Emotional manipulation or something more serious from 4 yr old grandson...

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by lovemysons, Jan 29, 2012.

  1. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    Oh goodness as if I didn't have enough to worry about already with my "young difficult child" headed off to prison.
    Now my 4 yr old grandson (just turned 4 Nov 7th) is saying some rather disturbing things.

    daughter in law and I were together last night and she told me that grandson, after getting spanked the other day, told her...
    "I'm just gonna kill myself."
    Then, she said to him, "We don't talk that way" and he said, "Then I'm gonna throw myself in the trash cause I'm garbage."

    Geez Louise, what 4 yr old says this kind of thing?

    A bit of history...Grandson has been exposed to young difficult child's emotional manipulation likely. Young difficult child has "tried" to commit suicide at least 3 times that I can think of over the last 3 or so years. Young difficult child is a VERY sensitive person and has always pulled at my heart strings through intense emotionalism, if you will.

    One time last year when grandson spent the night with husband and I... I had him going to sleep in our bed...He did NOT want to sleep in same bed with grandpa! Well, he started telling me (while crying) that he had no friends and that no one loved him. I don't think I handled it well...as I tried to talk him down from this kind of thinking by reminding him of the little friends he does have and all of the family members I listed that do love him very much.

    I have seen him break into tears and "feel sorry for himself" with his other grandma. She allows it. Since we have raised grandson's father (young difficult child) and are very aware of emotional manipulation we don't allow grandson to feel sorry for himself in this way. Other grandmother will just scoop him up and allow him to go on and on when he doesn't get his way...Like having to share a toy with his little sister then crying when I told him this was little sisters new birthday present and they must share it. He just turned to other grandma and through himself at her crying about the situation.

    So...I am concerned.
    daughter in law asked if she needs to get therapy for grandson. And honestly, I don't know.

    What do you think?
  2. buddy

    buddy New Member

    I really don't know, but some of what he says sounds like typical egocentric preschool manipulation. Still, given his history, I could see you being cautious. Kidsdo say they are going to kill someone else or themselves because at that age it is not even a permanent thing. I would be even more concerned because maybe the reason he is doing this (in part?) is he does not really know how to process daddy being gone. It sure wouldn't hurt to go for an evaluation. Going to therapy doesn't mean that we necessarily have a permanent diagnosis or anything. It is good to learn skills to talk and process feelings and given his family history. A good child therapist can help sort through normal developmental issues and if there is a problem too.

    You are such a good grandma... I just want you to know again, I am really sorry for all you are going through. HUGS, Buddy
  3. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    Therapy for a 4 year old probably won't do much good. But, I would spend extra time talking to him about WHY he's feeling this way. He has probably inherited "young difficult child's" mental health issues and has also more than likely "learned" this type of manipulation. Make sure he's heard! Validate his feelings, probe (Plan B) where these feelings are REALLY coming from, and try to teach him other, more appropriate ways to deal with the situations that are causing these feelings. The worst thing you can do is "poo poo" his thinking. That will only cause him to internalize his feelings and they will come out at the worst possible time in the worst possible way. in my humble opinion, that is where I would start.
  4. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    When you say, "make sure he's heard, validate his feelings" what do you mean?
    Specifically, What should I say to him or mom say to him when he starts this talk?
    Should daughter in law tell him something like..

    "I understand you are angry and upset with me right now but saying you want to kill yourself is not appropriate."

    Thank you Buddy for your thoughts and care...You are a sweetheart.

  5. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Is it manipulation? It could be an expression of real emotional distress. My son, now aged 5, spent a month last summer with his father and wider family in Morocco. It's a different culture... hitting children to discipline them is frequent and harsh. My ex-husband, who had no understanding of ADHD though I am trying very hard to educate him, was hitting him all the time. J (who is also extremely sensitive), apparently, began screaming that he was going to kill himself, throw himself from the window. I believe hitting or harshly punishing some kinds of children does this to them. I have spoken about this with my ex-husband and stressed that, despite all the cultural norms of Morocco, it must not happen again.
    This may have something, or nothing, to do with your grandson. But I don't believe in my son's case that he was being "manipulative".
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I am wondering why it bothers you if your grandson feels sorry for himself and expresses it? Why is it inappropriate for him to say that he wants to kill himself? It's alarming, sure, but if that is how he feels...that badly...don't you want to know? If you don't let him express it, it won't make him feel any better. He just won't tell you and your communication will shut down. Clearly this child feels like he is not wanted, even though it isn't true. Perhaps he is depressed, Yes, four year olds can suffer real depression...I did so I know they can. If he starts talking negatively about himself, if I were in your shoes I would just listen, hug and rock him...then call a professional the next day to schedule help for him. There are good therapists who see every young children and do work well with them, as in play therapy, to find out what is bothering them and how much it is. You really can't do this yourself and in my opinion it isn't good to try to limit what he tells you.

    Your grandson has seen a lot of chaos in his young life and it makes sense that he feels insecure. He may also have inherited your son's sensitivity and propensity to feeling sad. I would take him for a neuropsychologist evaluation to see what he thinks may be going on. This little guy, like so many of our kids, has seen too much and felt too much for a little one and any sort of vulnerability is kicked up a notch when a child's lifestyle is less than secure.

    I am wondering if he told any of his peers that his father is going to jail and if they are teasing him for that.
  7. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    Not at all, that is "poo pooing" his feelings. Telling him it's inappropriate sends the message that his thoughts and feelings are WRONG. They aren't wrong, they are his thoughts and feelings and they are REAL. Ask questions like "Why do you feel like hurting yourself?" Help him try to put his feelings into words. You can follow it up with things like "If you weren't here anymore, I would be really sad and miss you so much. I would NEVER get to hug you or play with you or watch you..... If I felt as sad as you are feeling, I would........" These types of things are validating his feelings and at the same time teaching him how to verbalize it. You can even explain that killing himself means that he would NEVER be able to see any of you again and NEVER play with his toys and NEVER (insert anything/everything else he likes/loves). Let him know that it is PERMANENT. You need to help him understand his feelings, express them so others can understand and help him, deal with them appropriately. He's at a young enough age that teaching will go a long way.
  8. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    You may be right that spanking my 4 yr old grandson may not be the best way to handle a situation. I have Never spanked grandson...Or really, smile, ever had to really discipline him. He is a delight around me. Now grandpa, husband, has put him into the "corner" for time out before when he was talking back to daughter in law, etc.

    Midwest mom...
    A bit of background on young difficult child.
    Young difficult child was a very very sensitive child. He has now, as an adult, decided he is a "victim" if you will. He will tell you i'Tourette's Syndrome because we moved him from the mountain home, took him to the wrong church, sent him to rehab, sent him to TBS, etc etc etc. He does not take responsibility for where he is at do to his own choices. He blames others and feels sorry for himself.
    I think this is why it makes me so uncomfortable.

    Now, I am here asking the question because I truly want to help grandson and daughter in law in this situation. I will change (me) what has to be changed: my own insecurities, my own fears, etc if needed.
    I thank you for your insight.

    Thank you so SO much. I think you are spot on!
    I will talk to daughter in law tonight (she is coming over with the kids to have Sunday dinner with us) and will let her see this thread and your replies. She knows you all are my online support system.
    You gave me some excellent concrete words to use with grandson.
    I really appreciate it!

  9. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Just MHO, but, child therapy, when done appropriately for even preschoolers can be really beneficial. (not talking about remediation for neurological issues here, but for life stress and how to express themselves if they haven't had that kind of parenting) Usually it involves play therapy where they can act out their life situations, and expressing feelings, teaching feeling words, and problem solving at a developmentally appropriate level of course. If they act out things in the play they can rework the scenes and help work through abuse etc. At this age, that involves parents learning to do the same types of communication as the therapist, and to learn how to help the child express themselves in appropriate ways. If the parent is needing parenting help (are you sure daughter in law only spanked, was she very angry and yelling, etc?...she is under enormous stress herself) it can also help the parent learn other ways to correct behavior. To me, just because many of us have kids where traditional parenting does not work, does not mean it is worthless for some people. I have family members who have done this and Q and I went to attachment/theraplay when he was only 3 and 4 and it was well worth it. There are many people who value learning new parenting ideas from what they grew up with. There are good therapists out there. If it turns out, or if you now suspect he has your difficult child's issues I too would seek a neuropsychologist evaluation but if it is this issue only....??? I maybe would work with a reputable child psychologist or therapist. It is all in your daughter's hands anyway I suppose. Is she doing alright? Do you think her stress is coming out in some of your grandson's behavior?

    Kids blame themselves for everything. He is being told his daddy is gone for work or just out of town... I think you said? Still he may think daddy is gone to work away from the family because of something about him... Kids think they have TONS of power. It is just something to think about... He may simply be very sad about him not being home and also sad, confused, worried, whatever.... about mommy being sad. I could be way off, but was just thinking these things as I was reading the posts.
  10. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    I hope it works. These methods are actually from the books The Explosive Child and What Your Explosive Child Is Trying To Tell You. If daughter in law is willing, you might want to suggest these books to her, and maybe read them both yourself. Grandson needs to be taught so he doesn't end up like his Dad. He's young enough that it can be done and it will also teach him that you accept him the way he is and that he can talk to you about anything and you won't just shun him (his thoughts & feelings) or push him (his thoughts and feelings) away. You're doing a great job and I love your willingness to help with the "next" generation.
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member


    I understand where you are coming from. You are afraid that if you allow your grandson to act like a victim he will become like his father. But in my opinion it is best not to project that way. Telling him not to talk like he feels sorry for himself, will not change the way he thinks. He is probably quite a lot like your son emotionally because he has his DNA. However, he can learn to channel his personality in different ways than your son did. I agree that therapy can work for a very young child. My daughter was very young when an older child molested her and she had therapy with an expert in young children. A lot of it was play/acting out therapy. Young children "tell" a lot by how they play. And a good therapist knows what to look for and how to ask questions without really asking them.

    I have no idea if your grandson saw your son trying to kill himself or being taken to the hospital or heard anybody talking about it, but, if he did, that was probably very traumatic and he probably thinks he caused it (kids are like that). Most likely he would really benefit from a professional getting him to work it out. I do NOT think you should try doing it yourself. The therapist will help guide you in ways to behave when he expresses scary thoughts.

    We are on your side and want to help you, whatever you decide to do. Hugs!!!
  12. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    Thank you Buddy and Midwestmom,

    Yes, grandson has likely heard talk regarding young difficult child's suicide attempts.

    I just got off the phone with daughter in law...she is sleepy. Not sure if they will make it over tonight.
    I will talk to her at some point about therapy. It does sound like it could be a good idea.

    daughter in law has decided not to take grandson and granddaughter to visit young difficult child in prison but when the new baby is born she said she would take new baby to visit young difficult child.

    I am somewhat overwhelmed emotionally right now myself...can only imagine what my grandson must experience with so much "secrecy" going on around him right now. He is an absolutely precious little boy. Little sister is fairly aggressive, a risk taker, and quite an independent thinker. Grandson is of course expected to "know better" in regard to his own behavior when little sister acts up with him. He is expected to be the big boy big brother, ya know.
    I am sure the pressure does build for him at times.
    I love him so much! I really cannot handle the "next" generation deteriorating too!

  13. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    You have gotten great advice. I don't know that having Daddy be out of town is a great decision. It might be easier on him to think that Daddy is in "time out".

    There is a reason behind my saying this.

    When I was a toddler there was a family we were super close to. Their dad worked nights so he was home during the day. My dad taught all day and wasn't home much because he also worked a second job. One day when bro was about 3 or 4 the neighbor called my mom down to see what he was doing. He was sitting in the swing singing about how his Daddy didn't love him. He thought that because our dad worked so much and their dad was home all day and it meant that our did didn't love us and their did love them. Never mind that every other dad on the street worked all day.

    I really think that some of it is that he thinks that Daddy is CHOOSING to not be with him. Not all, cause there is other stuff going on and experiencing the chaos of life with difficult child is hard on a kid too. But it is something to think about.

    I really think talking to a therapist and using the methods to talk about it that TeDo suggested will be a big help.
  14. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    Well, hmmm...
    I am definitely getting conflicting advice.
    husband and my mother (who never agree on anything...or at least they'd both like to think so, lol)
    Believe that by allowing grandson to talk about his feelings, validate this "talk" that it will only encourage him to use these "powerful words" again and again. They think that he could not does not know what killing oneself means at all and that he is only saying these things because he can get a reaction...that this is all learned behavior.
    My mother likened it to using cuss words from a small child. They are shocking and powerful and throw mom off track, etc.

    Geez, I'm so confused.
  15. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Well, I"m going to disagree with both your husband and your mother. I beieve he is telling you that he is depressed and miserable. You can see for yourself though...is this a happy kid who just says this for affect? Or is he miserable and crying when he says it? Shutting down his words will not shut down his feelings. How would you feel if he did try to kill himself? I'm not saying that this will happen...it is rare at his age...but it is not unheard of.

    I just disagree with the entire concept of telling him not to say things because they are disturbing to the adults. I'm not sure what that accomplishes other than to make the child turn inward or learn to talk to and trust somebody who is willing to listen to his angst.

    husband and Mother aren't professionals. I would take it to somebody with the education to know what is going on with your son.

    JMO but I do hope you seek outside help rather than just family infighting. Often relatives are in denial and, yes, we parents often are too! Oh, yes, I was too!
  16. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    Yes, grandson IS a happy kid most of the time. Yes, I do think he is saying this for affect.
    However...Given the circumstances I also think grandson could use some therapy.

    Thanks for your replies.
  17. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    LMS.....does your grandson go to any sort of school setting? How about the other little one? I think right now the two kids need some socialization or daycare/preschool type setting. It could be that if he is in a setting where is in a structured setting with other little children he will then start to see that he is more than the sum of his parental units.

    I do believe in play therapy for kids at these childrens ages. Sometimes they have very small group therapy sessions where the sessions are almost like half day play therapy sessions but they have about 6 kids in there so that the kids can interact with each other and the therapists can watch how they do with all of that. That may be something to look into.
  18. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    Grandson is getting ready to start soccer and I think will also go to pre K. I too think it will be good for grandson to see himself as part of another group of people in a shared learning experience. He has mostly just been with family.

    I let daughter in law read all of the replies here and she has already starting using some of the "techniques" described. She has been letting grandson tell her what he is feeling when he blurts out something. Like are you Angry or Sad...What do you need?
    Grandson says he is "sad" and needs a hug...so they hug and he calms.
    She said that this seems to working. Anyway, I know she really appreciated your replies.

    Thanks again all,
  19. buddy

    buddy New Member

    That is really lovely. It is really all any of us can do right? Just try and try and honestly give it a go.... find what works for our kids.
  20. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    Yep, finding out what works...and what the REAL problem might be.
    I feel kinda bad thinking that my grandson was just be honery or manipulative when in reality he was trying to be heard and express his feelings but not really knowing how to go about it.

    This "way" is a far cry from what my own mother did to me as a very young child. Sigh...I got my mouth washed out with soap! Geez.

    I'm so glad I have this place to learn from and to be comforted by...Yall are the best!