Being a good introvert parent to an extrovert child.
August 4, 2017 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by this thread, I'd love to get your ideas on better parenting my loud, ADHD child as an anxious and quiet mom. More inside.

I have an 8 yo boy child who has ADHD and is a huge extrovert. I want to be a better mother for him, but I've long been struggling with these aspects:

He loves to talk, A LOT, and CONSTANTLY. A lot of times it seems like he's just airing his thoughts out loud, but he absolutely wants my full attention for the entire period. What I want to do is get home from work or wake up on the weekend and listen carefully and chat with him and engage fully. But often I am worn out and strongly feel the need to be by myself. Today, for instance, he wanted to play chess and jumped on me the minute I got home; it's been a stressful work week and I felt an internal dismay at the idea. Which is awful! I'm wracked with guilt constantly because I choose to limit talking time or send him off to play all evening until reading time. This is my only time with my growing child, I'm an awful mom for not wanting to have every second, right? But also I feel like my brain is going to fall out of my head. Sometimes I close the bathroom door just to cry while he's standing outside still chattering away at me. There's an awful cycle of me feeling too anxious to keep spending time and then me feeling anxious about the fact that I don't keep spend time because he's my little child and just wants to share spider facts for seven hours.

He's also very loud - his hearing is fine but he talks like seven levels above "indoor talking" no matter how often I remind him. Sometimes I just feel shouted out, which isn't his intention but can be triggering as I've been abused. Part of the loudness is just noise - like, as he's playing he'll make normal playing sounds but he also has this blaring, flat-tone "eeeee" noise he makes over and over again that is unbelievably annoying. "Eeee eee eee eeeh" for ages. It's like living with a siren. I'm just not good with lots of noise and there's no distance enough to not hear it or way to get him to stop with frequent reminders. I know that must seem really silly to complain about, but holy majoly, I feel bad asking him to stop but also just can't tolerate it for long before I long to see a) hide in desperation.

He struggles understanding conversation flow and interrupts, A LOT. It's very very hard for SO and I to talk about anything before he barges in and talks over us. Being interrupted is also triggering for me, and combined with all his conversations it feels like the whole air is taken up by him for him. I totally know he doesn't do it on purpose, but he's kind of a terror at parties and it also causes him trouble at school. This also affects his younger brother, who gets interrupted too, and I need to make sure they both have a voice. (Often when I pause 8 yo so 3 yo can share something, 8 yo has a tantrum about "never getting attention". Because of his ADHD, he still has tantrums and some emotional experiences other kids his age have grown out of. He is on medication and it helps a lot with mood control and concentration.)

I want to love my children exactly as they are. I want to spend lots of time with them and enjoy doing so. And I do but... not as often as I'd like, and a large part is this struggle. Sometimes there's no room in my house for my own thoughts. I spend special time with him, we have a set schedule, he gets plenty of exercise and play time... but even an hour alone with tea, or a long book break while SO takes them out, can't reset me on many days. I'm really interested in parents who have been there and have any tips on appreciating him better or controlling the more inappropriate behaviors.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon to Human Relations (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
First and foremost, forgive me if I missed something in your post, but you need to get help for the anxiety. Are you in therapy or on medication? You shouldn't be hiding in the bathroom to cry; that's not normal and it doesn't have to be that way. If you are on medication and/or in therapy, it sounds like some major adjustments are in order.

Secondly, it is ENTIRELY okay to set boundaries with him. Perhps he comes home bursting with energy and NEEDING to tell you about his day. Can you give him thirty minutes but set aside a certain time every evening, maybe thirty minutes or an hour, where you take some time to sit after work, read, rest, recharge, etc. I know 30-60 minutes isn't a lot, but it's better than zero. You'd also need your spouse's help with this, as you can't exactly leave two young kids unattended. Perhaps you can switch off with him? He gives you time to rest after work, and you do bathtime, or some other arrangement in that vein.

Your son may have a fit about this; that's okay. That's why you'd need a spouse's support to help enforce the boundary and keep him occupied. Even if the logistics are hard to work out, if you've had an especially long day it is ENTIRELY okay to basically tell him to go away for a little while. Don't use those words, but it is okay to be firm with him about giving you space and to let him watch some extra TV on nights when you just can't.

It's not going to be an easy transition if he's used to having mom on hand 24/7, and the ADHD obviously complicates that. But it is OKAY to ask for space. It is a uniquely American idea that we need to be happy to spend time with our kids ALL THE TIME. That's an utterly impossible expectation. The ensuing exhaustion/resentment/overload that comes about from such an expectation is FAR more harmful than teaching your son to spend some time in his room/outside/riding his bike/whatever when you just need to breathe. You don't need to feel guilty about that. You're doing fine.

But, please, look into addressing your anxiety more.
posted by Amy93 at 5:41 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is he in any kind of behavioral counseling? It sounds like this behavior is affecting (or will affect) his social life and school life and that's no fun for a kid.

Getting some professional help isn't about changing him or not loving him exactly as he is, just about giving him tools and strategies to manage things like appropriate indoor voice, school behavior, being able to self-entertain, etc.
posted by lalex at 5:48 PM on August 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Hi - I am you, but with a 10 year-old version.

My daughter (13) and I are both introverts and my son, with his extroversion, ADHD, and high need to engage with people is exhausting for both of us.

I also have issues with anxiety and am treating it. But still - it is HARD.

My best advice is to outsource as much as you possibly can. It's a lot of front-loaded work, but as much as you can find other people to engage with him, it will take the burden off you.

For example my son has recently discovered fishing. You know who else likes fishing? Old dudes who have a lot of stories to tell and not too many people to talk to. Yay - we go to the park a lot so I can unleash him on his fellow fishermen. He talks, they talk, I bring a book and chill.

As much as you can find other parents to commiserate with, do that too. Hang in there!
posted by pantarei70 at 5:52 PM on August 4, 2017 [8 favorites]

And just FYI - if the OP says he's on medication, you can probably assume professional counseling is already involved.
posted by pantarei70 at 5:56 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm an awful mom for not wanting to have every second, right?
Nope. All moms I know have seconds (minutes, sometimes hours) when they don't particularly want to be with their child. And your child is more challenging than average. And it is Ok to admit to yourself and your therapist, and maybe your husband (when you know the child absolutely can't hear you) that sometime he is really, really annoying. You can still love him with all your heart AND find some of his behavior hard to take. That feeling doesn't make you a bad mother. Hiding in the bathroom doesn't make you a bad mother (unless you stay in there for hours at a time) Screaming at him for doing what comes naturally, blaming him for driving you crazy - that kind of hurtful lack of acceptance moves people into bad mother territory and you are certainly not doing that.

Second, not only is some of his behavior annoying but there are things that you need to help him learn. Just like we don't go outside naked, we also need to take turns talking and listening and we need to learn to use inside voices etc, etc. etc. Your kiddo is going to take longer to learn this than most. That's OK although it does require more patience from you but that doesn't mean that you rejecting his very soul just because you need to help him learn how to be a person who lives in world with other people.

Third, it sounds like there is a bit of mismatch - he hits on some of your triggers in ways that make it harder for you to handle his stuff than other people. But this is really important thing to remember - those other people are not his mother. You love him in a deep way and with a passion that no other person (except for his other parent) can match. He does NOT want to trade you in for some "perfect" mother - he wants you and even if sometimes it feels very imperfect, you are still doing such an important job of loving and caring for him. In fact, I'm pretty sure (you can ask your partner about this) that you are actually doing a better job of this than it feels like. There might be room for improvement (you're human, right? always room for improvement!) but you are not failing at being his mother - you are doing just fine already. Please, please be kind to yourself.
posted by metahawk at 6:00 PM on August 4, 2017 [10 favorites]

All kids have to be taught that their mom is a human being and a person with a personality, not just ones with ADHD. "All" is maybe an exaggeration, I hope so; but the safe bet is to teach them explicitly and not wait for them to passively pick it up, not once they're your son's age. no shame that your son doesn't already know -- most kids have to learn as a hard lesson that them being happy doesn't automatically mean their mothers are also happy.

It sounds like you're so worried about stigmatizing his natural impulses or punishing him for his personality that you're not fully realizing that most kids do this to some extent -- treat their mothers like infinitely renewable resources, not like people -- and all kids have to be taught better. It may be that your son couldn't learn this until now, or that he'll learn it more slowly and more reluctantly than some would. and again, no reason to make him feel bad for not already knowing that his mother needs regular intervals of alone and/or quiet time. but he doesn't know it instinctively and he does have to be taught. that's not punishing him, it's giving him a great gift of knowledge and expanding the horizons of his developing empathy.

All mothers are entitled to some basic mental privacy and physical space on a regular basis; please do not feel guilty for wanting this. You need it and you should have it. You are not harming your son by getting it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:08 PM on August 4, 2017 [28 favorites]

And just FYI - if the OP says he's on medication, you can probably assume professional counseling is already involved.

Great if so! I specified behavioral counseling because I do know some ADHD kids (and was one myself) whose professional counseling involved occasional visits to a prescribing psychiatrist, or strictly talk therapy, and I think something more skills or incentive-based might be worth a shot.
posted by lalex at 6:11 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

First, you absolutely deserve and should get some time to yourself. Being a mother doesn't erase the human need for some solitude. That's a part of self care, just as much as getting enough sleep and eating three meals a day are. It's okay that you don't want to spend every second with your kid, because you need solitude as much as you need sleep and food. I know it can feel like you're being a bad mom for not spending all the time you can with your kid--especially when it's limited by things like work and other obligations--but I promise you, it's okay to cut into your time with him in order to take care of yourself.

I'm not a parent, but I do have both ADHD and sensory processing difficulties. I hate noise when other people are making it, and yet I constantly talk to myself (I do, however, tend to do this pretty quietly--but I know if someone else were doing it, even the constant talking at a low volume would annoy the hell out of me). So I get where both you and your son are coming from. I think trying to tell him to be quieter or stop talking is unlikely to work (not that it looks like you've been doing that), because so much of that ADHD response is instinctive. No matter how many times you tell him, he's going to start talking/being loud because that's what ADHD drives your brain to do. Something I do that annoys the hell out of my partner is pace--I pace CONSTANTLY. My partner associates pacing with anxiety, so it upsets them to see my pace because they always feel like something most be wrong, even though it never is. And every time they point it out I'm like, "Oh, shoot, I should try and pace less" and then I immediately forget until the next time I'm pacing and they bring it up to me. As I've gotten older, I have been able to control some of my ADHD "instincts" more, but it's a long struggle. Long term, you're going to have to help him learn how the cognitive skills to self-regulate some of these behaviors, but right now it sounds like you feel pretty much ready to fall apart, so I'm only going to address the short-term right now.

Two things you might be able to address right now:

1) His constant talking. This is pretty typical of ADHD, but also very draining even for people who aren't introverts. I think the best way to address this is to try and redirect it in some way. I trained myself out of my excessive talking by... well, talking to myself a lot more. I spend a lot of my time pacing and going over conversations I want to have with certain people six or seven times, before realizing I'm really talking about inane things that aren't super important, and then I don't usually end up saying more than half of what I planned to say. That's something that takes a lot of cognition, though, and if he talks loudly to himself that won't solve the problem at all.

I'm wondering if maybe you could ask him to write his thoughts down for you? When he jumps you when you come home and has tons and tons of things to tell you, what if you said something like, "Mommy is going to do x right now, why don't you write all that down and bring it back for me in an hour?" That might help him get that excessive need to share his thoughts out of his system, and give you a way to later approach it in a less draining way. Maybe you could make it a little routine in which later you both get together with snacks or whatever and go over what he wrote and ask him questions and such--this, of course, will likely just set him off talking again, but it'll keep him feeling engaged, and you may be able to gear yourself up better if you have some downtime first, and then know exactly when you're going to have to start being social.

He might be a bit young for this, but another option might be using texts or some form of chat system to communicate. Whenever I'm socially drained, or busy working on something, my partner and I always default to using a chat system even if we're in the same room. It's just so much easier to deal with, especially because I don't have the pressure to respond RIGHT NOW IMMEDIATELY, but can take a minute or two to reply. This probably wouldn't work for his age (or maybe it would? I'm really bad at judging development based on number age), but it's something to keep in mind for when he's older, maybe.

Does he have any relatives that would enjoy spending an hour or two talking with him? Grandparents who like to hear from him and don't have much better to be doing with their time? If you can get him on the phone with someone else (who probably would love to listen to him because it's not something they have to deal with constantly) for a while, you can give yourself some time to recuperate, without requiring him to suppress himself at all.

Redirection is key here, I think. Something that allows him to talk a lot, but not necessarily to you, and not necessarily right now. I know that you feel bad about not being available for him to talk to whenever he wants, but this is what I call a clash of access--he needs to be able to talk, and you need to be able to have quiet. It's okay to ask your children to compromise with you, and sometimes that compromise means sacrificing quality time with your kids in order to take care of yourself. Otherwise, you're just going to be run down and anxious whenever you spend time with him--wouldn't it be better to have a little less time, but have it be better quality?

2) His loudness. This one's harder to deal with. I hate when people talk loudly, but I also tend to talk very loudly myself at times--I just don't have any comprehension of my volume. I usually don't realize it's happening, so even if people have told me before that I should turn down my volume, I may not realize in the moment that I should do so. Does he talk quieter if you point out to him that he's being loud and ask him to speak more quietly? If so, then you may just have to point it out to him every time he does it ("Indoor voice!" is what my parents used). There's the risk of that sounding like an attack, which could end up frustrating him--if he seems like he's getting frustrated with that, maybe you could figure out some sort of symbol or sign to use that wouldn't require you to interrupt him, but would let him know he's being loud? Like raising your horizontal hand up and then lowering it, something simple and non-accusatory like that (a "shushing" sign/finger to the lips has too much negativity behind it I think).

On the subject of the sound he makes... that sounds a lot like echolalia. It's typically characteristic of autism, but ADHD kids can do it too. That's something that's also hard to deal with. On the one hand, echolalia serves a function (self-stimulation, or expression), and I don't like to suggest you try and suppress it. On the other hand, that's extremely disruptive, and I would imagine extremely draining and anxiety inducing. Have you talked to him at all about why he makes that sound? Obviously it's hard to get at the "why" of anything with an 8 year old, but it may be enlightening if you can figure out if it's "I like the sound" or "I make the sound because I'm doing something I like." If it's the former, maybe see if you can find another sound he likes that's quieter/less annoying ("aaahhhhh" instead of "eeeeeee")--you could even make a game out of it, playing around with different sounds. If it's the latter, see if you can find him another way to express himself. I know some autistic young adults who consciously choose to use the ASL sign for applause as a replacement for the noises they usually make to express their enjoyment of something, when they're around people who are bothered by noise. Obviously, this takes a high level of mental control to do, but it may be something you can teach to him.

On preview, I agree with both Amy93 and lalex that professional attention would benefit both of you. Since he is getting medication I assume he's seeing someone, but have any of these issues come up in his treatment? Because theses are the kinds of things that ADHD kids have to learn to manage to be able to function well in society. If you haven't brought them up to whoever you're working with, please do. It would be great if kids could just be themselves completely and totally, but in order to live in a society, people have to learn boundaries and how to interact with other people in positive, non-draining ways. I had very few friends through most of my childhood, because I didn't learn how to regulate myself and interact with people in ways that didn't drive them off until... pretty much college. Again, that's long-term stuff that he's going to have to learn. I think you should definitely bring that up with any professional you see, but it's also okay to just focus on what you can do short-term to recuperate before tackling a big issue like that.

I did also want to comment that a lot of his behaviors are pretty common with autism as well (no understanding/control of volume, interrupting, echolalia, tantrums when interrupted/not getting his way). If there are any autism support groups in your area, you might benefit from getting involve in those.

Above all, remember that it's okay to want time for yourself. It's okay that you and your son aren't perfectly compatible; you can love him as he is while also wanting a more harmonious household. It's okay to ask him to compromise, and it's okay to not spend every moment with him. It doesn't make you a bad mother, it makes you a human being with needs of your own. Acknowledging those needs, and addressing them, will only make you a better mother, not worse.
posted by brook horse at 6:13 PM on August 4, 2017 [12 favorites]

This sounds *exhausting*! I just wanted to chime in to say that I hope you are able to cut yourself some slack. Of course you deserve some time to yourself! I don't really have any specific suggestions other than to say that you are most certainly not an awful mom -- the fact that you're asking this question means that you care about your children! But you need to put on your own oxygen mask first, so to speak.
posted by radioamy at 7:03 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has ADHD, I believe, and there is an anecdote out there that his mom put him in swimming because then he couldn't talk so much at her. LOL.

Big hugs. Parenting is so hard.
posted by jillithd at 8:28 PM on August 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

Is there anyway you could get a break in your day right after work? Sometimes it isn't the amount of time,but t the timing that can help.
posted by aetg at 8:30 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing that it is appropriate for us as mothers to set boundaries, especially with our sons. We are setting their expectations for how they will interact with women for the rest of their lives. There's nothing wrong with saying "I love ya pal, but it isn't all about you. Mommy needs some quiet time." In fact, the more you set boundaries and take time for yourself, the more you will enjoy the time that you do spend together.

Now, a practical point; my husband (who HATES being interrupted by the way, being the youngest of many siblings and quite possibly never having finished a sentence at all before he moved out - he very firmly reiterates "Don't Interrupt! " every time we are interrupted) is super sensitive to all of the boy noise in our house and found himself overstimulated and stressed out every day from the noise. A few months ago he bought some earplugs that go in the ear, kind of like the ones you wear for swimming. He loves them and they've absolutely cut down on his stress. I thought it was silly but I wore them on a long road trip recently and they really did make a difference. You can still hear what you need to hear, but all of the background noise is reduced. They're like 15 bucks on Amazon, definitely worth a try.
posted by vignettist at 8:32 PM on August 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

A small practical suggestion: could you arrive home 10 or 15 minutes later after work, and take those 10 or 15 minutes to decompress and get some time on your own? Maybe stop at a nearby coffee shop and get a coffee, or park just out of sight and go for a short walk? That might get you into a headspace so that when you get home, you can handle getting jumped on.
posted by forza at 1:19 AM on August 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

Can you put him in after school activities? I think he needs to be elsewhere getting stimulated and being with people with similar interests. Also, it may help him socially so win win.
posted by bquarters at 5:49 AM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

With the caveat that I am a man with ADHD (inattentive type, i.e. the quiet, boring kind) who was once an eight-year-old boy with same:

I want to love my children exactly as they are.

I understand the sentiment, really. It's a sweet thought. But, like, come on. No you don't, and you're not doing the kid any favours by letting him off the hook, especially if he's got a developmental disorder that specifically makes acceptable behaviour harder to suss out and stick to. It's like saying, "I want to love my puppies exactly as they are, no matter how much they tear up the furniture and poop all over the carpet." If you love them, help them when they need help. That is your primary responsibility. Your son needs extra help learning this stuff and sticking to it. For his sake, and your own, you need to provide that help.

It just seems like he doesn't know where the boundaries are. Nobody knows innately what's okay and what isn't, and when and where, least of all a hyperactive eight-year-old. Teach him, being sure to give the reasons. Make it clear that you value him, but also make it clear that other people (including you) have value too. He matters, but so do all the other people he'll meet in his life. Your son needs to know that. (Both parts.) "Mommy and Daddy are talking. Please don't interrupt. You'll get your turn soon." "I'm sorry, I like talking with you, but I'm a bit tired right now. Can we talk later?" Be forewarned: You're probably going to have to say it every single time for a good while, and it's going to fall on deaf ears more often than not.

Part of the loudness is just noise - like, as he's playing he'll make normal playing sounds but he also has this blaring, flat-tone "eeeee" noise he makes over and over again that is unbelievably annoying. "Eeee eee eee eeeh" for ages. It's like living with a siren. I'm just not good with lots of noise and there's no distance enough to not hear it or way to get him to stop with frequent reminders. I know that must seem really silly to complain about, but holy majoly, I feel bad asking him to stop but also just can't tolerate it for long before I long to see a) hide in desperation.

First of all, ask him sincerely why he's doing that. 'Cause, like, why is he doing that? Then explain why it should stop. (There are other people in the house, we can hear you, sustained loud noises irritate some of us.) If you've done all that... You feel bad asking him to stop? Yell at him to stop. YELL AT HIM. Not a threat or anything, just a loud, abrupt noise startling enough to make him realize he's doing it again and you don't like it. "STOP THAT!" You can throw in a "please" if it makes you feel better. If he still can't control it after the ten millionth time, that strikes me as perhaps being more Asperger's (or elsewhere on the autism spectrum) than ADHD. Asperger's is very often initially misdiagnosed as ADHD, so that might be something to consider.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 AM on August 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

I have PTSD and a very bouncy ten-year-old. My strategy starting when she was about seven has been to tell her that I have PTSD, talk to her about the behaviors that activate it and work to slow or stop those behaviors. For example, she knows that unexpected loud sounds are difficult for me so she doesn't pop balloons or do other things like that. She had a friend over recently who wanted to pop the inserts that come in Amazon boxes and she told the friend, "Loud noises bother my mom, we need to pop those outside," and they ran outside to do it on the back porch. Being able to make unexpected loud noises is not a key part of being a child and I don't feel like I'm taking anything away from her childhood by drawing a line around that behavior.

Your son is doing a number of things that would drive me absolutely nuts and would make it very, very hard to be the parent I wanted to be. The eeeeee noise, for example. I would stop that behavior (I'm assuming it's not necessary for him as someone discussed above). Look at it like any other behavior that needs to be extinguished and extinguish it with rewards and consequences. I would start, though, with explaining that it is upsetting to me and I need him to stop doing it. I would do this at a time when you both are calm. Tell him how it makes you feel and tell him that he's going to need to stop it. Interrupting is the same. My daughter goes to a therapist and the therapist taught her to put her hand on my arm when she wants to talk, that's her signal that she wants to say something when I'm talking to someone.

I would suggest going to a therapist and getting some support. I think you're looking for a way for you to live with all this behavior so he can be who he is, when really this is maladaptive behavior, not who he is at his core. It's bad habits he's learned, and you can't learn to live with it, it needs to stop and the real needs underneath it need to get met, whether those needs are ADHD related or related to something else.

My daughter is ten and we go to art therapy every week with her. It's been a huge help. We're gotten huge insights into why she does some of the things she does and we're able to talk about what's going on behind the behavior rather than the behavior itself. This has really helped with problematic behaviors she was having like angry outbursts.
posted by orsonet at 10:28 AM on August 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

Hi, I'm a parent of a (so far) normal 8 year old with younger sibling, much of what you say resonates with me, though we do not share the ADHD/introvert issues. I feel dread at facing hours of kid-activities that are boring at best and overstimulating at worst, guilt during kid time at not "enjoying these precious moments" guilt at time away from kids at not "enjoying these precious moments," and utter loathing when my 8 year old gets out the chess set. He sucks at chess yet thinks he's great. It's horrible. I can choose to beat him mercilessly causing him crushing disappointment or tolerate an 8-year old's idea of chess, which is more senseless and boring than adult chess by 100x.

First, and this is not to say avoid treating it if clinical, but I think anxiety and guilt are signs of being a good parent. You sound to me like a good parent. Bad parents do not feel guilt at avoiding parenting. Bad parents don't feel anxiety. I hope and pray I'm a good parent. On my dying day I will still feel like I did not do enough for my children. How else should I feel? Is this anxiety like a magnetic pull on a compass needle - directing me to what serves my child best?

Like I said before, this is not a put down or diminishment of your anxiety and negative feelings. Treat them and value yourself. But perhaps the anxiety is a consequence of how good a parent you are in the face of very challenging circumstance. I find that helps me appreciate (though not enjoy) the anxious and guilty moments. It makes them feel more like hard work, difficult, but tasks that I'm equal to, and ones worth doing.

You might want to check this out. I thought it worthwhile: All Joy and No Fun
posted by sol at 7:17 PM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone. Just the reassurance has meant a lot.

Unfortunately the list for counseling is suuuuuper backed up around here so the limited time he gets is focused only on school behavior. We do remind him about interrupting, do the hand lowering sign for quieting his voice a level, and tell him when either of us need a break... It just never sticks for more than three seconds. Like, I will tell him I am using this hour alone to read, give him a choice of activities and set him up with a snack, and give him a time when we'll do something together. But then he's back in five minutes with a minute-by-minute explanation of a Magic School Bus episode he suddenly thought of. It can be hard.

I like the idea of a break before getting home. Usually I immediately get on kid time while their dad makes dinner, but I am going to try setting up a tea break hidden away until we eat, and then taking over completely while he gets a chill break. Thanks, MeFi.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 9:59 AM on August 7, 2017

Of course he's back in five minutes! His desire to share his excitement about the Magic School Bus has obliterated all memory of that this reading time. But don't give up at that point - stick with the big picture goal - teaching him to work quietly on his own. I think in the beginning an hour is way too long. Pick a realistic goal that is just about what he might do when he is having a good day. Set a timer. Make a rule that he can only interrupt in an emergency. Make a list of what is an emergency (Blood, unconscious, dog running down the street, aliens landing). When he comes to tell you about the exciting thought, interrupt him and ask
You: "Is it an emergency"
Kid: "No, but...."
You: I would love to hear about when reading time is over. This is not an emergency so I am going to go back to reading my book and you need to go back to your room. I'll see you soon when reading time is over. (Break eye contact, go back to reading. Kiddo loiters for a few minutes then wanders away.)

Kid: "Yes. Exciting non-emergency thing
You: Look at the list. Is that on the list?
Kid: It's not on the list but...
You: If you think it should be on the list we can talk about it later but right now it is reading time so I am going back to my book

If he can't reset himself without you getting up and walking him back to his chair, then I would set a very short timer for reading time (5-10 min) and then reset it every time he interrupts you. This is not punishment, you don't get mad at him, but you need and deserve your interrupted time so when he interrupts you, you reset the clock because the needs hasn't been met yet. Calm, loving and firm.

You will have to do this many, many times for him to get it - that's OK, there is nothing wrong with him or with you - you are just teaching him something that is hard for him but you are teaching it in a loving, age-appropriate way so it is good parenting, not bad, that you are doing this.
posted by metahawk at 1:25 PM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Adding on to metahawk's ideas above, use some ritual-type words to define the time/space that you want. Use capital letters when you say the words: Mommy's Quiet Reading Time and Time for You to Be In Your Room (or whatever you want to call it).

Use the exact same words every single time, so you make it A Thing that your family does, like Christmas Dinner or Fourth of July Parade. Set the timer and see if you can set another one for him to take with him into his room. Remind him to check the timer before he comes out. Praise him for any part of this that he does well, but remind him to stay in his room.

You can also use the timer and the Ritual for active time. He wants to play chess, ok here's 15 minutes of Play Time with Mommy. Once that is over, off he goes to do something on his own, maybe playing cars on the floor in the same room where you are, or read a book or whatever.

I guess what I am saying is to try to build a schedule of your time with him, and move through the schedule with segments that are active and then quiet. Name the segments and give them time limits. The contents of what you do inside Play Time with Mommy can vary, but he'll come to know that this is the time for play and after that we all do Reading Time and then Play Time with Daddy and then TV Time.
posted by CathyG at 12:29 PM on August 8, 2017

« Older Air B-n-Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz   |   depression, anxiety and memory loss Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.