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How do you deal with a child who doesn't want to grow up?

(18 Posts)
Lonelymum Wed 22-Jun-05 13:39:09

My ds2 has always been a bit like this. I don't mean he is immature, just that he doesn't want to grow up. He loved being my baby and resented my dd when she was born and displaced him as the baby of the family, though funnily enough, he didn't seem to mind ds3 being born.

He always used to cry if I told him funny stories of what he did when he was a baby - because they made him want to go back to being a baby. That has worn off a bit as he had grown older, but yesterday, I had it all over again. Ds1 was 9 yesterday and ds2 is exactly 18 months younger than ds1 so whenever one has a birthday, the other is celebrating being half way through whatever age they are. All was fine until they had all gone to bed. Then some time later, ds2 came downstairs crying because "I don't want to be 8" - even though he is not 8 for another 6 months! I asked if this was because of his age old thing about not wanting to stop being my baby (I have always reassured him that he will always be my baby no matter how old he is). HJe seemed unsure what he was crying about but said it was partly that.

You know, sometimes I worry so much about ds2. He has always been a serious boy and taken things to heart. He is also very intelligent which I know from having a very intelligent brother is not always a good thing: there is a tendency to dwell to much on things rather than just living each moment and enjoying life for what it offers like the rest of us mortals. I really worry that once teenage hormones kick in and when I can no longer shield ds2 from life's harsh realities, he will end up committing suicide. Sorry, that must seem extreme to some of you, but my mother has admitted she worried the same way about my brother and he has indeed been very depressed on occasions.

I know I have gone on too much about this. Thanks if you have read so far. How do you think I should deal with ds2's weepy moments?

homemama Wed 22-Jun-05 13:50:56

Hi LM, I don't have any words of wisdom I'm afraid as mine haven't reached that age yet but I do have some understanding.
My highly intel. brother was exactly the same and he lived in his room for a year during alevels (quite literally!).
I do think you are right to be a little worried but don't let it ruin your enjoyment of him.
Maybe try to encourage independent activities such as outwardbound stuff or discussing with him all the exciting things that await him.
Good luck!

Lonelymum Wed 22-Jun-05 14:06:07

I did do something of that yesterday homemama. We are buying a house at the moment (exchanged contracts today!!) and it is a lovely old family house with a big garden so ds2 is very excited about that. I talked about that, and the holidays and new classes and anything I could think of that would happen between now and Christmas when he turns 8.

But his state of mind worries me. He is quite outwardbound: he loves Beavers and took part in a sleepover, staying on a local farm last weekend - did you mean that sort of thing? Do you think that will encourage him to become less reliant on me?

Lonelymum Wed 22-Jun-05 18:57:19

No-one else with any advice?

homemama Wed 22-Jun-05 19:01:53

Yes LM, that is the sort of thing I meant. Maybe you could talk to school. It could be that there is a very kind, responsible Y5 or Y6 child who could buddy your DS and talk to him about all the fab school things that await him.
Sorry I can't be more help. Hope this bumping up can ensure you some better qualified advice.

assumedname Wed 22-Jun-05 19:17:14

Can you point out some of the advantages of getting older?: seeing films for older kids; being allowed to stay up later; joining Cubs etc etc.

Maybe, as he's highly intelligent, he worries about how he'll cope with teenage/adult problems. He can see the problems, but can't work out any solutions? Just a wild guess.

frogs Wed 22-Jun-05 19:26:44

My dd1 (now 10) has gone through phases of this. In particular she was worried about starting secondary school and being a teenager -- I think she thought she'd turn into some kind of high-heeled lipsticked nightmare (she's a bit of a tomboy type).

She only changed her mind last year when we went to look round secondary schools. When she saw what fun the girls were having hanging out together, messing about, listening to music etc. she suddenly realised that she wasn't about to turn into an alien, but rather an older, more independent version of herself. Since then she's also been allowed more freedom -- she now walks to school by herself (usually with a friend), can go to the corner shop to buy a Beano or some scoubidous, and goes to sailing club at a local lake on Saturday (again with a friend, on the bus, but without a parent).

So I think first-hand experience has achieved what endless sessions of me telling her of the advantages of getting older has failed to do, and now she gets quite excited by the prospect of all the extra things she'll be able to do. In fact if she was offered the chance to start secondary school this september, she'd jump at it.

Other than that, we've gone out of our way to give her out-of-school challenges (like your ds she finds the schoolwork ridiculously easy). She's been on summer activity camps (Mill on the Brue -- highly recommended) and to stay with family abroad, all of which have strengthened her sense of what she can achieve. She's also managed to forge strong bonds with a group of girls in her class who, having cat-fought their way through most of primary school, have finally wised up and realised they all have a better time if they chill out a bit.

While it's important to take your ds's feelings seriously, I wouldn't read too much into it either -- you don't want to project your own feelings about your brother onto him. The other line I've found useful a few times is from Harry Potter (ha!), where Harry is sitting transfixed in front of the mirror that shows his heart's desire, and Dumbledore says: "It does not do to dwell on dreams too much, and forget to live". I think that's quite a good line to take with excessive dwelling on fears as well.


frogs Wed 22-Jun-05 19:33:41

I should have said at the beginning of my post that confidence can be a particular problem with very bright children, because they're so used to finding everything easy that they fall apart when confronted with something that they can't immediately do. Dd1 was terrible like this between about 5 and 8 -- would have hysterics if she couldn't immediately do something, if it wasn't perfect, if someone else could do it better, or even if she thought she might not be able to do it.

I really do think that focussing on non-academic activities, some of which she hasn't always found easy, has really, really helped. I can't recommend Mill on the Brue highly enough -- they're very hot on pastoral care, but v. good at getting children to try new and challenging activities. And the group leaders are young 'gappies' or students, which gives the kids a whole new perspective on life. For unaccompanied holidays they take kids from 8, I think.

roisin Wed 22-Jun-05 19:57:45

DS1 (nearly 8) is a real worrier. He doesn't worry all the time, but when something strikes him he is almost paralysed with fear - for up to 24 hrs or even longer. I guess he just thinks through all the possible negative consequences of a new experience, and becomes extremely nervous.

For example, a few weeks ago he bounced out of school with the news that he'd be going on a short residential in the autumn. But by the time we'd walked home (20 mins) he's thought of a dozen negative points, or concerns. That evening he couldn't get to sleep, and sobbed for about 4 hrs

Our strategies are as follows:
We always take his concerns seriously.
We are willing to listen to anything he wants to tell us about.
If there are specific questions troubling him that can be allayed, we do further research to get those answers for him.
When the worries on a specific issue seem to ease, we don't raise the subject again.

I do find it hard, because I'm not really a worrier at all. I do plan carefully and strategically, but I don't actually worry about things.

Frogs - I will certainly use your Dumbledore quote in future. Thanks for that.

Btw it's great to read how much independence your dd has.

(I've just banned the Beano! Ds1 was given 192 copies by a teenager who was clearing out. I've been very patient waiting for him to get bored of them, but in 3.5 weeks he's read nothing else at all. So I've banned them for now!)

Lonelymum Wed 22-Jun-05 20:00:35

Thanks for your thoughts.

I am not sure about an older child buddying ds2: he is rather prococious and tends to put older children's backs up by knowing more than them! Of course, if there was a child who was as bright as ds2, that would help.

He did go to the local secondary school last week for a day - one of those things they put on for bright children - and he loved it, although I don't think the activities particularly addressed his particular strengths.

Mill on the brue looks great, but rather more expensive than we can afford right now. I shall have to remember the concept for later maybe. Ds2 is like your dd was frogs in that he can't bear not to succeed at something straight away. I try to keep the challenges coming so he gets used to that.

It is interesting that both frogs and assumedname suggest he might be fearing the challenges of teenage years. I never thought of that as he usually welcomes challenges. To me, it just seems that he has difficulty letting go of the past. He loathes change (I did too as a child and still have difficulty with it now sometimes) but perhaps, psychologically, the reason he hangs on to the past is because he fears the future.

frogs Wed 22-Jun-05 20:49:43

MoB is quite a lot of money, though we get a discount for being 'returners'. I think their charges are pretty much in line with most other camps, though.

But you might want to have a look at these camps , LM, reviewed in the Guardian today. Seems to be for 2ndary only, but worth keeping tabs on, I think, as they look to be much cheaper.

Somthing else that has been a success with us are these classes , organised by Gabbitas Truman and Thring. The website isn't that great, but they have a wonderful range of stimulating but not schooly courses which dd1 has really enjoyed. If anyone's interested, the woman who runs it at Gabbitas is called Patricia Morse, and I can prob. dig her phone no. out from somewhere.

I don't think that my dd1 was consciously scared of growing up, but I do think it represented for her a move away from her secure little world where she knew the rules to a big scary place where she didn't know what would be expected of her. Always a frightening prospect for the anxious overachiever! But with support it has definitely got better the closer it has come to becoming reality. So don't despair.

SoftFroggie Wed 22-Jun-05 21:55:30

I ... er ... I identify personally. I remember saying "I don't want to be 8".

I was a bright, anxious, perfectionist over-achiever who HATED growing up and felt sad each birthday. what would have helped me?

In some ways it was fear of the future: I knew I didn't want to have to smoke / smoke pot / drink under-age / have teenage sex etc (bit 'square', me). So reinforcement that he can live his life in the way he wants to and that'll be OK. And that it's not as bad as it seems.

In many ways, though, it was a crippling disappointment at not having "got the most" out of being 8 (or whatever) (even though I did everything). As a perfectionist I always felt as if I had 'failed' each year for some obscure reason. Wanted to redo it, but better.

Looking back, I'm sorry I clung onto the past: I chose childish birthday presents, and wish my parents had talked me out of it. (e.g. when aged rather too old for one I asked for a big teddy bear, I wish they'd re-directed me towards a camera).

Weepy moments: lots of cuddles and love, as you would weepy moments for any reason. But do move him on, don't get him stuck thinking he has to play childish to get your love.

hope some of this helps and means something to you

Lonelymum Wed 22-Jun-05 22:08:35

Yes it does SoftFroggie. I can remember moments in my childhood when I wept for the baby years I had left behind forever but I can't remember why I felt that way - probably stress in my current life - and I certainly didn't feel this way as often as ds2.

I'm sorry, but I can't help smiling at your admission that you asked for a teddy bear "when aged rather too old for one"! I am not digging for an answer but I couldn't help but note that you did not say what age you were! Can I take it that you are a man? In fact, I am assuming you are WheresMyfroggy. Anyway, it is good to know you came through and are now (I presume) a more contented adult.

fishfinger Wed 22-Jun-05 22:10:14

think he soudns really tired you know

Lonelymum Wed 22-Jun-05 22:13:22

Right now I would agree with you Fishfinger - he is having difficulties sleeping in this heat, in fact since he went on a sleepover last w/e and got (he says) 4 hours sleep only.

But this is how he has been since he could express an opinion and he used to sleep plenty. It is far more than a bit of tiredness.

SoftFroggie Wed 22-Jun-05 22:26:41

Definitely not a man why did you think that? Was maybe 12 or 13 during the teddy bear incident. It is a HUGE bear - bigger than eaither of my sons is yet. They love it.

Also, not anyone else. I took a deep breath and posted under my usual nickname.

very happy adult, mum to 2 lovely little boys, lucky DW to a very hands-on DH, blah, blah. Still 'dwell' a little bit too much. Not been properly depressed for years - mainly cos I've given up 'competing'.

Best wishes to your DSs.

miggy Wed 22-Jun-05 22:37:19

Lonelymum-ds1 (11) sounds so similar (and to frogs dd) last christmas I found him crying himself to sleep because "he had had such a lovely day but it made him think of how it was a year nearer to everyone dying", it made me really sad. Like frogs dd he used to get hysterical until he was about 8, about things like spellings in case he got one wrong. Now I try and deal with "the weepy" moments by actually discussing the issue in hand, for instance at xmas we talked about death and souls just in a down to earth adult to adult way. I try and be quite pragmatic to take the drama out of the situation (iyswim), seems to help.
Love the harry potter quote and will memorise that for next time.
Not much help lm just really wanted to add reply as I so sympathise with your post and often worry about suicide myself (not for myself). You so want your children to be happy dont you.

Lonelymum Thu 23-Jun-05 12:49:09

oops SoftFroggie! Massive here from me! There is absolutely nothing in your post to suggest you are a man, except that I felt that as some teenage girls, and even young women, receive and display teddy bears, it was only boys for whom teddy bears had a "used by date". Also, I have noticed that WheresMyFroggy (who is definitely a man) hasn't been around lately so I put two and two together and made seven! Anyway, sorry for the mistake and I am glad you have found fulfillment in adult life. That is all we can hope for I think.

Miggy, yes your ds does sound like mine - crying because we are all one year closer to death is just ds2's sort of thing. Why do some chldren have that sensitivity? I used to think ds2 was blessed with something special - he once said (aged about 3/4) he didn't think dead people stayed dead very long: they soon found another person to be - which I thought was wonderfully spiritual, but now I feel his sensitivity is a real curse. I found out he was being taunted again at school yesterday, and I feel like barging in to the school and giving the tormenters what for.

On a positive note, I do sit down and talk to him about his worries. I feel it is so important not to dismiss them, but I don't have any answers for him.

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