Scared of 5-Year-Old Son
by Mary Follin and Kristi Crosson
THE PROBLEM: I’m a little afraid of my five-year-old son. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but whenever I need to tell him he can’t do something, he gets extremely agitated, to the point where he’s red in the face. And he gets soooo angry at me! Too often, I give in. When I’m honest with myself, I realize I’m being overindulgent, but I can’t stand when he has these meltdowns. I feel like I’m walking on thin ice all the time. (Btw, It’s worse with me. My husband is better at being firm.) I know the obvious solution is to not give in so much, but I don’t seem to be able to do that. I hate to see him so unhappy.
MARY SAYS: It’s not always easy to balance this dynamic. If we’re constantly telling our children ‘no,’ they’ll end up thinking the world is a tough place to navigate. But when parents let children have their way ALL the time, Junior takes charge, and the home becomes a battleground. Even worse, kids know when they’ve gained control, which can be a scary thing for a five-year-old. A tendency toward anxiety can emerge, which is most likely what you are seeing in your son.
If you really ‘hate to see him so unhappy,’ you need to change this unhealthy dance you’ve got going between the two of you. Take the helm, Mom. He desperately needs you to. Your son will have a hard time collaborating with other people if he doesn’t learn he can’t always get what he wants.
Furthermore, when children are little, their boundaries include their parents. To him, you are an extension of who he is. Because you’re letting your son mistreat YOU, you are showing him it’s okay when people mistreat HIM.
If you can’t figure out how to hold your ground with your son, please seek help. And watch how your husband manages your son. It sounds like he gets it, and with a little practice (and a firm resolve), you can, too.
KRISTI SAYS: Giving in is just feeding the cycle. While it’s difficult to see our children unhappy or having meltdowns, it’s better they hear ‘no’ now and learn how to deal with it. After all, what happens when your child gets used to having his way when he throws a tantrum?
I love the fact that actions always have natural consequences. I remember one time when my oldest was three I told him he needed to put away his toys before he pulled out new ones. He had a huge meltdown, threw his cars and trucks all over the place, flung himself to the floor and yelled, “I don’t like it!”
It was so dramatic! After taking a minute to breathe, I took away his toys for the rest of the day.
Goodbye Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Duplos. I put them in boxes and bins and stuffed them into his closet. I did bend a little and let him keep his lovey stuffed llama and a couple of books, but that was it.
Needless to say, he never did that again.
If your child pitches a fit when you say “no” and you give in, they’ll keep on doing it. But when “no” means “no,” they learn there’s a boundary they can’t cross. They will try and cross it, but the more often you remain strong, the less likely they’ll try.
For instance, if you are heading out to do something fun, and your son doesn’t clean up his room like you asked, the natural consequence would be to stay home. While it may be inconvenient for you, it teaches your child he can’t refuse to do as he’s told and get away with it.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising small children (Kristi). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in! If you have a question for Mary and Kristi, we’d love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
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Kristi Crosson is a freelance writer, homeschooling mom of three children, and author of Healthy Mom Revolution, a blog that offers insights on healthy parenting.