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How do you cope with the 'intensity' of having one 4.5 year old to entertain ALL the time?

(28 Posts)
Lazycow Tue 26-May-09 13:43:39

I am having real trouble coping with ds this morning. Every time we start playing it is obvious that ds is cross and out of sorts and I am just not in the mood to play either somehow. I find the playing necessary with ds the hardest bit of being a parent.

Today we have, made cakes, read and played a bit but every time we start something ds starts to get upset and angry with me because 'I am doing it wrong' and quite frankly |I feel like a child myself and am a bit at a loss on how to handle him.

It has got so bad that I have put the tv on for a bit this morning. Something I haven't done in the morning for several months of being at home with him every day (apart from his 2.5 hrs of nursery a day). The problem is that when the tv went off, the whole thing started again - worse this time.

He has finally stopped poking and hassling me to play with him (which I am now refusing to do as each time we have tried this morning it has ended in him crying or scratching me or hitting me within 5 mins of starting) and has gone into the garden to entertain himself a bit (it will be 10 mins max).

I feel so guilty because I have had to shout at him to get him to play alone for a bit. DS really only plays alone if I insist and if I am really stern with him which always leaves me feeling like s*t

Really I think most of this is because we moved to a new area 3 months ago and I am really feeling the lack of having a friend I can call with another only child or just to chat to who will jump at the the chance of a meet-up even at short notice (usually) to keep the children a bit amused. I knew 4-5 families like me this before we moved. Ds is also bored I know.

Also I just started a part time job which is better frankly for me than being at home all day but I am a bit stressed about it as it is a very new type for job for me. On top of this dh is about to go away for 4 days on a conference and I am dreading it. In the past this him going away fro a few days would not have bothered me.

Since we have moved I have found it more and more difficult to just enjoy ds's company. I am SOOOO much happier when we go out with other people and their child(ren) as ds just goes off to play with them and I can actuslly have a break from what seems like constant demands to play.

I suppose this is posted here rather than in 'parenting' because I can't actually see this improving much with time, ds will just complain more about being bored. Until now he has been quite happy just with me or dh (or preferably both) but as he gets older the lack of siblings or cousins his age and in fact now (after our move) the lack of good friends his age is really beginning to show.

MollieO Tue 26-May-09 13:49:33

I have a similar aged ds 4.11 although he is very good at playing by himself (he doesn't have a choice wink). Could you get your ds to help around the house - cleaning, sorting out washing, tidying up his toys etc. As the weather is nice you could get him to go out in the garden and collect as many different leaves as he can find (having first told him about stinging nettles!). Different games like that where he has to do something and show you the result. Means you are still involved but less hands on.

Bramshott Tue 26-May-09 13:54:26

This is a really tricky age I think - DD1 at this age was constant with her demands for "mummy to play with me" - which meant imaginitive play, just the two of us, in her room, with her rules wink! I really struggled against it, especially as DD2 was a newborn at the time. I tried to have a list of things I DID like doing with her - craft projects, baking etc and try to steer her towards those instead. And then when she did want me to play, to set a natural limit on it and warn her in advance, eg. "I'll make a cup of tea, and we can play while I drink it, but then I will have to get on". Now, 2 years on, she is a million times better at amusing herself, and while she still loves me to do imaginitive play with her, accepts that it doesn't happen that often.

Overmydeadbody Tue 26-May-09 13:56:35

You need to train him to entertain himself more. He shouldn't need your constant interaction and entertainment and should be able to play alone for some of the time at least.

How about just setting upo activities or toys for him to play with? I know when DS was that age he'd play for aver an hour alone on a mat with playdough, or with his train set once I'd set it up with him.

I agree with millieO too, if he wanta your companionship juast get him involved in whatever needs doing or what you want to do, rather thn letting him dictate the order of events.

Lazycow Tue 26-May-09 14:07:32

You see this is just why I need the advice. I just really struggle for ideas like the collecting stuff from the garden etc.

I have tried to get him to help me clear up etc but that is a bit hit and miss. When he wants to help it is fine but he often says he doesn't want to help and he wants to play.

If I say that I need to do something and he can either help me or play on his own he often follows me around pulling things out and pulling at me or jumping on my back while I try to get on with things and won't stop until I lose it and end up shouting again. blush

This morning I was hoping to avoid these arguments and agreed to play after breakfast and making cakes. This just led to the scenario I described in the OP.

I will try the collecting stuff from the garden idea.

Lazycow Tue 26-May-09 14:13:52

That is just it Bramshott, he only really likes imaginative play. Trains and cars are really not things he plays with much at all.

He does like doing thimgs outside (we did some weeding yesterday which was very successful) and will play for 20mins or so with the hose outside on hiS own if I don't mind him wetting everything [grin[ and baking/cooking. I can also read to him for ages which I fall back on a lot as I don't mind that. It is just the interminable role playing that is so hard.

Bramshott Tue 26-May-09 14:31:15

It is hard LC - DD1 is very imaginitive and I really struggle with it!! Rest assured that it does get so much easier as they get older. Is your DS going to school in September?

Lazycow Tue 26-May-09 14:49:03

Yes he will be in School in September -thank goodness ! I feel bed saying it and to think I even did toyed with the idea of home schoolimg for a very brief period last year. I know now could never do it and anyway in our situation it wouldn't be great for ds anyway.

DontCallMeBaby Thu 28-May-09 11:32:54

I agree that this is a tricky age/stage. School almost certainly will make a huge difference - I think DD gets a lot of her need for interaction out of her system there, and doesn't need quite so much attention at home. Plus it's a chance to make friends of course.

Getting out is a good thing (I haven't read this article yet but it looks like it might be a useful one, DD hates going for a walk!) DD likes making maps, and will spend ages doing that with only a bit of interaction at the end (following map to treasure), so sometimes I can get away with doing something whilst 'directing' her play, eg, 'go and hide some treasure, Pirate Captain DD, then come back and make a map of it' and so on.

If you're really stuck, embrace the television - put on a DVD and have a nice time watching that with a snack and a drink, rather than having it on at random times (this is one I am VERY bad at sticking to btw).

I wouldn't feel bad about shouting - he's old enough to know that scratching, hitting, jumping on you etc isn't acceptable. It's not going to do him any favours at school if he thinks those are okay ways to dictate the way a game goes.

Oh, and I'm also a fan of drawing some absolute lines - eg 'I will drink this cup of tea and THEN I will come and play, not before'. Sometimes she gets bored and wanders off to play before I've finished the cuppa, sometimes not, but at least I get to take charge momentarily, and have a bit of peace.

daisy99divine Thu 28-May-09 11:47:52

Poor LazyCow I do sympathise. I think your main issue at the moment is the lack of variety and relief - as you say not made friends yet due to move and DH away, I am sure that is adding to intensity of it all. Have you met anyone around? They don't have to be onelies - we have happy play with some mums who has second DCs and are delighted for the older one to be "taken off their hands" for a bit?

UniS Sat 30-May-09 21:53:40

just thought- if hes keenon role play type stuff, has he got any small world people - Lego or play people type little figures who can be role played WITH with out mum. MY lad is getting more interested in small world play and will bumble about for a while getting all his lego people dinner and washing up for them!

CarGirl Sat 30-May-09 21:56:25

My eldest was an only until 5.5 and I have to say playdates playdate playdates made a huge difference. I was fortunate to make friends with a family who had an only the same age who was quite happy to do playdates at the weekend. they are still best friends now even though they are 12 and we now live 100's of miles apart!

amberlight Sun 31-May-09 06:46:18

We had a very simple rule - if he bit, scratched, kicked etc, no game for the next 15 minutes or so (which is as long as it took me to get over the experience!). He only got a game if he could be reasonable. Worked even when he was fairly non-verbal before 3 1/2, though it was a huge challenge.

Computer games have their uses too, provided it's age appropriate and sensibly monitored and not too long. DS has learned touch typing, a lot about social protocols, and a huge amount of useful info from computers over the years.

I wouldn't worry too much about the tv thing either. If you're exhausted and really really need the peace and quiet, then that's making sure you get the rest you need. He has to learn that other people also need the same things as he does - rest, safety, respect, some time to do their own thing. If he's watching something good for his age for a while, then brilliant.

What are his favourite games? How does he like to play them? Could any of them be a social-club type of hobby for him where he can get out and meet new people (and so can you for a while?). You could definitely do with a good mate too, you're right.

GrapefruitMoon Sun 31-May-09 06:55:38

It's not necessarily any better if the have siblings you know - I have spent the past week refereeing constant bickering & fighting between my ds's!

yappybluedog Sun 31-May-09 08:32:37

I used to give my dd a cloth and a water spray and ask her to help 'clean up'

feather dusters are good too, keeps 'em occupied for hours while you mumsnet work

Starbear Sun 31-May-09 08:47:56

Lazycow I'm in the same boat. Roll on September. The advantage I have is that I work, three days a week! Lego has been a big success in this house. But be warned just making a freight truck or rubbish truck takes us two hours! Can't be done by a 4 year old alone. After we made various houses, trucks etc during the winter (Uncle & adult cousins brought him tons of the stuff.) He can play for about 30 mins making swimming pools, gyms, space stations and airports. Hope this helps. Playmobil are good too!

tamsinmary Sun 31-May-09 18:55:54

Am finding this of some comfort as I sit here sobbing. Have just put DS to bed (nearly 4,only child, and will remain so unfortunately). I asked him if he'd had a nice day, and he shook his head sadly and said 'no, I wanted a friend to play with. It's a bit boring playing on my own'. We do have playdates during the week, but weekends we tend to do family stuff- ie me, dh and ds. I feel awkward foisting myself on friends, who by and large have more than one child, and seemingly action-packed, social weekends. Being pre-menstrual doesn't help, but I already feel guilty that he won't have siblings and hearing that he's had a sad day has upset me.

slowreadingprogress Sun 31-May-09 19:13:33

tamsin please don't feel bad! I think sometimes our overwhelming love for our children makes us slightly over-concerned that their days should be perfect. Maybe don't ASK him so much; as an adult, you KNOW he's had a lovely day, because you have worked hard to make it nice, you've been nice and kind to him, he's had good food and a nice bedroom and good toys to play with. Don't ask for his validation; you ARE giving him fantastic days.

Of course it's important to listen to their feelings; but we can't all have what we want all day every day and we wouldn't be nice people if we did. Your ds has you and his dad and as you say, during the week he DOES have playdates.

and to Lazycow I wanted to say you are doing the right thing by stopping playing with him when he scratches/gets cross etc. Again, he needs to know that people don't play when you're like that, and mum does not put up with being a punch bag.

our natural wish to make our singletons happy does also need to be balanced with their need for boundaries IMO

my ds is a singleton and I have gone through ALL these feelings; he's 7 now and I have come to the realisation that DH and I give him a lovely life; we do our absolute best. No kid will have it all; kids with siblings lose some stuff that singletons do have. It's all balance and if you're doing your best that is good enough for you and your kid.
IMHO!

slowreadingprogress Sun 31-May-09 19:23:21

oh and lazycow I meant to add when ds was this age and very intense as you describe, I coped by having quite a strict routine - pre-school three mornings a week (after which it was lunch followed by some TV, then an outing either in the car to local beach or library or similar,or to the local park on foot, then home for a play (gah!) and dinner at about 5pm followed by bed at six. Yes it was early but ds would play happily alone on his bed! also I found an early bed helped alot with his mood.

I think routine is the key!

Starbear Sun 31-May-09 19:58:15

tamsinmary Don't assume things about other people. We have people over for Saturday/Sunday lunch, we are happy to fork out, never go over the top. People with two three children are happy to come over. We have had a Bat & Ball picnic with friends with no children, two children and adult children, nephews and no partner the whole lot< we had a ball. Next weekend we are going to lunch with people who have two kids. I have friend two kids single parents love spending time with us. May I repeat don't assume things about people. Just get the wine in and the kids will sort themselves out honest. Next weekend is packed friend returning lunch Sunday I've arrange to vist a fire station (friend is a single firewoman) picnic after about 15 kids.
smile It's hard work but worth it

amberlight Sun 31-May-09 20:46:08

Tamsinmary, one of the wisest things I read was that children who find life 'boring' at times are the ones who do best. Because they've had to think, to learn, to be that bit independent, to get 'in touch' with who they are and what they want. The ones who are always busy, always in a social whirl of activities, ended up less happier in the long run in one big study.

So, yes he's had a bit of a boring day, but no harm will come of it, I'd say.

tamsinmary Sun 31-May-09 20:53:54

slowreadingprogress, thankyou for your kind, wise answer, and you too, starbear. You're right about not asking him to validate the day for me- a useful point, thanks. And also about the not getting what we want all the time. God, I wish I could be as insightful about my own parenting as I am about other people's! But both your answers have been useful, ta.

tamsinmary Sun 31-May-09 21:01:55

And thankyou, amberlight. Yes, that's helpful and reassuring too.

Starbear Sun 31-May-09 21:59:35

amberlight Thank you for reminding me to let him get bored and using his brain to entertain himself, you are so right. Please keep reminding me, I keep forgetting and DH sometimes reminds me but not often enough. Good thread smile

UniS Sun 31-May-09 22:20:50

ahh yes, the teach them to cope with boredom thing... its good un, and a very usefull one. we semi ignore boy for chunks of time if something grown up needs doing and he copes and bumbles about doing his own thing with cars, balls and duplo. Often lolling about for while on his bed in the process.
I was expected to amuse myself for chunks of time as a kid. I did have a brother but we didn;t get on at all well, so doing my own thing was preferable to playing with him. I had various small world pretend scenarios I would retreat into with lego people or model animals.

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