Put a Bib on It

My Son, the Jerk

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dec1At work we talk about “known fors.” Simply, what are you “known for” in regards to your work? Obviously, the desire is that your “known for” is positive, but it’s usually something negative. For example, if you are always ten minutes late to meetings, being late becomes your “known for,” regardless of the quality of work you produce. Everything else about your work ethic could be flawless, but what people will remember is that you are always ten minutes late to meetings.

I am beginning to worry that Ev’s “known for” is being a jerk. Often, Ev is all the things we hope for in a young child: he’s sweet, intelligent, empathetic and compassionate. But lately, he’s being a jerk.

I use the word “jerk” because aside from foul language not appropriate for this blog, I can’t come up with a better way to describe his behavior. He is unfriendly, uncooperative and in some cases downright mean. For example, speaking of foul language, he has started using a very poignant four letter word that begins with the letter “F.” Yes, he picked up that word at home. Yes, we are trying to be more careful with our word choices. Yes, we realize it’s our fault, but in our defense, he’s smart. We don’t use this particular word very often but he knew it would make the most impact.

I was so concerned about his language that I felt I had to warn his teacher, and she dropped another bomb on me during our conversation: he had tried to stab a child two days in a row, once with a plastic fork at lunch and once with a push-pin. Both were in response to those children getting something he wanted. That’s embarrassing. I feel like other adults are making judgments about Ev, and about my parenting.

While he doesn’t always resort to stabbing, lately he does often resort to physical aggression, such as pushing and/or hitting other children. He says “I’m going to kill you,” and has started using finger guns when he doesn’t get his way. All jerk-like behaviors.

It’s ironic because when I was a teacher in a preschool classroom, my “favorites” were the children who acted similarly. I connected well with the children who challenged me and felt confident working with them. I never let them see me sweat and knew a lot of their behavior came down to attention seeking, so I always focused on positive attention. But when it’s my own child, I worry he is not likeable. Maybe it’s because when I am the one interacting with him that I don’t know what to do. I literally can’t think of one developmentally appropriate strategy to use when Ev is using his new “F” word and shooting me with finger guns because I won’t let him have goldfish crackers for breakfast. Or how to respond when Ev’s teacher welcomes him into the classroom and he says, “Go away, I don’t like you.”

I want Ev to be likeable and I want to feel confident about my parenting. I want Ev’s “known for” to be that he is a sweet child who is kind and thoughtful.  And I want my “known for” to be that I’m a good parent. But right now, I’m not feeling optimistic.

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