.

MoJangled Sun 25-Jan-15 23:18:28

fatty congratulations on your burgeoning family! I completely agree and funnily enough most of the time I get complements on his nice manners - asking to leave the table, please and thankyou, etc. It's just his reaction to anger and frustration is lashing out. Time out just turns into a wrestling match, alas, and I end up resorting to telly bans for non-compliance, so now I go direct to them.

MoJangled Sun 25-Jan-15 23:28:00

I have a new big guns plan. My telly ban effectively is a punishment for hitting - so the bad stuff has already happened and it's not motivating him to get a grip.

So I've bought a tub of ice-cream (favourite and rare pudding in this house), showed it to him and told him he can have some for pudding each day he plays nicely, is kind to his friends and behaves nicely with grown-ups. Any hitting at all will result in no ice-cream that day (as well as whatever immediate repercussions are suitable, obviously). Hopefully the wonder and glory of ice-cream will help him get in the right frame of mind, if I do the daily set-up right.

I do have a slight anxiety about the whole 'food as reward' thing, not recommended I know, but I need some big guns on my side and nothing's working.

I will combine this with heavy prepping pre-playdates, keeping them short and active, and getting involved much faster in potential red mist situations, if I can.

I really don't want him to be unable to control his temper or have other kids avoid him.

Thanks for all the suggestions smile

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Sun 25-Jan-15 23:29:05

4 is still so wee. I would work out a palm for play dates and stick to it. Agree it with ds, make it manageable and make it predictable.

So: 30 minutes playing
Then we'll have a snack
Then mum will play a game with you (which gives you a good chance to see what's going on with his social skills and pick up on things to practice with him later.)
Then we'll put our coats on and walk little Johnnycake home.

No more than 1.5 hours for anyone visit. All clearly laid out with countdowns ('boys, in 5 minutes we are going to have a snack')

It will feel like you are over engineering things, and it certainly won't feel like a break for you! But it's a way of making them pleasant for everyone and once he gets the hang of it you can ease off a bit.

Oh and lose the guilt. Seriously. It's not helping anyone.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Sun 25-Jan-15 23:29:44

wtf johnnycake? I swear this iPad is mental! johnny

Sootball Tue 27-Jan-15 03:33:09

I have a friend who I met at adult ed class and we just so happened to have our first child at the same time, our parenting styles are slightly different but we are absolutely on the same page about behaviour!

Despite having lots in common and wanting to catch up (hence why i mention how we met) as well as let our brood play together we have learnt the hard way that play dates should be an absolute maximum of 90 minutes with a snack at half time! Occasionally we all go off and do something together like an outing or park with picnic and loads and loads and loads of running around.

I've had play dates with children from nursery which my children play well with in nursery but they are vile to each other away from nursery. It's well worth finding one or two friends he can build relationships with and increase his confidence. My oldest is four so I do understand!

Also, another friends brings her 2 boys over, they can be a nightmare all three sometimes, but when settled to an activity they play absolutely beautifully and it's very sad that we now only see them a few times a year.l when they come back to visit.

MoJangled Fri 30-Jan-15 07:45:34

I love Johnnycakes grin

This is really helpful. Knowing this isn't unique (which I sort of knew but solidarity is so reassuring) is very calming. This week DS has been great, visibly holding back from hitting me and DH in frustrated moments, and I've been much smoother at getting past those moments rather than letting them escalate.

Definitely agree about snacks. Low blood sugar is the best predictor of bad behaviour I know.

Engineering 90 minute playdates might take some thinking about, as my gang tend to gather for longer, but it sounds very much worth doing so I'll start building in end points.

Thank you!

fattymcfatfat Fri 30-Jan-15 10:27:16

Try a reward chart? This worked a treat for me when ds was going through his aggressive stage!

Violettadoesthekondo Mon 02-Feb-15 20:49:38

He's seems knackered and irritated. In your shoes id stop the play dates completely till after Easter/September, then try again. He's only young, he won't miss out in all honesty as there are years ahead. However his behaviour right now will cause other mothers to give him a wide birth play date wise. Explain that while he's struggling to play nicely, you are all having a break from play dates. Starting school is a huge change in itself, he probably needs down time

mummytime Mon 02-Feb-15 21:11:19

Does he go to pre-school? Does he have issues there?

Are playdates always at your house? Does he feel his place is being invaded?
Does he in general find it hard to go from one activity to the next? Does he struggle with changes in routine?

Are you in the US?

Oh and do you think (believe underneath it all) that only children get spoilt/have behaviour issues?

MoJangled Sun 08-Feb-15 21:30:11

So sorry - I hadn't realised there were more suggestions or I would have replied sooner. Violetta I think this sounds like a good idea - I might not cut them out altogether, but I will cut down and explain. He does go to pre-school 3 days a week, and is apparently co-operative and perfectly behaved, to the point that they didn't quite get it when I asked about tempers, hitting and wilful refusals to go along with -anything, really - so I know he can control it if he thinks he won't get away with it!

I don't think only children automatically get spoilt, mummytime - although they tend to get less early exposure to family compromise. DS is sociable and energised by company, so I've been organising regular playdates, so that he can play with other children, which probably brings things into more acute focus than the normal sibling interactions. Not in the US, no. I think he probably does find playdates at our house more pressure than ones elsewhere, and gets very excited about going to friends houses.

Bedtime/morning routines work well, but I can change them if needed for special occasions / days away etc without upset. We do reward charts for quite a few things and usually have one on the go, but it's usually essentially tackling the same basic problem and I'm starting to worry that I'm just training him to not do anything without a reward.

I think I just have to KOKO, setting boundaries, encouraging good behaviour, and limiting the situations which might blow DS's stack.

Thanks everyone for your help

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