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Paranoid mum or real problem child

(7 Posts)
Janell Sat 10-Aug-02 21:09:25

I'm new to this but reading some of the other threads I thought that somebody may be able to help, give advice etc. on my problem.
I have a gorgeous 4 year old boy who is loving, affectionate and funny. Since a baby he's always been very sociable and friendly and everybody always knew him - for the right reasons then!
When he was 21 months old he hit toddlerdom and although he's never been a tantrum child and could be easily distracted he started to get very physical and aggressive with other children and hit and push them. I'm part of a large group of friends with children the same age
and used to think that this was terrific but now don't as their children have come out of the aggressive stages and mine hasn't and still pushes and shoves.
I feel like I don't want to take him anywhere and go cold at the thought of party season and soft play centres. When we're out on play dates I can't relax, and spend the whole time watching him and waiting for other children to come and tell me that he's done something. I have tended to blame him immediately in the past when it was sometimes the other child who started it and he now tends to admit to things that he hasn't done. The other kids have cottoned on to this, and the fact that he's not a tell tale, and always come and tell tales on him first.
It makes me so sad because he's such a lovely boy and is very popular in spite of this but I worry because he always takes the play too far and gets physical (I think he sometimes thinks that this is a way of communicating with other boys) and I think that the kids and the parents may start getting fed up with him. I worry that he'll have no friends at school.
He wants to be involved with everyone and play with new kids and tends to misread situations - if we are at the park and 2 boys (who he does not know)are playfighting together he'll think that it is ok for him to join in and start playfighting with strangers, this then escalates into real scraps as the other kids are strangers and feel threatened.
It's got to a point where "friends" call him "basher" and although I laugh this off I feel very, very upset and the worry of this behaviour is taking over my every thought and I wonder what he'll do today and I "try and convict" him for things I think will happen!!!. I know that this probably sounds stupid and over the top to some mums but it really has became that much of a problem to me and although I've probably blown it out of all proportion I really would like any advice on how to stop it???

zebra Sat 10-Aug-02 21:42:41

If I were you I know that I could talk to friends with children at or near the same age, and ask them what they honestly thought. And if they saw my child as unusual.

Is he in playgroup? What does the playgroup teacher think of him?

When you say that he's very popular... it makes me think that he's no more of a violent thug than most little boys.

have you read 'Raising Boys' by Steve Biddoulph? He talks about certain ages when testosterone suddently rages though a little boy's system. Really good book.

soothepoo Sat 10-Aug-02 22:12:43

Janell - is it possible that you could playact with your son some of the situations that he is misreading, to suggest alternative ways of dealing with them? I haven't had any experience of your problem myself, but we all want our children to be sociable and friendly, so I can understand why you are worried.

ScummyMummy Sat 10-Aug-02 22:59:43

Hi Janell. It sounds like this situation is getting hard for both of you. I really sympathise with your worry over how other parents/kids perceive your son but I do think this kind of physical "over-exuberance" is quite common among little boys. Certainly both of mine (twins-3 yrs 4mnths) can get a bit carried away if they are play fighting, especially with each other or with their Dad. The same holds true for many of their friends. I've read that rough-housing actually helps kids to be able to control themselves physically and (eventually!) play hard without hurting, so maybe your son has partially the right idea in viewing playfights as a form of male communication!. (This is discussed in Steve Biddulph’s- “Raising Boys”. I agree with Zebra that it’s worth a read.)

I suppose it’s a matter of giving your boy VERY clear messages on what is and isn’t acceptable and then enforcing your rules. I try to step in immediately if I spot a wayward push/hit/shove/punch and say something like “we don’t hit (or whatever evil deed has been perpetrated) in this family because it hurts and if you can’t play without hitting you will have to…sit with me and calm down/go home/leave the room/whatever seems appropriate at the time.” Obviously I then have to carry out the consequence I have prescribed should the incident recur. If I’m relatively calm and am firm, without bring too cross and shouty (not always possible, I find!), this seems to work pretty well. However, I do find it much harder to deal well with this kind of situation when one of mine is involved in an aggressive dispute outside the family, particularly if I like or dislike the mother of the other child very much! I suppose the best you can do sometimes is to swallow any embarrassment and continue to be firm but fair with your boy.

Is your son attending any kind of nursery/school/playgroup/regular drop-in? If so, I would definitely have a word with the staff and get their take on his behaviour and their advice for helping him to overcome the problem, if indeed they agree that there is a problem. If he does not go to nursery, would it be worth trying to arrange for him to attend some kind of regular provision? Perhaps mixing with other kids in a more routine, formal way, rather than during the rough and tumble of soft play and parties – which are rarely conducive to calm behaviour and good impulse control, IME!- would help him work through this phase successfully. I also think soothepoo’s suggestion is a good one- I find that I frequently need to spell out lessons of basic communication to my two, such as: “If X is crying he probably wants you to stop lying on top of him” and “If you don’t want Y to hit you with his light sabre, say “stop that, I don’t like it.””. Kids this age seem so bright, compared to hitherto fore, little walking, talking, thinking people, that it’s quite easy for me to forget what a lot there is for them still to learn!

Welcome to Mumsnet, by the way.

Azzie Sun 11-Aug-02 07:33:27

Hi Janell,

Some good advice there from ScummyMummy about setting clear limits.

My ds is nearly 5, and the way he and certain of his friends lay into one another in the name of play amazes me. He has one friend in particular who seems to set this off (or who he seems to set off - I'm not absolving him from all blame). I tend to invite this lad round to play on his own - larger groups become unmanageable (we had a coffee group meeting in half term when all the older lads came and it was just chaos ). I find now that it is best if I think a bit carefully about who I invite round to play and when - some lads seem to encourage my son's (natural and acceptable) tendancy to roughhouse, whereas others encourage him to more creative and contemplative play (and some can't cope with the rougher stuff).

I'd suggest you talk to the other mums about your concern - they may not see it quite the way you do. Keep playdates to single or low numbers if you can - always easier to keep things calm. Talk about this with your son - I have had to explain to mine that one of his friends in particular isn't used to play fighting and doesn't like it. Be firm about your rules and be clear about what is acceptable.

Will your son be starting school soon? The boy I mentioned at the start of my post became far more manageable once he started school - make sure you discuss your concerns with his teacher.

Your ds sounds a lovely lad, open and friendly and full of energy and enthusiasm. You may find that as he gets older and matures a bit he calms down and finds other ways of communicating with his friends. My ds has just taken up football with a vengeance, and this seems to have replaced the play fighting with some of his friends.

Janell Mon 12-Aug-02 14:03:44

Thanx for the messages!!
Zebra - Nursery never had any real problems to convey, only that he was a boisterous little boy like 99% of the other boys - so I guess that's good. I think I'm always looking and expecting the worst which is an awful thing to say and I need to pull back and realise that it's not always him who starts things. I do think he tends to copy others, especially older boys and where they have the advantage of age and knowing the boundaries of playfighting he doesn't.
I think you're right with the rage of testosterone thing as he quietened down for a bit and then started again.
Soothepoo - I've tried making up stories to him where the little boy who pushes and hits has no friends to play with and ends up lonely, to try to get the message across so maybe this'll hit home soon.
Azzie - I also find that some of his more boisterous friends set off this fighting and rough play so I usually only have one round at a time or preferably meet in a park for the extra space to let them let off steam.
I also find that some of his more bossy "leader" friends tend to bring out the best in him as I think he feels he has to step back a bit and can't be the loud boisterous one. Maybe I have to find him alot of very bossy friends ......
He does go to school this year so I'm hoping that he'll calm down and realise that other kids don't like playing rough all the time and also it'll help channel his energy.
Thanks again, this is areally valuable source of info and steam venting!!!

lulu40 Mon 12-Aug-02 14:12:16

Hi Janell I know exactly where you are coming from my ds who is 5 in November went through a stage I will call it when he was very physical - he still is but seems to be able to control it a little better now. I used to dread turning up at nursery to see who he had hurt that day and would spend most of the afternoon winding myself up about it. He has however always been OK in social situations and this behaviour was only really a problem at nursery ie. when I was not there to control maybe!! What I would say is that everyone's advice has been good but do bear in mind that some parents will see your child as a trouble maker/bully simply because their child does not behave in that way so not all your friends opinions may be helpful. Also another thing I have learnt to stop doing is putting my child down to other parents as if you tell people enough times that your kid is a bit on the naughty/aggessive side they start to look for that behaviour where sometimes it does not exist. Best of luck for the future my son still has a way to go and is going to school in September but feel that it is yet another stage that he will simply grow out of.

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