Where Did My Sweet Boy Go?

The past week or so with the kids has about driven Chris and I insane.  Gracie is at a pretty decent stage right now, actually.  She is happy and loud and active and life is good.  But Bean?  Whew.  Something has hit him hard in the past few weeks.

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That dude has become so grumpy!  He is always complaining about something.  “But I don’t want that for dinner!”  “Gracie is annoying!”  “I don’t want to go grocery shopping!”  “Why do I have to give him a birthday present?”

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Mostly, I think the grumpiness is because he is going through a big change right now, and he’s probably a little out of his territory.  He graduated from preschool, but he’s not going into kindergarten until the fall, so that puts him in this elementary limbo.  He’s just waiting, and I think that makes him anxious and crabby.

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He is also doing this thing where he is suddenly done with Gracie.  Nothing she says it right.  Nothing she plays with his fun.  Nothing she does is worth any of his time.  This is a big change for our kids, who have normally always played really well together.  I would go so far as to say they are each other’s best friends.  They are always asking about the other when they are apart, and their bedrooms are both full of the other’s toys because they play together so much.  So, this sudden need to put space between himself and Gracie is very new.

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Again, I’m sure it is part of this adjustment period for him, and I’m trying to remember that when he says things like, “Gracie, I’m not playing with you because you are a BABY.”  Otherwise, I’d thump him on the head.  But I’m not.  I just stop him when he says mean or hurtful things and remind him that that is not how we talk to each other or to anyone, and that if he can’t speak nicely, then he will have to go play in his room by himself.  This usually is enough to redirect him.  Only once or twice has he actually said, “Fine!” and then gone up to his room.

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Gracie, on the other hand, is completely perplexed by this new development.  The other day in the car, she was talking about going to my mom’s house this week and she said, “I so excited! We haven’t been to Nana’s in a long time!”  And Bean snapped back, “Yes, we HAVE been to Nana’s!  We just haven’t been in a long time!”

Gracie gave me this look that straight up said, “Is he deaf?”

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We aren’t quite sure how to handle this phase, to be honest.  We call attention when Bean is unkind, we make him apologize, and once or twice we’ve actually dusted off the ol’ time out chair.  But other than that, we are kind of sitting back right now and waiting to see if this thing rides it’s course or whether we need to get more involved.

What do you guys think?  Anyone have sibling issues?  How do you find it best to resolve them?  Is it a behavioral thing, or a discipline issue?  Any ideas?

P.S. The pictures are by the fabulously talented Jenn Hopkins Photography.

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26 thoughts on “Where Did My Sweet Boy Go?

  1. You’re handling it just right. As my mother always reminded me, everything is a phase. Whether it’s good or bad, this shall pass and the essence of your sweet boy will remain.

    1. Bonnie B.

      You’re exactly right. It’s a phase and it will end, but not before you lose some hair or grow some gray ones. And call him out on his bad behavior, just like you’re doing. Don’t allow him to be mean and definitely make him apologize when he says something unkind. I used to also tell my youngest to steer clear of her older sister sometimes, and that was kind of enough to make the big sister say “Whaaaaa?” No reaction to his behavior will be very unsatisfying for him. And then…..you just wait it out. Good luck to all of you.

  2. kat

    gosh I adore these pictures! Especially with Bean rolling his eyes.
    No advice here, as usual reading ahead to see what’s in store for us. The girls who are now 3 and 1 are just starting to play together and are infatuated with each other which is nice. But I’m nervous for this stage already (I’m a worrywart…it’s what I do)

  3. Amy VH

    My youngest is 5 and my oldest is 8, but the oldest is a girl. We have gone through this stage and I think you are handling it perfectly. We did a lot of playing with the younger one while she did things on her own. Soon she realized that he was having much more fun having someone to play with and it got better. Hopefully that will happen for you.

  4. Normal all of it. The main thing we did in this phase (and still) is to refuse to tolerate smart mouths and bad attitudes. They get you an automatic ticket to alone time. Besides that kids are going to get irritated with their siblings. It’s an unfortunate fact of life.

  5. My brother and I have a bigger age difference (5 years) but I remember when either one of us got into a mood like that my mom would hold us to it. (“No Mark, you said you didn’t want to play with Rhea so you don’t play with Rhea.”)

    Not sure how she managed to do it without upsetting the other kid but she did.

    I only have one (and he’s still a baby) but I think how you are handling it sounds pretty good.
    I’m sure your sweet boy is in there under the anxiousness 🙂

  6. As usual, you are on the right track! This will either pass or change to a new stage. And it is possible that Michael is not, in fact, concerned about kindergarten but is just maturing into a new phase of growth.

  7. Casey

    We went through this exact thing with our girls 6 & 4. Th oldest just finished Kinder and at the beginning of the school year there was a huge separation. She was a big time school kid and her little sister was still at hone with Mom. They still have their moments but if I kindly remind my oldest that she is more than welcome to play alone in her room then things usually calm down. I know we’ll be going through it all over again this fall/summer (we start school in July here! What the heck!?) When my 4 year old starts pre-k and my 2 year old is home with me all day by herself. Stages and phases, so glad they don’t last forever!

  8. Ally

    My youngest turned 5 (today) and all I can say is 5 year olds are…difficult. I remember it distinctly when my oldest graduated from preschool and she suddenly became impossible to live with and deal with. It only lasted a few months, but I remember them clearly and dreaded when I had to go through it again. And here I am.
    No advice but to ride it out, remind them to be respectful and wait for the next phase 🙂

  9. Hilary

    I have a six and four year old, but the genders are reversed – the girl is the oldest. We are having more of the sibling rivalry thing going on right now. They have to compete for EVERYTHING! I can’t hug one without the other pouting or read to one without the other complaining. I know from being a big sister to a younger brother that it’s par for the course. Bean will work it out. Keep on doing what you’re doing and eventually, he’ll come back around. This need to separate a bit from his little sis is normal. Maybe he’s missing his friends and the independence he had in preschool (where he was just Michael without Gracie).

  10. emily

    OMG! I thought it was just my kid! My soon-to-be 4-year old… has made a turn for the worse these past few weeks… IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY! Everything is “no”, or “I don’t want to”… he is no longer playing nicely with his sister and is doing everything he can to annoy the entire family… I have no solution or remedy… but misery loves company and its good to know you are my company! 🙂

  11. I think you nailed it with the reasoning being that his world and routine has completely changed. Another big reason could be he’s more tired. Summer is fun and exhausting and he might need to get to bed earlier. Perhaps finding ways to develop a new routine for the summer, and getting more sleep would help.

  12. Alex

    Not glad you have to deal with this, but I’m glad to hear my boy isn’t the only one! My 4-year-old who is getting ready to start preschool for the first time is being kind of mean to our 2-year-old. I’m pregnant with our third, and I know that change could be affecting him too. I’m making an effort to spend more one on one time with my boys individually and I think it will help – worth a shot if you think it might help Bean too. Hang in there!

  13. I don’t have any advise but the picture of Bean and Gracie holding hands just kills me!! What a perfect sibling picture. When they are teens and not speaking to each other for some silly reason you should definitely pull that picture out.

  14. Talia Nuckolls

    I’m sure you know this but it’a always good to remember. Check food and sleep and teeth. Is he in a growth spurt and needs more food, an earlier bed time…or getting the 6 year molars?
    We have 3 kids going on 4 and they all hit this stage….sometimes I just declare it room time and they must play alone for awhile. I agree with the “this too shall pass”
    Parenting Passageways has great Child Development that I like to check in with….
    http://theparentingpassageway.com/ look by age under the Development tab.
    She’s an awesome Christian Physical Therapist with a little bent to Waldorf (but not the weird side of Waldorf:)

  15. Hilda

    I think you found your answer yourself already. “He graduated from preschool, but he’s not going into kindergarten until the fall, so that puts him in this elementary limbo. He’s just waiting, and I think that makes him anxious and crabby.” Having a long summer break just waiting for the next phase to begin can make crabby and moody.
    Maybe you can find something “new” just for the summer. A few play dates just for him with friends, something he can be busy with alone for some time, like building something. Maybe he can work on something with Chris alone on a weekend (for his room, for his toys), and Gracie can do something with you alone. Your mom might want to have him a day or two alone and then Gracie a day or two alone. That way both kids get something special. Time alone with her and time alone with you.
    And let’s not forget, he IS older and he has to try to find his new role. Finding his new role might mean that sometime he just has to set himself apart from Gracie.

  16. Megan Beecroft

    I have no advice, but know from experience that it’s a phase that will pass! And I mean from experience that I have an older brother (3 years older) who when we were kids sometimes we got along great, and other times we didn’t. But I can say now that he is my very best friend, and from the looks of these amazing photos, your two are headed that way also!
    It may cause some gray hair, but it will all be worth it.

  17. Suzanne

    I think you’re right on with thinking it’s an adjustment phase. Bean knows that something new and exciting is right around the corner and he’s not exactly sure how to handle that. He knows he’s a big boy now and he’s not sure how to handle his, now, “baby sister”. I actually remember thinking similar things with my sister Shannon who was and still is my best friend. We were super close but I would go through phases of wanting to be independent and have a separate identity from her. He’s probably just trying out this new independent phase. Like a college graduate…they have identified themselves as responsible adults getting a job, apartment, etc.. but the world still sees them as kids trying to get their feet under them with no real work experience. Bean sees himself as a big kid now and wants everyone to know that he is. That’s my guess 🙂

  18. Oh jeez I have no advice but I hope to heck it is just a phase because Sullivan is going through something similar right now and it is driving me crazy.

  19. Kim T

    I suspect as you already likely know, this is a phase. It will pass. My kids are 14 and 11 so it’s been a while since we were in this phase. However, they never got along all that well until a couple of years ago. That was surprising to me as I was always very close with my sister. I do however remember being completely done with her a few times (I’m the oldest). Mostly it was when were in different phases – i.e. she was in elementary school and I was in Junior High; she was in Junior High I was in high school. They will find common ground again. In the meantime you may want to try this – instead of calling Bean out so much when he does something bad, call him out when he does something right. When he is mean to Gracie remind him to go be alone until he can be nice, but when he is nice to her, tell him how wonderful that specific thing that he did was. We have found sometimes this had to be really small, because the kids were being so rotten, but it built on itself. Day one you may say, Bean I really appreciate that you did not slam the door in your sister’s face. Day two you may say thank you for letting Gracie play with your toy. Day three you may say Bean that is so wonderful that you spent 10 minutes playing with Gracie, she really enjoys that and I appreciate what a wonderful young man you are. Lay it on thick. We found the more specific and effusive we were, the more the kids wanted that kind of feedback and acted a lot nicer. They will do what gets attention and if it’s always bad stuff that gets the attention, then there will be more bad stuff.

    Good luck, as you’ve already figured out via your last five years of parenting – This too shall pass.

  20. Jean

    Maybe try asking what is wrong and why he feels the need to act this way?

  21. LIssa

    Does Michael admit to be crabby/unsettled? Does he have insight into the change? He’s always sounded like a fairly insightful little guy. Lots of times kids his age will also have suggestions for things that might help. Perhaps more structure would help. Tasks? Check lists?
    As far as the limits, it sounds like you’re doing a great job. He’ll get back into his groove…and then of course Gracie will tank 🙂 It’s the nature of the beast.

  22. I remember when I WAS the older one! You’re doing exactly what my mother used to do. Worked like a charm. If it kept happening within the same day, even after some alone time, she’d start to remove my favorite things–books, tv time, the dress-up box. Each time, she explained why this was a consequence for something that happened, and made it really clear which of my actions were the catalyst for the consequence. Having a tangible thing in her hand so I could SEE the result of my actions went a long way in getting my ‘tude under control. And today (20 years later)? My little sister and I are best friends. This will pass!

  23. Rachel

    Couple of comments (and take them with a grain of salt (on the rim of a margarita glass lol) because I am NOT an expert):
    1) My son is 14 & the part of the post where you said Bean is always grumpy sounds a lot like mine lately. It seems like we offer him the moon & then he says he’d rather have the stars lol. He is also in limbo between middle & high school, which is a tough age for any kid. My daughter is 17 & she is actually the easier of the two (unexpected because, well, she’s a girl). She has always been great about avoiding girl drama & so far has made great choices (knocking on wood & crossing fingers now that I said that on the internet).
    2) As I was reading this I was wondering if there are boys in your neighborhood that are close to his age for him to play with when you’re home for the summer? He maybe misses the boys from school/daycare & a few scheduled playdates could help a lot. We were fortunate to have several boys in our neighborhood when mine was younger. My kids only went to daycare part time & the other boys in the ‘hood had moms that were teachers (home during summer) so they spent a lot of time playing outside together in the summer. This could be time away from Gracie which would be good for both of them. Maybe you can set up some playdates where you watch the boys one time, then the other mom watches another time so you can take Gracie on a special outing so she doesn’t feel slighted.

    You’re doing a great job!

  24. […]  Thank you all so much for your feedback about Bean.  Chris and I talked to him about his behavior, and he said he was missing his friends from […]

  25. Cris

    I used to act like Bean too when I was a kid: I just felt that I didn’t get enough attention. But at some point I guess I grew out of it and my attitude was ok again. 🙂

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