How I finally got my 5 year old to listen

I’m not going to go into details about the complete deterioration of the Abomb’s behaviour. I’ve started that post a few times but it just turns into an uncontrolled, nonsensical rant very quickly and I figure that no one else should have to read it. Suffice to say, we’ve been struggling with him. He spent a week on his own at his grandma’s during the holidays and was a dream child apparently. Ho hum. We haven’t seen that child since he returned a few weeks ago. In his place is…I don’t even have the words for it….a nightmare.

I’ve written before that he and I clash. We also love with unbounded intensity which I think sometimes sets up the clashes we have. We need each other in a strange way, a way that is different than the way I need the other two. It must be to do with the Abomb being my first child and that intense first year together.

We did notice a big decline in his behaviour when he returned to school. The way he speaks to me (and while he’s quite rude to C, it doesn’t compare to how he speaks to me) is appalling. I’m constantly shouting at him to be polite to me and not to speak to me like one of his friends. Then I find myself ranting that he shouldn’t be speaking to his friends like that and if any of his friends speak like this to him, well, they’re not truly a friend. Then I start up about what would have happened to me as a child if I’d spoken to my parents that way. Then I explain how the wooden spoon was used ‘in my day’. Then I start crying and tell him I just can’t handle it anymore. Then I try to send him to his room for time out which, by this stage, is NEVER going to happen unless I carry him up there. So, then I find myself dragging carrying him to his room and slamming the door, which he then opens and slams in my face. To which I yell that he’s not allowed to slam doors because ‘it’s dangerous’.

You can see this is a whirlpool of fury and sadness, hypocrisy and hurt.

I completely acknowledge the role I play in all of this. The unproductive, damaging, and injured role. I know it all.

I read recently that we need to be careful of what we expect of our children, especially when they’re young. It had me thinking that, because he is the oldest, I do expect a lot of the Abomb and often lose sight of the fact that he’s only 5. I expect him to be rational and fair and unemotional. But of course, he can’t be any of these things. I’ve also read that we need to be careful of what we communicate to our young children. That it is not fair to communicate adult ideas and standards when we’re discussing their behaviour. I get this and it’s always something I’ve made an effort with. When I find myself speaking to the Abomb as though he’s an adult, I automatically change this.

But then I found myself on Sunday morning, in the living room on my knees in tears with the Abomb in front of me, standing defiant. I was tired and we’d had a BIG, exhausting day the day before and I was. DONE. He’d been screaming at his brothers, hurting them, shouting at C and, I was. DONE.

I fell to my knees, grabbed his hands and shared with him exactly what I was feeling. I didn’t check my words, I didn’t temper my feelings, I didn’t try and communicate my thoughts in child’s language. I just spoke as I felt. And cried. And spoke some more.

I didn’t once think of how I was speaking. I just spoke to someone I love about the way I was feeling.

And it worked. He cried, not in anger or frustration, but in understanding and mutual care. We hugged and talked about it. He said some frighteningly honest things including the fact that sometimes he wishes his brothers weren’t here and how he wishes we hadn’t moved back from Melbourne. I understand that these are the things at the root of his behaviour but because he’s 5 he simply does not have the faculties to communicate them. Except, when he’s encouraged to do so. By me. When I can help him to. When I don’t treat him like a 5 year old, when I treat him as someone I love deeply, who is hurting me and who I want to see become a happier and more present.

So being myself allowed him to be himself. And he has been, ever since. For the last few days, he has been that gorgeous little boy we all knew was hiding in there. He’s calmer and communicates far better. We’ll have our moments again, for sure. But I know now how I will deal with them. No more screaming. No more rage. No more threats.

Just myself.

2 thoughts on “How I finally got my 5 year old to listen

  1. I just wanted to say.. that this post was amazing. I do not know you as you do not know me. I googled.. cannot communicate with my 5 year old, and your post popped up. Thank you. It is exactly what I needed to read. This is exactly what I am going through right now with my 5 yr old, the oldest too. It is so extremely hard for me. I find myself crying all the time, and my husband and I don’t know what to do with our little boy. I know he is our strong, brave, sensitive, helpful child, but somehow, that little boy has seemed to disappear. So thank you for your words. Being a mother that loves her children so much, and tries her hardest to raise them the right way, is so trying and takes it toll. It was nice to read that I am not the only one who goes through these same situations. :)

    • It’s been a while since you wrote, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. Yes, there are others going through this. To be honest, we still have ups and downs with our now 6 year old. The words you use to describe your son are the same I would use. Sometimes being is mother is so very tiring. Other times, it makes me feel alive and full of joyous energy. I guess that is parenting. Although my other two are very different and I don’t seem to experience the same highs and lows. Thank you for responding and expressing yourself here. Your comment has encouraged me to come back to this place again.

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