Am I damaging my 10 yo son...?
March 17, 2016 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I was recently called in to my son’s school by his teacher to defuse a situation. He was having exams and he had encountered a math problem that he was having a hard time solving. Instead of figuring it out his teacher said he called her and told her it was difficult and that he could not do it.

Further, she said he began getting frustrated saying things like “I have to place first,” My mommy said I have to place first and if I get this wrong I will not not get 100 %.” And he would slam the desk and get into a fit. She told me he was disrupting the class and frustrating his classmates.

This is just one of many incidents which have occurred in his school setting. Generally he seems to be needy and always seeking attention, always seeking praise from individuals. He is not a sportsman as when he cannot get his own way in a game he either disrupts the game or whines and pouts. I get very frustrated with most of his habits and I find that I always have to console him and remind him of how much he's loved, he is my only child, and now and again asks why his dad and I broke up.

He also gets super jealous when I speak to guys or even my girlfriend. When I am on the phone he wants to interrupt and have a conversation as if he does not see me on the phone. If I am doing something and he is doing something he wants me to stop what I am doing to pay attention to him. I do not intend to get anymore children and even without that knowledge he’s said he does not want me to have anymore.

He is afraid of everything and does not want to try anything that he perceives to be dangerous or too challenging. As a result he does not want to play any contact sports because he is afraid of getting roughed up. He does not like to see anyone succeed or try anything if he cannot get it done himself. For example, I got him a rubic’s cube and he still cannot solve it and shows little interest, his 11 yo cousin however is interested and attempts to solve it. When he sees this, he takes away the cube. This attitude extends through all aspects of his social interaction.

He traveled to a family friend in the US last summer -his first time there- and she was not too far from tearing her hair out because of his attitude. According to her, he wanted everything and pouted and whined when he didn't get it. He wanted to go to a theme park, spent 8 weeks there and because he didn't get to go to theme park he said he did not enjoy his vacation. If it is not something that he wants, he is not thankful for anything.

He gets uber anxious and excited over things, -like really excessively to the point of irritating his allergies and starts itching- he is interested in and wants to do, it seems as though he obsesses on stuff, I told him about a trip for this summer and he wants to keep talking about it everyday. If he has to go out he will ask 1000 times and more if we are still going.

While growing up I've told him not to talk to strangers, not to let anyone take advantage of him, I've encouraged him to speak his mind and be confident. More recently I have been trying to tell him about how there are bad people in the world and how he needs to be careful with the relationships as he grows up. I also tell him not everyone will have good intentions and people can be manipulative and heartless and prey on children. I also try to encourage anything he wants to do, he has begun taking guitar lessons and going to scouts as he showed interest in them.Now we live on a small island hence a lot of what I am telling him regarding kidnapping and torture, he will not see most of it.

Lately, I have been very frustrated and anxious with my life and the way it has turned out. I feel like I am running out of time. I am in my early 30s, single parent and still living home with my mom. I’m torn between acquiring a property or renting a house. The house is getting too small as my son is getting bigger and we share the same space. I am also feeling stifled in my seemingly dead end job hence I want to leave, I want to start a business but I am not sure what exactly I want to do; well I am sure, however I do not know where to begin considering I have zero entrepreneurial training. I am currently enrolled in a degree program but I also want a part time job. On top off all of that, I recently got out of a toxic emotionally draining relationship that has somewhat dimmed my outlook on life and also adds to the urgency of my wanting to move. My mind is on overdrive and I feel drained. My son tells me I am so dark and negative sometimes.

I have been shouting at him more often, I get easily upset at the slightest things that he does. Things I think he should have the common sense to decipher for himself. He still needs to be instructed on everything. I have to remind him to do everything and I get really really frustrated with him. I shout, I scream, I say hurtful things to him just to get the result I am looking for and sometimes I just throw my hands in the air. I am finding myself becoming very impatient with him these days. Not sure if my preoccupation with my rut is causing this behaviour.

What I wanna know is, am I the reason for my son’s behaviour? Did I expose him to too much negativity too soon by telling him about the world and it’s demons so to speak? Is my outlook on my life affecting him negatively? Am I pressuring him too much? Am I expecting too much from a 10 yo boy? Is he spoiled? Is it too late to intervene and change his behaviour? Is this normal behaviour for his age? How do I make positive changes to curb this? Does it sound like a psychological issue? Another thing I only recently found out that he lies incessantly. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I am failing him.
posted by Whatifyoufly to Human Relations (47 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Has your son ever been evaluated for learning disabilities and/or emotional conditions like ADHD, anxiety, and Aspergers? You say you're not in the US -- would you feel comfortable having your son evaluated for these things by a counselor, pediatrician, or therapist in your country?
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:34 PM on March 17, 2016 [17 favorites]

I shout, I scream, I say hurtful things to him just to get the result I am looking for and sometimes I just throw my hands in the air. I am finding myself becoming very impatient with him these days. Not sure if my preoccupation with my rut is causing this behaviour.

What I wanna know is, am I the reason for my son’s behaviour?

Sounds like it, or not helping anyway. But I'm just a random internet person. However I think saying that this does not sound like a healthy relationship for you to have with your son seems like safe territory and I'd suggest working on that sooner rather than later.

And by working on it, I don't mean "trying harder" I mean talking to a trained professional or trying to reduce your own stress level somewhat quickly and somewhat permanently. I am very sorry you are personally feeling stressed and anxious but taking it out out a child, especially one who appears to be having behavioral and emotional issues, is a very difficult thing to take back even if you wind up in a better place further down the line.
posted by jessamyn at 3:34 PM on March 17, 2016 [94 favorites]

Please see your GP for a counseling referral for both you and your son as soon as possible. Even if you have to pay partially out of pocket, it will be a worthy investment: even more so than a property in the near future. It sounds like you and your son are hurting a lot, and having a professional will help him feel heard and you feel supported. As a teacher, I can say that there's no quick fix to this but it's absolutely something that can improve with insight and assistance. I know you are trying your best right now and want to do help your son. I wish you both luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 3:38 PM on March 17, 2016 [19 favorites]

You know that thing people always say about putting on your own oxygen mask first? It sounds like that applies here -- you sound like you're juggling a lot and it's grinding you down, even outside of stuff with your son (and that's not helping either). So I'd also suggest going to some sort of professional not only for your son, but for you as well.

I say this because it's impossible for us internet-folks to decipher what exactly is going on. I've gotten enough from your story that it sounds like a systemic issue, so simply tweaking a few things on your part might help (like not telling him about horrors he's unlikely to encounter), but I doubt it would resolve anything to your satisfaction, or for long. I think you'll need to do a full review/assessment of the situation, of what might be maintaining these vicious cycles; and this is where getting professional input, face-to-face, would help.
posted by obliterati at 3:44 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

There aren't easy answers here. As a fellow single parent of an only son in my early thirties, I want you to know that I empathize. This situation sounds hard and shitty and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I think the best thing you can do for yourself and your son is to seek out counseling for each of you.

I'm in therapy, too, and it's so incredibly helpful. It took me a while to find a therapist who was really helping, but now I've found one and she's a phenomenal, life-changing help. I hope the same for you and I'm sending you good thoughts and best wishes.
posted by woodvine at 3:50 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

To just focus on the first question here -- Am I damaging my 10 yo son...? -- yes. From your description, you are emotionally abusive towards him.

It sounds like both you and your son are in fairly urgent need of professional help. None of this sounds healthy or pleasant or normal.

I am a single parent with a lot of stressors. I shout at my kid very mildly maybe once a year or so when she has done something absurdly over the top. I do not say hurtful things to her. Until you can get help, have a read through My daughter is a lot of work, but she is also a source of happiness, and, especially as she gets a bit older (now 8), a source of support; she is a person who will offer to make me a cup of tea if I am looking down. One thing I find really distressing is that I am getting absolutely nothing along those lines from your post -- there's no affection for this kid, and he doesn't sound like he adores you, either. You guys should be on the same team; instead, you have a litany of complaints about him, and describe nothing at all that sounds like a normal parent-child affectionate relationship. This is sad, as kids grow up crazy-fast around this age and it's really important to stay connected, lest you find your kid turning into more and more of a stranger -- and a distant relationship with a teenager is usually a relationship with a lot of misery and strife.
posted by kmennie at 3:50 PM on March 17, 2016 [56 favorites]

Based on this question and your previous question, I wholeheartedly endorse seeking professional counseling ASAP. Your school may be able to help with this.
posted by SMPA at 4:05 PM on March 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Further, she said he began getting frustrated saying things like “I have to place first,” My mommy said I have to place first and if I get this wrong I will not not get 100 %.”

Did you actually tell him he had to place first? If so, one positive change you could make would be to stop putting that kind of pressure on him.
posted by Redstart at 4:06 PM on March 17, 2016 [29 favorites]

Also, FYI, he may be emulating behavior he was exposed to via your previous relationship. Children are very likely to copy the behavior of same-gender adults in their lives, especially ones who become intimate partners of their parent.
posted by SMPA at 4:08 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think you're having a rough time, and kids pick up on things in their surroundings. He is also probably impacted by the things that are giving you a rough time, like the fact that you just ended a relationship (which means that he probably had a relationship end, too, for better or for worse) and that his mom was in a really bad relationship for a long time. I really think that both of you could benefit from some counseling, probably both separately and together, to help you get through this difficult patch. He might really benefit from having a neutral, non-judgemental person to talk to, and the two of you could work on some strategies to communicate better.

I don't think that it's helpful to beat yourself up, and I don't think it's good to use language like "spoiled" about him. But it sounds like this is something more than just normal, annoying kid behavior, and I think you should look into resources to address it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:15 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not sure if my preoccupation with my rut is causing this behaviour.

I think you know that this is a big part of it.

Your kid sounds like he is a little ball of constant anxiety. A lot of this probably has to do with the loss of his father but, yeah, I think you're being way too hard on him and scaring the shit out of him about the dangers of the world. Yes, the world can be a dangerous place but your fundamental job as a parent, in my view, is to create a little forcefield around your kid. At first, the forcefield is you, your care, your encouragement, your reassurance that he is capable, that he is safe, that his needs are prioritized and tended to. Then, the forcefield becomes your kid's own confidence, his own sense self, his own sense that he is not constantly in danger, his knowledge that you have his back. This, ideally, comes from having internalized all those positive messages from you.

Let me point out, too, that you're only in your early thirties. You have time to find your way. And even if you don't discover your calling for a little while, the fact remains that you are this kid's mother and he needs you to take your job as his mother very, very seriously. And not only that; he needs to know you love him and you believe in him and you will be encouraging and understanding of his fears and his anxieties. Truthfully, your kid's behavior sounds like the behavior of preschooler. This isn't to say that kids his age don't behave helplessly or get frustrated or have to be told many times to do things. It is, however, not this entrenched or constant. Your kid doesn't feel confident, capable or taken care of, and for this reason he is petrified of taking risks - any risk - because therein lies the danger of making mistakes.

It is understandable that you feel overwhelmed. Maybe you didn't want to be a parent. Maybe your ex-boyfriend or husband got off easy, maybe he's a jerk, maybe he doesn't do his part and it isn't demanded of him that he do so. Whatever the case, your kid lives with you and your mom, and he clearly doesn't feel secure. I'm sorry it has come to this for you. You need some help to learn how to respect your son, understand and empathize with his fears, and communicate with him with love and understanding, rather than constant dismissal, diminishment, and contempt.

And a question...why didn't he get to go to the amusement park? He was on vacation for 8 weeks, why did nobody take him to do this one thing he had his heart set on? Is this how it always goes for him? Is this how things work in your family - people say what they need and what they want, but nobody cares? Is this how it was for you as a kid? Is this how it was for you in your relationship with his father? This message - that you don't matter and nobody cares how you feel - is at the very core of anxiety. Take it from someone who knows.

Please seek family counseling. You need it, your son needs it. You deserve to enjoy the kind of joy that being a parent can bring when you and your kid are in sync.

Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 4:21 PM on March 17, 2016 [80 favorites]

Please don't tell your 10 year old son about people being kidnapped and tortured. I don't think it will have the effect you are hoping for.
posted by lyssabee at 4:57 PM on March 17, 2016 [70 favorites]

If it's helpful at all, the symptoms of anxiety and perfectionism your son is showing can also show up without any bad actions on the part of parents or teachers; we have a kid who shares a lot of characteristics with your son. I've had people tell me, "Kids don't get perfectionism from nowhere; somebody has said something to him." I can guarantee that's not true. He came with it hard-wired as part of his temperament.

It does sound, though, like you could do a lot better at not reinforcing his anxieties; the stories about stranger danger, for instance, are very unhelpful and overstate what is really an extremely low risk.

I am here to tell you that therapy helped a lot. I, fortunately, got effective therapy for my anxiety before becoming a mother, but therapy for you will help as well. If therapy is too much time or money for you, we found the audio program Turnaround helpful. Not sufficient—we ended up in therapy anyway. But definitely helpful. It's a program for kids that teaches cognitive-behavioral techniques for dealing with anxiety; you might find it helpful as well.

Here's a link to my blog post about Turnaround, and here's a post I wrote about my kid who is similar to yours, in case it helps to know that you're not alone.

Oh, and ultimately, seeing a good pediatric psychiatrist and getting our son on medication made a huge difference. Even though he was doing great in therapy, it just wasn't enough, and a low dose of Prozac has turned our lives around.

There are professionals who are equipped to help you deal with this. They can be hard to find—we have a shortage of therapists who work with kids in our area, for instance. But they're worth finding. The first time I talked to a therapist who had extensive experience with anxious kids, I had to drive two hours each way to do it. But it was amazingly helpful, if only because everything I told her about my son was stuff she'd seen a hundred times. Just knowing that he wasn't some kind of total outlier, and that kids like him were a known quantity, helped tremendously.

Best of luck to you and your son. It's not easy, but it can get a lot better for both of you.
posted by not that girl at 5:22 PM on March 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

Further, she said he began getting frustrated saying things like “I have to place first,” My mommy said I have to place first and if I get this wrong I will not not get 100 %.”

Is he right that you told him this or did he come up with it on his own?
posted by futz at 5:24 PM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Your son sounds really, really anxious. I bet if you get him help handling his anxiety - how to calm himself, how to take turns, how to trust himself - he'll feel a lot better and you will too. Parenting would be easier too - these are behaviors hard to handle.

I have a kid with ADHD and sensory issues. Sometimes he drives me bananas. I know how hard it can be, and how sometimes you love him but don't like him enough, and how sometimes if you don't raise youe voice you'll go mad and the socks will never go on. Sometimes he pouts and whines and demands his way and demands my attention. Some of that is his age (6). Some of that is his neurochemistry.

But some of it is how he expresses a need that he has. Sometimes he demands my attention because between work and chores and homework and my life we've barely had quality time vs managing life time and I haven't noticed. Sometimes he pouts about losing a game because he's had no control over his entire day and he's stressed and this is supposed to be fun. Sometimes he asks about a thing 1,000 times because he needs reassurance and is super interested in it and I need to honor that, even if inside I roll my eyes at time 919. Does individual time help him play while you're on the phone? Does he get trips to places he wants occasionally? Does he know it's okay to fail? Does he know he's safe? That is - are his underlying needs taken care of, because for my son that has made all the difference from acting out trauama and testing out the limits of my love vs being a lovable, hilarious, occasionally difficult child.

It sounds like he has gone through a lot. You, too. It sounds like you're having a hard time loving your own son enough and I know that's an awful feeling. But it doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you a traumatised, tired, stretched-to-the-limits person.

But you know how much he needs your affection and that you're the only one of you two who can get that help and get your lives back on track to happiness. Please find the professional help you both need - this question sounds like it's beyond your individual coping skills. That's okay. You're a stressed mom who needs support. He's a wonderful boy who needs support. Good luck to you both.

(PS perfect motherhood is bullshit but cut out the mean words)
posted by blue_and_bronze at 6:06 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

He is not a sportsman as when he cannot get his own way in a game he either disrupts the game or whines and pouts.

Your son may not be that right now but he's 10 and has plenty of time to change for the better with the right coach. I don't know what sports offerings there are where you live but joining a team or starting a martial art could be life-changing for him. I'm not talking about a big sport like soccer/football where things are super competitive. I'm talking about something like running or track where you have people of all levels: you have the state champions but you also have people may never even qualify for a home-meet. There are some awful coaches out there but also many wonderful ones; a good match will know how to push your son in the right way, so he eventually stops complaining and feels more empowered. It could be something like taekwondo, where there's great emphasis on self-control and other positive thing. It could be something chill like yoga or intense like kids CrossFit. The key would be regular practices and lots of individual feedback/positive reinforcement in a group setting. Based on what you said, that person being a male coach would likely be an additional bonus for your son. If you're not sure where to start, you could ask your student's school for advice on local sports groups if they don't have their own. It's less about the what and more about the how. I'm rooting for your son!
posted by smorgasbord at 6:22 PM on March 17, 2016

Dang, I have a friend whose daughter is a lot like your son, and it started after my friend and her ex (the girl's dad) broke up. The symptoms are tick, tick, tick.

In the case of her daughter, I think the daughter really took the break-up personally (as children are wont to do) and is terrified if she is not perfect and the best that she will be abandoned by the adults around her. Without getting into it, the solution is therapy for both you and your son. You need to change how you are interacting with your son, and your son needs to work through that ball of anxiety he's got inside.
posted by Anonymous at 7:51 PM on March 17, 2016

I think that sometimes people who have received a lot of cruelty in their life, despite the best of intentions, recreate that dynamic with the people who depend on them. It sounds like that has become the situation with your son.

To me, your anger with your son sounds excessive, and you trying to teach him about the world being a cruel place may reinforce the idea that this is how he deserves to be treated and that there is no one trustworthy to talk about these sorts of things with.

I say this as a person who grew up in an emotionally abusive family whose parents still act this way toward me. I have had to sacrifice a close relationship with my parents for the sake of my own health and sanity, and I mourn so often. I think getting into counseling (both individual and family) would be great step in making the dynamic in your family healthier, so that your son doesn't have to make the same tough decisions that I have. If you need any support in finding resources, please let me know - I'm thinking of you both, and I know how difficult this must be to share.
posted by superlibby at 7:53 PM on March 17, 2016 [21 favorites]

From what you've described, I don't think your son has ADHD. If anything, it sounds more like reactive attachment disorder, though IANAP. I think your son is responding normally to, as you've said yourself, your preoccupation with your rut. You're focused on yourself, not on him. Kids need a lot of attention, love, affirmation-- it is essential to their development. When those needs are made secondary and/or inconsistently met in the household, they become desperate for any sort of attention, be it positive or negative.

Based on the incident at school where he stated that he "has to place first": I don't know if you explicitly said those words or not, but regardless, it serves as an indicator of how he feels in his interactions with you. Specifically, he worries that him getting his needs (attention, affection) met by you is contingent on ... something ... He isn't completely sure what it is, but he's noticed that achievement or certain behaviors are more likely to catch your attention, which he craves so badly, and that is why he puts such immense pressure on himself to demonstrate success. This is also why he does not want to try new things-- he cannot possibly be interested in learning and challenging himself when he views the process of learning/challenges only as opportunities to gain recognition and attention from you. Learning and curiosity takes a back seat to affirmation and affection, in the same way that if somebody were drowning, they wouldn't be interested in anything else other than finding a way to get air into their lungs, and they would do whatever it takes for a breath.

If you google the terms "narcissistic parent," you might come up with some relevant readings. To be honest, it does sound like you are a narcissistic parent and that you would benefit from counseling. Good luck to both you and your son. This is really tough.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 8:04 PM on March 17, 2016 [22 favorites]

He is too young to be in a failing marriage with you. The boundaries between adult issues of your own, and his need to be a kid, are worn down. You are on a small island, are you the only two people? Get help for your self, and do some reading about normal development milestones and find a way to make him safe, and not have to be perfect, there is no such thing. Somehow the edginess of your situation has left him to try too hard, out of fear. He has no choice but to be self centered, because he is missing some emotional basics that would really ease his desperation, and soften his outlook.
posted by Oyéah at 9:10 PM on March 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

I have to say, my jaw actually dropped when I read that you've been telling your 10-year-old son about people being kidnapped and tortured. I cannot imagine why on earth you thought that was a good idea. Seriously, that's "Are you completely insane?!?" territory, and it frankly sounds sadistic to me. Please, for both your sake, especially your son's, get therapy and any other help you can as soon as is humanly possible.
posted by holborne at 9:11 PM on March 17, 2016 [40 favorites]

Outside of you two living in a concentration camp, or a failed-state that is under the boot of vicious civil war, there is absolutely no fit reason to pollute a child's psyche with the possility of his being tortured.

You need to re-evaluate the things you are telling your child; the unfounded psychological burdens that your words are putting him under. I think there are many people who would see such behavior to a ten-year-old as psychologically abusive.

Son needs to talk to a therapist, but perhaps more importantly, you need to talk to someone as well.
posted by blueberry at 10:04 PM on March 17, 2016 [23 favorites]

Here's the thing. You are you. Your kid is a certain type of person who is partly just who he is, and partly shaped by who you are as a parent. BUT there is no "fault" and you will get nowhere trying to figure out how to live your life peacefully and help your son be a good grown up by asking that question.

First, for you: prozac, or therapy, meditation, whatever YOU need to take care of YOUR self and stop yelling at your kid because (1) it doesn't help and (2) it makes him feel awful and perpetuates awful patterns and (3) it makes you feel awful. Some intervention is required to get that to stop.

Second, yes, you need to adjust your expectations of your kid. Not because you are expecting "too much" but because you need to figure out what's reasonable for HIM. It seems to me that you are layering yourself onto him and making expectations of him that might have been reasonable for you as a 10 year old, (or that maybe weren't "reasonable" but that you were somehow required to deal with as a 10 year old and you stepped up to the task), but they are not reasonable for him as an individual 10 year old who is not you. You don't sound like someone who was scared of anything ever, (though you might have been, and maybe you figured out how to get past it). But your son is someone who is fearful and can't get past it in the same way you did. I interpret your telling him of all the awful things in the world as not so much trying to get him to be scared, but rather to get him to NOT be scared and to understand that if he's just smart enough (like you, and like you know he can be) he will still be okay despite all the awful potential dangers.

That's not a problem on either side, except that it means you are not necessarily understanding what he needs and/or how you can help him in the best possible way. Which leads to:

Three, don't worry about the lying and making excuses and weird behaviors. It's probably just him inventing personas to try to be who he thinks he is supposed to be (a kid who is good at sports but got burned by the rules! a kid who can do rubik's cube just not today!) Kids make stuff up all the time, and you probably did too as a kid. As parents in this time we have too much capability to know when our kids say or do stuff and really we'd be better off just ignoring that stuff. It doesn't mean anything right now and does not necessarily have any implications for whether they're going to grow up to be functional members of adult society.

Best of luck to you and your son. Please check back in here to let us know how you are faring.
posted by marionett gjorda av strumpor at 10:21 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wow, I love what gemutlichkeit has said! Whatifyoufly, if you can take what was said above with a grain of salt, then me hear further. Do not feel guilty. Have compassion for yourself that what you are going through has been difficult, and you've been doing the best you can. It's wonderful that you've asked this question.

For healthy resilient emotional development, kids absolutely do need regular and frequent doses of positive attention from the people they identify as their parents - point blank. I can say this, having spent the last year working as a parenting skills facilitator, as part of family support work. I also say this with humility, having come from a highly dysfunctional family myself, where - if exposed to each other in large doses - my siblings and I still go at each other like cats and dogs. Growing up, our brains were tweaked to understand there is not enough of our parents' love available in the environment. It wasn't by intentional design on our parents' part. However, it has left scars on our relationships as adults.

One great easy tool you'll learn from many good parenting courses is the power of your positive attention, in regular, predictable, and frequent doses. A great way to practice this is to give undirected play time to your child, where you simply practice watching for opportunities to give him positive attention playing or doing any activity of his choice. If he wants to paint models, then sit alongside him for half an hour commenting positively on his painting models, the colors he chooses, the kinds of models he likes to paint, which paints are better to use, which models take the most time, etc. etc. etc. Use active listening and mirror back much of what he says to show him you are really paying attention. If you have to set a timer for yourself, do it. It's best if parents can do this regularly for even ten minutes a day with their kids - just to reconnect and attune. No generation past ever got to explicitly know this but your warm positive attention is like fertilizer for your child's brain development. It's a gift you get to give your child as their parent, so now that you know it, use it!

You might also like to know about making point charts with your child and coming up with meaningful rewards - that is, rewards that are meaningful to him (such as video game time, special treats like ice cream, watching a movie together, etc). Most importantly, offer your time and attention -- like, if he makes his bed 5/7 days this week, on Saturday you'll take him to the park for an hour where you will spend your time paying attention and noticing his successes while he plays. It's okay to feel somewhat bored and drained while doing this with your child, especially if you're not used to doing it. Most importantly, reward effort, not perfection. Let him feel that he is worth your time and positive attention, no matter what he's got going on in his life. Do not use a points chart to mold his soul or punish relapses; use it to encourage mature behavior that is age-appropriate for him.

Finally, even if this advice resonates for you, do followup for yourself with either a parenting group or one-on-one program (I facilitated both formats). I highly recommend a one-on-one program because once you've got a solid understanding of the tools mentioned above, then it's just a matter of spending your time with the facilitator talking about how the tools are working, recognizing progress, and moving beyond the present behavior challenges. Since you are parenting solo, having someone's time and attention to support you in trying new techniques would be an excellent resource for you during this time. At my job, anyone from the general public interested in improving their parenting skills could self-refer and take the program free of charge.

Your son is only 10 years old, and you are asking this question now instead of in 4-6 years when his emotional self-regulation may get much worse with the effects of puberty. Kudos to you for reaching out. Good luck!
posted by human ecologist at 10:24 PM on March 17, 2016 [9 favorites]

Yes, I think you are contributing to his emotional problems in some ways. That doesn't mean it's all your fault or that you're a bad person.

You are focusing a lot on your son's poor behaviors. I think it would be more useful for you to look at the emotional motivations underlying those behaviors.

The situation with the test at school makes your son sound very anxious and worried about failing you.

I got a definite tone of anger, annoyance and exasperation from your post. It seems to me that you even have a little bit of contempt for your son. You have expectations of him that he will be able to manage his emotions the way an adult would. I almost got the sense that you were talking about him the way you might talk about a grown man, like a boyfriend or brother. He is not a grown man and cannot be expected to behave like a grown man yet. Do not talk about your son, or complain about him, the way you would complain about a grown man behaving badly. Just stop it totally. He is a child.

It is natural and normal for children to be "needy" and, in fact, I think it is even inappropriate to use the term "needy" to describe a child at all, ever. Because it implies that some children are not needy. All children are needy. Overcoming "neediness" as a character trait is not something children can "fail at" like an adult can.

When you say he is not a sportsman, I am not clear if you mean specifically that when playing games with others he always wants to play by his rules, or if you mean that he gets upset when he loses. Or both. Getting upset when he loses is just another symptom of the same anxiety he felt with the math test. Forcing others to play by his rules may also stem from the deep fear of failure he has; however, of the two behaviors, it is the more rude and improper and has the most affect on others and their enjoyment. This could be an example of him genuinely behaving selfishly, but given the array of other issues that point to fear of failure, I suspect it is also related to this same underlying emotional problem.

It is also highly normal for children to be jealous of their mother's time. It would be abnormal, in my opinion, if a child did NOT display this at some point in development. All children worry about attention given to (theoretical or real) siblings, and all children feel separation anxiety concerning their mothers. At 10, he should be beginning to grow out of this. In a couple of years, you will look back on the times he interrupted you on the phone and feel bittersweet reminiscence.

The poor behavior on vacation in the US may also be an example of genuine rudeness on his part and you may need to teach him how to be more considerate of others and how to be a good guest. However, it certainly would not have hurt this little boy with a difficult family life to go to a theme park that would have made him happy! It would not have made him "spoiled."

Being excited over things is charming and harmless and, if it is an example of genuine happiness and positivity on his part, should be encouraged. Asking too many questions can be gently deflected. However, this behavior, too, may stem from an essential anxiety and fear of failure, especially if he feels the need to obsessively plan ahead and control outcomes.

It is good that you encourage him to play guitar and go to scouts. That is a great example of what a good mother does. I think it is also good that you warn him about danger in the world- up to a point! I remember my dad told me to never answer the door when home alone, never get into a stranger's car, etc. It was a scary talk, and did make me anxious for a little while, but it was a necessary conversation and I am glad my dad told me these things. My dad did not HARP on it or relentlessly remind me of it after that one talk, however. He just made sure I knew how to protect myself and that was it. He did not tell me the world was an overall bad or negative place.

If I may give you some personal advice, I would separate the issues you are having with your own happiness from the issues you are having with your son as much as possible. Do not involve him or blame him in the way "your life turned out." Isolate him from your unhappiness and depression as much as you can. Get help for yourself, so that you have someone to lighten this burden on you. Talk to your therapist about possibly getting a new job. I think starting your own business, frankly, sounds like a terrible and exhausting idea and the best thing for you would be a steady job with good benefits and coworkers you like.

I am very sorry about your ex and I think his exit from your life is definitely affecting your son as well. Change is very hard and scary for children. Your ex was a terrible person and a bad influence and you are better off without him. I wish you the best of luck overcoming your hurt.

One last thing- the lying incessantly is probably a defense mechanism. There are two types of lies, broadly speaking. The first are lies people tell for the hell of it, for no apparently reason, which are generally self-aggrandizing lies. These are lies people tell to make themselves look good, to trick others, or to get something. This type is the most concerning. The second type of lie is a lie of omission or a lie to cover up a painful or embarrassing truth. Given what you have said about your son, I suspect this describes the type of lie he is telling and would fit with his fear and anxiety over failure. This pattern of lying is more common with people who feel afraid, criticized, or grow up in a difficult home.
posted by stockpuppet at 10:33 PM on March 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

I can understand wanting to take sensible precautions about crime, if, for example, you live in a high-crime country where human trafficking is a big problem. And I can definitely understand wanting to keep your loved ones safe. But I think the approach you're taking may be counterproductive: for example, saying that he needs to be careful with relationships in general seems like it would be likely to just make him feel anxious and like he can't trust anyone (certainly including the guys you're talking to, for instance!), while not actually giving him much of anything specific he can use to keep himself safer. My instinct is that concrete advice and rules about safety would be a lot more helpful and more calming to him than that kind of global, diffuse warning.

More broadly I agree with others in this thread that therapy for both of you is a very good idea. You both sound really stressed out, and therapy can provide extra support and strategies that I think would be really helpful.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:39 PM on March 17, 2016

I read your previous ask. It seems to me that your kiddo has picked up on the chaos in your life. You just got out of an (at least) emotionally abusive relationship. Kids see things that we don't think they do. They are little sponges that take on all the responsibility for their situation because that is all that they are able to process at that age. It feels like a heavy burden. They think "I have to be perfect or everything will fall apart." More so if someone is telling them that they have to be perfect.

You also seem to value "go getters" and he may feel like he's never good enough so why try anything? Or even if he does try and fails he will have failed you. And please refrain from telling him scary "what if" boogyman or worse stories. Is him being a "sportsman" really important to you? Because if it is he may be self sabotaging so that he doesn't have to take the risk of failing.

Is there therapy available in your small community? I feel bad for you both. You have been through a tough time and that totally sucks. It really does. Been there and I felt like I wanted to die. BUT! You can try to make things better for your kid. I wish you both the best.
posted by futz at 11:35 PM on March 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

What role models do you have for parenting besides your own parents? Use tv parents and book parents if you don't have a role model in real life that you can think of. Not for the outcome, but the process, like how should a family meal be? The two of you chatting at a nicely laid table with warm conversation? Snuggling over pizza on a couch and not needing to say much? I had a very dysfunctional childhood and parented kids with difficult issues. When they got sick, my first response from childhood was that they must be faking and to ignore them, then to yell at them. I faked my response based on tv moms, and then friends who were good mums shared what they did and I mimicked them until i figured out what worked and it felt natural to console my kids when they were feverish and fuss over them with medicine, and I could think, well what would a little kid want? What does this little kid want from their mum?

Parenting is learned. It's not an instinct, it's a skill. You can learn how to do it better, and you can fake it for a while for your kid, until you and he get some therapy to help you set stronger foundations to make this all easier for you both.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:45 PM on March 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for your advice and the recommended resources. To answer a few of your questions.

No my son has never been evaluated for learning disabilities. He is actually a very intelligent kid. He had placed 1st in every grade up until grade 3 with an almost 100% average. I have not explicitly stated that he should place first but I have placed emphasis on him maintaining his position. I had been keeping him ahead in his school work until his teacher advised me not to as he will get bored by the time they were ready to teach whatever the topic would be at the time. Based on his teacher's comments, at grade 4 he reads at grade 11's level. It is only recently he has been displaying what I perceived to be a lazy and lackadaisical approach to his school work.

In early years I had him pretty sheltered, we did so many things I did everything for him and with him. Then it felt like I was rearing him in a bubble, because he seemed socially awkward. As a result I altered the way I interacted with him, I encouraged him to go out into the community with his friends as he looked to me for social interaction. At the time all I was thinking is that I didn't want him to remain so attached to me so as it would interfere with his normal peer interaction. I wanted to engender a sense of independence and responsibility. It feels like I shoved this on him prematurely.

My island is very very small, like a "speck on a flower," having the luxury of choosing therapists is not available to me as we are a very conservative people whose culture does not include 'talk therapy'. As a matter of fact those things are still tabooed, confidentiality is also a big concern. I am however an advocate for such interventions but my option to see a therapist is close to non-existent mainly because there are none (something that has in recent years become a cause for concern) there is a resident psychologist and psychiatrist that is about as far as my options go.

The opinions of family members and friends will be jaundiced and also very myopic as their views regarding anything mental is stigmatic. While I searched for help I can trust I wanted a 'right now' remedy hence the 'hive mind.'
posted by Whatifyoufly at 12:30 AM on March 18, 2016

He had placed 1st in every grade up until grade 3 with an almost 100% average. I have not explicitly stated that he should place first but I have placed emphasis on him maintaining his position.

Well, if you have emphasized that he should maintain his position, and that position is first place, then you told him that he should place first.

I had been keeping him ahead in his school work until his teacher advised me not to as he will get bored by the time they were ready to teach whatever the topic would be at the time. Based on his teacher's comments, at grade 4 he reads at grade 11's level. It is only recently he has been displaying what I perceived to be a lazy and lackadaisical approach to his school work.

It seems like he's burning out. Mind you, that page is aimed at adults in professional situations. Children don't get to make their own decisions or exercise any control over their own lives as adults do, so your son's in a much worse position here.

there is a resident psychologist and psychiatrist that is about as far as my options go

Then I strongly suggest exercising this one option you have as far as professional help.
posted by tel3path at 2:10 AM on March 18, 2016 [20 favorites]

​Therapy would be great, but in the meantime, you absolutely have to dig down deep and find the strength to stop berating your son. No more shouting, screaming, and saying hurtful things. Just take deep breaths and STOP doing that. Be kind to him.

If you don't, you will further destroy what little self esteem he has. By the time he is a young adult, he will be a psychological and emotional mess, and the regret you will feel for the things you are doing to him now will be enormous. You will give anything to go back in time, to undo the hurt you inflicted on him. But it will be too late.

So for his sake and yours, as hard as it is, you need to get a grip on your overt reactions to his behavior. That's the "right now" remedy that you need to avail yourself of, and it is within your power.
posted by merejane at 2:47 AM on March 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm going to answer this in good faith but I question the validity of it. Based on what you've written, the answer to Am I damaging my 10 yo son...? is YES, 100% absolutely and you need to cut it out.

I'm going to list out some of the things you've said:

I have not explicitly stated that he should place first but I have placed emphasis on him maintaining his position.

Come on; that's the same as saying he needs to place first. Of course he's panicking when he's taking tests. What happens if he comes in 2nd or gets a math problem wrong? Do you love him less? Does the world end? Stop putting pressure like that on him; it's not like he WINS anything.

He wanted to go to a theme park, spent 8 weeks there and because he didn't get to go to theme park he said he did not enjoy his vacation.

A nine year old child who is overly attached to his mom spends 8 weeks away from home in another COUNTRY and didn't get to do the ONE THING he asked for? Of course he's not thankful. He probably saw it as a punishment, not a vacation.

I also tell him not everyone will have good intentions and people can be manipulative and heartless and prey on children...Now we live on a small island hence a lot of what I am telling him regarding kidnapping and torture, he will not see most of it.

WHAT?! Stop doing this. Of course he's anxious. You've made him anxious.

I shout, I scream, I say hurtful things to him just to get the result I am looking for and sometimes I just throw my hands in the air.

People here are responding gently to you because it's clear that you need professional help. Asking this question means you know this is wrong and you need to stop. You didn't ask with the assumption that people would respond and say it's all okay and your kid sounds horrible.

Like hair and eye color, anxiety is an inherited trait. You've got it; your son's got it. You need to work on your own issues and get help working with HIS anxiety. See where you're clearly increasing his anxiety with unrealistic expectations and scary stories and stop doing those things.

All of this can be remedied to some extent but you need help.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:49 AM on March 18, 2016 [38 favorites]

There are therapists you can talk to on Skype. Additionally, I'd read any parenting books you can get your hands on. Parenting is hard and it doesn't come naturally to most people.
posted by chaiminda at 3:57 AM on March 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

Others have already said very well almost everything I would want to add here, but I keep going back to this:

I have been shouting at him more often

I apologize if I'm misreading this, but it sounds like the implication here is that you're deviating from a "normal" amount of shouting at him. If so, speaking as an adult who still panics when people shout because shouting was so scary as a kid, I would ask you to consider the possibility that no level of shouting at a child is okay (unless, I suppose, he's about to pet a rattlesnake, walk off a cliff, etc.).
posted by DingoMutt at 4:47 AM on March 18, 2016 [15 favorites]

I would really, really like for you to read Barbara Coloroso's Kids Are Worth It. She talks about various kinds of families growing up and some of the baggage they bring, and then how to raise your own kid to become a responsible adult. It's got some techniques in it but it's also about developing a family philosophy.

Other books that might help:
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen is a little dated but gives you good language.
Parenting From The Inside Out
Protecting The Gift, if you are scared about street proofing.

I would suggest you start with two things. On the first day, like a Saturday, try to make a fun afternoon together...nothing expensive or fancy. Let your child be himself even when he's acting out. Let him feel the warmth of your love. It's about your tone..."it's hard to lose I know. I love that you have such passion."

Then on the second go for a drive or a walk and ask him how he felt about the school incident, or the holidays, or anything...and /really listen./ you don't have to come up with a solution, you can be the ear for a day. He may not be able to articulate his experience and that's ok. Develop a habit of having listening time separate from "am I doing this parenting thing right" time.

For what it's worth I was an asynchronous learner, and being smart or at the top of the class did very little for me after high school, because my feelings of not being good enough and my emotional baggage (some more extreme than what you are describing, but some from similar dynamics) were way greater barriers than my intellect was a strength. What your child needs to know is that you are on his side.

I really applaud you asking this question.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:51 AM on March 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have not explicitly stated that he should place first but I have placed emphasis on him maintaining his position.

No wonder he is so anxious and confused; you can't even admit that you told him to place first.
posted by chrillsicka at 5:04 AM on March 18, 2016 [21 favorites]

Okay, thank you for your update.

Since you say that therapy isn't an option because of the social stigma, and that you want some help from us here that is more immediate than a course of therapy, I'll offer this:

1. Stop criticizing your boy. This will be very, very difficult for you initially because it sounds like you are exhausted and rudderless emotionally, and venting this frustration by being critical of him has become a habit. I am guessing this is how you grew up and what comes naturally; I can relate to that. My father was excessively critical but unavailable to me emotionally and the combination of these two things made me feel as if I was under attack for 17 years under his roof. You must stop finding fault with everything your son does and everything he is. You must start listening now more than you speak.

2. How do I do that? First off, whenever you want to yell, push him away, are disgusted by his behavior, SAY OUT LOUD, "I want to listen and hear what you have to say but I am extremely frustrated right now. I need five minutes to calm down." Then take those five minutes in the bathroom, your bedroom, somewhere where there is a door you can close. If this sounds crazy, then I would just remind you that whatever you are doing right now isn't working, and the only thing you can do reasonably do right now is something totally different and see what kind of result it yields.

3. After you have taken five minutes and calmed yourself down, go back to your son and ask him what he is feeling. And then LISTEN TO HIM. Do not interrupt him. Don't tell him he shouldn't feel that way. Don't tell him he's wrong and ungrateful and if he just understood that YOU feel XYZ, he wouldn't feel PDQ. No. You listen. Actively. Listen to his words actively, not with a mind toward what you are going to say.

4. Ask him if he is ready for you to talk. And then? Tell him you understand. Tell him that it is okay to be frustrated. Tell him that you believe in him and that you know that he can do (whatever it is). Then? Just give him a hug and ask him if he needs to talk things through more. And if he does? Let him talk. You? You're just gonna sit right there and listen.

5. Repeat all of that every. single. time. your son starts losing his shit emotionally and it scares and frustrates you to the point of aggravation and lashing out verbally at him with criticism.

Now. That's going to seem really facile and untenable. But you know what? For me, and for my own preschooler, it is the single thing that works like a charm all the time. Why? Because he gets to learn his own feelings and work through them and express and name them with someone he trusts and, in so doing, he becomes more and more self-aware AND he knows that someone is there to help him when he needs help. And that is what builds intimacy between parent and child, and it is that intimacy which helps kids thrive and, ultimately, separate from their parents.

Your kid is telling you exactly what he needs. He needs more of you. He needs your attention. He needs you not to prioritize other relationships over him. He needs to know you will not abandon him. He needs to know his happiness is paramount in your life, as important as your happiness. He needs to know that, even if you don't find satisfaction in your own work or in your romantic life or with your friends that YOU WILL NOT ABANDON HIM. And that all begins, in my experience not only with my own son but with myself and reconciling my own shitting upbringing, with listening and empathy.

Your son is not a burden. Your son is a great gift to you and potentially to this really fractured, messed up planet. Do him the favor of letting him know you feel that way about him by seeing him as his best self, not as a reflection of all the things you regret and dislike about yourself and your own choices.

Listen. Start listening. And personally? If I were in your shoes, I would say fuck the stigma, this is my one and only son, he deserves the help and so do I, but that is just me.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:21 AM on March 18, 2016 [47 favorites]

No my son has never been evaluated for learning disabilities. He is actually a very intelligent kid.

Intelligence has nothing to do with a learning disability. You can be the smartest person in the room and could still have a learning disability. The fact that he did so well at school when you were giving him one-on-one lessons and now is struggling somewhat (something tells me he’s still very close to the top of the class otherwise I think you would have said more about his school performance) could be a sign that his learning needs are different from most.
posted by GilvearSt at 6:46 AM on March 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

I think that everyone already knows what is going on, and everyone is already talking about it, because that's the way things work in small, insular, conservative communities. I think there's probably going to be some stigma no matter what, and your son is better off living with the stigma of his family having gone to therapy when he was ten than living with the stigma of being a miserable twenty-year-old with a terrible relationship with his mother. It may be that you don't have access to talk therapy, in which case there's nothing you can do about it. But if you have any access at all, I would try it, even if you're concerned about stigma.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:54 AM on March 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

Agree with most of the above, but OTOH ... I have more than one friend with multiple children (not only one child) who don't berate their kids, say hurtful things, shout at them, tell them they could be kidnapped and tortured, put extreme pressure on them to be #1 at school, etc., and yet they have ended up with one of their 3 or 4 kids -- and not a toddler but a pre-teen around age 10 -- behaving much like you describe your son's behaviour: afraid to try anything he can't do well, jealous and enraged when attention is not on him alone, socially awkward, ungrateful, bad sport when losing, constant liar. These parents are anxious, somewhat high-strung, serious parents, but they are also doing most of what everyone above suggests you do, like creating a safe environment where their kids can feel secure, loved, confident, etc., and seeing a therapist about this, with and without their 'problem' child. Meanwhile, the other children in the family don't exhibit these behaviours. I can't explain why some kids (mostly boys in my experience, though one girl fits this description, too) respond more to parents' anxiety, whether it's overt or underlying, while others don't.

You need help negotiating these waters, whether from a psychologist, friends, good books on the topic, etc., for your own state of mind and for your son's future.
posted by mmw at 7:34 AM on March 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

He was unbearable when he was away from you, so it can't all be you. It sounds like he has some developmental issues that your parenting style is making worse. For his sake and yours, you need to move to where you can both get some help. Start applying for jobs elsewhere. Make a big leap. It can't get much worse than how it is now.

In the meantime, focus on your face when he enters the room. Are you smiling at him or are you scowling at him, remembering his last irritating thing? Adjust your face. Start each day fresh. And stop warning him about the big, scary world. Ask his scout leaders to take some extra time with him. He needs more guy time. And, for goodness sakes, back off of him. If he flakes off a little in elementary school, big deal. He's smart enough that he will recover. But, if he gets burned out in elementary school because of too much pressure, well, that is harder to recover from. You have to let some things go so that you have room to focus on the important stuff.

This isn't me saying you are a bad mom. You are doing the best you can with what you have. This is me as a single mom of a high strung son telling you what I had to learn myself. You can get past this but, you have to keep yourself healthy, because he is picking up your stress and applying it directly to his heart. Make a big move. Claim your life. He will benefit from your happiness.

Also, it might be best to not date for awhile. It's apparently creeping him out, which means that he's gotten some mixed up messages about it. Maybe the guy you were seeing was abusive to him when you weren't looking or maybe he's seen you cry over some guy too many times but, whatever it is, it seems you have exposed him to an adult situation that he can't handle, and you need to let him take some time to recover from that.
posted by myselfasme at 9:01 AM on March 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

GilvearSt is right -- being intelligent (even extremely intelligent) is not inconsistent with having learning disabilities. Try googling "twice exceptional" for more information.
posted by merejane at 9:44 AM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

You told him men are unkind, sneaky, dangerous, and might torture or murder him- and that there's no way to tell in advance if a given man is a murderer- plus your ex was abusive- so it makes complete logical sense that he reacts with anxiety when you talk with random men. You see his behaviour as "he is being a jealous pain in the butt", but actually you could reframe it as "I told him talking to strangers is very dangerous and now I am talking to strangers. Trying to distract me is my son's awkward but heartfelt way of showing me he loves me and wants to protect me".
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:51 AM on March 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

You could actually say, "Hey remember all the stuff I said about how dangerous strangers are? I was thinking about it more and actually I kind of exaggerated. You know how after seeing a scary movie sometimes everything feels extra scary for a while? That's kind of what was happening with me. I'm sorry I scared you. The truth is that yes there are some people in the world who are unkind, but MOST people are very kind, especially in a small community like ours- for instance remember that kind thing our neighbour did? Most people are kind. And I will always be here to protect you because I love you. I really want you to know that, do you have any questions?"
Then for the next few months point out kind, helpful, safe, loving things that people did. Teach him to trust and admire the people he knows.
What you said before about torture was shitty parenting, but you can fix it- just explicitly say you exaggerated, and show him examples of the truth, which is that most people he will ever meet will be kind, and NOBODY will ever torture him, that only happens in movies.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:00 AM on March 18, 2016 [14 favorites]

The opinions of family members and friends will be jaundiced and also very myopic as their views regarding anything mental is stigmatic. While I searched for help I can trust I wanted a 'right now' remedy hence the 'hive mind.'

The good news is that many therapists work over Skype or some other internet service. I would strongly recommend this option for your situation; the 'hive mind' is good at solving simple problems but not so great at untangling complex emotional issues. You'll need a therapist for that.

Fortunately, "where can I find an online therapist who specializes in children/family issues?" is the exact kind of simple problem the hive mind is good at answering.
posted by Ndwright at 8:47 AM on March 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

I read your question the other day and the initial replies and I just read your update. I haven't read most of the later answers.

First, I will suggest you join a gifted parent's list online. You can look for resources here: You can also just read up on issues of gifted kids there. What you describe is likely related at least in part to your child not getting their intellectual needs met.

I find it useful to think of a gifted child not in terms of performance but in terms of a hungry mind. His mind is starving and it is making him dysfunctional. Grade skipping or after school enrichment (or homeschooling) are some of the options that may help him get his needs met better. When his needs are better met, his behavior is very likely to improve "on its own."

Second, I will suggest you place a high priority on sorting out your own problems. It sounds to me like you are going through a lot and your kid is catching the fall out. Since you say therapy is out of the question, I will suggest you start by reading the Emotional Labor thread on the blue if you haven't already.

I haven't used this myself, but you can talk to someone anonymously here: Sometimes, just talking to someone helps, even if they aren't a therapist.

Best of luck. I am sorry you and your child are having a hard time.
posted by Michele in California at 3:47 PM on March 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

He traveled to a family friend in the US last summer -his first time there- and she was not too far from tearing her hair out because of his attitude. According to her, he wanted everything and pouted and whined when he didn't get it. He wanted to go to a theme park, spent 8 weeks there and because he didn't get to go to theme park he said he did not enjoy his vacation. If it is not something that he wants, he is not thankful for anything.

I've been thinking about this for the last few days. You sent a boy with obvious emotional problems away for 8 weeks to stay with a person who doesn't understand what a summer vacation should be like for a child.

Was he being punished for something? Were you using that time to pursue some incredible self-improvement project for his benefit? Did anyone point out to you that a two-month separation might not be the best idea?

His only job is to enjoy his childhood, and your job is to protect that space for him.

Please, pursue every avenue of therapy available to you and him.
posted by chrillsicka at 5:25 AM on March 20, 2016 [11 favorites]

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