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This is about my 8-year old son, who cries easily and helplessly, mostly in response to our enforcing discipline and routine or refusing things he wants.

I understand that he should not expect to be able to buy whatever he wants, whenever he wants it. However, when it comes to parent-child interaction we have a major problem. For example, he had to wear a yellow t-shirt to school for a rehearsal which we all forgot about. This was enough to make him cry a lot, especially when his father tried to rationalize that this was a rehearsal and he would have the t-shirt for the final performance. His father is unable to accept arguments from his children and tension erupts when my son says what he believes is true ("dad, you don't know what I am talking about") which, my husband, who is Indian like me, does not consider respectful.

Additionally, on many occasions my son raises his voice, and that's when we lose our temper. At other times, on a day we are rushing to leave for work, he's often not ready for the school bus - so we scold him, and he begins to cry.

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There are a couple of issues here. Your child throwing tantrums and dealing with that has been addressed by others. Then there is the cultural issue of how the interaction between an Indian parent and child should be. I'll try to address that.

I'll explain the emotions in the t-shirt issue, for example.

For example, he had to wear a yellow t-shirt to school for a rehearsal which we all forgot about. This was enough to make him cry a lot, especially when his father tried to rationalize that this was a rehearsal and he would have the t-shirt for the final performance. His father is unable to accept arguments from his children and tension erupts when my son says what he believes is true ("dad, you don't know what I am talking about") which, my husband, who is Indian like me, does not consider respectful.

The whole, "unable to accept arguments from his children" needs to be addressed. The parent has to leave the mentality of "what I say is what needs to be done" or "what I say should be sufficient." It's not. You're going to end up raising a child that doesn't trust you because you refused to understand their emotions. You cannot tell someone how they should or should not feel. After all, the kid has a point: dad does not understand why he was upset about the t-shirt. The kid may have been embarrassed in front of his peers; no amount of rationalization can fix that. An apology can.

However, there is another problem. Instead of the problem being "we forgot the yellow t-shirt", the problem became "dad, you don't understand." Which turned into (I imagine) "Stop telling me what I don't understand! I am your father, I know because I have more experience than you." An appropriate solution to the t-shirt problem should have been that remembering to wear the shirt should have been the child's responsibility. If it's important to him, he should remember it. If he wants you to remember, you could have suggested something like a family calendar where these things can be written down. See, how the problem changed from blaming you to teaching the child about taking responsibility?

Now, to deal with the scolding. What is scolding suppose to accomplish? Have you considered why he is late so often? Is he going to bed late? Is he not waking up early? Is his alarm clock broken? Instead of scolding the child on how he is late (a situation he cannot control once he is late), try presenting solutions. Ask him plainly and simply - what can you do to make sure that he is not late? Forcing your kid to behave by means of scolding him is not going to get anywhere - it is only going to get him to resent you.

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+1 The whole, "unable to accept arguments from his children" needs to be addressed. – George Apr 29 '12 at 9:49
you approach this really well, and i am in full agreement with you. i read it out to my husband :) I have already created a morning checklist for my kids to check off. they like it. they earn points on it- i have to work out details. now i need a family calender that my son can write on so that we are all on the same page. basically i am trying everything to not have to yell and be a morning nag. but its hard, especially when they dawdle or fight at breakfast. i hate to set them to a timer for eating because if they don't finish, they are'nt sufficiently nourished before school. we'll see. – makmom May 3 '12 at 17:49
I highly recommend a calendar like this: We have one. It goes on our fridge. All doctor appointments, events, vacations - everything goes on there. Makes sure everyone knows whats going on. As for the breakfast problem - timer approach may work for you, but also try reversing the schedule. i.e. breakfast BEFORE shower. Took too long to eat? Well, I guess you're going to the school stinky! A kid would much rather go hungry (which peers don't see) rather than stinky (which peers do see). Try it ;) – Swati May 3 '12 at 19:10
I recommend reading Positive Discipline. It outlines all kinds of things like in this answer, including how to structure a family meeting, and how to help the child actually remember to bring the shirt, and how to focus on solutions to problems, instead of things getting personal as this answer explains. – Christine Gordon Nov 15 '12 at 19:03
And, + 1 for "Forcing your kid to behave by means of scolding him is not going to get anywhere - it is only going to get him to resent you." Yes, and if you think this is bad now, wait til the teen years! :) – Christine Gordon Nov 15 '12 at 19:04

First of all, the old and famous counting to 10 will probably help you control your temper. Or try saying, mommy needs a time out right now we will get back to this in a few minutes and leave the room. These are methods to both help you calm down and teach your son how to deal with upsetness.

In terms of his crying, he is 8, he should know or must learn not to cry at the drop of the hat. He is primarily doing it for two reasons: he is getting what he wants by crying (either the item or the attention) or he does not know how to express his emotions in a healthy way. Above I put one way to demonstrate how to deal when you are upset. As well, once he has calmed down enough to hear you give him the words to express himself, example: "I know you are upset that I am not buying this toy, I am sorry you feel that way." When you make a mistake (like the tshirt example) tell him you are sorry, that you made a mistake just like everyone does. This will also help him see how to deal when he makes a mistake.

When he does start throwing a fit, remove him from the room and tell him when he is done crying he may come back. Then speak to him. Show him the words he should have used, explain why you said no, and then have some fun. Show him that when he is not crying he can have a much better time with you.

Good luck.

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+1 for the observation that parents must model appropriate behavior for their children. Your son yells when he doesn't get his way because that's what you do. That's how you have taught him to behave. If you want your child to be calm, you must also be calm. – Kit Z. Fox Apr 30 '12 at 15:31

A couple of things:

I used to get upset that my son was upset. For example, if he didn't like something, he would simply scream "It's not fair!" over and over again. This would frustrate me and I'd end up punishing him when he wouldn't stop. Foolish in retrospect. What I have learned to do is focus on his actions and not his vocalizing his displeasure. Now when this happens, I escort him to his room, tell him when that when he calms down he can come out, and I close the door. He can scream all he wants but if his actions are inappropriate (such as kicking his door) then I will tell him that is unacceptable and what the punishment will be if he continues. Obviously, certain language is unacceptable as well. He can yell as much as he wants, not whatever he wants.

As for not being ready for the bus, I had issues with this with my oldest daughter. The first thing I did, after she missed the bus a few times in first grade, was walk her to school. We lived three miles from school and it was December (in the southern U.S., so not that cold.) Mind you, this was not just a matter of moving slow. It was moving slow combined with resistance and sometimes disrespectful behavior when her Mother or I tried to get her to move a little faster. It was a pain for me and made me late for work that day but paid off in spades. Not only did she start getting ready on time, I didn't have to say a word to my son on days when he didn't want to get moving. My daughter would be quick to tell him how terrible walking to school was.

For about three years, I barely had to say anything in the mornings beyond gentle reminders when they started running behind. Then my son missed the bus once or twice, but by this time we had meved into a house further from the school so making him walk was not an option. Once my daughter saw that he wasn't having to walk to school, we started having issues with her again. She hates being nagged and constantly reminded, so we came to an agreement. I would give her a "wake-up" call, a "breakfast is ready" call, a "ten minutes until it's time to go" call, and a "time to head out the door" call. Other than that, I wouldn't push her to hurry. If she misses the bus, she owes me $5 and she goes to bed 10 minutes earlier and wakes up 10 minutes earlier for a month. Earlier times can be cumulative, so if she misses again during that month, sh would go to bed and wake up twenty minutes earlier. Haven't had a missed bus or fighting in the month since we started that arrangement.

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that is such sound, applicable advice. thank you. also nice to see folks who actually go thru with consequences that in my case are often left in my head, in planning mode. my four and a half year old's heart broke today because she was not allowed to buy her fav. pizza lunch in school because she would not eat her breakfast and was disrespectful. she was very upset so i let her take some applesauce (her favorite dessert) but stuck with denying the pizza. so I softened a bit, but not too much. she apologized a lot too, hence the applesauce. – makmom May 3 '12 at 17:40

When he cries, give him a "time out" until he has composed himself: time sitting alone in another room or on the staircase or something. If he is late, he will have to go to school in his pajamas. Consistency is VERY important.

I, too, struggle to remain calm when my children try to increase the emotion in a conversation. If you can find a way to keep your emotions cool, you will have a much easier time with this. One author calls this "the dance," and warns parents not to let themselves be forced to "join the dance" by their children. It takes two to dance, so if the child is the only crying/angry/upset person, and has to have a time out, their emotions cool much more quickly than if two of you fight. (This, as I said, is hard for me, but my wife is good at it.)

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i find it very hard to give him time outs when he cries. won't it give him the idea that crying is a serious offence? in our home, time outs are given when kids do really bad things. i think i feel guilty about not allowing him to respond to my yelling. i don't want him to think that feeling bad about being yelled at (hence crying) is not acceptable. – makmom Apr 27 '12 at 16:36
You just say, "Take some time by yourself to calm down" -- whether he is weeping or shouting. When he misbehaves, you can say, "You need a time out in the other room until you can behave." Kids are smart, they catch on quickly. :7) – Will E. Apr 27 '12 at 20:14
-1 I can see imposing consequences for being late, but sending a kid to school in pajamas could be humiliating. That's going to undermine the trust your kid has in you, maybe worse. – Caleb May 6 '12 at 6:36
Ours have only ever run out to the car carrying their shoes with their shirt untucked. I wouldn't actually make them go into school in their jammies! :7) – Will E. May 7 '12 at 17:26

I'm going to suggest starting with three things before addressing the crying issue. After you've tried the first three things, then address the crying because there are a couple of possibilities on what is causing all the tears.

  1. Do more listening. I have found that many times when I am at my most frustrated, I am a lot less likely to listen to my little one. Once I DO listen though, I often find there was a mis-understanding rather than blatant rule breaking.

  2. Check out Even if you don't homeschool, try to sign up for one of their seminars or just read lots of their articles. You'll be amazed at how well their system works.

  3. Read, "parenting with Love and Logic" and give it a shot too. Things just become so much calmer and simpler this way.

THEN, you may find that your child begins to come away from the need to cry a lot because there will be less yelling and frustration over all. The stress of the yelling and strife may be causing a lack of confidence, or you might simply have a super sensitive child.

You might also be giving your child more attention when he is crying which makes him cry more because even though it is negative attention, he might get something out of it anyway. Honor him with a place to go to when he needs to cry and let him. Honestly, we all need to cry sometimes. If you aren't upset about it, maybe he'll find it less engaging and cry less.

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