Friday, 19 February 2016

Cat got your tongue?


Odd saying isn't it 'Cat got your tongue?'. On the surface there's no malice in the statement. However, recently I've had to think about how words/sayings like this are understood by our eldest, and the impact they have on him. 

He's your typical three going on four year old; chatty, playful, imaginative, caring, helpful, funny, stroppy, wingy, and sometimes a little standoffish in some situations. In the last year and a bit he's had a lot to deal with, from the impending and eventual arrival of his little brother, to moving to the nursery that's attached to the school he'll attend later in the year. Plus all the development he's naturally going through as he transitions the terrible two's to becoming a threenager.

During his first six weeks at his new nursery we've been told that despite making friends, and being very chatty with them, that  as soon as he's approached by an adult he clams up. But it's clear he's wanting to talk/engage. This occurs during both group sessions and one-to-one interactions. Once we were told this my wife and I started analysing situations and identified patterns of this type of behaviour outside of the nursery environment. Was it something we'd done or not? Had we answered to much for him? Were we similar at his age? 

When in the day to day,  it's easy to pass this type of behaviour off as 'he's just shy' or 'he's doing it for attention'. However, when taking a step back to reflect, actually there are patterns which have emerged. When he's in the nursery environment I'm reliant on the information provided by the staff. I must admit it's heart breaking to think he's been locked in a state of silence for the best part of six weeks. When we talk to him about his day he's very positive about the children, adults and activities. So on the face of it everything is good, but it does explain some of the meltdowns when he's home. I can only describe it as a bottle of coke, slowly shaken through the day the pressure builds up, until it's opened and explodes everywhere. 

Now, don't get me wrong it could be a host of things from; having a hell of a lot of things to deal with, whether it's his way of getting adults down to his level, to developing and learning social behaviour, through to selective mutism of some degree. The nursery have been excellent. But I guess what I'm worried about is making sure I'm able to support him in the correct way. I'm dyslexic and also suffer colour-blindness. I know an excellent combination. But when I was younger, I remember my dad did not deal with it in the right way as far as I was concerned. Whether it being getting me to write out my spellings dozens of times over, and over again. Or getting frustrated, I ended up feeling anxious and not wanting to talk about my difficulties. I really don't want my son to feel this way. However, I have unfortuantly found myself demonstrating similar behaviour to that of my dad. Using phrases such as 'cat got your tongue' or pushing for him to acknowledge an adult when he's spoken to wont on reflection be helping him. And what I put it down to is a lack of understanding and education of the topic on my part.

So, whatever it turns out to be, once identified, how I approach it and help him become more confident, and less anxious is of the utmost importance. It's not just my son who has to learn to cope, I've got to put aside my previous learnt behaviours for his sake. Clearly different techniques and strategies will be required in making him comfortable in these situations. There's so much information now available on the internet compared to the 1980s, but I owe it to him to do my best for him in these difficult moments. 



29 comments:

  1. I think you're right in that the transition to nursery must be huge for a threenager. If it helps at all our daughter has been going for the same six weeks and we're also noticing a massive change in her behaviour. She's always slept through but is now waking up distraught and sobbing that "her water is cold" or "she's got a bruise on her knee from when she fell over a week ago"? It is concerning but I'm hoping that she will settle as she adjusts. Your little man is very lucky that you have taken the time to acknowledge and try to understand him. You seem very supportive.
    #justanotherlinky

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  2. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. They're certainly complicated and keep us on our toes. Hope your little one settles soon.

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  3. Oh bless you. Must be very hard! Great that you and your wife have been supporting him and trying to work things on why he is like that. Kids are can be so difficult to understand sometimes. Hopefully he will be back to normal for you soon and it may just be a phase! Thanks for linking up with #justanotherlinky

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    1. Hi, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. It's s massive learning curve all around. Trying to differentiate between his natural development and who he is, is part of the challenge. Any frustration I have is for him, not towards him. But he can't tell the difference, so I've got to change how I approach things.

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  4. At his age, the same as my son, they are going through so much and it's such a mine field for them and us. Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx

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    1. Hi, thanks for leaving comment. Glad to hear your son got over his anxiety being around other people. It's certainly a learning curve for everyone.

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  5. I like the coke bottle analogy. My eldest son was like that age 3 and 4 through pre-school and reception. He had speech delay, he loved talking to adults but no one understood him. Very frustrating for him and by the end of the day he was ready to explode. He's much calmer now he can talk and be understood.
    #BigPinkLink

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    1. Thanks for commenting. They've got so much going on in their little heads it's difficult to know if it's phases/development or something else. Glad your eldest managed to overcame his frustrations and is happier.

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  6. I think firstly you have hit on the main thing in this modern day and age - due to people like you going through what you did both at school and at home that the world is a much more knowledgeable place about issues like this and with other things as well.
    2 generations ago children were "to be seen and not heard" as my maternal grandmother use to tell us. Children are little individuals who parents and especially fathers are allowed to love and show their feelings for.
    Nowadays ( and quite rightly) children are seen as the adults of the future who are an important investment that we have to right to spend time encouraging and developing. Nice that early on you are seeing your son may have a small issue that handled with love and awareness hopefully will not impact on his adult life. I am sure he will have much nicer memories of his childhood and his relationship with his dad than you have on this issue.
    Good luck with this settling down, have read of other kids with selective mutism http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/selective-mutism/Pages/Introduction.aspx so hopefully the school will have the skills on how best to handle this. Back in my childhood days you would have had a thump round your ear for being an awkward little s*d!! Thank goodness for modern methods of helping children

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  7. Hi Elaine, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Your comment is very much welcome, and I certainly hope he has happy childhood memories as a result. Thanks for the link, I'll take a look at that.

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  8. You sound like a caring and empathic Dad who is really thinking through how best to care for his son, so reading this I have no doubt that you and your wife will do what's best for him. I think we all find ourselves repeating our parents sometimes and bringing aspects of our personality that we'd rather not, into our parenting. But I think being aware of this, aware of our kids needs and trying to do what is best, is the main thing. Your three year old has had a lot to deal with recently (a new nursery and sibling are huge things) so being quiet could well just be a natural reaction to all of that which will pass. #abitofeverything

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    1. Thanks Maddy. It's certainly a massive learning curve and I suppose just because I'm in my 30's does not mean that I'm the finished article, and that learning on the job is a massive must.

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  9. The most important thing in these scenarios is to have supportive parents. And simply from the fact you're writing about it, it's clear you care and are giving a lot of thought to helping your son. I hope it's a phase, because I understand crippling shyness and anxiety and how difficult it can be to overcome. Good luck.
    #abitofeverything

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    1. Thanks. We're certainly trying. I find that by writing about it, it helps to get my thoughts in order, but also helps with online research etc. Better than a leaflet from the 1980's =:0)

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  10. It's so hard isn't it? You really want to help them and sometimes I feel rude if my children won't answer someone talking to them, and I was so shy as a chil that I don't want them to be the same but actually, as they get older, they are really confident and chatty, and all I've done, is be like that myself and demonstrated it to them and they have just ended up naturally being the same. I think the fact that he is communicative and chatty at home and with friends is a great sign and I'm sure when all the changes become the norm and he settles, he'll be just fine. It's hard not to stress about things though. I bet if you are more relaxed about it, he'll naturally come back out of his shell. Good luck and thanks for linking up to our #bigpinklink

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    1. Thanks Louise. I know everyone is different, but it's encouraging to hear about other parent's experiences. Really appreciate that.

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  11. I believe that sometimes you need to have big dollops of patience as much as you have love as a parent, love's not always enough without it. He will find his own way as long as he knows you are behind him for support. #abitofeverything

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    1. Hi Claire. They're complex little monkeys, and just when you think you've got them worked out they turn in the other direction. Certainly keeping us on our toes.

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  12. Sounds like you're really reflecting and trying, just what I'd want from a parent. Lucky little guy. Hopefully it's just a settling in issue. I'm an Early Years teacher and have had children refuse to talk to me for months sometimes. In 8 years I've only known one continue to be diagnosed as selectively mute. If your boy is that tiny percentage I'm sure you'll figure out how best to deal with it.

    #fartglitter

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  13. It can be a tough time in a little one's life when it's time to take on new challenges. I think you've got the right approach though and it sounds like you're learning too. You've recognised that your learnt behaviour isn't working and are willing to change. That's brilliant - he's in good hands. ;)
    #fartglitter

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    1. Hi Morgan, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Much appreciated. Small steps, small steps.

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  14. It is a tough time when they start nursery and our instinct can be to reach out and try to protect them more which long-term doesn't help. I have found myself doing this with my three year old, explaining it away as shyness when she won't talk to an adult because I am anxious that my little one will get upset. I almost had to reprogram the language I use around her and I am now very coaxing when she sees an adult and will encourage her to speak to an adult, getting down to her level so she feels more secure. It has taken a while but it has started to make a difference and she is still reluctant but she does now interact with adults. It's a tough one but you sound like you are doing a fab job! #fridayfrolics

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    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences. I'm pleased to hear your daughter is overcoming her anxiety of interacting.

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  15. Bless him. My son was the same when he started playgroup. It took him ages to settle and be himself there. During his second year however he found his feet and you'd have thought he owned the place! Thanks for linking up to #FridayFrolics

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    1. Hi Claire, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. They're complex little people. Glad to hear your son has found his feet =:0)

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  16. This is difficult especially as it's behaviour that's displayed when you are both not around, so you can't really judge it for yourself. It is a big change with transition to school. You're such a supportive parent, aware and proactive and that makes all the difference. Thanks for sharing with #abitofeverything

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. One thing I'm finding is that it's never simple or straight forward, and I guess nor should it be. The biggest challenge that I find is changing my learnt attitudes/behaviour, as I guess just because I'm the 'adult' does not mean they're right in the first place.

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  17. Bless his little soul.
    Some children are just very sensitive and deal with things in different ways. My eldest was like this (and is now 8) and he is still very emotional, overthinks and worries a lot.
    You're doing all the right things by being aware of it, sympathising, talking to him and liasing with nursery.
    I'm sure he will come out the other side soon enough.xx

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    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience, much appreciated. I think it's a long road, but one we'll overcome.

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