My 5year old doesn't like my parents...(10 Posts)
Resorting to posting as no idea how to deal with this. My boy who is 5 is very verbal and clear in his dislike/lack of warmth towards my parents, especially my mum. Since he was 3, he's tolerated them but has to be pushed to give hugs, say hello, say goodbye. On many occasions he's been downright rude to them. They are older than my PILs, and I think he just struggles to connect with my parents. They try their best though, bring him presents the 6 or so times a year they see him (they are 4 hours away) yet my son is consistently ungrateful and rude. Myself and DH have discussed this with him and he says he will be nice when he next sees them but all too often it goes out of the window. My DS is sweet and articulate, but can at times be a handful and think my parents in their 70s find it hard and perhaps he picks up on this. Over Christmas he screamed at my mum "I hate you" when she was trying to help him, and of course she took it personally despite the fact he at times says this to everyone. It culminated today in my parents Skyping to sing to him Happy Birthday and he literally screamed at the phone camera "tell them to go away, I don't like them". I could see my parents were upset, and so DS and I had a stern discussion afterwards and he called them back and said "sorry I was rude" but then refused to speak to them any further. I can't force him to adore them but I feel so torn - my parents desperately want his approval and I see and feel their disappointment - yet from his perspective, I can't force him to love them or even to like them. It's so hard as I can see my parents on eggshells around him. Perhaps I (and my DH) should have nipped this in the bud sooner. It doesn't help that they adore my MIL. My DH thinks my DS simply finds my parents "too old". Is this a phase and will my 5 year old come round? Anyone else with experience of this? I feel so upset for my parents.
You cannot force him to like them, but you absolutely can force him to behave. As in thanking them politely if given something, not using rude language etc.
Otoh nobody should be forced to give hugs. And pushing somebody into a situation where they have to be physically intimate with somebody they don't feel comfortable around is simply asking for trouble.
And it might be worth taking some time to find out, non-judgmentally, why your son feels uncomfortable.
When I was little, I was terrified of one of my great-uncles. Nothing wrong he had ever done, but I suppose he looked a bit scary. Fortunately, this never came to a head because nobody in our family pushed for shows of affection. Years later when I mentioned it to my mother she told me she had been scared of him as a child. He was the kindest of men. The family knew about my mother, but nobody made a big deal of it and she now remembers him with great affection.
If he only sees them 6 times a year, he probably doesn't really know them that well. He may be shy with them, or even a bit scared of them, and his bad behaviour is how he deal with this.
I agree that he shouldn't be allowed to behave badly or be ruse, and he needs to be reprimanded as soon as that occurs. You cannot force him to like them, but you can help him get to know them a little better perhaps. Certainly don't make him hug and kiss them, or even have to be hugged/kissed by them.
Does he see you PILs more often?
Most young. Children respond well to being largely ignored by older relatives. It sounds like your parents seek approval and fuss him. All these artificial greetings and hugs don't help either. Can they just quietly get on and just let him be there in the background? It's the staged nature of the relationship and being centre stage that a lot of kids hate.
Is your mum a good cook? Could she show her love that way? Or is your dad the type with a shed or an interesting box of buttons? Children like doing not talking.
Four hours' away and a limited number of times they meet face to face. It's disappointing and frustrating for you, I feel for your parents, but however young DS is, he shouldn't be made to hug or kiss people when he doesn't care to.
Fwiw I don't think it's necessarily their age - they are keen to get along but for DS it's uncomfortable and confusing here are those people again, crowding me.
Little children can be like cats; if you fuss or crowd them they can back off and be resentful. Whereas if you greet them then interact with someone else in the room and let them be, they can take their time and relax, even approach and want attention.
Suggest to your parents you all change tack.
If you focus on them and vice versa it takes the spotlight off DS.
Presents are lovely but try and delay the handover a while. Don't tolerate rudeness but give him time to adapt.
He knows now it gets a big reaction from you when he plays up. You are nervous about how he reacts and probably change infinitesimally when they're due and during a visit, he'll pick up on that too.
Is it the same tension when DH is with DS and one or both grandparents or is it mainly when you are present?
Thanks all. I agree that changing tack and backing off and letting him do the approaching when he's ready to is a great idea. Easier said than done when for example he wouldn't say goodbye and thanks to them after Christmas - but the current way isn't working so it sounds like a great plan. I also need to work hard not to let him see I am worried about this.
My DC struggled with my parents because of the distance and the fact they fussed and tried too hard.
My ILs were a good bit older but the DC were fine with them as they left the DC to go at their pace
I honestly wouldn't insist on the goodbyes and thank yous. Just say goodbye and thank you yourself while holding his hand. Manners are about role modelling as much as anything. No sane adult would take offence if mummy did the polite bit. I'm sure your parents just want to see him enjoying his presents. It wouldn't bother me if a five year old couldn't say thank you and goodbye! Anyway, getting him to parrot it isn't sincere in the slightest.
I think 5 is a little bit too old to be performing like this to be honest. I agree with pp you can't make him adore them but you can make him show them common courtesy. I wouldn't be doing the softly softly approach, I would be telling him you can't behave like that to anyone. Shouting "I hate you" not saying bye is just bad manners imho. I am sorry for you though op it must be awful for you, but I would tackle it firmly. ( and I'm not really strict)!
You can't force him to like them but that is no excuse for rudeness and bad manners. Not saying thank you and goodbye would be unacceptable to me. How do you normally punish bad behavior?
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