What am I doing wrong???

[deleted account] ( 13 moms have responded )

I feel like I am really messing up everything for my son psychologically. Most of you know, I'm not in the best mental shape myself and I really don't want to pass these issues on to my son, but lately, I'm at a loss in how to handle him.

I pick him up from school everyday in hopes of spending the afternoon happy, playing together and getting along. Expressing "love" to each other and such....or at least not biting each other's heads off at every opportunity.

Everyday goes something like this...(this is today, but every one this week has been the same).

He gets in the car, smiles all around.
ME: Did you have a good day?
J: Yes.
ME: Did you get your picture taken? (It was picture day)
J: No.
ME: Perhaps it's tomorrow. Tell me about your day.
J: Ask me a question about my day.
ME: I want you to tell me about your day. (slightly annoyed and perplexed because he did not do as I directed)
J: Why won't you ask me a question?
ME: I am rather annoyed that you are insisting I ask a question while refusing to address my inquiry. I do not have any information from your day to base a question on. I clearly directed you to tell me about your day. I want you to tell me about anything that happened to you today. Anything. When I pose an inquiry, you are to address it without argument. Do you understand?

He became visibly upset, then proceeded to tell me everything he did today in chronological order. I am pleased and thus relay that to him with a smile, after which he begins to be more relaxed.
He pauses after telling me that the class sat on the mat, so I ask "What did you learn while sitting on the mat?" Thinking this would please him as he had wanted me to ask a question earlier.

J: We learned about picture graphs.
ME: What is a picture graph?
J: Do you know what a picture graph is?
ME: I want you to tell me what a picture graph is.
J: I want you to tell me what a picture graph is.

I'm finished. I am livid, as I just explained to him, very clearly, that his tone was combative and that when I ask a question or pose an inquiry he should respond with an address to THAT inquiry, not pose another question, disagree, or argue. I reiterated this message and sent him to his room when we got home. He is still there.



I fear that I am putting a rift between us, that I am inadvertently building walls against communication, and he does not wish to open up to me. I want us to be open and understanding of each other, and I want him to feel comfortable talking to me. Where in the above conversation did I go wrong?


A little on my issues :P My Doctor says that I lack empathy and have a slight tenancy to sociopathy.....not that I'm a sociopath. Only that I tend to lack strong emotions and fail to acknowledge emotion in others. I'm working on it. I only mention this here because it might connect to my issues with communicating and connecting with J.

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Jaime - posted on 09/15/2011

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I like what the other ladies have said so far. Kelly, you're not a monster. If you didn't give a shit, you wouldn't be asking for help and advice. Give yourself credit for wanting to change and accept that it's not a perfect process.



As for the conversation with your son....my advice is simply to back off. When your son gets in the car, fresh from the classroom, don't bombard him with inquiries about his day. He just left school and already someone wants to know how his day went...and he hasn't yet had a chance to process the day in his own mind, let alone try to determine how to convey it to someone else so that they can process it. I read something once that talked about kids around the age of 5-8 and how it's very common for a person to get very vague information from them immediately following any activity. Our need to know how their day was, or if they enjoyed the birthday party/movie/day at the theme park is just that....OUR need. But it's not a requirement for them to have to share with us how they feel about it in that specific moment. Kids also don't recall information immediately after it happens...it takes a few days before they are ready to discuss a certain event and how it either negatively or positively affected them. Your son gave you the chronological list of what he did to appease you, but he likely spared any emotional detail about it because he wasn't physically ready to share it...thus the entire point of your asking is moot. That brings me back to my advice of 'back off'. Just let it happen naturally. Conversations shouldn't be forced and there should never be a specific expectation for how it will play out or what it will contain....you're not having a college debate with him, you're asking him about his day. I say relax, take a deep breath and just keep it simple. "Hey kiddo, how was your day?" "fine" "do you want to talk about it?" "no" "okay, maybe another time"...let him decide how much he's willing to share and leave it at that.



Above all, don't focus so much on your flaws or what is negative about a situation. Focus on the end goal of wanting to have a pleasant conversation with your son. Even if the conversation lasts 30 seconds, if it's a pleasant one, then it was worth it. If you struggle and battle for half an hour and exert your control over 'wanting' him to do as he's asked, then the negative outcome overshadows any hint of positivity that can be gained from simple communication techniques.

Lissa - posted on 09/14/2011

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What JuLeah said with an added ask instead if he had fun at school. If he doesn't answer then leave it be but asking if he had fun means he is more likely to say yes and tell you all about it or say no and tell you why he had a bad day. If he doesn't want to discuss his day then you tell him about yours.
I'm sorry to say what you described sounds more like an interrogation than a conversation.

JuLeah - posted on 09/14/2011

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Ohh ... you are speaking to this baby boy as if her were a 40yr old business man stalling your takeover of his company.



Maybe he fears 'getting it wrong' and is reluctant to speak his mind



Maybe he is so very tired emotionally from his day, and just needs time to relax and unwind ... not answer questions if he doesn't wish to



How is this conversation going to be loving and relationship building if you demand full control of its direction and content? That is not even a conversation.



As you go through his backpack looking at papers and such, comment there. Nice art work, or nice hand writing, or looks like you worked hard in math ....



He might not fully understand what a picture graph is. He might not want to share his lack of understanding with you and have you angry with him ... so he asked you to answer the question - which was actually very smart of him if you think about it



Maybe you could play games with him ... cards, board games that are on his level - that he thinks fun. You don't have to 'win' ... when there is a shared activity people often feel more comfortable talking



You don't state his age, but I assume young given the mat comment. So, make your sentences shorter. He is not an adult with full grasp of the language. He is a kid. I am not suggesting you talk down for him, simply speak at his level. He might better understand. Yes, he claims to understand, but I believe that is to avoid your displeasure

Elfrieda - posted on 09/14/2011

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It seems like there's a lot of pressure on both of you to perform for each other (you with the "praise inflections" and him with answering each question the way you want him to or else)

Could you instead have a chat about the silliest part of your day, or the most interesting, or the funniest thing that happened, or something new you learned... Ask him about one of those things, and then tell him a silly, interesting, funny, etc. story about your day, and invite him to share one as well. If he can't think of one right then, don't make a big deal of it, just ask again the next day. It might lower the tension level in the car on the ride home if you can laugh together.

Becky - posted on 09/28/2011

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I think it's great that you are working so hard on communicating and bonding with your son and I think you've already gotten a lot of great tips, so I don't have too much to add. But, here's one thing I do with Cole - who is 3 1/2. Cole is very, very inquisitive and is always asking why. Sometimes he will ask me a why question that I don't know the answer to but that he does (say about something that happened on a show he was watching but I wasn't paying attention to.) I will tell him first that I wasn't watching and he should tell me why that happened. If he persists in saying, "No, you tell me," then I will make up some silly answer, to which he laughs and replies "no, mom, it was....." That might have been a technique you could've used with your son when you were talking about the picture graphs and he wanted you to tell him what they were - make something silly or not quite right up and that might encourage him to correct you and make him feel smart that he knows more about it than mom.

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Rosie - posted on 09/18/2011

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my son will be 7 at the end of october, and i've found that he is willing to talk about the day on his terms. if i ask, i ususally get "i dont' know"
i've found that something that excited him during the school day he'll tell me about later. they had a person who does yoyo tricks come to school the other day. vinnie started talking about yoyo's and how cool they are and how he can do all the tricks, but he needs to practice with his own. that opened up the discussion about the assembly with the yoyo lady at school.
also, kids aren't automatically able to know how to have disccussions. you just have to keep on emulating to him how to have a discussion by telling him about your day.

Julie - posted on 09/16/2011

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So glad it went well yesterday! As soon as I posted yesterday I went and picked up my daughter. Before I could even ask, she started telling me all about mastering the monkey bars, skipping a bar in between. The big set and the little set. I was thinking about you and your son, hoping that yours went as well. I pulled this big poster she'd made out of her backpack and asked her to tell me about it. She said, that's what we did at school. I'm thinking, Duh! But instead I asked her to tell me about it again so then she explained. Calm and patient.....not exactly my strong suit either, but it's easier if you remember they are just little kids.

Jaime - posted on 09/15/2011

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See, sometimes taking a backseat in the conversation is worth the payout in the end :) I'm glad you had a good day with your son. I hope tomorrow is just as nice for you. Keep us posted on how it's going.

[deleted account]

So I gave it a go today and I am really pleased with the way our day is progressing.

When he got into the car, I asked if he would like to tell me about his day. He said no. I was a little disappointed; one of my biggest fears is that he will not talk to me, but I let it go.

Moments later, perhaps a minute or less later, he was telling me all about the unplanned fire drill they had at school today (actually, there was a fire, but it was small and he doesn't know that and I don't want to freak him out, so we're sticking with the unplanned drill story the teacher gave him until the principal releases her statement).



When we got home, he straightened up his room then went to his homework. I helped him with that--she gives them a group of letters every week and we have to see how many words we can make--that was actually fun, and we came up with a lot of words that opened up a few conversations.



After that, I decided we should cuddle up and watch a movie--nothing like snuggling to bond, and TV is a special treat around here, so J was excited--I even let him pick the movie. Of course, J has no idea how to watch a movie, and spent 90 minutes hopping from chair to sofa to chair, and asking an endless line of questions, BUT I answered the questions the best I could :) and he was pleased. He even hugged me.

Julie - posted on 09/15/2011

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My daughter will be 7 in 7 weeks, 1st grade, so pretty similar to your son. I pick her up from daycare and I will ask her specific questions....What did you learn at school? Did you have time to eat your lunch? Was it good? They only get 20 minutes to eat and she likes to talk so she is hungry when school is out. I usually get pretty vague answers unless something I say sparks something that happened. It's usually when I'm making dinner or we're doing homework or something that she'll tell me about what her friends did or something that happened in class. My husband thinks that she opens up to me sooo much better than she does to him and usually it's just hanging out with her and the wheels are turning and she just tells me about it. I usually feel like I don't know anything about her day. My advice is pretty much the same as above. Ask a couple questions, don't worry about the answers (unless it's something worth worrying about, bullying etc.) and just hang out with him. He might surprise you and tell you a story about his day that you otherwise wouldn't have heard.

JuLeah - posted on 09/15/2011

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A person won't usually remember what you say or do, they will remember how you made them feel.

Is it okay if you don't always fully get your point across? I mean, it is a crap shoot with anyone you speak with. We can use whatever words we wish, but the other person actually understanding our meaning??? So, often I don't get my full point across and that is okay. They are not getting their full point across and I am not fully understanding them.

Communication is a tricky thing. It is more then spoken word. It is expression, tone of voice, look in the eye, body language ... then the person hearing us will filter all we send through their own life experiences and understandings

I am amazed we communicate as well as we do

It is okay if he does not fully understand a picture graph right now, he will pick it up as the lesson in school continue - no need for you to be in the role of teacher when you are facing communication challegnes you face

What do you do for fun? Do you like to swim? Paint? Work on cars?

What does he like? Can you find a common interest?

Maybe you both like to assemble model airplanes .... you could do that together if you think you can let him lead. They come in packs that don't need glue or paint ... they snap together and you put sticker on.

He can read the instruction, (a lot of pictures) he can assemble the pieces ... when my daughter was this age her stickers were upside down and all over the place, but who cared ... she had fun, she loved the finished product and was thrilled to show everyone the model we had made - that type of thing is now a good memory for her

Puzzles are great too ... not a lot of talking required, side by side activity ... no one needs to be the expert - joint project

I am excited for you ... there is so much this child has to teach you and you seem open to learning.

The lessons my daughter teaches me everyday have made me a better person ... I like myself more then I did ...

Lissa - posted on 09/15/2011

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When I want to check my children understand I would say something like I'm not really sure what a picture graph is lets look it up together later. Then it seems like a team effort and their is no pressure on him to explain, you can look together and discuss it.

[deleted account]

Thank you very much, ladies. As always, JuLeah, you were very, very helpful. I never thought about him being emotionally drained, or that I demand full control of our conversations....in fact, now that you brought it up, I demand full control of a lot of things in his life. Perhaps I should let up on that and let him take the lead some?

J is 6 years old, he'll be 7 in 6 weeks. He is in 1st grade. I do have issues speaking on his level. I've been trying to use shorter sentences, but then I feel like I don't get my full point across, so I end up repeating myself several different ways to make sure he understands :P


I try to give him complements when I look over his work, but he says I don't sound like I mean it. I DO mean it. I've tried practicing happy and proud inflections, but apparently I'm a monotone, emotionless, monster who scares people.....I don't even yell, or curse, or hit, or anything. There is just something about me that puts people on their toes. J is not the only one, my husband has mentioned it, as well as my property managers, and their legal team. I am "intimidating" is what they say. They are terrified of displeasing me. When I ask why, they don't have a response. I've never yelled at any of them, never cursed at them, or done anything mean to them, or even threatened to......They've never displeased me, but if they did, I'd just sit down with them and find a solution to the problem at hand.

I want J to know that if he doesn't understand the picture graph that it is okay and I will help him understand it. How can I convey that to him?

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