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Ask Sherry: How to help a 4-year old avoid bad influences & moisturizer

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Is Paula’s Choice Water Infusing Electrolyte Moisturiser good

I would not know, I do not use moisturizer. *cue gasps*

Yes, I do not use moisturizer. I only use the AHA Lotion which is moisturizing enough for my skin. This is why I don’t use moisturizer.

Hi, Sherry! Your view would interest me in this: how do you educate a very kind small child, 4 years old, to avoid certain children (especially at school) if all he knows for now is kindness, acceptance of everyone, etc.

I educated him in this way because I wanted to protect his good, innate compassionate heart and not envenom it with judgements about people, BUT now I see how my child is getting some bad influences from a classmate whom he doesn’t avoid or reject. He doesn’t select children, he doesn’t initiate a connection with particular children; he accepts everyone who wants to hang around with him because, for him, everyone is good. I’m not talking about bullying, I’m talking about the wrong kind of people who want to hang around with you.

So, every day after school, my child is mentally tired, irritable, is yelling at me and hitting me when I don’t do what he says. He is regressing! He is copying that classmate who has behavior issues and also mental issues. When that classmate is absent, my child comes home happy, calm and reasonable. My child always speaks about the other child (and all other children) in affectionate terms. I found about this only because he spoke without thinking. However, I had my suspicions.

What can one do about this? How do I teach my child to start taking care of himself and pursuing his best interests without envenoming his heart or upsetting him or make him disappointed in people? In the meantime, I am also trying to find a place at another school (or at least in another class), but I’m not sure I’ll succeed.

I am sorry you are going through this. I should say though, as a disclaimer I am NOT a child psychologist, or anyone who is remotely child-smart. I am just someone who is a parent, who has a sensitive little boy and am just trying to survive to the next day without screwing him up terribly.

So.. while this is something I have no experience with yet (thankfully but I know it will come one day), but it is basically every parents’ reality and nightmare, forever from what I can gather.

It never ends and the real problem is you want so desperately to fix it, but you cannot shield your child from reality forever as he will meet people who are going to be a bad influence, who are going to make him act out like this, and maybe not of their own volition – maybe, as you said, they have mental issues and cannot control themselves.

This will not be a problem that disappears with this one incident. It will crop up over and over again, with friendships, high school, workplaces… but more on that later.

Let’s talk the good news first: Your son feels safe with you

The good news, is your son is coming home with this kind of anger and stress in his heart, and he is feeling free to express it in your space at home where he feels safe enough to vent and rant about what is going on.

The hitting part is not acceptable but remember that they are 4. I am not excusing the behaviour but my son definitely tried to hit me because he was frustrated and was unable to express himself with words, and was so unhappy or angry about something that he physically needed to show that anger. (I understand that now after I learned about it, but hoo boy. You should have seen my reaction then.)

This may not seem like progress, but this is HUGE that he can feel free to express himself (sorry about the physicality of it however), to you.

Teachers all over have told me that the child who is an ANGEL at school but a DEVIL at home, means that you are doing amazing things as a parent (I experience this sometimes with Little Bun when I can’t figure out why he’s so perfect with strangers and daycare situations but at home he was mad at me all the time).

Your son feels safe enough to let go of all the garbage of his mind and from his day, and let it out on you, and his family, his safe people, because he knows whatever he says or does, he will NEVER lose your love or support.

Please keep this in mind because it has helped me so much, to be honest. I used to get so angry and frustrated that my son treated me the worst out of everyone I knew until I read this and it was like a revelation that he felt the most comfortable with me, and that was why I was the safe one to get angry with. It didn’t make it easier, but I understood it intellectually and tried to bring myself out of becoming instantly angry/frustrated at his anger.

Now to move on to this other situation about emotions and words

I would suggest trying to talk to him, to get him to express his big emotions. When he is next angry, or calm, just ask him: What made you feel so angry today? What made you feel so happy today?

Just getting him to see and accept his emotions and to get in touch with his big feelings as a child, may help him sharpen his focus and anticipate the question the next time, in the sense that he goes to school, he keeps in mind he has to explain / tell you what made him happy/mad today, and he connects it to what is happening.

Remember, again …. he’s only 4! I am sorry to keep repeating this, but I had to say it to myself so many times that my son did not have the emotional development or capabilities to think like an adult at that age, and that frustrated the hell out of me.

It wasn’t until Little Bun was 6 or 7 that I felt him finally be able to connect to things like – You said this, and this made me feel bad about myself, even though I have been repeating for him to express his sadness, his anger, frustration and his big feelings to me since he was a toddler.

Just the other day, I was mean (more rude) to Little Bun (in hindsight, not while I was doing it), and he burst into tears and told me honestly: You are being so mean to me.

It caught me by surprise and I burst into tears too because I don’t want to be and am not that kind of parent (I am tearing up as I am typing this, to be honest), and he saw how much it affected me which made him realize that his words had an impact and mattered.

I of course, apologized to him and told him he didn’t deserve to be treated like that and I asked for his forgiveness, which helped him realize he has to also offer the same grace towards me as well when he is mean to me.

It surprised him that I started crying because I never really cry, and he felt the impact. I am hoping he will be able to express this same opinion to others around him so he asserts himself and his personal boundaries/space as well.

At this point: He may also feel like he is unable to say anything to you

He may also feel (at this point) like he isn’t able to tell you how much he doesn’t like something or doesn’t want to cooperate or share with someone else BECAUSE you are so strong and firm on being accepting of everyone around him and being kind, sharing etc. This can be a double-edged sword.

It’s good and bad. It’s great that he’s so accepting, but that can translate to children as: I have to love everyone no matter what happens and how they make me feel, that’s what I have to do and suck it up because that’s what good children do, and I am a good child. If I do not do this, I am a bad child and maybe no one will love me or want to play with me.

You see what I mean? Children are very VERY black and white at this age (even Little Bun still is).

I don’t want to project this assumption on you, but just something to consider, because I found with Little Bun, my expectations for him to do “good work and to work hard”, translated to him to be “perfect all the time no matter what”, and I suddenly saw him burst into tears more than a few times and erase his work over and over again because he thought he had to make it PERFECT ALL THE TIME.

It was getting me angry to be honest because I couldn’t understand why he was being so nitpicky about the letters or numbers. I was trying to understand why but I just didn’t get it. He was truly in pain and getting so incoherently upset that after a few of these outbursts, I had to remove him from his desk and understand why he was feeling this way.

When I realized what was going on in his head, I was stricken & horrified that my message was becoming so distorted to his little ears. I had to try and undo my damage of “work hard! don’t slack!“, and amend it to say: “I want you to give it your best shot and try your best, but it is OKAY if you make a mistake. We learn from our mistakes. Take the time to cry and feel angry, it’s okay. Cry it out, but then take a deep breath and remember that this is just one mistake so that you don’t have to make the same one in the future.

Only recently have I felt him finally absorb that because he once filled in a page of clock times with the wrong hour (it’s that silly quarter to and quarter past word thing that got him and many an adult confused), and he burst into tears, but then I kissed him, let him cry it out in frustration that he did it all wrong and had to redo his work, and told him: Guess what? Now that you’ve made this mistake, the good news is you will never make the same one again right?

It was like a lightbulb went on and he “got” it.

Lastly – remember that you may be able to find him another place in another class in another school but inevitably if you do not teach him how to get in touch with his feelings and emotions, to connect to himself and to find a solution within himself to either remove himself from the presence of someone who makes him feel bad about himself or feel worse, he will never be able to do things on his own.

This is the hardest lesson we all have to learn (I am still learning it) that we cannot make a perfect world for our child because it sets them back for when reality hits and not everyone will love him, be kind, etc. He and Little Bun, both have to learn how to be strong and say “No” to what doesn’t serve them.

To really learn this, they need to experience and confront such situations and try to learn how to cope in them. I am not saying this is easy, I’d have the same reaction as you, I suspect, but in a way, the more we sanitize our interactions and shrink our world, the less children learn about how to deal with so many different opinions.

Look no farther than today’s environment – politically, environmentally, socially.. just pick one and you can see immediately how difficult it is even for adults to learn how to cope in such situations.

Some of us, never learned how to as we’ve never had the situation confront us, so how can we expect a child who is taken out of the same situations, to know instinctively how to do so?

What could help would be if you gave him examples – “Sometimes when I do X, I feel Y. When I talk to Uncle X, sometimes I get frustrated because he makes me feel like I am not being a good enough sister.” — this may be a bit too advanced for 4 years old, but I have said this to Little Bun to give examples of how I deal with issues and then I ask him how he wants to deal with it with his situation, and we brainstorm ideas and strategies.

I try to give clean versions of how I feel frustrated in life, how I deal with it, what I can do, what I cannot do, what I can do to control my reaction to those around me, and I tell him very frankly that Mommy is still learning this. So let’s learn together, okay?

A good book on anxiety that MAY help peripherally in this case is: The Worry Less Book.

And another good one is The Consent Book (which Little Bun loves) which touches a bit upon personal boundaries in a fun way.

I hope that helped. I am sorry you’re going through this, I feel for you. It isn’t easy being a parent in this day and age.

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