Ask Amy: 9-year-old treats mom like a jungle gym

July 26, 2013

Dear Amy:

I’m married, with a 9-year-old son. My sweet boy is very affectionate, but really only with me. He climbs on me, hangs on me, etc. He is not emotionally disturbed or shy; he just does this to annoy me.

I’m not very touchy-feely. I get hot when people are too close. I have tried to explain this to my son, but he doesn’t care.

I have had this problem my whole life. The only exercise I can do is swimming because I loathe sweating. I have had my thyroid checked, and everything is normal. How do I make my son understand that it’s not him and that I love him, but his crawling on me makes me cringe. I dread menopause!

Too Hot

Your son knows you love him. He also knows that what he’s doing is annoying.

His behavior is typical for a 9-year-old. Some kids this age will actually place their hands on either side of their mom’s face and pull it toward them if she is trying to have a conversation with someone else. Others will clown around and/or treat their mother like a jungle gym.

All of this is a way to keep mom’s attention. It’s also a child’s way to resist the transition into being a “big kid,” with all of its confusing uncertainty.

You should react calmly, consistently and with a minimum of fuss. In a quiet moment, explain to your son that he is getting bigger and that he can hurt you by climbing on you. Tell him that from now on you’re going to expect him not to do this. Tell him that if he forgets his good manners and starts climbing on you, you’re going to remind him one time, and then you’re going to ask him to leave the room if he does it again.

It’s time for your husband to step up. He should assume a bigger role, providing a positive presence and gently leading your son into the mysterious world of male adolescence.

* * *

Dear Amy:

I frequently see letters in your column outlining how entitled and ungrateful young (post-college) adults are. Our son at that age was ungrateful, too. We went back and forth for many years dealing with his thoughtlessness and bad decisions.

Something changed when he turned 25, and for the next three years you couldn’t ask for a better son. Not too long ago he even told his friends that his mom (me) was one of his best friends.

Two months ago he was killed in a car accident at the age of 28. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful, truly grateful, that we welcomed him back one more time.

Christie

My heartfelt sympathy to you. Your story is a poignant reminder that young people do mature and change. A smart parent will stay present to witness the transformation.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

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