Sunday, March 4, 2012

Behave Yourself! Part 2 of 2

This issue, my issue, will rear its ugly head at times, hence part 2. Read Part 1. We have a pretty wonderful little 5 year old if I do say so myself. He loves to love and be loved. It's very rare that we  "get angry" or express our disappointment. And when we do, his little heart breaks and when that happens, mine does too.

As we've lived so far away from our family for nearly all of his little life, Skype dates are necessary and mandatory. And of course, they sometimes come when he's completely disinterested in chatting. Well he usually always needs to be prodded to 'smile for the camera' as it were. I can't blame the kid really. It's hard to develop intimacy via Webcam, especially when there are so many tangible things to do: read, watch a movie, play, etc, most activities involving flesh and blood humans as opposed to the virtual ones.

I've tried to explain the concept: Grandparents are far away. They love you. They want to talk to you. blah, blah, blah. The concept is likely still a little advanced for him to wrap his head and heart around. So when they call, expecting a performing monkey (which they do), I don't expect him to be one but I do expect him to at least be polite. And loudly proclaiming in an annoyed voice, "Mom, I want to watch a movie now." while they're in the middle of asking him a question "hurts their feelings". I try to help along the Skype dates by encouraging him to show his art or remind him of the highlights in his day to share. I'm also sensitive to the fact that he's only 5 so five minutes of his time is really all anyone should expect.

I was 'angry' tonight because I was embarrassed. That's not cool and my 'angry' reaction to the situation likely wasn't either and I know it. Though after some stern words, I did make sure to dry his tears and reassure him that I love him and leave things on a good note, unlike what my own mother would have done back in the day. So there's a few Parenting Points.

All that said, I do want to teach my son compassion and sensitivity for other people's feelings. I'm looking for ideas. I'd like to go beyond "doing/saying things to please other people" and instill in him some joy in these conversations with his grandparents or at the very least some tolerance. Because right now, he's likely viewing his participation as a sort of punishment. Any ideas? As I've written in previous posts, I struggle with the "behavior" issue :-(.


Monica said...

as (i think) you know. we do the skype things too. possibly a little easier for us because she sees her grandparents more often in the year.

however, at not-yet-4 she would much rather play or watch a vid or read a book or just not talk. that's her age and we accept that.
i do feel for the gps though because they so much want to see her (actually, grandma is better at understanding).

i have had little talks with her that they want to see her so much and love her so much and it's kind to say quick hello to them.

what i find helps is,
a) chatting to the relatives and reminding them that the child is young and it's natural they don't want to speak on cue. (obvious to us but people forget)
that it has nothing to do with how the child feels about them (our girl will mention them during the week with fondness but then skype time comes and she's not in the mood)

b) prepping the child.
i find this helps for a LOT of situations. most children benefit from advance warning.
i explain we'll be calling relatives, that it will be kind to speak with them. if she mentions she's doesn't want to i acknowledge that, and add 'so just a quick hello and wave' (i feel asking someone to smile is a bit too coercive for me).

(sometimes it might be something like:
i know sweetie, you'd rather be playing with your animals right now, so let's just say a nice hello and wave at X and that will make them very happy, and then your animals will be right here waiting for you afterwards)

if it needs something more, perhaps asking 'what little game would you like to play before we call X persons up?'
then they get some 1-2-1 time with mama/papa, and know what to expect straight afterwards.

and of course, the basics, making sure they're fed, and preferably calling when not tired.

and when it all fails, shrugging at the relatives and saying - ah well, he's 5, we can't expect him to be ready when we are. and chuckling it away.

SwedishJenn said...

My dear Mon. This is EXACTLY what I need to read on this issue. Thank you ever so much for your thoughtful suggestions. I will let you know how the next session goes. I like your idea of reminding the grandfolks that he's only 5 and sometimes, they have to just take what they can get. It's mainly one set that expect him to have a 20 minute long conversation. xo