Is it normal that my 6 year old son freaks out when other kids break the rules?

Sylvia - posted on 02/03/2013 ( 1 mom has responded )




I have a 6 year old son in kindergarten. When he's in a situation with other children, he feels the need to enforce the rules and/or control the situation. It's not so he can be the boss, it's more like an exaggerated sense of urgency. Like if they don't follow the rules, something bad is going to happen. He even tried to control his classmates when they were given a poster to paint. He kept yelling because they were using the wrong colors and they colored over the pharaoh's eye. He gets embarrassed easily and if he loses a game or if anything happens that makes him look incompetent, he runs and hides and sobs loudly sometimes. I've heard him repeating "This is all my fault, this is all my fault." or "Why me?!" I can usually calm him down, but I'm always on edge when we go to a playdate or a party. When I try and talk to him he gets easily frustrated and it's like he's trying to tell me there's a fire and I'm not responding with enough concern. He is the middle child between my 15 yr old daughter and 5 yr old son. He gets 12 hours of sleep a night and I try to give him whole foods and little sugar. Could this just be anxiety?


Rebekah - posted on 02/03/2013




Is this something typical, or something new?

I think a lot of kids this age get a bit rigid with the rules...they are now in school, and have a lot of new rules to follow (and consequences if they don't) from teachers and other adults. Most kids want to please and may get heightened anxiety when things don't go "right" because they fear what will happen. I believe developmentally kids naturally go through a stage like this because rules help them figure out the world around them (and feel more secure) and what's expected of them. The difficulty is that kids can be a bit rigid at this age too (seeing things as black or white) and they need to be shown a little flexibility when things don't go exactly according to plan, and shown a little mercy, for themselves and others, when mistakes happen.

My son (just turned 7), had some periods of this too...we still work on the black and white thinking. One thing goes wrong, and he's likely to say, "this is the worst day ever!!" or berate himself even if he makes a mistake, "I'm so stupid!" So I find myself working to present the "grays" in life and present him with a broader perspective...just because one bad thing happened (like stubbing his toe), doesn't mean the rest of the day was rotten. My son is on the sensitive side... but as time progresses, I think he's maturing and working through some of this stuff. He also wasn't great at handling losses/failures, and it seemed like a self-esteem issue. Keep being supportive, but don't over-inflate his sense of self (like telling him telling him everything he does is great). Be realistic. Help him to focus on the positives. You can also teach him about being a good sport when it comes to games... no one can win all the time. When we play, we have to be a gracious whether we win and lose (no bragging, no whining) ...just try your best and have fun with it. If he would continually get crabby, I would tell him that I can't play games with him if he can't be a good sport.

On another level, it may be a way for him to get additional attention (from you or teacher), so try to moderate your interventions when he is reacting in a big way. This can be a little hard to sort out don't want him to beat himself up, but you don't want to reinforce the behavior with showering too much attention on him.

I would also try to role model for my son in everyday scenarios how to handle mistakes. If I was folding laundry and got it messed up or cooking and spilled something, I would talk out loud how I processed what I did..."Oh, silly me, look what I did! I got flour all over the counter. Oh well...that happens sometimes... better clean it up so I don't end up wearing it" or some such thing...injecting humor whenever possible. I try to model what its like to roll with mistakes and being easy on myself (for the little things), hoping that it will show him how to roll with things too.

If your son gets worked up by what the other kids are doing, try to encourage him to let the teacher handle it.... remind him that it is her job to manage the kids, and his job is to manage himself. You can try to help him separate out what is important for him to go to the teacher about, regarding his peers....if someone is getting hurt or being mean, tell the teacher. Other than that, let the teacher step in if she wants the kids to use certain colors or change whatever else they are doing.

So I think it is anxiety related, but its probably in response to the stage he's in. Hopefully a little coaching from you and time/maturity will help it to ease. Hope this helps.

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