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I've hit an all time low with ds aged 9 - please help

(34 Posts)
sinkingfast Mon 25-Aug-08 19:54:55

I could really do with some advice re ds who is 9, nearly 10. He's always been a very full-on, high maintenance child but lovely with it. I also have dd1 aged 7 and dd2 aged 5.

In the last 6 months to a year, every time we see other children, it always follows the same pattern - ds totally overexcited and me telling him to calm down, followed by everyone playing OK (although ds wanting to control everything/wanting everything his way/wanting to win) until something happens and he kicks off. He'll then take himself off (a strategy I suggested when he was about 7 and which used to work well - he would then calm down, take a deep breath and come back to play) but nowadays, he cannot seem to break out of it and the other children end up looking totally bemused.

Today we had some other children visiting who he loves and the same thing happened. I'm seriously worried this need to control everything and kicking off when he can't (and then not being able to calm down afterwards), coupled with being sullen, moody and pretty rude when kicking off, is going to result in him having few friends who will stick with him. I've just realised that no friends have phoned or called for him all holidays sad.

I'm desperate for help and advice - I realise that I have no doubt contributed to this behaviour but I really need advice as to how to make changes in the future sad.

Help sad

Marina Mon 25-Aug-08 20:08:27

Not sure how much help I can be tbh but just wanted to sympathise. I have a ds of just nine and I know that by this age, social swkwardnesses do have a big impact on your playdate numbers.
Try not to be too convinced that he is an unlikeable child because he hasn't had many phone calls, though. Neither has mine - and he is popular, with a number of pals. Most people do take their main holidays in this period and can be out of circulation for up to two and a half weeks at a stretch. Add that to many boys' attendance at Football Camp or Cub stuff and it's quite possible that even best friends will only be mutually available on three days out of 42.
It's not clear from your OP - are these school friends or out of school friends (ie, children of your friends he has grown up with)? I ask this because I think a good strategy might be to have a frank chat with other parents. Ds has a couple of great pals who have their moments for various reasons, as does he, and it is such a relief to be able to discuss flare points and solutions in advance.
I don't think you have made him a friendless little grump. He is clearly someone who has more trouble controlling his feelings than some other children his age. I think you gave him great advice and I suspect the other children were not as bemused as you fear...unless they are younger. I am perennially impressed by ds' circle of friends to deal with frequent outbursts of annoyance/acrimony...but this is because they are classmates who have to rub along together and know each other well now. This is why I wondered whether you were talking about a school holiday visit from non-classmates.

youcannotbeserious Mon 25-Aug-08 20:10:56

i just want to say, my DSD1 was juatr like this at 8yo... She;s 13 now and lovely. A real pleasure...

cerys Mon 25-Aug-08 20:11:57

Bumping this for you, though have no useful advice I'm afraid. I am having problems with DD1 aged 8, and, if it's any consolation, my DDs haven't seen any schoolfriends this holiday either.

Hope someone has something helpful to say soon!

sinkingfast Mon 25-Aug-08 20:17:19

Oh marina, your post has made me cry.

Yes, you're right, these are out of school friends. He doesn't have a huge number of friends in school, but in the last year, he has seemed quite happy and hasn't come back with any significant issues re friendships, as far as I can tell. So yes, the lack of phone calls is probably not significant. But I am concerned about his "Little King" tendancies when seeing any other non-schoolfriends which seem to be getting worse (and it doesn't seem to matter whether they're older or younger tbh - if older, it just seems to take longer to come out).

Sometimes I look at him and don't recognise this rude, sullen, aggressive child. And then I feel so very guilty as he can be so thoughtful, so lovely and so gentle sometimes. He really is such a Jekyll and Hyde, very moody.

Thank you so much for your post.

HonoriaGlossop Mon 25-Aug-08 20:18:34

I've not got experience of this personally but I just wanted to say that this sounds to me just a result of immaturity; he is still very young, still a young child. As youcannotbeserious shows, kids can and do mature. Also teenage boys are well known for 'clamming up'! You might find he really changes when the teenage hormones kick in?

I just think give him time.

You've given him great advice and he's clearly part of a loving family; can't go wrong, really smile

tigermoth Mon 25-Aug-08 20:20:47

I second Marina's post. I think she has made some good points about school friends and I agree that as many people are on holiday, it's really possible that all your ds's friends have been away.

When you say 'something happens then he kicks off' do you mean this is when another child won't play how your ds wants to play and so he gets cross? Or is it just general boisterousness?

IME when you have friends round, all the children get excited together - it's part of the deal. I don't know if girls tend to be calmer and quieter as a rule as I only have boys, but from what I have seen, girls do tend to be calmer. Is there any chance you are expecting your ds to behave more like his sisters?

sinkingfast Mon 25-Aug-08 20:30:47

He is quite immature and I would say, a typical first born i.e. quite a sense of entitlement.

I know what you're saying TM and I have had many conversations with a friend who has similar aged children but two boys, then a girl. He does stick out more in our family and I don't think the situation has been helped by dd1 being very laid back with not many strong opinions (much like me). So he's been able to control games, tv channels, who sits where in the car etc for too long (I realised this a while back and took steps to change it but it would help if dd1 cared more IYKWIM).

But this is more than boisterousness, this is being in the middle of a game, everyone having fun and then the whole thing coming apart on some tiny detail which he will not back down on. He is also ultra-competitive and so the concept of e.g. a cricket game "just for fun" is impossible - it'll start off OK but then when it looks like he's not going to win, he'll try to change the rules and then kick off when anyone objects. He then wonders why he's being "left out" (happened today and I can't say I blamed them sad).

sinkingfast Mon 25-Aug-08 20:45:02


sinkingfast Mon 25-Aug-08 21:20:30

youcannotbeserious, I hope so - weak smile

surreylady Mon 25-Aug-08 21:32:17

I also have a DS aged 9 - we haven't seen school friends this hols either - this is OUR time as a family he has probably 4-5 good friends - he will pick up with them as soon as that bell goes the week after next - and I don't feel concerned (I like it this way)- perhaps I should. He is certainly going through a phase of trying to exert himself and his viewpoints I notice for example that he is keen to have a view on every adult conversation if he can understand the subject or not- I see it as an age thing - is this perhaps where you are too - he is not always capable of distinguishing who he does this with and it does come across as negative sometimes - and challenging and he can appear critical - to his younger sister (and friends).

tigermoth Tue 26-Aug-08 07:47:25

What happens when you discipline him? My oldest can sometimes be extremely bossy to his younger brother, especially as there is a 5 year age gap, and it is not nice to watch.

It is difficult to separate them when ds1 is like this, but I do try (and ds2 is not entirely blameless when ds1 has a flare up).

I find ds1 will take more notice of my husband, so if all else fails, I call in dh or ring him on my mobile and get him to talk to ds1. This usually calms down the situation, then if necessary, I add further punishments like time outs, or banning certain things.

Would your ds take more notice of his father? It may be a boy/man thing - although I hate to have to rely on dh, I have to admit it does help sometimes.

QuintessentialShadows Tue 26-Aug-08 08:24:55

I recognise a little of my ds1 in what you say, though he is only six. He is fine with schoolfriends who knows him. But he had a tendency to want to boss with the children of my ante natal group, and meltdown if he couldnt, it often ended in tears. He grew up with seeing them every week, this dwindled as we went back to work, more and more started preschool, then school, and in the end we only met up with the kids a few times per year, and birthdays. (But there you just follow the schedule on the party so not so much time to free play) I reckon it was down to insecurity. A desperation to play and be a part of "the gang" coupled with a certain level of anxiety in this relatively unknown group. I reckon he is as lovely and gentle as you say, but cast into social circumstances where he feels uncertain, makes him react in different and maybe somewhat desperate ways.

I honestly wouldnt worry too much. But maybe it would help if you go somewhere in particular with such friends he doesnt know too well, park, playground or some other place of interest where the onus would not be on any particular boy or girl to come up with something to play?

sinkingfast Tue 26-Aug-08 12:39:01

He's very similar to DH, although DH can't see it hmm. DH is a first-born remote hogger as well, plus always thinks he's right (oh I'm so looking forward to the rows between those two as ds gets older). DH is quite authoritarian but also tends to call me in to a situation needing discipline, so the buck essentially stops with me.

Neutral locations used to work best but these holidays, he's been grim wherever we've been tbh. He just comes across so unpleasantly to others. sad

surreylady Tue 26-Aug-08 13:03:38

I am really conscious of how my children appear to the outside world - perhaps he does not come across quite the same to others as it seems to you - is there anyone that you can test the question on perhaps. Also you have probably been down this path but is there anything worrying him - my Ds changes if he has something on his mind - it is often hard to second guess him as it is almost always something very trivial or imagined so if I feel a tension I have taken to asking - the end of holidays is one that comes up in this household - not an issue at school just seeing the summer (such as it was) disappearing.

sinkingfast Tue 26-Aug-08 13:37:37

Thank you surreylady, I will ask the question of a friend whose opinion I value greatly - I know she'll be honest.

But really, if you were with a 9 year old who:

- always served himself first and always the biggest/best piece

- had terrible table manners

- hogged the best of anything

- always wanted things their own way

you wouldn't be thinking he was great company, would you?

Certainly his behaviour does deteriorate if he's worried about something, but I'm pretty sure there isn't anything and it's also been all through the holidays (although he's been like this pretty much for years, just not as bad). I know there's no magic answer but I'm just feeling so powerless (as well as mortified) and am struggling to know how to handle it. I was brought up in an authoritarian household and the buck definitely stopped with my Dad. I have tried to go down a more "how to talk so kids will listen..." path with my own children but am now wondering whether a different approach is needed to get ds back onto the right path. I just don't know sad.

TheProvincialLady Tue 26-Aug-08 13:51:47

Sinkingingfast I sympathise. And I know what you mean about having been brought up in an authoritarian household and wanting things to be different for you own children. I feel very much the same BUT I also feel there are some areas that are just not up for discussion. And that sometimes people do not naturally possess the finer feelings and need to have rules imposed that hopefully start to make more sense as they get older. I would definitely put table manners and serving yourself first/wanting the biggest and best of everything in this category. These things are not adults we have to do lots of things whether we want to or not. I am a natural greedy guts but I know that even though it is agony to me, I have to share the pudding equally and even give more to the guestsshock A lot of this sort of thing was enforced by my parents and whilst they got a lot of things wrong, I do feel glad that they instilled good manners in my brother and me.

Do you think it would help if you had a chat with DS about where this behaviour gets him and how it makes him look to other people? Sorry if I am stating the obvious and you have already done it a hundred timessmile

Soapbox Tue 26-Aug-08 13:52:21

Sinking fast - I think you need to let your son just get on with things. Drawing attention to his 'difficulties' really isn't going to make him any more socially aware, it will just make him more selfconscious and stressy.

I would let him face the natural consequences of his behaviour and let peer pressure force any adaptations that he needs to make. He really won't get away with always hogging the best, biggest etc in a large group of similarly aged boys, for much longer. At this age things do tend to change quite quickly in terms of what is fair or not amongst peer groups and unless he has exemplary leadership skills his need to be top dog all the time will be challenged.

I think it is also important to recognise the things that we are capable of changing and those that we are not. A highly competitive personality is unlikely to be changeable, but the way he deals with winning and losing in public is. I think it is fair to remind him to manage his reactions, but not fair to expect him to be less competitive!

Do you think you can back off for a bit and just see what happens? Be there to support him and mentor him when things don't go his way, perhaps probe gently about how he might have handled it better but not take over? You know the old maxim about five positive comments to one negative - can you focus on that for a while so that he has the self-esteem needed to ride out this tricky period?

In the meantime, I don't think there is anything wrong with subtely changing the home situation so that he doesn't always need to be top dog in that environment. It doesn't matter whether your DD minds, rather that you as parents are working to help the children find an equitable position for both of them.

Soapbox Tue 26-Aug-08 13:55:11

BTW I think the last thing your DS needs is to be in a more authoritorian environment. What he needs more than anything is to learn good negotiation skills (which from your posts is what he seems to lack most) and he will learn those skills best in an environment where everyone is modelling good negotiation skills.

sinkingfast Tue 26-Aug-08 14:02:51

Soapbox, you're absolutely right. And ProvincialLady, thank you so much for your post too, that's really helpful.

So given a typical mealtime, would you explain (yet again) what's the right thing to do, but not pull him up when he doesn't do it? And would you avoid social situations for a bit or just carry on and leave him to sink or swim <quiver>?

I'm sorry for all these questions - this really is where MN is invaluable for me. I've only got sisters (and we're not very close) and my Mum died some time ago. These are just the kind of things I would have been running past her. God I miss my Mum sad.

Soapbox Tue 26-Aug-08 14:07:27

At a normal meal time, I would decide what thing you most want to tackle over the next few weeks and only mention that one thing. Then remember the 5:1 rule, do if you say 'DS you must wait until everyone is served before starting to eat' then you must make 5 positive observations to balance it out.

It seems very clunky at first but it does soon start to feel normal! Writing this has reminded me that I need to practise what I preach with my own DCs - so thanks for thatgrin

surreylady Tue 26-Aug-08 14:12:25

Have you tried a reward chart - I know that it is top end of the age scale for this - but My DS does like to work towards success - does not have to be expensive or materialistic (although clearly they prefer this) - this allows him to tell you when he has done something to get a point on the chart - so gives him some positive controls.

TheProvincialLady Tue 26-Aug-08 14:13:22

Soapbox your mealtime plan sounds good. I am wondering how you keep track of your 5 positives to one negative if you have more than one child? And does it work with husbands too?grin

Soapbox Tue 26-Aug-08 14:20:27

PL - I think it is supposed to work with anyone that we interact with - in theory! I am most aware of it with my DCs but try hard to do the same with my DHgrin

Over time you don't monitor the exact ratio of 5:1, however, I think you get a feeling for when it is starting to get more like 1:1 and when you need to start commenting more positively again - which is what writing these posts has reminded me of!

Soapbox Tue 26-Aug-08 14:21:00

PL - I think it is supposed to work with anyone that we interact with - in theory! I am most aware of it with my DCs but try hard to do the same with my DHgrin

Over time you don't monitor the exact ratio of 5:1, however, I think you get a feeling for when it is starting to get more like 1:1 and when you need to start commenting more positively again - which is what writing these posts has reminded me of!

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