My 5 Year Old Only Child Doesn't Want to Make Friends - And Is Mean to the Ones He Has

Jessica - posted on 02/06/2013 ( 4 moms have responded )

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I would love some other moms opinions on what to do for my five year old son regarding friendship.

He is an only child but has been in daycare since under a year old and has been raised with play dates, groups, etc.

In his daycare it was noticed that as the other kids progressed and began playing together, he preferred to play by himself. We worked on taking turns, learning names, and all that other stuff in daycare. He still played outside of the group, often creating his own games or whatever while the rest of the kids played together. I've noticed this in sports as well, where he never once even spoke to another boy on his baseball team all last season.

Then he started school in September. He told me that other children were mean to him or didn't want to play with him, but upon speaking with the teachers I learned the opposite was true. I've seen another boy push him down in the yard for no reason, and another mother told me about witnessing a group of kids hold him down and shove leaves in his face. I also know that he is quite capable of pushing other kids although I do my best to stop it, and realize that the actions of the other kids were likely provoked in some way. He is a bright little guy who can do addition and subtraction instantly in his head, with a creative streak that I foster. He builds amazing block structures and lego houses, and while he allows other kids to build with him he feels the need to control what they do. Worse, if anyone touches his building during cleanup time he has a complete meltdown.

We began walking home with a boy from his class and his mom, and the two got along well as the other little boy has a very easy temperament. My son is both extremely stubborn and competitive, so when they walk or run he likes to be in front and if they race he will do anything, including pushing the other boy, to win. If the other boy happens to win, he refuses to talk to him or even say goodbye. And he will hold his grudge for days. On other days, my son would be so excited to see him and hug him goodbye.

Last week it was his friends turn to push the crosswalk button on the way home from school, and my son had a meltdown because I wouldn't let him do it. It's been almost a week and while this other boy smiles and says hi and bye and runs to catch up with us, my son completely ignores him and I've learned from his mother that he won't speak or play with him in class either although they used to be friends.

I'm concerned both for my own child and for this other boy. His mom has been extremely understanding because she has an older child with behavioural issues but I don't want it to get to a point where she has to intervine and not allow our kids together.

As of now, I've been allowing my son to choose whether he wants to walk with this other boy to and from school each day but I insist that he at least say hello and goodbye when we meet up or pass each other. Sometimes he says it, sometimes he refuses. I have to coach him on the most basic interactions, such as saying goodbye to a family member when we are leaving a visit.

I don't want my son to become the class bully or grow up without the ability to make friends. He also holds an extremely high opinion of himself (as in, he says a million times a day how special he is and how unlike other boys and girls he is because xyz), which I try to keep under control by telling him that he is special but so are other little boys and girls for different reasons. He is competitive and likes to be 'the best' at everything, is stubborn enough to hold a grudge for a LONG time, and likes to be in control of every situation. He is also very independent, smart, and loving. For instance, he brought me breakfast in bed last weekend without me ever having talked about it with him, just because he wanted to.

I am a single mom, so I know he needs an outlet for some of his natural aggression that he is not getting at home. I am also self-employed which allows me to pick him up and drop him off myself, but also means that there are evenings and weekends where I need to get a couple hours of work done and he plays completely by himself.

Sorry for the long post - I just wanted to give a clear picture of what I'm dealing with. This issue has been really upsetting me and is the reason I've joined COM in the first place. Any suggestions will be taken under consideration, and I'd especially love to hear from moms who have dealt with similar children or issues so let me know if you speak from experience.

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Maria - posted on 02/06/2013

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Apologizing to his friends was a second step. I did not make him apologize in the middle of a meltdown because it would only add to the problem at that moment. Once he was able to control himself and not flip out for every little thing, I would make him apologize, and he did. Now he does it w/o me saying anything.
I would suggest that you consider signing him up for tea kwon do. I know it may sound ridiculous, I was very hesitant signing up my son, but it made huge difference in the way he interacts with other other people. First thing they learn is that you are never the aggressor, treat people with respect, practice self control and self discipline, help others if you can, listen to adults, have patience, don't interrupt, they also learn about diversity... I mean, it is so much more than a sport. And as a bonus, he gets rid of the built up energy. Honestly, I never knew anything about it, for me it was just two guys smacking each other and I was so wrong. So Wrong.
As far as bullies, I still think that you should talk to someone in school. Just because they were bullied at some point does not give them the right to bully someone else, I think we agree on that. Bullies usually focus on weaker child, not the one that's aggressive. I hope you find a way for him to get over this. Please, at least consider what I told you about tea kwon do. Try to find some forums or some other parents who can tell you their experiences.

Maria - posted on 02/06/2013

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I have a 7 year old boy who is an only child. He had issues with other kids when he was around 4, meaning that he had to be first, sharing toys was a problem, and of course he had to had control over whichever game he was playing with other kids. I don't know about your son, but mine actually loved playing with other kids at the park, as long as it was on his terms. So, I used that as a "weapon". Whenever he would start to have a meltdown about not being first in a race, or someone took his toy, I would pick him up, that second and take him home. He would cry and beg to stay but I was firm. It took him probably between 5-10 times to figure it out. It takes time and practice for kid to learn what kind of behavior is expected from them, some kids get it right away others, like my son, get it after 10th time.
But, I wanted to say something else too. I think that your child has been bullied regardless of what his teacher says. Shoving leaves into someones mouth, pushing someone, is bulling, and naturally he doesn't want to play with other kids. Maybe he raised his gard against ALL kids in fear of being kicked and shoved. From all you wrote I think your child is hurting. I don't think he's going to become a bully, or that he is antisocial, he is just afraid of being put down and humiliated by other kids. You really need to talk to the teacher again, schools often ignore problems until it escalates.
Also, for now, I think that you shouldn't put him into team sports. Try swimming, karate, tennis, anything else where he can build his self esteem without worrying what other kids are going to say or do.

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Ariana - posted on 02/06/2013

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I would sit your son down and tell him that YOU made the rule about the button pushing not this other little boy, so if he wants to hold a grudge he can be mad at you not the other boy.

Try to explain to him that it's ok to lose, and that we can't always win, we have to be good losers. You can work on this by playing games with him, try to play board games with him. Remind him at the beginning of the game that the point of the game is to have fun, and if you lose you just say "I'm sure I'll win next time". Tell him that no one likes losing and that it's really frustrating to lose, and everyone has to learn to take a couple deep breaths and let it go. So if you lose show him this behavior, you take a few breaths and go, wow I wish I'd won, oh well I'll win next time. Oh I really wanted to win, oh well. If he loses and he starts to get upset try to remind him to take a few deep breaths and tell him yeah it sucks to lose, but you'll win another time.

If he stays mad at this boy invite the boy over for a playdate, or when they see each other sit the boys down and ask your son to say how he feels about w/e. So I'm mad at you for pressing the button (or w/e it was) I wanted to do it. Then ask the little boy to say how he feels, 'it was my turn you had the last turn'. Then try to resay what they said, so you wanted him to let you press the button, and you wanted to press it because it was your turn. How can we fix the problem? They might not know, but maybe they could agree to press it together, or the person who doesn't press it gets to do some other special thing that day, so whoever gets to press the thing that day gets to do a different thing that happens every time so if one kid wants to do that, they can be reminded of the thing they get to do.

And it doesn't even matter just as long as both kids agree on the solution. If your son goes, ok we can do that instead, and the other boy says I like that idea or I'm willing to do that, then they've resolved the conflict. No more grudge. It doesn't mean either one has to prove they're right or wrong, but that your son learns he has tools to solve a problem where the other person is flexible, and he is flexible.

This kind of skill takes practice. He is actually displaying behaviors and feelings we all experience at one time or another. I've certainly played a game and though, god losing sucks, I wish I could win. That's so unfair! But we learn to cope with this feeling and take other peoples feelings into consideration. I mean at this age he's still very much all about his own feelings, it's why he can't understand why he should give a turn to the other boy, because the other boy would be sad and jealous if your son was always touching it, but all your sonn sees is, I wanted to do it first. He can't put himself in that kids shoes to realize why the other person might be uspset or not at fault, or even that if the person WAS at fault sometimes we have to just relax because maybe I'll do something wrong and that person will still be friends with me.

If possible invite other kids over to play with him so you can work on these things.

You mentioned if other kids touch his castle at clean up time he throws a tantrum, you could always try to ask him (not in the situation) why do you get upset when people touch your castle? He'll give you w/e reason, I don't like it, and then just ask him, so you don't like people touching it, but sometimes people do it by mistake etc. what can we do to keep this from happening? You could agree to have him put the castle away before cleanup time or in a special area so other people don't touch it (if this is at your house I didn't know where he was building it at home or school).

Stuff like that where you just talk to him ahead a time about issues that are going on and see if you can get a compromise from him. It's like, these are my concerns, theses are yours, what can we do so we're both happy?

With his personality type it's best to try to work on big problems that happen frequently where it's an ongoing problem that you can take time to problem solve (rather than in the moment). If you are in the moment of a situation it will be harder to have him do it fast enough to come to an agreement and he'll probably go to happy to being upset to tfast to have it effect.

Jessica - posted on 02/06/2013

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Thank you Maria - I agree that being bullied has caused the entire problem to get worse. It might not have come across but I am VERY upset that he has experienced that. I just meant to express that I understand why some of the other children might have done that and don't necessarily see him as a victim but an equal aggressor. I think a lot of bullies were at some point bullied themselves, and become one as a method of protection. He is a naturally aggressive little guy so I could see this becoming an issue further down the road.

He is an emotional child but tends to hide how he feels and often just flat out refuses to talk about it. When I ask him what he did at school he says 'Nothing' or 'I didn't do anything' and if I ask him about anything with other kids he says 'I don't want to talk about it'.

He also seems to love the idea of friends and playing with other kids, but when it comes down to it still prefers his own company. For instance, he really wants a friend to come over this weekend and asked me to call his mom last night (which I did), but they always end up fighting when they get together and my son will ultimately storm off into a different room and refuse to play again. I will try ending the visit when the meltdown begins, but from my experiences with him so far his reaction is more likely to be 'GOOD!' instead of 'NOOO!'.

I'm also concerned with teaching him to apologize for bad and rude behaviour as well. Did you find that by pulling your son away from the situation without apologizing created any issues for you? Also, because a lot of what I see myself happens on the walk to or from school I could use some suggestions on what to do in that situation.

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