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How can I toughen my son up?

(28 Posts)
Mrskbpw Fri 26-Oct-12 10:27:56

My son is five (he's in year one) and a bit of a wuss.

He's very quick to cry about stuff - he can't take a joke (this morning I walked into his bedroom when he was getting dressed and said 'oh I see a bare bottom' and he cried!), if I tell him off even mildly, he gets overly upset and it escalates into a big drama, and he's even scared of loud noises - at a party last weekend he sat on my knee for most of it as he was frightened of the loud music. And Lord help us if he falls over and bangs his knee.

I've been a bit worried about it for a while, and at parents' evening last night his teachers also mentioned he's very sensitive, so I'd really like to nip it in the bud before it becomes a massive issue.

I don't pander to it at all, in fact it often makes me very cross, so it's not an attention thing.

He's got another party tomorrow - but this time it's a friend from his childminder who's 8 and it's a 'tech' party where basically they all play Wii and XBox and whatnot. I'm really worried about it partly because I'll have to leave him (I'm hoping guessing mums don't stay at 8-year-olds' parties?) and he never wants me to leave him at a party, and partly because we don't have any games consoles at home so he's never played them and will inevitably be a bit rubbish - and this will really upset him.

I just wondered if there is anything anyone can suggest to toughen him up a bit? Or if anyone has children with a similar disposition? He responds really well to reward charts - would something like that work perhaps?

Ruidh Fri 26-Oct-12 10:50:07

Could you perhaps stay for a cup of tea with the 8 yr olds parents? I'm sure they will understand as he is much younger than their child. At least then you can be on hand if he really needs you but also encourage him to get on with having some fun.

My step son used to be just like this at 5, he is now 7 and much has much more confidence. He used to sit on my lap though all parties. Now I stay for 5 minutes then he usually comes to tell me that I can go!

Hopefully its just a phase but I did find that improving his confidence in other areas really helped. For example, he was struggling with reading and writing at school and constantly being told that he was behind. His dad and I really stepped up the input at home and in no time he had caught up and has now overtaken most of the other children. He now feels much more confident around them.

He does still have a sensitive dispostion and at the moment has a bit of a complex about being bullied (his explanation of these situations suggests that this is not in fact the case).

We definitely don't make a fuss of things like bumped knees, etc, as you have also said. We also encourage a bit of friendly rough play every now and then as he can get a bit worried about what is allowed...he sometimes gets upset by a bit of a nudge and will seek out the other childs parent as he believes they need telling off!!! While it was quite funny the first time we witnessed this, it has also been fairly awkward/a bit worrying when this has been a stranger in the park!!!

Sorry, just realised I have written a bit of an essay. Just wanted to reassure you that, if handled right, you will hopefully see him becoming less sensitive as he gets older!

IWishIWasAFrog Fri 26-Oct-12 10:56:46

Why on earth would you want to 'toughen him up'? He is your son, not your enemy! He sounds very insecure. Let the poor kid respond to you and situations whichever way he wants to, you will only teach him to put up a front and withold his true emotions. Maybe he just needs a cuddle, a bit of reassurance, a bit of security from YOU, I cannot believe a parent would want to nip their childs' sensitivity in the bud, even if he is a boy! Poor kid.

Parrish Fri 26-Oct-12 11:01:32

My son is exactly like this. He needs reassurance. He needs to know what's happening in his world and if things are going to change. Ignore others and if he is getting upset just give him a big hug until he calms down. The only thing that is improving my sons confidence and behaviour is the ageing process! It's not unusual.

Mrskbpw Fri 26-Oct-12 11:06:31

Woah, IWish, of course he's not my enemy. He's my gorgeous, funny, kind, clever little boy. And I want to toughen him up because life is really hard and I worry about how he's going to cope with it all. I'd feel exactly the same if he was a girl - it's nothing to do with him being a boy.

We give him lots of cuddles and lots of reassurance but now I'm worried he's insecure. Do you really think that's it? How can make him feel more secure? Do you have any advice?

Ruidh. Thanks that's really helpful. He's actually okay with other children, though a bit shy sometimes with kids he doesn't know. He's good in school academically, but maybe we need to boost his confidence a bit.

ReallyTired Fri 26-Oct-12 11:09:14

Little boys are sensitive and actually "toughening them up" has the opposite affect. It makes a little boy feel insecure.

If you want to make your son resilence, encourage him to express his feelings. Encourage him to use words rather than screaming.

He's very quick to cry about stuff - he can't take a joke (this morning I walked into his bedroom when he was getting dressed and said 'oh I see a bare bottom' and he cried!), if I tell him off even mildly, he gets overly upset and it escalates into a big drama, and he's even scared of loud noises - at a party last weekend he sat on my knee for most of it as he was frightened of the loud music. And Lord help us if he falls over and bangs his knee.

Ie. Say to him that
"It feels embrassing if someone sees your bottom"
"Your feeling angry with me for belittling your feelings/ teasing you."
"Loud noises can be scary"
"Your knee hurts

Acknowlege his feelings and respect them. In time he will learn to express his feelings in words rather than tears or getting physical. Learning the vocabulary of feelings will make your son more assertive and confident as an adult.

Sleepwhenidie Fri 26-Oct-12 11:30:12

Has he always been like this or just recently OP? If he has just started reception it may just be that he is feeling a bit exhausted by it all and this shows in him being a bit over emotional?

Thisisaeuphemism Fri 26-Oct-12 11:31:10

My DS was like this. His friends parents told me that their kids said "don't do a ...DS..name" when people started crying because he cried so often.

He probably cried once a day in yr1, up to yr 6 about once a week. It's been ages now tho (yr7) He's lovely.

I would say its ok to cry but in private it's better. I wouldn't fancy the party if I were him. Could you just drop off the present and if he doesn't fancy it, go home?

IWishIWasAFrog Fri 26-Oct-12 11:38:24

Sorry MRS K, with hindsight that was harsh.

I have 2 boys, and I just so angry sometimes at the pre-conceptions that people sometimes attach to boys, some boys really suffer for it. I know men that have lasting emotional/attachment issues due to their parents' 'tough up' attitude.

His self-esteem, any child's self esteem, is completely wrapped up in their parents, iykwim, imagine if everything you felt/expressed were being rubbished/not taken seriously by others, that would and does seriously piss me off when I'm treated like that and I'm an adult. I'm trying very hard to NOT raise my kids with some of the shit we were subjected to as kids, time to break the cycle.

Good luck with your little boy.

IWishIWasAFrog Fri 26-Oct-12 11:40:17

btw I'm currently working my way through the 'how to listen so kid will talk' book, it's very American if that makes sense but I'm finding it very interesting and helpful.

colditz Fri 26-Oct-12 11:45:40

I disagree with those saying he cuddles, and sensitivity, and reassurance.

Because giving masses of attention every time he fusses will a) encourage him to fuss for attention and more importantly b) it will show him that as you are now making a fuss with him, he was RIGHT to fuss, being nudged WAS a big deal, a bare bottom IS worth crying about.

I think he needs a dose of gentle but firm logical reasoning every time he fusses.

Ie, when he's escalating a situation, disengage until he has calmed down. If he is sobbing and wailing, calmly inform him that you can't understand what he is saying and you don't want him to wail right in your ear, so could he go and sit down until he is calm enough to tell you exactly what the problem is.

And when he does come and tell you about someone nudging him, ask him why it is a problem, and what he expects you to do about it. Ask him what, precisely, is the damage caused.

You will really be dog him no favours encouraging this behaviour (and it is behaviour rather than character) because other children are cruel and will quickly learn how to push is buttons and make him cry.

Mrskbpw Fri 26-Oct-12 11:53:34

He's always been like this actually, it's just more marked now because as he gets older, all his friends aren't like it anymore. It also doesn't help that he's very tall and people expect a lot of him - but he won't be six until May and he's actually the youngest boy in his class.

He's in year one, but he is tired - it's been a long half-term.

Reallytired, that's so helpful. I can see how that would work. At the moment I tend to say 'oh don't cry' in a very weary way because I'm so worn out with it, which I can see isn't helpful in the slightest. I've also told him the story of the boy who cried wolf, over and over, as the danger is I don't pay attention when he's really hurt (this has happened and I felt AWFUL).

He's generally very emotional actually; he gets angry too, over tiny things. He often tells me I've been "mean and rude" when I've simply asked him to pick up a toy, and sometimes he says, "well, are you going to say sorry?" and I've got no idea what I've done to upset him.

That's a good idea about the party, we could definitely give it a miss if he wants. Maybe we can see what he thinks when we get there.

Lifeisontheup Fri 26-Oct-12 11:57:40

I agree colditz although I suspect we won't be in the majority. I have followed this with all my DC's, both boys and girls. It wasn't about not letting them show their emotions but about teaching them that there is a right and a wrong place for displaying them and that minor things were not worth screaming the place down about.
I think that many people are not taught this now and therefore have no idea what is a big deal or not so we have teenagers screaming about a minor injury and expecting the world to stop for them.
I think being gentle but firm is the way to go. My eldest are over eighteen now and are empathetic and able to show emotion when needed but not prone to making an exhibition of themselves in public over minor things.

becsparkel Sat 27-Oct-12 22:23:40

Please take his feelings seriously and acknowledge them. It's very important not to belittle or make light of them and certainly not to ignore them or make him feel his emotions are irritating. If you listen & acknowledge his feelings it will help increase his self esteem & sense of security. By taking his emotions seriously, you won't be fueling the fire, you will help to build his confidence.

Around 5, children begin to develop personal boundaries. Respect his boundaries - perhaps he felt embarrassed that you saw him naked? Children need privacy too. It may seem like nothing but might be important to him.

Also you know emotions and feelings are often difficult for small children to deal with, some have a harder time than others. Be patent with him and show kindness.

hauntedhouse Sat 27-Oct-12 22:51:42

My son behaves in a similar way. I was worried at first, but when I had a closer look at children on the opposite side of the scale, I started to appreciate his personality. He's very similar to my husband, who is a lovely person.

Sorry colditz, I couldn't disagree with you more. It's like telling someone with depression 'Just cheer up, will you, your problems are ridiculous'. And my child doesn't need to fuss for attention. He has it whenever he needs it even if sometimes he needs to ask thrice.

hauntedhouse Sat 27-Oct-12 22:54:45

I just hope Halloween is over, he'll be terrified of children in scary costumes screaming their heads off sad

steppemum Sat 27-Oct-12 23:33:29

my ds is very emotional, and gets upset at things other kids take in their stride. I know he gets tearful in school when frustrated, and he is now nearly 10, and that isn't cool, so he gets upset by the fact he is upset confused

At the same time he want to be 'all boy' plays football, stunt scooter etc

It has been very hard dealing with the emotions, especially as other boys around seem to take things in their stride. I saw the head (ex-head?) of Eton interviewed on something and he said boys are very emotional and sensitive, not what I had expected at all, but I can see why he said it.

I would really endorse what has been said about verbalising feelings, about reassurance that you believe he is upset and take his feelings seriously. Also I talk about how other feelings get expressed as anger (I was embarrassed, and got angry) to help him understand.

But I do think it is Ok to talk to him about how he is sometimes overeacting, talk about what is play and what is hurt, what is accident and what is on purpose, that if something is done by accident you have a choice how to react, about feelings sometimes being private and wanting to learn some control. Obviously some of these are for as he gets older.

I also tell my ds that he is going to make someone a lovely husband because he has such a sensitive caring side, and that is uncommon and valued by many.

steppemum Sat 27-Oct-12 23:40:07

and i do agree with colditz, you are not belittling or denying his feelings, if you can say, I know you are upset, but now it is time to calm down. Yes you were bumped, but it wasn't hard, you were more surprised than hurt, time to go off and play again.

soundevenfruity Sat 27-Oct-12 23:59:37

I don't quite understand. You wanting to toughen him up is to do with embarrassment that is caused by his sensitivity in public, worry how he is going cope in the future or is it a clash of personalities? Why does it irritate you so much? It probably would sound psychobabble-ish but traits that irritate parents in their children are normally those too close to parents' own character.

colditz Sun 28-Oct-12 11:33:51

Crying over nothing would irritate anyone.

And it will irritate everyone.

Which is why it's a good idea to teach them not to do it.

It's our job as parents to raise children who are as happy as they can be, as resilient as they can be. I just don't think that agreeing with a child that a slight nudge in the playground is something to fling yourself to the floor and scream about is the way to encourage happiness and resilience, because things like this are going to happen a lot. If the child isn't given the mental tools to cope with them, the child is going to find every single negative interaction unbearably stressful.

As for depression .... Interesting that it should be mentioned, as there are links between lack of resilience and depression in later life. Encouraging the belief that minor bad things are actually catastrophes is no way to avoid depression!

28thawashout Sun 28-Oct-12 12:09:08

my ds is also five and is similar but not to such extremes. He doesnt like to get embarrased and gets really upset if he is teased or laughed or for things, even silly things. This is who he is, i dont pander to it and fuss over every little thing but it makes him my wonderful son so i spend extra care reassuring him or encouraging him to break free of the worry with different things. I think some children are generally more worrysome. He will leave me to go to friends,parties like a shot but he is very insecure about trying new things. All we do is carry on, and deal with each situation as we think best.

ClareMarriott Sun 28-Oct-12 12:48:36

I don't want to sound harsh Mrskbpw but do you knock on his bedroom door before you go in ? Also, with Bonfire night coming up, could you arrange to go as a family to a display so a) he's with you b) when fireworks go off ie loud bangs he can see people enjoying them c) playing with sparklers d) having funny hot food and e) running round and joining in with other children knowing you are there ?

midseasonsale Sun 28-Oct-12 19:17:33

Reassurance and holding him close - don't push him to do things he is really uncomfortable with - accept he will do things in his own time when he feels more confident. He will get braver but right now just be very understanding.

Mrskbpw Mon 29-Oct-12 10:26:22

There's some brilliant advice on here, thanks so much. We told him what his teachers said and he agreed he is sometimes a "bit weepy" (where did he get that word from?!). We also told him we loved how caring and kind he is and that we don't want to change that, and that it's okay to get upset about some things.

I've had quite a lot of success this weekend by acknowledging his feelings then moving on. And we'd read Mr Jelly a few days ago, when a tramp tells Mr Jelly to count to 10 when he's scared to see if it's really something scary. He suggested he could do that when he feels like getting upset - which I thought was a great idea.

And he was brilliant at the party - I told him we'd go and if he didn't fancy it, we could leave. He was a bit shy at first but went off well. I couldn't stay - the actual party was in a van outside the house and I didn't go into the house at all. I spent two hours worrying he was upset, or had tried to leave to come and find me and been run over (I had no signal on my phone so I wouldn't have got a call!). When I went back he was munching on some cake and just said: "Oh hello Mummy."

Weirdly, he is OBSESSED with Halloween and 'scary things'. He loves dressing up and plans his Halloween costume for months. We're going to fireworks all together, so he should be fine - actually it's unexpected loud noises, he doesn't like.

Hopefully now he's aware of it a bit, he can control his emotions more. But I do agree that I don't want him to change. Everyone always comments on how kind he is and he's always been very empathetic, which I think is unusual in small children.

ClareMarriott Mon 29-Oct-12 18:53:24

Great, you sound so much more upbeat!. I've just heard a firework myself just now so have a great bonfire night !!!!!

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