My 9 year old son is crying in school whenever something happens that he does not anticipate. If his teacher gives him an answer he does not like, he cries loudly and disrupts the class. He cried because he did not have money to buy an extra snack in the lunchroom, he cried because he could not find a homework sheet he had done the night before, and he cried because he did not have an envelope with money for school pictures (even though he knew he could have the pictures taken the following day as well). He is an otherwise intelligent boy, scores above average on all of his standardized tests, reads above his grade level and is funny, engaging and happy. However, this behavior manifests not only at school but also at home sometimes with myself or his father (we have been divorced for 8 years and I have been remarried for 6). He never cries when he is at home with my husband (his stepfather) and my other two children, probably because my husband is totally intolerant of the behavior and isolates him immediately.
My son is having the usual 4th grade problems, including gossipy girls and light teasing, etc. His best friend moved away in the spring and he misses her very much, because she would serve as a sort of liason with the girls in the class and advocate for him. She was a "popular" girl and befriending my son made him more popular, but without her, he has sunk to the lower fathoms of 4th grade stratosphere.
He feels that he is under a lot of pressure, and I do understand that. The workload has increased and his teacher this year is more strict than any he has had before. I listen to him but my message is still that despite all these issues, he still has to choose to not cry/tantrum in class or at home, because it is not appropriate for a boy his age. He says he tries not to cry but sometimes he just can't hold it back.
He is in his room today, grounded to his room for crying in school three times in the last two days. What do I do?????
He is probably just emotional because he is a) tired (I would make his bedtime earlier), b) missing his best friend and c) going through an emotional stage. Sounds like his teacher also may be strict enough that your son is feeling pressured to do everything right to win the approval of her and to win the approval of his peers. Peer pressure starts to become more of an issue as he progresses through the next few years.
I probably would not ground him for his crying. This might add to his pressure of trying to be perfect and his sense of failure.
I would try to go through every scenario you can think of that he might run into and be upset over and walk him through how he can handle it prior to it actually happening. He just needs the tools to navigate through this.
And, be sympathetic but if you really think his crying is not warranted and it is for attention (for example), then do ask him to cry it out in his room and tell him that that is ok to do so but to join you as soon as he feels ready to. I would try not to tell him that he should not cry because that will actually make it worse rather than better. Chances are, he is not crying when your husband is around only because he fears the response--he probably still wants to cry. When he is with you, he feels "safe" to cry and that is actually a good thing. You don't want to squelch that--boys do need to learn that it is ok to cry just as much as girls cry--he just needs to choose the appropriate time and he needs to have other strategies in place if he is feeling pressured or frustrated.
Encourage him too, to join school teams, sports, etc. that will help him feel validated.
I hope this helps. I've taught for years and honestly, I have seen boys who went through crying spells almost daily. Usually the reason was exhaustion--most of them were up very early to play hockey and when they got frustrated during the course of the day, they just could not contain themselves and they cried. But, they always came around after a few weeks. Make sure your son is getting a TON of sleep--growth spurts also can cause a kid to require extra sleep.
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