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Help! Son won't give me a moment's peace

(33 Posts)
hollingbury Sun 10-May-15 19:30:30

I have a brilliant 4.5 year old son. He's amazing but totally unable - at least with me - to do anything on his own. He wants me to play with him ALL THE TIME.

He goes to preschool x 3 a week, and we do play dates - but obviously we spend time together at home. When we do, I end up wanting to tear my hair out. I do loads with him, then try and set him up with other stuff, and he always ends up demanding more play and crying if I don't.

I really feel my patience dwindling and I know I snap and I hate myself for it. But it's so intense.

I don't want to spend any less time with him, but I don't know what to do. Do I need to do a parenting course? I wonder if he's feeding into my subconscious anxiety around it all - the expectation that he will be like this. And then that produces this vicious circle.

I'm feeling like such a crap mum.

TheoriginalLEM Sun 10-May-15 19:33:48

TV? a tablet? They are good for a bit of peace and so long as its not all the time, will give you some breathing space. My dd was like this and its exhausting.

It is better to let him be bored than entertain all the time.

Esmum07 Sun 10-May-15 19:46:00

My now 8 year old was exactly the same. One way I used to get a bit of 'me' time was to start off some play - things like putting a plastic sheet down in the kitchen and getting some wallpaper to do finger painting on. Join in until he was really absorbed by it then gradually move away until I was sitting happily in the corner with the newspaper! Then I'd make a cuppa and tell him I'd play when I finished it. Ignore the tears and tantrums.

When he started school his teacher said she could tell the ones who had non-stop 'entertainment' from the ones who were sometimes left to their own devices as the ones who were left didn't need so much explaining to. They were used to figuring things out.

So it is worth trying to break the reliance on you at this stage. School will break it - within the first term I noticed how DS would happily take himself off to play alone sometimes as he began to learn how to entertain himself (and his classmates) more.

hollingbury Sun 10-May-15 19:53:18

i use TV but I really have no interest in using it all the time. He'd be very happy if we did because he loves it but...

I also try and set things up, get really involved, but it's like he has me on an invisible leash. As soon as I make a move to do something else, he starts demanding me, saying he needs me to play with him. he doesn't like to stick at things for long either so the 'absorption' thing doesn't often happen.

Preschool say there's no problem there. He plays well with stuff as long as he's interested (similar stuff to what we have here). He has friends, move between them all.

I am really keen to help him because I know how important it is - especially as he won't have siblings. But I have no clue what else to try.

Fugghetaboutit Sun 10-May-15 19:59:45

Have you always played with him from when he was really young? Has he ever been left to play on his own?

I point blank refuse to play when I have stuff to do/need a rest/cooking etc and by 2.5 my ds knew this and is good at playing alone now. It has to be instilled young for some or they won't understand why you suddenly won't play with them.

Fugghetaboutit Sun 10-May-15 20:00:35

Also, my ds won't watch TV. Bloody pisses me off sometimes!!

hollingbury Sun 10-May-15 20:01:35

I can't really remember him ever being good at it. We certainly have been trying to encourage it for about a 11/2 year.

odyssey2001 Sun 10-May-15 20:29:49

Just say no.

He will scream and cry a lot and it will be very hard but the next time, he will cry less.

You need to recognise that changing ingrained behaviour can take weeks or months to correct. But you have to stay strong and don't give in. He behaves the way he does because he knows you will eventually cave in.

Good luck.

DIYandEatCake Mon 11-May-15 00:16:11

My 4yo dd is like this and sometimes I feel like my head's going to explode (I have a 1yo who needs lots of attention too).
The only thing that sometimes works is to say I really have to get some housework done, I'd love her to help me... I'm enthusiastic about it, she'll join in for a bit and then get bored and usually find something else to do (which usually involves chopping paper into lots of little bits and leaving a trail of it all over the house but hey).
But I'm also trying to enjoy my time with her before she starts school in a few months, I expect one day she won't want to play with me any more and then I'll wish I hadn't ever begrudged it now.

hollingbury Mon 11-May-15 07:51:41

Thanks all.

I need to just say no. Do what DIY says and try and keep jolly and involve him. And keep a lid on my exploding head!! I think it's about the voice, keeping the voice stress free but being totally honest, I really really find it hard. But like DIY, I'm so conscious of school starting and wanting to make the most of things

shockedballoon Mon 11-May-15 10:51:25

Can totally sympathise as he sounds very like my DS(5.5) - it's like he doesn't exist if he isn't around someone else! If he temporarily gets engaged in something on the iPad and I sneak off to make tea/whatever, he's back by my side in about 5mins saying he was lonely/can I play with him!

For what it's worth, this is what I do: If I say mummy has to do some jobs, he asks to 'help', so I give him something simple to do like a carrot or potato to peel, or socks to hang up, or give him the polish and a cloth, but I'm very clear that I have things I need to do and he can join in if he wants. He'll often do it for a bit, wittering on about various random topics then decide he wants to do something else. I'm also clear that once I've done my mummy things ('jobs' also include hiding in the kitchen reading after the tea is in the oven or whatever grin ) I will do something of his choice with him for 10/20 mins, and when I do whatever it is, I do it wholly not half-heartedly.
Not that all our time together is totally regimented, but I am always clear about what he can expect from me on any given day/afternoon etc and I also factor in something that he wants.

I've done this since he was around 3-4 and it's worked well. Few tears and tantrums whilst he got used to it, but I really had been totally at his beck and call before.

Since he started school it is better as he is more able to get engrossed in a solo activity like colouring or play doh or reading or something on the iPad. He still craves company, but as long as he's not constantly expecting me to actively participate and dominate all my time that's absolutely fine, he's clearly just a 'people-person'!

hollingbury Tue 12-May-15 07:03:25

Thanks a lot shockedballon. That's really helpful. They sound similar!

DS won't have any siblings so I feel it's something I need to crack. But in the right way

MakeItACider Tue 12-May-15 12:39:35

What do you do when he cries? Because it sounds like up until you've eventually given in.

Until he learns that crying won't be successful in getting you to play with him, he will continue to do it.

shockedballoon Tue 12-May-15 14:21:43

DS is also an only and we are not having any more, though I'm not convinced that having another would've helped at all!

I've found it very strange to have a child that's so opposite in personality to me. I'm more of a play it by ear type and am quite happy in (indeed actively need!) my own company. I just had to find a way to meet him half way.
On the plus side, he's very loving and caring and it is lovely that he enjoys my company so much - I obviously don't want him to feel I'm punishing him, but I do have to be firm at times as he's so full-on!

hollingbury Wed 13-May-15 16:10:48

What I find he does - which exasperates me - is if I stick to my guns, he'll eventually sidle off to his bedroom and lie on his bed! He just won't do anything. Take this afternoon. We've been out for lunch, a walk with dog, then a few errands. We came in and he sat at the table in the kitchen for about 3 minutes before discarding his colouring book, and demanding TV. I told him if he wanted TV he had to play for ten minutes on his own. Cue tears. He went off. Is now lying on his bed, doing nothing. Calling, 'is it time yet?'

I find it utterly exasperating which i now is self-defeating.

MakeItACider Thu 14-May-15 12:04:47

Did you remind him that the instruction was to 'play' for 10 minutes?

Ask him to choose which activity he wants to do BEFORE the 10 minutes starts. Set a timer and let him go. If he's not playing, turn the timer off.

Cedar03 Thu 14-May-15 13:14:57

So if he's in his room doing nothing that is OK. That's part of being bored. I would just say 'I'll tell you when it's time but the more you shout at me the longer it will be'. He is learning to do something on his own - even if it is just lying on his bed.

I often find it easier to go out if we're feeling like that. We go to the park or even just walk to the local shop and back. It used to stop me feeling trapped and give her a focus for her energy. (She's school age now).

I definitely find that doing housework helped encouraged my daughter to do something else or sometimes to actually help me. I think it's also reasonable to say 'I will play with you but first I am going to have a cup of tea'.

The other thing to do is to read some books with him where the children have lots of imaginary play, and do things without having their parents there to help them. My daughter started to use stories from books at about that age to direct her own play.

Iggly Thu 14-May-15 13:33:32

What does he have to play with? Lego - my ds will play forever with that. Some other stuff he wants us to play with him.

beabea81 Thu 14-May-15 17:54:31

Yep my dd who was 4 in April has always been the same, she's also an only child but even if she had a sibling she's the type to get jealous not to be getting all my undevoted attention and would just kick off, until a sibling was old enough to play with her and give her attention anyway! I made the mistake of utterly devoting myself to her from when she was a baby as I knew after I'd had her I wouldn't be able to have any more children, and I made her the focal point of my life because she'd be my only child, it hasn't done either of us any favours but hey the benefit of experience and hindsight!

She was so clingy as a baby because I was always there the minute she made a noise, I actually thought it made me a good mum if I anticipated her every need and helped her before she got to the point of crying, that I wasn't being a good mum if she cried! I know totally crazy but again the benefit of hindsight. She's also a naturally v strong personality so the combination ended up with a 3 year old who ruled the roost here! A year on we're still working hard on encouraging dd to be a bit more independent at home, she's fine at pre school she's a very sociable little girl with lots of friends, but at home she wants constant attention from me, it's still all me, not often dh but he works long days and they only have real time together at the weekend. It's been a battle but now she will finally not scream and cry on a Saturday morning when mummy has a lie in and daddy gets her up and they spend time together, hopefully as she gets older she'll want to spend more time with him and not be so clingy to me all the time. I also think it's an age thing, gradually she has been more interested in playing on her own even if it's just 5 minutes with her baby dolls or sylvanians before she calls to me to play, we've noticed she now initiates that herself rather than us always encouraging her to.

Play doh is always good once they're old enough to roll and cut by themselves, setting up painting things for her as well will keep her occupied for a while, yes I do resort to TV and she loves the cebeebies app so she can clearly sit and occupy herself, it's just not quite what I'd like her to be doing! I got fed up with not being allowed to go to the toilet by myself that now I tell her I'm going and that I'll be back in a minute, she asks to come, I say no mummy doesn't need any help with going to the toilet and grown ups go by themselves, she used to cry and follow me screaming and I'd lock the door with her banging away while I sat on the loo with my head in my hands. Now she will let me go, but we've also started a new thing where she'll get out of her bed and come in to tell me she misses me at night time, so feel like we've actually come out worse on that one! I used to think it was clingy when she was younger, and cute when she first started saying mummy you're my best friend, then as she got older it felt really intense and more like an ownership thing, certain things improved like she will go to the toilet by herself now, but she's started telling me what to wear! I'm hoping it'll improve once she starts school in September!

hollingbury Thu 14-May-15 19:46:38

Thanks all, some interesting replies.

As for what toys he has - he has a range of everything. We have tried everything. We have lots of lego, crafts stuff. Believe me, Iggly, if there was something 'he would play forever with,' we would have bought it by the truckload? I think, unless you're dealing with a very demanding child, you don't realise that it doesn't matter what you buy them or set them up with. They just don't really want to play on their own.

I think that's a really good idea to ask him what he's playing with before the timer. But also, as you say, being bored is part of it. Difficult balance.

Iggly Thu 14-May-15 22:47:43


Mine were demanding but not anymore. But that is because they play together mostly. I actually did play with them a lot and didnt force it. Around 4-5 it kind of clicked for ds and he's much more independent with his play. Dd, who's 3, asks to be played with a lot.
I also let them help me with things - they love that too e.g. cooking or gardening etc. Means I can sort of get stuff done, can teach them and spend time with them.

hollingbury Fri 15-May-15 08:14:49

Iggly, I don't really get why comments like 'mine were demanding...mostly.' are helpful? This is a thread about a child who doesn't have siblings and who I'm finding both intense and demanding, despite big efforts. Your posts seem to miss trick - slightly rubbing my nose in a child who plays forever with lego and two children who play together???? How is that helpful to me?

DeeWe Fri 15-May-15 09:35:54

What I had when dd1 was little was a stairgate on the kitchen door and a cupboard door I used to sometimes hide behind when I needed 10 minutes peace. I'd say I had a job to do and go and sit behind that. I could hear her, and see her with minimal effort so she was safe, but she couldn't get to or see me which encouraged her to find her own thing to do.

What Iggly means, I think is that you find something he can do for a time on his own, but it may take a bit of experimenting. It might be a sandpit in the garden, or colouring, or lego, but something which you can appear at first regularly and admire how well he's done "all on his own".
Mine all have had different things that they got on with: Dd1 was writing/puzzle books. Dd2 loved craft, role play and reading, ds computers, lego or planes.
Then there were things I used to encourage them to get on with me sitting and watching. For example "how high can you jump on the trampoline?" All I'd need to do is sit reading a book and occasionally saying "WOW! You go so high!"
I also used to do treasure hunts-they still love them now at age 14, 11 and 7, although they take more preparation. You give them (at his age) a picture or a single word if he can read them (eg door), and he has to go round the doors until he finds one with another picture/word on and continue until they find the prize (which only has to be something little, mine were quite happy with a handful of raisins or similar)

And I agree with the helping to do jobs. It can take slightly longer, but when they're 7 or 8 and can then do the jobs alone it does pay off. grin At 3-4yo they can:
Put clothes into the washing machine/take them out.
Put away cutlery
Hoover (with supervision)
Help cook (ds once added grapes and apple to a lesagne we were cooking-it was still edible!)
Wash windows
Clean the car
Clean walls (use baby wipes as they are perfect for that!)
Clean the sink while you clean the toilet
With ds I used to clean the main oven and he'd clean the smaller oven we didn't use much. It then left the necessity of washing the floor after he'd done it, but if you assume you'll have to then you don't mind.
Set the table
Ds loved polishing shoes, but that does get messy!
Pick all the dandelion heads off in the garden before they seeded.
Make a birthday card
Empty some bins

Iggly Fri 15-May-15 16:04:06

Thank you DeeWee you put it better than I did.

JaniceJoplin Fri 15-May-15 16:06:56

You just need to say 'I'm sorry but mummy is busy I need to do x,y,z do you need to play by yourself for a while'. And repeat.

I do this with my 4.6 yr old and my 2.6 yr old. If I didn't I would be in the looney bin.

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