Friday, December 3, 2010

The Unfairness Of It All

Ellie: "Jeff, I got a milkshake at pweschool today!"
Jeff, angrily: "What? No fair!"
Jeff, in a demanding, angry voice: "What do I get to make up for it?"

This is a common scene in my house. And I don't know how to deal with it anymore. My son seems utterly convinced that a) his sister gets way more of everything than he does, and that b) whenever she gets anything that he deems special, he ought to get something right then to make up for it. For example, one day she told him we'd eaten at McDonald's for lunch (which, sadly, we had). He immediately was angry and demanded to go there right then for him.

How do I deal with this? How do YOU deal with this? In the above milkshake example, after he had exclaimed it wasn't fair, I said, "Jeff, do you think I had anything to do with the milkshakes served in preschool?" To which he answered, "YES! You bought it for her! She always gets everything!" Talk about wanting to bang your head on the steering wheel. Ellie even explained to him it was because one of her preschool friends, Audrey, had had a birthday. But that means nothing to my son.

And yes, of course, I would prefer Ellie not run tell her brother everything she gets, because that's a form of bragging, which is also wrong. And I'm going to work on it with her. But I tell you, this angry, greedy, selfish, ENTITLED attitude my son has shown lately makes me alternately want to rip him a new one, rip out my hair, or curl up into a ball and cry over how terrible a parent I must be to have a son who reacts in such a way.

I did none of those extreme reactions today. Instead I chose to talk to him when we got home from school and Ellie was off doing Room Time. I explained when he was 4, he and I did all sorts of things together every day - even more than Ellie and I do, really, because he and I would travel to other towns and do fun stuff there, etc., which Ellie and I can't do because we're bound to his school schedule. I explained he and I would also eat lunch out. I explained that that doesn't happen as much for him now because he's in school and Ellie is not. It seems to fall on deaf ears. I even acknowledged he probably doesn't remember or care what happened when he was 4 - but I do. And that next year when Ellie is in school with him, she won't be running around with mom occasionally eating lunch out - she'll be in school, like he is.

I pointed out all the stuff he has. Even though "stuff" should NOT be the focus and frankly both my kids have far more STUFF than they need. But I pointed it out nonetheless, saying "Look at all the computer games you have. Look at the Wii games. Look at the Legos. Who did I get those for?" But Jeff tried to play that off, announcing they were for the family. Seriously? Seriously, kid? I said, "You think I bought Wii Harry Potter and Wii Star Wars for the family?" He said, "Well, dad likes to play them sometimes."

You see, it's an argument I can't win. And that's what's frustrating. Because I shouldn't even want to win it. But I want him to see that a) mom and dad do a darn good job of keeping things relatively equal, and b) his attitude is his choice. He can choose to focus on all that he has (material and not) and be grateful and thankful for it. Or he can choose to focus on all that he doesn't have and complain and grumble about so-and-so has this and so-and-so got to do that and he didn't. Which one will make him happier? Which one will make others want to be around him?

He can actually answer both of those questions appropriately. Meaning he knows the grumbling won't make him or anyone else happier. But that doesn't seem to matter, because literally 30 seconds later he was back to complaining about Ellie having 2 Christmas presents and having toys in the living room. "See? It's all Ellie, Ellie, Ellie..."

So I'm asking you, what would you do? I told him I'm at the point of being so frustrated and hurt by his attitude that I want to start taking things away. But I'm not sure it would work - it would just be another reason for him to be convinced life isn't fair and he's got the short end of the stick. Or maybe it would. I don't know.

What I do know is, I'm tired of it. I don't even feel like giving him any gifts for Christmas, so bad has his complaining and anger been about all he perceives his sister is getting. Yes, he's seen 2 presents for her. I even explained, "Do you think we would bring out presents for you right in front of you? Then you would see what they were and not be surprised by them as presents!" But that doesn't compute in his brain, apparently.

And it makes me sad, because my guess is behind all this is fear. Fear he's not going to get presents. Fear Ellie really does get more. And I'm guessing (projecting?) that maybe there's some fear that we love her more than we love him - even if he can't articulate that or doesn't even know he feels that. Because I know sometimes it MUST feel like that, considering how much we struggle with him and his anger.

There's no doubt about it, he is the more difficult child. Ellie certainly has her moments (although I'm not sure Jeff pays attention to that), times when she's throwing a fit or melting down or being bratty. But in general her temperament is sunnier, she's more easy going, and just happier by nature than Jeff is. She doesn't have the anger issues he does.

It makes me sad. Because I know I love him just as much as I love her. The love is different - for him it's fierce, for her it's easier. But sometimes, if I'm honest, I don't like him as much. He's much harder to deal with. And I think he can sense that.

What do you do when your kids act like this? And please, God, tell me some of them do!

1 comment:

  1. From my experience teaching 5th grade I had to learn that is wasn't possible to rationalize with a child. They just aren't rational beings yet. If they have perceived injustice, trying to explain it and get them to get it just doesn't work. I found the best thing to do is to explain in a sentence or 2 then leave it at that. The more you talk about it and give them attention over it the more they get out of it. Short and sweet works like a charm. That and a good set of earplugs (just don't tell my principal about that last part :P )