Monday, 19 October 2009

The trouble with Parenting (or why didn’t anyone warn me how difficult it was going to be?)



I’m sitting here with big swollen eyes, a bright red runny nose and I can’t stop sobbing. I want it all to stop and I wish I’d never started down this route. I can’t seem to get anything right.
I love my boys, both of them, but my eldest and I seem to be drifting further and further apart. I can’t seem to get a handle on him and he’s only six! It feels like a nightmare that will never end and will only get worse.
We had a massive row in the car on the way to school, all because he would not put his fleece on. I mean what a silly thing to get all het up about – me not him. But he refused to put it on saying I always told him what to do. Well I would, I’m his mother, I’m a grown up – it’s what we do isn’t it? Tell children what to do because we know best and they do it. That’s the deal. However, with increasing frequency, everything I ask him to do from the big to the small is a trigger to a battle - from asking him to close his mouth while eating to getting dressed in the morning; from not picking his nose to concentrating on his homework.
Oh it is such an effort. I bribe him with crisps and sweets, promises of telly when he finishes, I threaten with no stories, early bed and even bread and water but neither treat nor threat seems to make any difference. I just land up shouting in frustration and spending an inordinate amount of time trying to get things done. I dread waking him up in the morning knowing what a battle it will be to get him moving, get him dressed get him watered and fed and then off to school. I dread  picking him up and then having to go through his homework in the early evening. Something that really only will take 20 minutes lands up taking an hour and a half and I or Dear Charlie have to sit with him the whole time trying to get him to concentrate so he does it. I mean all we are doing is a few high frequency words or a very little math and piano practice.
He loves piano, so his teacher says and he is really improving. He says he loves it but to get him to do five minutes practice and I really only mean five minutes necessitates a 15-minute negotiation usually accompanied by various threats and promises.
I wonder if it is all worth it.
Some will say a six year old should not have this sort of pressure. I would agree but the Cambridge Primary Review, widely reported in the Newspapers last week has yet to be adopted and my boy needs to keep up with his classmates. It’s not as if he can’t. He has the ability everyone says so, he just doesn’t seem to have the confidence nor the ‘right’ attitude to do it.
We praise him to the hilt when he tries, we proudly show off all his achievements but it’s like he doesn’t hear us. It just doesn’t bode well for the future.
And what of Bog Boy, the youngest? Well he I think is a major part of the problem. My littlest is a ray of sunshine. He smiles and everything is right. In fact his paternal Grandparents call him Smiler. It is so easy to fall for Bog Boy’s charm and he uses it ruthlessly to get whatever he wants. He’s a shocker. He’s also at 3, very forward, erudite and most importantly of all co-ordinated. It looks as though he’ll be one of those gifted people who go through life lightly, shedding joy and love and getting it back in heaps. I often look at him and just know life will treat him kindly and it is SO unfair. The Boy, is darker, more mercurial but he’s handsomer, quite possibly cleverer and when he smiles he’s devastating. He can be so engaging when he’s himself and it is heartbreaking to see him like this all twisted up and frustrated and just downright horrid.
He’s taken to doing things and blaming it on his brother. The other evening he peed against the sofa and then came to us saying Bog Boy had done it. Bog Boy was incredulous, he couldn’t believe his brother was doing this to him. Nor could I. This is the first time this has happened. Bog Boy loves his brother whole-heartedly and will follow him about and join in all the games and is very happy to be the baddie or the Daddy or whatever his Puck-like mentor decides. So this was a bit of a betrayal. A shock. It was pretty obvious what had really happened and The Boy was sent upstairs in disgrace. Leaving us at a loss. There were many tears and calls of unfair and try as we might we could not help The Boy to see that it was fair to send him upstairs.
I notice now that Bog Boy is using the same words as his elder brother but as yet without much conviction. He copies what his brother does to get attention especially when we are occupied  doing homework.
And I feel for him so desperately. I feel for them both and I’m tired, and I don’t know what to do. I can’t seem to make it better for my eldest. I certainly don’t want to make it worse.


27 comments:

Ali said...

Hi Tattie Weasel, just read your blog via BMB and wanted to give you a hug! I have no experience of little boys antics yet (my boy is only 7 months), but from reading your post it sounds like they have an amazing mother who really knows her little boys. If its any consolation when I was small I used to follow my big brother around (3 years older), who was always in trouble and got me into trouble all the time. I idolised him but in a word he hated me. He used to say I could do nothing wrong as the baby. My mother says he used to take me out of the cot and leave me in the garden and go into the cot himself so Mum would pick him up instead of me! From talking to friends I think this is common with siblings. We fought a lot when we were younger, but I love my brother and we have both turned out ok.

Liz (LivingwithKids) said...

Oh I do feel for you - boys in my experience are a constant challenge. Please don't be upset, it does get better, I promise. Practically, I know 'star charts' can work well, rewarding good behaviour and ignoring bad... piano practice is a total nightmare. I would say 20 mins is actually too much at this age, 10 would be more than enough. I know it's hard but you just have to let some stuff go and concentrate on the important things - like his schoolwork - otherwise you'll spend all your time together locked in a battle. I'm speaking from experience!

Liz (LivingwithKids) said...

Sorry just reread and realised you said 20 minutes to get dressed, 5 minutes piano practice!

Don't sweat the small stuff and maybe try taking him out on his own sometimes to movies that aren't suitable for his little brother!

Ladybird World Mother said...

Ouch. You poor poor thing. Nothing, just nothing beats the guilt of getting it 'wrong' with the parenting lark.
Now dry your eyes. Wipe that nose of yours. Get the kettle on. And settle down.
Here goes...
Your lovely boy is chockablock (sp... I know, don't know how to spell that one) with hormones at the moment... aged 6 is another of those unfair flare ups of the damned things. So he is churning with unknown feelings and actions and doesnt know why.
Have you read Bringing Up Boys? Cant remember the wretched title, but can be googled, I'm sure. Might have some help there for you.
Will go and think. Might have some ideas that you could use.
He sounds wildly jealous of little brother and jealousy is such a horrible thing to feel.
Oh, and homework?? 20 years of it later... I am getting quite good at that old chestnut.
Never do it when tired. And that means you, not him! Have a lovely place to go where you do homework... and let him take ownership of it. Its his after all. Use stickers or charts. Or, best of all, marbles. In they drop, into a jar, and when he has 20 or 30 or whatever you decide, take him somewhere... just him. A special day out. Or just a hot chocolate and lashings of cream! But just him and you. Or just him and Daddy. Or best of all, the three of you.
He will be just fine...I PROMISE.
xxxx

Potty Mummy said...

Hi Tattie, I just saw Ladybird's comment; the book she's talking about is called Raising Boys and is by Steve Biddulph. Best of luck!

(And I'm sure you've already thought of this but do you actually get to spend any non-homework-related, non-car trip time with him one to one? My eldest is so much easier if we do that.

Tara@sticky fingers said...

I have written such a similar post in the past about my daughter - the younger of my two.
You feel like such a blooy failure and like this is your future all mapped out for you and how the hell do you escape.

My twopenneth, from experience?
1. Learn to be 6 again. Think like he thinks not how you think he should think. How BORING the things you are asking of him are. Sure you know best, but at this age he couldn't care less about 'best'.
2. Never say do this/do that. Make it a challenge or fun or a race. Tell stories instead of giving instruction (calmly and with a jokey angle): 'I once heard about little girl who wouldn't keep her mouth closed when she was eating and she swallowed so much fresh air blah blah blah'
3. Explain things. Treat him like an adult. I know most of it doesn't go in or mean a lot but 'you shouldn't do this because' works better than just 'don't do that'. I hate being told not to do something unless I know why I shouldn't, I guess children are the same.
4. Don't say don't. Or stop or anything confontational. You're asking for a row. Say 'you really shouldn't' or 'it's not nice' or 'only babies do that'.
5. Pick your battles. Does it really matter if he won't put his fleece on? If he gets cold he'll soon learn his lesson.
6. Do not bribe. It just doesn't work. It also means he has 'won'. Give incentives like 'at the end of the week you'll get X for doing X every day'
7.Spend more time on your own with him. I know this is a toughie, but when I started taking my daughter out when it was just me and her she changed so much. I never made a big deal of it or announced it we just did it and she clearly loved the one on one attention.

We had exactly the same problem in that my older boy (6) is an utter joy and constantly got dragged down to her level.
I'm not saying these are the answers and believe you me it's been tough, but we're getting there.
I cannot bear to hear any parent going through what you are and I wish you all the very best.

Tattie Weasle said...

Ali - Thank you. I do so hope it will come out right. When my eldest was little he did ask whether Bog Boy could go now. But in general they really do love each other it's just recently...
Liz - Good advice about going out with him especially. Booking Fantastic Mr Fox is definitley on now.
Ladybird World Mother - no idea they had hormonal surges at this age. It explains a lot. Fantatsic advice - I'll get him to come along with me to buy a desk for himself rather than having to use the kitchen table. Thnak you SO much!
Potty - Ordered off Amazon. And no there's not much time that's not either homework or car trip related during the week at least... you forget sometimes.

Tattie Weasle said...

Tara - amazing advice and it's good to hear I am not the only one. Really good tip about the bribery, I never thought about it that way. It's just amazing what wonderful supportive advice I am being given.

Perfectly Happy Mum said...

Sorry to hear you are having such a hard time at the moment. My 2 boys are younger but in turn give me a hard time too.
I think the advice Tara gave are great and definitely worth a try. She always gives me some great advice when I am crying out for help :)
If I can just say something about trying to get his brother in trouble. It reminds me of the sort of things I did when I was about your boy's age and my sister was 4 yrs younger than me. I am not proud of it, but I think it was something really deep or else why would I still have such a clear memory of it? I didn't pee on the sofa, but I did things like writing on the walls and saying it was her. I even hurt myself once and said she did it. I was plain and simple jealousy. She was the one getting all the attention all the time. She was always earning someones attention because she was cheeky and funny and I was the quiet one. Maybe what you need to do is a little bit less telling off and lots more praising. Maybe try to organise some quality time just you and him. Maybe take him to the cinema or to a place he really likes and where you can do something you both share and enjoy? Also like it has been said pick your battles. There are some things that really don't need waste of energy and also it tends to end quicker if it doesn't get some much attention.
Hang in there, I am sure it will get better xx

Sally, Who's the Mummy said...

I second Tara's advice on not bribing. I never do it, on the basis if I start now, by the time Flea's 21, I'll have to give her a car, or something, just to have the bins emptied.

I'm also a big believer in informed choices and picking your battles. When Flea was younger we did a lot of: "I think you should wear shoes or your feet will hurt at the park" then taking her to the park without shoes. I'm evil, I know.

We have a very small number of rules that are non-negotiable, in which case the choice becomes: "Do you want to get in the car, or shall I carry you there?"

Regardless of that, it sounds as though they're just spirited boys, and I believe 6 is a real flash point for kids - console yourself with the idea that ALL the best people are horrible sometimes as kids, it's how they acquire a personality.

Expat mum said...

Just to agree that it will pass. My 14 year old had a miserable time for years (and made us miserable too). Even though he was naughty, it was also plain to see that he didn't really enjoy being in trouble. As he got older it was as if he came out from under his little black cloud and he's great now.
I would definitely think about spending some one on one time with him.
The biggest thing I learned not to do was to argue with any of mine. It just drags out whatever's going on and usually makes it worse. It also falls right into their little traps, which is to get you as riled up as possible.

blackbird said...

Oh Tattie,

It does sound as if you're in a battle with him and it needs to be de-escalated. He doesn't know how so it's up to you.

My daughter (eldest) was my more difficult child and my son has been a delight- so I'm not sure how much the sex has to do with it. Some of what worked for me:

Say something nice- It's hard sometimes to find something good to say about and to them- especially in the midst of the battle- but if they only hear the bad, it's very discouraging for them. Try to find a balance.

Pick your battles- Definitely save your energy for the big issues. As much as possible, let him make his own decisions- he'll get cold is he doesn't wear his fleece or maybe he won't. Kids seem to run warm.

Let him suffer the consequences of his choices- This is a tough one but really important. If you provide time and space for him to practice the piano or do his homework and give him encouragement- maybe that's enough for now. Let his piano teacher or his school teacher ask him if he's done his homework and why not if he hasn't. You can speak to the teachers before hand to tell them what you're doing and ask for their help. Often you don't have to do this step until they're in their teens but start early.

Ignore his testing behavior, if you can. He's trying to get your goat and it's working. Let him eat with his mouth open and just ignore him. It's hard.

Revel in what you love about him and enjoy his company. As others have said- time with him alone and doing more grown up things. Maybe he'd like to help you in the kitchen.

My children were ten years apart so I'm not as familiar with close siblings. It was easier for me to give each one their own time and space but I was amazed at how quickly my daughter could go down to his level. I expected more of her but that was just another surprise of parenthood.

Good luck and be glad that you're going through this now and not when they are both in their teens. You'll figure it out.

Jude said...

I have every sympathy with you, and know exactly how you feel - my two boys are 5 and 2, and their personalities seem very similar to those of your boys. The elder one is much harder work than the younger, hates to be told what to do, (or asked even) and is stubborn, bolshy and contrary. But then I was exactly the same at his age, so I find it difficult to blame him. What gets me is that so many other parents seem to have such biddable children.
I'm afraid I don't have any easy answers - I wish I did, sometimes I despair myself. I feel it's especially important to get it right now, because if I don't what chance do we have with him as a teenager?
There's some really useful tips here that I shall try myself - I'm not sure I have any more to add. So, not a great deal of help here, but at least you're not the only one!

Preseli Mags said...

This all sounds so familiar. I've seen and heard the same in other families (probably EVERY other family!)
I agree with others above: This is just a phase and it will pass.
You are the best mother your children will ever have. There's no replacing you and that's why you are tested to your absolute limit in this way.
The trouble with parenting is that it is enormously hard and children don't come with a simple instruction book. Sometimes it does feel like a total battle of wills.
Is it like this for everyone? I'm pretty certain that it is.
As for peeing on the sofa - perfectly normal (I've heard about this before too). One day you'll look back on that and laugh.

Motherhood and Anarchy... said...

Hello Tattie Weasel. I am new to BMB and have come to your blog from there. I really feel for you because these sorts of dilemmas are so consuming and it's so easy to, mistakenly, think you are failing as a parent.

I'm really glad loads of people have responded with great advice here. I hope it has made you feel better. I won't launch in with more advice but just wanted to write to say a couple of things.

Firstly, the book Raising Boys is great. Secondly, I have just read Superpowers for Parents by Dr Stephen Briers and that was excellent in helping me think what emotions are behind a child's behaviour. I will be posting a review on my blog soon if you are interested.

Lastly, I just hope it has made you feel better to realise that you are not alone. I always feel better when I share problems with other mums and realise they are struggling with the same things.

mountainear said...

There's no training for parenthood is there?

Eldest peed on the curtains like a dog - I know he would be mortified to hear that now. Middle was an absolute PAIN until we moved out when he was 22, and the youngest was hardly ever any trouble. Looking back, its fair to say that all the badness, heartache and getting it wrong fades away - but by God it was there. There were moments when I and I/we doubted our abilities as parents and rearers of children. Were we scarring them for life? On the whole though kids are resilient things and mine, while they may not be living the lives I dreamed up for them as infants are independent, healthy, happy and gainfully and legally employed. Nobody ever got arrested.

Never, ever, doubt that you (both) are doing a damn fine job - don't beat yourself up. Set boundaries, be fair. Love. Do tough love. Bribery works. Best wishes.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

I'm reading all the advice here with interest. Your boys sound exactly the same as mine but older (right down to the tricky eldest who can occasionally be such a delight and the ever cheerful younger one) and I can see that I am going to be having the same issues as you very soon.

God it's hard this parenting lark. Big hugs to you. And a virtual cup of tea when needed. xxx

Pipany said...

Oh I feel for you but what fab advice here Tattie. Nothing to add, but I think it's great you blogged about it as now you have any army of supporters! keep going; you know it will get better eventually. And try not to beat yourself up too much - you're only human (says she who n ever fololows own advice!!!) x

elizabethm said...

Some wonderful advice here. I found that giving some one on one attention was a great thing for both of us and that not entering into countless battles was vital. Treat him as if he is sensible and kind, explain things, share things with him, give him some privileges which are clearly because he is older. It will pass most quickly if you choose a very small number of battles and draw those boundaries very clearly and let the rest go and love him to bits, as we can tell you do!

Lanny said...

Wow.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

All good advice . Make up your mind not to have power-struggles with him . If he gets hungry or cold he'll eat or wear his fleece the next time when you're not looking . You need to save your energy for the essential rules . No running across the road or biting should be enough .
That way he'll survive this and move on and so will you !
Perhaps , instead of piano practise you could find a few cds with some lovely and simple piano playing to put now and then without comment . He might want to find out for himself how to do it ....the scales can come later .

Tattie Weasle said...

Perfectly Happy Mum - I'm hanging in there and trying to implement all this wonderfrul advice. Beleive it or not I really think it's working!
Who's the mummy - OK I'll buy teh personality thing in the same way being dragged round the world (jungle/mountains/rivers) by my Dad was character building! ;) Oh yes I have been evil too - no fleece today and no raincoat. Bless him he was SO relieved I had them both in the boot of the car afterall!
Expat Mum - I never thougth that he wanted to rile me but now you mention it...
Blackbird - I should be an expert on growing down to fit your younger brother/sister: it's exactly what I did with my sister who was five years younger. I've made more of a thing about him going to bed later than his brother because he's the eldest. He behaved SO much better at bedtime!
Jude - just to know someone else understands is a great help! And don't you beleive about biddability they'll have their comuppance when the teenage hormones hit in!!!
Preslei Mags - Good to know peeing on the sofa is normal - I'm big into normal. Now does that also go for actually peeing on your brother while he's asleep???
Motherhood and Anarchy - just love the juxtaposition of your name! Yup, a problem shared is a problem halved. The advice has been amazing and actually works. There again I am actually taking the advice rather than ignoring it like I would if my mother had told me!!!
Mountinaear - thanks for making me chuckle about the curtains and for heloping me to put it all in perpective. Bribery continues but I'm starting small...
Brit in Bosnia - oooh that cup of virtual tea went down a treat. Nothing like a cuppa; thank you!
Pipany - trying to be nmice to me and him. Lots of giggles today in the car as we rhymed his name with a variety of strange words mostly dwealiung with lavatory humour. Why do boys find this sort of thing hysterically funny???
elizabethm - remembernig how difficult I found it being the eldest I am making a point about his priviledges. It was such an obvious thing to do and he's really rised to the occasion I am so proud of him.. and I told him so too.
Lanny - WOW indeed. I have been humbled by all this wonderful advice and the concern people have shown. It has really helped.
SmitoniusandSonata - yep focussing on the things that will save his life is probably the best place to start and a good point to remember! one of the best tips yet :)

Iota said...

Oh, this is written from the heart, and it pulled at my own heart-strings. I don't have any words of wisdom. Children HAVE to know that you love them as they are unconditionally, and no matter what. Then they have the confidence and freedom to become who they can be. You are doing all that, from the sound of it.

And yes, I agree with other commenters, that one on one time really helps. In fact, reading all the comments was like attending a really excellent parenting course in the comfort of my own home.

I gave up making my son wear a coat, and imagine my humiliation when a teacher left a message on my answerphone saying could I please send a coat to school, now that the weather was cold! But then I swallowed my pride, and emailed her to say "he has a coat which lives in the car. It can live at school. If you have more success in getting him to wear it than I do then I'll be thrilled."

I don't think children feel the cold like adults do. Maybe it's worth losing the fleece battle, for the sake of good relations. (I've just read your reply to comments, and see that you have done - good for you!)

And 6 seems quite young for the piano. If he isn't motivated, why not drop it for a few months, or even a year or two? (Please feel free to ignore this suggestion - I know it is often more complicated than just motivated or unmotivated.)

KittyB said...

Tattie I've just come to this late and I have to say that yes, we've had this phase, and while it is awful it does pass.
We used to have a fight about everything from cleaning teeth to doing homework and when the day starts off with a fight it is an inauspicious start to yet another day. My friend who has children roughly the same age as yours is going through the same thing too right now.
I am still pleasantly surprised when as polite ask to switch off the TV or put on shoes is met with a meek acquiescence. I've got used to that stomping, huffing, whining, crying and can't quite believe that it has finally passed.
Hang on in there, you're a great Mum and it WILL get better.
And Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph is a great book, as someone else has already said.

Tattie Weasle said...

Iota - Thank you so much the support everyone has given me is wonderful and I am putting a lot into practice especially the one on one time and it is fantastic.
Kittyb - I'm so glad I'm not the only one and that it will pass. We still argue though but maybe it's me but I'm not so worried about it now...

Crying Baby Help said...

Join our group and let's share some techniques on how to stop your baby from crying and leave you with a peace of mind. We are also open to other topics of discussion on parenting

veryanniemary said...

Have you tried giving him the responsibility? If he doesn't want to wear his jacket, tell him that it is cold without it, but his body and his choice. Ask him what he wants to wear and then negotiate from there, if my kids don't eat the dinner that is fine, their choice, but their plate id kept for them and no amount of pleading gets any other food and the plate comes out and is eaten....

Let him have responsibility for the smaller things in his life and take his choices seriously.

Go on you know you want to...

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