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Help! My 8-year-old ds is driving me into an early grave (very long).

(27 Posts)
overthehill Mon 03-Sep-07 00:41:43

My ds's behaviour has been particularly difficult over the last few months, and after an especially ghastly couple of days I feel totally drained and depressed; also he makes me so angry that I'm worried that I might do him some real physical violence.

When we were away recently he had major paddies nearly every day, which almost wrecked the holiday, and I find that however much I do for him, it's never good enough and he ends up being abusive towards me. I actually bought the How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen book before we went away after recommendations on here, but it doesn't work for me, and we always seem to get into terrible arguments.

The lowest point recently was on my one day off last week when I'd bent over backwards to arrange for his friend to come round (he only really has 3 friends & none had asked him to play all holidays - only one of them ever does invite him round regularly & they've now been put in separate classes to stop them disrupting lessons). We went to fetch his friend at 10.30-ish & he was with us until 3.30 when his mum picked him up, & although it was stressful for me, they'd had a nice time playing in the park, walking our new dog, eating home-made pizza, having a water fight and playing on the computer.

My dd, who's 11, has lots of friends, & 2 of them were round a bit later. Ds was desperate to join in with them as they were making a film with dd's digital camera - a present for her last birthday. However, dd didn't want this & I backed her up as I felt it was quite justified for her to want space. He just went mad, saying how it wasn't fair that he didn't have a digital camera etc etc, and I was furious as I felt I'd spent all day trying to make him happy.

That sort of thing seem to happen all the time: he can't see why his sister has privileges eg going to bed later, he's a terrible loser & always makes a big fuss, & he gets so angry, slamming doors, shouting, throwing things etc. The other week he locked himself in his bedroom & refused to open the door all night! I was beside myself as I only discovered this at midnight (I'd gone out earlier because of a row, but ds hadn't even noticed that he was still locked in his room angry), & I hardly slept a wink that night for worry.

If you're thinking that I sound as though I don't like him very much, that's how I feel a lot of the time at present, which makes me feel guilty, and I also say things to him that I regret when he's upset me with hurtful remarks/behaviour. I know I was really challenging at his age & can recognise a lot of my own behaviour in him - which just makes me hate it even more. Please help - I'm in a mess! sad

KerryMum Mon 03-Sep-07 00:47:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mamama Mon 03-Sep-07 00:50:40

sad Oh dear. Poor you. And him - he's 8. The world is not fair when you are 8. In fact, it is never fair but I think it gets a bit easier to deal with as you get older.

Is something else going on in his life to make him so angry? Or in your life maybe? The bit that really struck me was "he only really has 3 friends" Is he happy with that? I mean, some people have a couple of close friends and don't socialise much with anyone else but other people need a larger group of people to spend time with. Could he be lonely? Is school ok (you mentioned that he and his friend will be in different classes).

Try not to blame yourself

WideWebWitch Mon 03-Sep-07 00:50:51

Hello. I recognise that feeling of being so cross you can't step back from it.

It sounds like it's about attention (isn't it always?) and jealousy wrt dd. Do you think it might have made a difference if you'd said 'dd is doing that so you and I will do <insert something he'd like here>?

Ds had paddies on holiday 2 yrs ago (he was 8 too) and I found it very hard but the things that worked were distracting him, wearing him out, engaging him in something that interested him.

I think 8yos think about NOW not about the time you spent earlier trying to make them happy.

also check how you talk to him - I have caught myself being short with ds and not surprisingly getting a short response from him.

Niecie Mon 03-Sep-07 01:01:46

I totally sympathise too. My DS1 is just 7 and sometimes it feels like whatever you do for him, it is never enough. And then if you do get a chance of doing something for yourself you get nothing but whinging and moaning. For example, on holiday last week, after several days of trying to please the boys, I finally got the chance to go to a really smart farm/gift shop that I had seen signposted. All I got, all the way round was 'this is boring', 'can we go', 'when can we go', 'can I have this, that or the other'. If you don't give the answer he wants to hear then he just keeps asking the same old questions again and again. If all that fails, DS1 and DS2 start wrestling in the shop and shouting at each other and turning into the sort of children I used to tut when I was young free and childless! How did they turn out like this despite all my best intentions. Does my head in. In the end you just give up and leave for a quiet life and fume.

Anyway, this is of absolutely no help to you at the moment other than the fact you know you are not alone and it probably is 'normal'. My FIL always says that despite the trial and tribulations of childhood 90% of people of grow up to be nice normal decent human beings. Lets hope he is right!!wink

MrsMarvel Mon 03-Sep-07 01:02:14

It's a bit late for me too.

I must say that in the friend / film instance I would have asked the sister to include him in the film. He was excluded from the game and rightly so was upset.

But I would say the key thing to do is to help him to let you like him again if that makes sense. Try to have a good amount of downtime with him. Don't do anything, go anywhere, have any distractions. I say that because if you are doing something there will be more chance that things go wrong and there is a conflict you both can't handle. I do that with mine when we're getting narky with each other and it works. Things get back to a level that we can all handle again.

Niecie Mon 03-Sep-07 01:10:59

I agree with MrsMarvel that it is good to just be together. The way we get over a bad day is by having a cuddle (even if it is a bit of an effort in the beginning) and try to have a chat about nothing in particular and certainly nothing that is going to lead to a difference of opinion.

Kaloo20 Mon 03-Sep-07 01:12:08

Poor you OP, is everything OK at home apart from his behaviour? You sound frazzled

Maybe he needs a referral via your GP to a family centre about his behaviour/anger outbursts to discuss family life, his behaviour et al...

It would put your mind at rest if nothing else

MrsThierryHenry Mon 03-Sep-07 01:15:49

Hugs to you, OTH. Do you think there's anything in your family history which has led to this situation?

I only have a 9 month old so can't offer experience, but I watched an ep of Supernanny the other day which featured a boy who had similar behaviour (though somewhat younger). There was a clear history of family trauma through the loss of a child, which lead to guilt and wearing away of discipline or the existing children (this is why I ask whether your family might have experienced something. This is what they did to resolve the problem:

(1) Mum learned to speak in firm, low voice when he was naughty. Also learned to give really encouraging praise when he was good. Most importantly - do not 'negotiate' when they're misbehaving. Tell them firmly what you expect of them (e.g. 'you either eat your ice cream as it is, or you have nothing') and then walk away. This really worked.
(2) They'd tell him firmly 'that is naughty behaviour' and then they'd physically take him out of the situation when he misbehaved/ had paddies, then ignore him so he soon learned that that wasn't the way to get the attention he craved
(3) They created a reward chart for him (with his picture on) where he could clearly see his progress. Every time he did something good they told him what it was he'd done and why it was good, then progressed him up the chart - basically reeducation and praise. At certain milestones along the chart he'd get a small reward (day out, gift, nice food - anything).
(4) They were also encouraged to make sure they didn't neglect their other child whilst trying to cope with the difficult one.

This strategy really worked for the family, who had been reaching breaking point before SuperN stepped in.

Don't know whether you were looking for advice or sympathy, but I really, really hope things change for you and your family.

MrsThierryHenry Mon 03-Sep-07 01:22:33

Oh, and since you said you bought that book, I wonder whether this is because your confidence in your parenting is waning...this will have a huge impact on the way you relate to both your children, not just your DS.

Can you ask close friends for honest feedback (positive and negative) to give you a balanced perspective? Also you said you feel that you are not able to talk in a way that makes him listen - do you know a parent who is good at this? What qualities in that parent do you admire? Perhaps you could ask them to 'mentor' you for a few weeks - even if only on the phone - and to model some of the things that they do which you admire in them. They could train you to speak to your kids as they do with theirs, for example.

Best of luck - do keep us updated. xx

MrsThierryHenry Mon 03-Sep-07 01:24:36

One more thing which you might want to look at:

Okay, bedtime!

overthehill Mon 03-Sep-07 22:21:23

Thanks everyone for your sympathy & helpful suggestions; can't get on to computer during the day, so I've only just caught up with them. He does have a very low opinion of himself (which of course I feel responsible for & guilty about), so that doesn't help. Other than that I was extremely stroppy myself when I was his age (but I still don't really understand why), there's no obvious reason in terms of family history. Dh did suffer from a period of depression when he was very little, but I think this is more likely to have affected dd as she's older.

I think there may be some links with going back to school: he had a terrible time in Year 2, but last year was much better as he had a very understanding teacher, & he could be feeling unsettled again - although he said no when I asked him. The other thing that's happening is that dd is about to start secondary school, & that may also be unsettling for him.

I also think he probably does get jealous of dd's ability to make and retain friends, & because he's very bright & has unusual interests for an 8-year-old boy (eg gardening, cooking), he's not interested in and doesn't feel he has much in common with a lot of his contemporaries & is much more at ease with adults - although he's desperate to fit in.

I also forgot to say that another of his 3 friends is going to a different school, so the only one left in his class is in the year above, and they'll therefore eventually be separated too. It's also interesting that one friend has ADHD & another mild dyspraxia...

Dd does usually give in to him for a quiet life - but then her needs don't get met, & I think he needs to learn that he can't always have what he wants. In fact, she did let him join in the filming in the end, & he was fine after that.

Mrs Marvel, I think it's true that we don't spend enough time just being together: there always seem to be so many jobs to do, especially in the holidays, & I'm a terrible one for feeling that I'm wasting time if I just sit & chill. However, when I do try & distract him & suggest we do something together he usually says that he needs daddy to help rather than me, so once again that feeds into my own sense of being a useless parent. I do agree that I'm probably putting him under far too much pressure - and in fact, the one day out of the first 8 that he didn't have a paddy when we were on holiday was when we did the least.

Re mentoring and how others do it: dh does handle him much better & succeeds in not getting involved in arguments with him; also ds seems to respect him much more. The thing is, I can see what I should be doing in theory, but I always seem to get it wrong in practice...

Probably the two most important things are to remember that he is only 8 (although it's hard as he seems so old for his age in lots of ways) & not have adult expectations of him, also to try & spend quiet time doing nothing in particular so that the pressure is off both of us. I'll try...

phatcat Mon 03-Sep-07 22:35:35

Hello overthehill - I can really sympathise with your situation - I know what it's like to get locked into a negative feedback loop behaviourwise. I have a four year old who pushes me to the limits regularly at the moment. One technique from HTTSKWLALSKWT that does seem to work when I can see through the steam coming out of my ears and remember to do it is empathising with what I think to be the underlying cause when he's having a paddy - along the lines of "you must be feeling really disappointed / angry / upset about X" It seems to take the wind out of his sails if I say this kind of thing rather than anything else and he usually comes round quite quickly and often will say something fairly rational about why he is upset, which means we can start talking about it. Just a thought anyway in case you haven't tried this one.

overthehill Mon 03-Sep-07 22:43:26

Thanks for that, Phatcat. I did think the book talked a lot of sense, but I guess I need to try a lot harder to put the ideas - like that one - into practice, & you've given me a necessary jolt, so I'll pick it up & do some revision!

TooTicky Mon 03-Sep-07 22:50:45

OTH, my ds1 is 8 and behaving much like yours. A lot of it is the age, I think. I also think this is a very dad-worshipping age (sort of role-modelling, thinking about growing up, etc.).
I have heard that 8yo terrors make lovely 10yo's....
It is very hard though, especially when you are putting all you can into trying to make things work and it is totally unappreciated. I despair at times.

overthehill Mon 03-Sep-07 23:23:56

TooTicky, I do hope that things start to look up for you soon as well, & I'll try to hold on to the idea that each stage is only a short length of time in the scheme of things. Ds's last teacher reckoned that part of the problem was because his intellectual ability was far ahead of his emotional maturity & that he would 'grow into himself', so I'm hoping there's some truth in that. I can imagine him (in my more optimistic moments) as being a real heartthrob as a teenager, & he can be so kind, loving & thoughtful.

He did suddenly produce a book the other week called Edwardo, the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World (by John Burningham), which he said a family friend had given him "ages ago", & this spoke to me far more than any child care manuals as it's about a boy who conforms to people's expectations of him. I think I'll have to go & re-read it...

MrsMarvel Tue 04-Sep-07 00:06:13

Hello again, sounds like you're reading a lot about his behaviour but also reading a lot into it. It's hard to see children disconnecting from their parents and even harder when they're your own. Mine have been doing that since they were born, but it's like they're on an elastic and keep coming back. I don't want to belittle your situation but sometimes it is just a combination of you letting go, them growing up, and you both getting to know the "new" people you have become to each other.

In the meantime - practical suggestion - find ds when you know he's least likely to be disturbed and just be around him. Give it at least half an hour. Don't do anything or say anything, just be there.

I think HTTTKSKWL is an interesting book, but I do think that some kids just don't want to be talked to, and they don't want to answer questions like "how do you feel about that?".

Regarding friendships, I think it is often the most healthy thing to support friendships with children that match your child's temperament.

overthehill Tue 04-Sep-07 00:31:10

MM, I think the word 'disconnecting' is important as I'm tending to think of him as a copy of how I was when I was little, & as I didn't like myself at all, it's easy to transfer that on to him rather than seeing him for who he is (if you see what I mean).

He craves attention and one-to-one time, & I really will try & take your advice on that one. Also I do know what you mean about the "how do you feel about that?" line not always being very productive in itself, but I do think it's important for me to try & remember that he's an 8-y-o and tailor my expectations accordingly.

However, I also think that if I went to bed earlier - ie before now! - I'd generally be less frazzled, so I'd better take my own advice!

Othersideofthechannel Tue 04-Sep-07 05:45:29

Overthehill, don't have any personal experience of difficult 8 year olds but I know what you mean about always being on the go and finding it difficult just to sit and chill. I have to try really hard to do this unless we have company.

But I remember being 8. When I got home from school my mum was always ironing or something and listening to Radio 4 and I never really felt she was there to listen. I used to love going to my friends house whose mum would always be sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea and would listen to us prattling about the playground.

In general I'd rather emulate my Mum who had a far broader range of interests than friend's Mum but I always vowed to show more interest in my kids chatter. I suspect that like my Mum I will find it pretty boring and rather be listening to something a bit more intellectually challenging.

All this to say, sitting doing nothing and seeming available to your kids is not doing 'wasting time' in the long run.

Also, I'm sure in the 'how to talk' book they say don't ask outright 'how do you feel about that?'. It's more about listening without asking questions in order to give the kid a chance to say how they feel. You can help them give names to their feelings. eg When my 4 year old DS says 'you're not my mummy' or 'I hate you' I say ' you must be feeling very angry'. Hopefully one day he'll say 'I'm angry with you at the moment' which will be less painful to hear.

I hope things get better soon.

overthehill Tue 04-Sep-07 21:12:56

OSOTC, I can also remember that my mum never seemed very available & always seemed to be busy in the kitchen, & I spent more time with my grandad, who lived with us. I'd hate that to be repeated with my dc's, but sometimes it feels like that. I tried really hard today to ask ds about his first day back, even though it was dd's first day at secondary school as well, but all I got were monosyllabic answers, so I felt a bit dispirited. sad Perhaps he was taken by surprise...

Othersideofthechannel Wed 05-Sep-07 09:56:16

Yes, it seems they rarely want to talk when we have time and then want to talk when we are in a rush.
At the moment seems my DCs play happily together when I have made a bit of free time. Then they suddenly crave my attention just when it is more difficult for me to give it to them.

I read somewhere the way to get them to talk about their day is to tell them about your day. I have stopped asking DS about his day at school or childminder's (he is 4.6) and tell him what I did at work etc. I work in insurance and he enjoys hearing about people's minor prangs! Sometimes he will ask qs, sometimes he tells me about my day, sometimes it's obvious he's not in the mood for a chat and just wants to daydream. But I am definitely learning more about what happens at school than when I used to say 'so how was school?'.

gracielou Wed 05-Sep-07 14:39:01

I am so with you - my DS2, who is 7, is equally horrid at the moment and I couldn't wait for him to return to school today! Nothing makes him happy, even the things that always have in the past, he's ungrateful, rude, argumentative, aggravates his siblings...need I go on? I have been driven to despair and have already made an appointment to see his new teacher to try and knock it on the head, and hopefully to get some support. I also have problems with toileting with him, soiling and wetting, which seems to me to be just laziness, but I really don't know. This has all been a problem throughtout the last school year and doesn't seem to have an end! I don't think you should feel guilty for not liking him - you will never stop loving him however horrid he is. We're clearly not alone! One thing that worked for me last term was to give DS five minutes at the end of each day to just chat, telling me any problems he had, or any worries, and talking through anything that had gone wrong during the day. It gave him the chance to voice his grievances and for me to explain how he might have dealt with things differently. He seemed to really appreciate this time away from his siblings that was just for him. I think life is just really frustrating for a child of this age, especially when they have older sibs who do lots that they would like to do but can't.

overthehill Thu 06-Sep-07 23:39:26

It's so good to hear all your words of wisdom - and horror stories, so thanks for all the input. Somehow you feel so alone & such a useless parent when they're like that, but there's an awful lot of it about. I think he's probably feeling frustrated because he's "left behind" at primary school (while dd goes out - unwillingly - into the big wide world).

Fingers crossed, but things have certainly improved since he's been back at school, & I don't know if others find that their children seem to feel far more secure with structure & a familiar routine - even though ds says he hates school!

lljkk Fri 07-Sep-07 00:38:13

In overthehill's original situation, I wondered if problems might have been prevented if the boy had promised, before the 1st playdate, that he would leave his sis alone during her playdate.

I've had the most awful day about DS. Weeks ago he threw nails in neighbours garden... we punished him, he apologised to neighbours in person and in writing, nobody was hurt or even present when he threw the nails -- he's only 7, is he supposed to figure out the potential hazard?

Today, neighbours' kids were complaining to me (at the school, small town, I can't avoid them) about that incident and some others, while their mother stood there, saying nothing. I mostly apologised then said a small thing in defense of DS, the other mother huffed "Yeah, but it's not really good enough, is it?" She also reported that DS told another child "What's the big deal?" about the nails.

But DS doesn't remember saying that to other child. I can't confirm it yet, I wouldn't be surprised if neighbour kid invented this supposed remark. But this Saturday DD wants to go to dance lesson also attended by... you guessed it, 2 of the children involved in the nails incident! DH says he'll take DD, I'll explode if I'm in the same room with these other parents.

I'm in tears about the whole situation (livid with neighbours, any adults I suspect of gossiping about DS, and with DS) and don't expect to sleep at all tonite (am also pregnant hormonal, which doesn't help).

overthehill Sun 09-Sep-07 23:11:13

How's it going now, lljkk? Did you manage to resolve things with the "nail people"? I do hope you're feeling better. It's so horrid when people are self-righteous - as if their children never did anything wrong in their lives - and it makes you feel so small.

We had a nice afternoon out today, ds then said he was too tired to have any tea, so went upstairs to bed. However, when I stopped the story reading (@ 8pm) as dh had gone out (to babysit) & I had to sort out dd (who needs to get up really early as she's now at secondary school), he kicked up a huge fuss, saying he wasn't tired any more & would either lock himself in his bedroom or strangle himself with a pillow case shockangryblush! I think he was over-tired, & after a litle set-to then my ignoring him, he did calm down & not lock himself in his room/strangle himself, thank goodness...

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