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My son is 9 years old. I would describe him as emotionally immature for his age.

He gets upset easier than other kids and tends to pout when he is especially upset about not getting his way. I do not cater to this or comfort him, but I do sometimes get mad. I realize that pouting will go away on its own if it gets ignored (something I'm working on). But what really gets to me is when he tries to create physical distance.

Here's an example - We're sitting at a parade and he and his sister get into an argument. I tell him to stop what he's doing and then out comes the lip and the smooshed up eyebrows. I could handle ignoring that if that's all that it was. But he has to take it further by moving his chair far away from everyone, despite me telling him to leave his chair where it is. He also accomplishes this distance gain by walking at snail pace and dragging his feet, and sometimes even crawling on the floor, again super slow.

Do I treat this all the same and ignore it altogether? What do I do when he's about to make me late, etc. because I have to wait for him to slowly crawl to the door, slowly put his shoes on, and finally stand up to leave? It drives me MAD!

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My son does similar things. I've very recently understood that the issue is not my son, it is actually me. If I didn't react (regardless of how much it pushes my buttons) then there is no incentive to do it, because nothing will come of it other than being bored. My son tends to pull faces and rock his head side to side which does wind me up and I used to react to it but now I don't; I just ignore the behaviour and ask him kindly if he is being kind to me in the way he is talking to me. This actually helps him make be aware of what he's actually doing as kids don't actually like being unkind in general.

We've also had the thing where when we need to go out things can take much longer than necessary. For those, ignoring the negative behaviour and trying to focus on positive behaviours or giving jobs may not work, unless you have done a reward chart of something like "every time we are on time for school without me having to ask you to do anything you get a sticker, and if you get five/ten/whatever stickers you get a treat", which I can strongly recommend. Ultimately if it really is going badly you just need (and I am saying this from experience as I know how hard it is) to just very calmly put the child in control and say "If you choose to take a long time and mess around, you are choosing to (whatever consequence)" and then make sure you follow through if they make poor choices. And focus on the choices, not on the character of your LO. And as long as you keep calm, there is no reaction and no game for your LO to play.

Ultimately it is best to stick to rewards and positives, which is something that I've discovered FAR too late in my parenting but it makes everyone's lives much better.

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It's interesting I didn't realise my 5 year old boy doing it until I read your post.

The getting away part.

Every time I tell him off 'comes the lip and the smooshed up eyebrows' and he creates the distance, i.e. goes into furthest corner of the room and bumbles there that he is 'not your friend anymore' or he 'doesn't care' etc.

Does that drives me mad? Check.

Did I try everything I could think of? Check.

Nothing really helped until I came across this blog post.

TL;DR (Though I really encourage you to read this blog post with open mind)

Acknowledge.

Before you tell your child that it’s time to leave the park, or remind him that the really cool truck he’s examining has to stay at the store, acknowledge his point of view. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and wishes, even if they seem ridiculous, irrational, self-centered or wrong. This is not the same as agreeing, and is definitely not indulgent or allowing an undesirable behavior.

So how are we actually trying to do it.

  1. We try to talk more to him.

How does it help?

Instead of getting mad we try to talk to him explaining how we feel about what he did. Then we give him a chance to explain why he did what he did.

  1. We try to be calmer around him.

We also have 2 kids. And of course they fight. And of course life is harder with two kids :) But we try to stay as calm as we can in various situations. Not freaking out every time something happens helps a lot :)

Of course it's not perfect all the time and we have our as parents episodes. But at least it seems to me that recommendations from the blog post above actually improved our relationship with our son.

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This is something my wife and I are working on with our 5 year old daughter. She is EXTREMELY emotional about.. well everything. You and I have something in common though, I get mad. I know this isn't the way to react to things, and my wife tells me frequently to chill out (eventually I'll get it through my head that she's right).

Here's how we approach things with her. Instead of reacting to her reactions, we set her aside and put things in perspective for her. When we go through toys that she doesn't play with and we want to get rid of but she doesn't, we say "There are other children who don't have as many toys as you do."

When she flies of the hinges about something, its time in her room to cry it out. Then we sit down with her and evaluate what happened. We try to show her how her behavior is inappropriate. The key thing here is to show her what the appropriate behavior is. Trying to get her to think about things first instead of reacting. So maybe the next time you and your son are in the car after he "slow plays" you try and talk to him about the effects his behavior has on you. Put it into perspective for him. "What would happen if I moved super slow while we were on the way to (insert his favorite activity here)? How would that make you feel?"

This is no easy task for me. I know where she gets it from :)

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  • Brian, Thank you for your response. I do try to "shape" his behavior rather than "stop" it. The tricky part is when let's say he's decided to move his chair 10 feet away from everyone else. If I try and approach him to talk about it, he tries to get away from me. I struggle to get his attention. Maybe I should ignore the behavior until he's calmed down? I don't know. I feel completely disrespected when he does this, and it is infuriating! :/ – Amy Q Sep 10 '14 at 19:04
  • I can understand the physical distance being frustrating to say the least. Letting him cool off is probably the best approach, then move into the "shaping" conversation. – Brian Robbins Sep 10 '14 at 19:08

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