I am a single mom of a 4 1/2 yr old boy who is handsome, insanely smart, small for his age and wears glasses. I also am guilty of overprotecting or overparenting, whatever they call it these days. Yesterday I took him to a kids museum and he was playing with some cars and then he came over to me with this face…almost crying. When I asked what was wrong he said “that kid called me Lucy”. Now I have no idea what was said…the kid was probably talking to his sister Lucy for all I know but it stood out to me because my son always thinks everything is about him. I can be talking to someone about anything and he hears and thinks it has something to do with him. I know kids his age are still learning that they are not the center of the universe but I feel like this could potentially be a serious problem if his feelings are going to get hurt every time someone doesn’t react the way he believes they should or if he is going to take everything so personal. I do not have any friends with children his age so really his only socialization is at preschool but he is there like 45 hours a week so I would think that would help, but it seems he has a very hard time and backs away from more out-going children. He wants to be the boss but is intimated very easily. Any thoughts on how I can help? He is going to be starting Kindergarten in August and I really want school to be a good experience for him.
Just a heads up, I’m going to start generalizing here, so bear with me. He is an only child, which means he doesn’t have to share the spotlight when it comes to your attention or relating to other children in the home. And if he’s not regularly socializing with friends his age in casual environments, his primary interactions with other children are in a controlled environment (preschool) where rules are clearly established. Rules and structure are great for kids because they keep things safe and orderly, but they often sterilize social interactions where most kids learn the ebb and flow of communication.
I always think of the bus as the best means of social education for kids. Many parents don’t want their kids on the bus because of the lack of control, the unruliness of kids and the influences they are exposed to. In fact, most of my kids’ “best” negative lessons come from their bus rides and I am so thankful for that. There’s no other way to set up the environment where kids have been theoretically on their best behavior all day and then unravel when they don’t have to hold it together anymore on the bus. They are unleashed animals and express themselves in ways they may not get to anywhere else. And because they are unmanaged by the bus driver who is trying to focus on safely getting them back into our arms, they have the freedom to express themselves without fear of adult repercussion which leads to them handling it completely on their own.
Of course the only reason why I like this is because my kids sing like canaries when calling out other kids (and eachother’s) negative behavior on the bus. It then gives me the opportunity to talk to them about how they handled it, other ways to think of it and what they will do if the same behavior presents itself again.
I am not suggesting you throw your kid on a bus and let him figure it out, but I am suggesting that you help create more opportunities for him to be exposed to free play without social structure and continuous monitoring and then talk about it with him afterwards. The more he experiences these interactions on his own and handles it on his own, the more likely his confidence will build on how communication works and how he feels about it. We are there to wipe their tears when they cry, show them the alternative and give them super huge hugs when they figure it out. The more they experience, the more opportunity they have to practice and the greater the possibility of them figuring it out in positive and rewarding ways.