My 8 year old son goes through phases of extreme emotional upset over what I consider little things. He'll go a couple of months without much crying, then suddenly go a couple of weeks where the smallest things make him cry. I am extremely frustrated right now because of two episodes that occured in the last two days while at school. Yesterday at our school's book fair, I told him he could not get a poster, that we were there to buy books only. After asking and asking, and me saying no, he started to cry. Then he wanted a reference book for his video games, except it didn't contain any info on the games we own, so I said no it would be a waste of money. Again, he started to cry. While in line to pay, he still argued with me all the while still crying in front of the other kids and my mom friends. When we got home, I was so very angry. I told him he would not receive the books that he'd picked out because of his behavior and ungratefulness. I explained to him that many other kids don't get to participate in the book fair either because their parents are too tired from work or just don't care. I grounded him for a week. Today as I picked him up from school, a friend who happens to be the "parent lunch helper" approached me and said there was lots of "drama" with my son today. She said she found him in a corner of the cafeteria, crying and out of control, gasping for his breath that he couldn't even tell her what the problem was. After he caught his breath he told her that he was short .50 cents for lunch so he was denied a full lunch (my husband gave him the wrong amount). He told her they were out of the "oops" lunch, so all he had were carrots and milk. And that's how she found him, in the corner, crying inconsolably, all the other kids staring at him. She loaned him a dollar, took him to the front of the line and asked for his usual cheese pizza but by then they were out of that. The lady serving grabbed him by the arms and said "get control of yourself." I am at my wits end that I don't even know what is an appropriate reaction anymore. He's forgotten his lunch money before and he's been OK. He's been upset like that once before in class when he got in trouble (the teacher felt so bad). He's a bright boy, very artistic and creative, plays baseball, has many friends, is funny and very affectionate with us and his little brother. I can't understand why he doesn't get embarrased to lose control like that in front of his peers. I don't think he cares what others think when they see him at his age crying like a baby. It embarrases the heck out of me because I believe that at age 8, he should have grown out of that and we could enjoy a more mature relationship with him. I can be a little restrictive and over-protective, maybe too involved. Please help me make sense why the tears flow so easily?? Personally, I've never seen other 8 year olds react like this. Please help me understand. Any advice would be appreciated
Probably the most important bit of guidance I can offer you is to make an adjustment in your personal reaction to this. You are permitting it to influence you to a degree that is very disproportionate to the circumstances. The amount of frustration, anger and embarrasment you are allowing yourself to display are getting in the way of your reacting in a calm, deliberate fashion with equanimity. See if you can gain better control of your emotional reaction.
Now, one thing is clear: your son is prone to periodic bouts of an overly emotional response to frustration (do you recognize the pattern?). As he matures, he will stabilize in his ability to manage frustration without it overwhelming him to such an extent. He needs your help to some extent, and the best help you can offer is by (a) maintaining your own equanimity, thereby reducing the emotional toll on yourself and also modeling a better example for him of how to respond to frustration, upset, etc., and (b) setting reasonable limits on his displays (e.g., at the book fair, when he was first crying about not being allowed to buy the poster, you could have said: If you can stop your crying. we'll continue to look at things; if not, we'll leave. One of the reasons you are having so much trouble with his reaction is that you are setting up expectations about how he should behave (e.g., he should be embarrased in front of his peers, he should be grateful, he must not care what others think) - these cognitions are a problem. Keep this in perspective and you'll find that you can help him better.
Finally, be sure he's OK physically/medically. As I'm sure you know, many children become fragile and vulnerable when they are sick, hungry, tired, etc. Be sure as you can that his emotional fragility at times is not associated with these states. If it is, the remedy is more straightforward.
It sounds to me like your son and you should both see a councelor to find out what is causing these emotional outburst. There could be something bothering him that you are not aware of. Put your pride aside and don't worry about what others are thinking, he must be feeling a lot of pain not to be concerned about what they are thinking. Recentley I was told by our therapist (in so many words) that I might be trying to hard to fix him,which was effecting my relationship with him in fact pushing him away. Sometimes its hard to see the trees through the forest. I'm speaking from experience. Good luck to you and your son, you're not alone.
What a wonderful forum this is to be able to receive valuable advice from the experts and others who care. I so appreciate the advice. In my heart I have felt that a big part of the problem was my reaction. I know it should not have frustrated me to the level it has, yet it does. I can handle almost everything else regarding my boys in a calm, patient manner. Just the crying unnerves me that while in the moment it is hard to get ahold of myself and I can see how that is not setting an example for my son. I am going to work harder at this because I love my son to no end, he is such a neat kid. And what you said about not worrying what others think, you hit the nail on the head because I have been trying to work on that all my life! To frustrated daddy: I too, as you noticed in my e-mail, have always had high expecations of my son. I believe I probably stress him out. Thank you for sharing your situation with me, because it breaks my heart to know that I am possibly pushing him away. I hope the counseling you are recieving helps you and your son. Thank you!!!!!
I agree that counselling would probably be helpful. Your son must feel some deeper pain to react to the situations you describe in such a manner. Do not let others define your son for you. "Lots of drama" is only one person's assessment of the situation. Also, on the surface, it sounds as though there are some tough people for a child to deal with in your son's school. For the lady serving to grab a child who is crying unconsolably and say "get control of yourself" shows not only cruelty, but lack of understanding. Your son's teacher may be the only compassionate person he comes into contact with.
Have you looked into the possiblity of teasing or bullying going on at school? Very often this can be done by other kids in such a way that the teachers are not even aware of it. You absolutely must forget about appearances and stand up for your son. He needs to know you are there for him to count on when things get too overwhelming, and 8 years old is far from being grown up. You are obviously a loving mother in a difficult situation. Good luck to you.
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