Gloomy, tearful 10 yo boy!

freezetagJanuary 18, 2008

My son (10 1/2) is having a rough year. He is frequently gloomy, and less social than before. He'll play with his friends if they ask, but never initiates it like he used to. He had some trouble in the beginning of the school year - his teacher told me that he was constantly irritating / distracting the other kids in his class. She never caught him, but many kids who sat next to him asked to be moved. She sat him off by himself, which she said she hates to do, but he said he's happy with it, his grades have improved (straight A's for the first time ever) so that's where he is for now.

He played football, but was bullied a little by the other boys (shoving, name-calling) so it was a relief when the season was over. He's playing basketball now and doing well.

But things are bad at home. We can't criticize or reprimand him without him becoming extremely upset, stomping off and accusing us of never listening. He has extended crying jags, which can last more than an hour. And, for lack of a better word, temper tantrums. A couple of weeks ago, he'd had a bad day and wasn't allowed to go to a friend's house. That night, I sent him to his room for some minor annoyance, and he laid doubled up in the hall and screamed that his stomach hurt, for a couple of hours. And a couple of days ago, after being disappointed that I wasn't able to take him to basketball practice, he "fell" getting out of his seat in the van and laid there screaming that his arm was stuck. Both times, I felt horrible ignoring him, but, having seen this behavior before, I knew he was fine (which he was).

Is he attention-starved? Maybe - there's never enough to go around. He is obviously way too old to be having temper tantrums, but still does occasionally, despite being ignored.

I made an appointment with a family therapist - I just feel scared that there is something terribly wrong with him and wish I knew how to help. My other three kids are so much easier to deal with - just typical kids problems that lots of other kids have. Anyone else with a "drama queen" son? I would be less surprised if it was one of my girls - is it possible that boys' hormones can make them unbalanced?

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is it possible that boys' hormones can make them unbalanced?


I'm not a doctor or medically qualified in any way. But I have boys ages 14 and 11 right now. That is the age it has started for us, the mood swings, crying spells, aggressive temper outbursts, irrational. And headaches, terrible headaches, probably bad enough to be migraines, they threw up and had to just sleep them off. The headaches were the only thing I ever asked the doc about, he said it's common in pre-puberty age boys, it's hormones.

I can see the change in temperment at the age when hormones begin to change, even though it's not obvious from the physical outside yet that puberty is beginning. I can see that it makes the boys have irrational moods and feelings that even they cannot understand, which makes it worse. DS#1 did outgrow it at around age 13, DS#2 is 11 and still right in the middle of it.

DS#2 is in tears daily for some little thing. Yesterday it was b/c I made him wipe down the bathroom! It can be b/c there are no more cookies or batteries are dead or his sister breathed too loud. I try not to make a big deal of it, as that makes it worse. As long as he's not hurting anyone, I ignore him or suggest he go take some time alone to calm down. It feels like terrible twos again, but now you're working with a rational kid. I can see that his upsetting behavior confuses and upsets him even more. He knows it's not reasonable or "acting his age" and that makes him angrier. So I don't handle it like I would have when he was 2, I still treat him his age and tell him he needs to excuse himself to get control. I also don't let his older brother make fun of him, I remind him he's been through it, too.

I tried to understand how they were feeling, being familiar with hormonal mood swings on occassion myself LOL. They really need physical release, I'd send them outside to kick a ball around. I try to keep a sense of humor, be funny to break the tension. They also need more sleep. And I talked to them about what is going on in their bodies and minds, the chemical side of it, so they understand there is nothing wrong with them. As hard as it is, it is normal. So they can be smarter about how they handle their feelings. I talked to them about what triggers the crying or anger and how they can learn to see it starting so they can calm down before they get carried away.

So anyway. If his mood swings are getting the best of him, keeping him from making friends and enjoying school or activities, I think talking to a therapist is a good idea to rule out that anything more serious than pre-pubescent hormones is going on. I also think talking to your doctor is a good idea to find out if his hormones levels are maybe a little crazier than normal.

I just wanted to tell you, mom to mom, I've been there with my boys, too. It's shocking the first time you see it b/c you figure there must be something terribly wrong. But if this is the same thing we've been through, it will pass. It's a lot to learn and cope with, but it's a normal phase for the age.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 2:25PM
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wow, im very glad to hear that someone else is experiencing that with a boy in the same age range. Let me re-phrase, i totally understand what you are going through!!!! As I was reading your post, I was sitting there thinking, OMG, shes talking about my 11 y/o son!! He has had the exact same issues, from other kids moving away from him in class, to being picked on at football by a little ( a LOT smaller) kid!

AND..just the other day he was doing some homework, after much to do, and i hear him just sobbing his little heart out, much like a temper tantrum, and all because he didnt think he could finish all of his homework! imagine my shock, because he is not an emotional boy in any manner.

I find that when i can give him some one on one, driving to the mall, driving him to a friends house, that is really the only time he opens up, but that is after a battle. I always chalked it up to him having a SD in the last 4 years that is pretty strict with him.

I will be very interested in keeping with this post to see what other say or suggest, as I only have the same experiences as you, freeze.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 2:57PM
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Thank you, thank you, stephanie and gooseegg! I still want to have a chat with the therapist, because I feel so tense when ds is having a big dramatic episode. I try to present a calm face, and go about my business with the other kids, but we're all pretty edgy.

I did not expect this at all from ds - I have only heard about drama/tears from girls, and I am so glad to know that this is not unheard of for a boy.

Gooseegg, the boy who picked on my son the most was a small, skinny kid, too. But with ATTITUDE! I'm sure my son could easily have defended himself, but he just didn't know how to deal with it. We did some role-playing at home, with dh being the bully and ds standing up to him, but then football ended and ds never really had the opportunity. Not sure he was up for it, anyway.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 4:09PM
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A teacher friend was telling me that she had a boy in class last year, (3rd grade) who was the smallest boy in the class. I saw this kid, and he looked like a perfect little boyscout. But she insisted that he was mean, called other kids swear words,etc. She said this kid had personal issues she would not share. This small kid would challenge adults, and those bigger than himself. But he targeted a kid in the class he knew he could victimize.

Maybe your son is being taunted, or ignored/excluded. I would think it would be good to find out what time your son has recess, (and don't tell him you are coming) and just sit in your car and observe him during recess. Do the other kids play with him? Do they seem to be having fun playing together (expressions on their faces) or are they running from him, excluding him, taunting him, or ignoring him? Does he sit by himself off to the side?

Does he have actual friends in the class? Can you arrange play dates with friends if he doesn't, and make friends with a few of his peers parents?

I think it is easy to brush it off as puberty, when it can be so much more. Perhaps he is being made fun of a lot at school, and so the tiniest critical comment/reprimand from you sends him over the edge. (Like the straw that broke the camels back). Or perhaps he has problems socially, and other kids don't want to sit by him or play with him, and he has no understanding of why. He doesn't have the social skills to understand what he is doing wrong. Or even "if" he is doing anything wrong. Sometimes stuff like this can be parent driven. This one parent told me that her child was never invited over for play dates, or birthday parties. The child is a nice child. There was a mom clique of the children in that class. This woman had made the mistake of anytime she ran into a mom in this clique, she would go into the most private and sordid details of her cheating ex-husband, and the on going vicious battle with him, always with the latest and newest story of what new low thing he had done. Evidently, the mom clique kept their children away from play dates with this womans child, not wanting their own children in the midst of all of this drama. The woman talked about all of this in the presence of her own kids, so immersed in her rage, that she was unaware of their presence as she would share a new dramatic story of the latest unbelievable thing her ex-husband did.

She does not understand why they do not include her child. She is so angry at these moms and this clique. And she is completely unaware that it is her own behavior and lack of discretion that has socially harmed her child.

I am wondering if you could set aside time with your child one on one, and just let him talk, and do your best not to interrupt, comment, defend, etc., and just let him get out what is bothering him. Or you could buy him a journal and let him get it out in the form of a diary.

I read an idea in a Family Fun magazine quite a while ago. You get a composition/notebook and you write a note to your child, and put it under his pillow. He responds/writes and hides it under your pillow. And back and forth it goes between the two of you. This is a keeper, so make sure you put his name and date/age as you share in this. Even if he is angry at you for something, it is probably something you both will laugh at 15 years from now. Just give him the extra time he needs right now, and just be there to listen.

I wish you well in this growth journey called parenting, and applaud you for paying attention to clues. Sometimes it is the early clues that tell us we need to pay attention. Often kids are unable to tell us what is going on. And we can't help them if we don't know.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2008 at 5:50PM
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Yes, it is quite a skill, and lots of patience that enables us to "peel" back the emotional layers, in our children, and get to the root of the problem.

I find going for a walk, with my child, is a good way to get them talking. It starts off quiet and not much said, but the longer the walk goes on, and with probing questions from me, I can usually get the tongue wagging.

We return home with a better understanding of the problem, and we are both happier because of the glow of doing some exercise.

All the best with your little boy.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 4:06AM
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Bnice, I think he is OK, socially, at school. I take my daughter to kindergarten after lunch, and ds is at recess then. He is generally playing basketball, kickball or tetherball in a group of boys and seems to be OK. And he does have friends who ask him to play after school.

I like the journal idea - I haven't had much success in talking one on one with him. The walk idea is good, too, except for that it's 10 degrees here today. It would have to be a short walk! But I'll keep it in mind for when the cold snap ends.

I'm sad that ds isn't playing soccer anymore - he played for years, and I think all the running was good for him. I run a few times a week, and have tried to get him interested, but he's not interested in running if no one is chasing him.

Thanks for the ideas, and I'll post back if we learn anything revealing / helpful.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 5:35AM
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I find some of the best times to get my child to talk are when I'm tucking him at night... it may be a stalling tactic on his end - to be able to stay up... but he opens up and talks volumns then. I also, (at his request), turn off the radio in the car when we're driving somewhere to talk to him about stuff. I know it's hard to pull a kid away from something fun to talk to him, so if you can catch them at non-activity times, they may be more prone to open up to you.

I don't have any teenage boys yet, so don't know about the hormonal thing, but I had brothers, and your son's fits just don't really sound all that normal (or just hormonal) to me. It sounds like he may really be depressed about something. Hopefully, your family therapist can help.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 11:32AM
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I hate to bring it up, but sudden emotional changes can indicate sexual abuse. Just another facet to explore, as i am not accusing or implying in any way. Best of everything to you and your family.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 1:45PM
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Well, you never know (re: the sexual abuse), so it never hurts to ask. We met with a therapist yesterday, and she also asked about it. While thinking it over, it occurred to me that ds is really never alone with anyone. Dh and I sometimes do a project or play a game with him, but the other kids are always around. All his activities (school, church, sports, scouts, etc) are in a group setting, and, because he's 10, he doesn't go anywhere by himself. It made me think this is something we should work on, because I know several people who I like much better in a one-on-one setting than in a group. Probably more one-on-one time would be good - I always "count" the time we spend together at home, but maybe playing a game of chess together, in a house full of people, is not the same as actually leaving the house, just the two of us. It would be really hard to make time for an individual outing with each child on a regular basis - do you guys manage that?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 1:38PM
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You're right, it's important to get your kids alone sometimes. I have 4, so I know it's a hard thing to manage. But it doesn't have to be a big production. I take mine to the grocery, or other small errands, one at a time. DD loves doing this. If I want to make it extra special we'll stop at the coffee shop and sip our hot chocolate and latte and chat for 15 minutes before we do the errand. Often with the boys I have to throw in food to motivate them to leave the house with mom for errands. But if I just promise a box of french fries that's enough. For my oldest, he's 14, school starts an hour later for him than the others. So I'll make time to sit and have breakfast with just him. My 11 y/o might be allowed to stay up 30 minutes later than his younger siblings, the older one in his room doing homework or out at practice. I just squeeze it in when I can, make some other task do double duty. I mean, errands are pretty boring, might as well make it more meaningful.

DH does the same thing. If he needs to go to his office on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon, he takes one of the boys with him b/c he "might need their help." Or to go the car wash, or computer store, whatever errands he's doing.

When I need to shop for the kids' clothes, I take one at a time. It means I don't get all the clothes shopping done on the same day. I just make 4 short trips over a couple weeks instead of one big long one in one day, and they are alone with me.

My mom used to get me alone while she washed and I dried dishes. I know it was a trick, but it got both one-on-one time and chore done at the same time. ;o)

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 2:32PM
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I wonder if it sounds like anxiety or depression. Or other forms of emotional impairment. I would take him to a psychologist or a pediatrician and discuss the issue. Best of luck.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 6:24PM
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His first appointment with a therapist is Thursday (dh and I met with her last week). Will post back after meeting with her again, but that will probably be awhile - it sounds like it will generally be just ds meeting with her. She said depending on how things go, she may have us come in for part of ds's appointments, or possibly another one of our kids at some point. I like her so far though; we spilled everything we could think of about ds to her, and then we talked about what our goals are for him in therapy (gain better control of emotions, learn some strategies for dealing with us, bullies and siblings without becoming angry or frustrated, etc). She seemed encouraged that he is not angry or violent, and was glad to have both of us there to work with her. And she asked us to have ds's doctor call her before his appointment to talk - probably a good idea (originally my doctor, but I started taking the boys there because he has two boys of a similar age, and is very interested in kids / child psychology. I've had to bring them in a couple of times when I had an appointment, and he tends to seem more interested in them than me. Will probably have some useful insight :)

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 6:07AM
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Give your son HUGS lots of HUGS. My son is 10 and does many of the same things all of you have discussed here. WHen it happens I just wrap my arms around him and give him a big long hug, his anger turns to crying, which helps to relieve all the stress of his day. Yes our little boys are under alot of stress at school. At this age they are beginning to think about girls, sex( why is my pee pee getting bigger when a cute girl in a cheerleader outfit walks in and they are clueless as to why this is happening to them) They are bursting with energy and have to sit still all day in class. then there is homework, wanting to do good, siblings to deal with, the list goes on and on. All of this is very stressful for them. Make sure the lines of communication are open about any and everything. But most of all give them LOTS of HUGS

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 7:42PM
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Thanks, gincourt - I have found that hugging helps, too! Ds used to have a habit of leaning on me, hanging on me, etc. which drove me nuts, since he is 5', 90 lbs. And I think my telling him not to hang on me was hurting his feelings. I would always hug him and tell him he could sit right next to me, but not ON me, and that he was just too big for me to prop up. In the last few months, though, I have started saying the same thing to his younger brother and sister (7 and 5), not that they are that big, but I think it has made ds feel better that I am not singling him out. I am glad that I can still hug the kids - seems like some of their friends have stopped allowing that :(

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 5:10PM
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