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Upset because he is not first or the fastest?

My son Theo is 6yrs old and just started 1st grade. He is a very bright little boy and amazes me everyday. But lately he has started getting really upset that he is not first in everything or the fastest. He has a younger brother Zack who is only a yr younger and his sister just turned 4 months old. Now he is crying in class when he doesnt get to be first. So now his teacher is concerned and wants him to talk to the guidance counselor once a week. Has anyone else experienced this? I feel like I am a bad mom and that it was something that I have done or didnt do. My Husband and I have never told him that he needs to be the best or first. I dont know where he is getting this from. Help! Please. I dont want him to be labelled the crybaby by his classmates.

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Asked by MommaMiaof3kids at 1:55 AM on Oct. 23, 2013 in School-Age Kids (5-8)

Level 3 (14 Credits)
Answers (8)
  • Is there someone in his class who is teasing him in Gym or on the playground? Maybe the counselor can help you get to the bottom of it. You & your husb. just need to keep reassuring him that as long as he tries his best in whatever he's doing, that's what matters most. Maybe some "guy time" with dad is necessary too help boost his self esteem. GL

    Answer by mrsmom110 at 6:51 AM on Oct. 23, 2013

  • He cries in class when he doesn't get to be first - first what? First in line? First to wash his hands before lunch? First to finish his work? First to cross the finish line in PE?

    Some things are out of his, and everyone else's, control - it takes as long as it takes to finish your work or finish the race or laps around the track. But if it's things like being first in line or something like that the teacher is choosing, I'd consider whether the teacher has overlooked him and he's feeling like he's being deliberately left out - even if that's not the teacher's intention. It's possible that even if she tries to be fair and give everyone a turn, he might not see that. Maybe she could help remind him of when he was first, or she could make a point of letting him know when it will be his turn again or a general reminder to the class that everyone gets a chance, something like that.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 7:25 AM on Oct. 23, 2013

  • Also, while I'm not a big advocate of letting kids win just to let them win, sometimes it can help build confidence. Little reminders like that can show them that even though they might not be the first/fastest/winner every time, they can be sometimes, and sometimes is good enough.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 7:27 AM on Oct. 23, 2013

  • You are not a bad mom it is just that this is something new to him and it is frustrating not to be as good as you think you are. It is very healthy for him to be placed in situations where he won't succeed on the first try and must work at it as well as not being the best. He is disappointed and in some way may feel he is disappointing you and your husband and that you will love him less because he sees himself as less.
    Have him talk to the counselor but you can ask him how it makes him feel when "jim" gets a higher grade? This is also a good time to introduce empathy because someone is always going to do less well than him as well. It fluctuates through out our lives.

    Answer by Dardenella at 11:51 AM on Oct. 23, 2013

  • You have a 4 month old baby? My guess is that this tendency is a way of compensating, a way of keeping difficult feelings at bay. A way of feeling better whenever upsetting feelings threaten to intrude into his awareness.Those feelings trigger the "need" to be first, or be the best, or to get to dictate (have things go HIS way, getting to choose which seat or cup, etc.) which lets him feel better & keep from getting upset.
    But those feelings that drive the behavior (creating the sense of need & urgency) persist in intruding because that's how feelings get resolved: they bubble up & seek opportunities for expression. And psychological defenses (including "needing" to be first, or best) serve to keep threatening feelings at bay.
    As for what/why....It's possible that welcoming a new baby into the household could trigger or restimulate old feelings (in implicit memory, not conscious memory) from the last time a new baby came home.

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:13 PM on Oct. 23, 2013

  • Here's an article on helping super-competitive children relax, that discusses the issue from that sort of perspective. (The perspective that this kind of behavior typically signals the presence of feelings--feelings a child has for whatever reason!--that ultimately need to be felt & expressed. And the behavior functions as a protection against having the feelings, or as a defense against them.)

    Knowing what the feelings "are," or what they're from, is never really important if you are attuned to making space for the feelings & supporting their expression. That's what matters. But all of us accumulate feelings any time we didn't have the necessary emotional support to process things in the moment. So a young child will likely have stored up feelings from various frights, hurts & disappointments.

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:52 PM on Oct. 23, 2013

  • Thanks for the comments and ideas ladies. I appreciate it. He gets upset when he doesnt get to be first in line or the fastest in gym class or in class interactions. My hubby and I after speaking to his teacher that we are going to see how having him talk to the guidance counselor goes. I honestly dont think that its because of his sister. He has always been alittle competitive. I never thought anything of it. I thought it was just sibling rivalry. He was only 1 when his little brother was born. And he absolutely loves his sister. We've tried to talk to him but trying to get him to open up about what he is feeling is like pulling teeth. But we are going to see how talking with the counselor goes. Will keep everyone posted.

    Comment by MommaMiaof3kids (original poster) at 12:42 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

  • I wouldn't expect him to "open up" or be able to talk about it, because I wouldn't expect him to be able to put into words what he is feeling.
    It's a feeling of need: "needing" to be first, "needing" to win (be fastest), "needing" things to go according to his stipulations.
    Behind the urgency is scary emotion. Otherwise, there would BE no "need." lol He would be flexible & resilient, able to adjust to disappointment & to cope.
    It makes sense for you to say that he's always been a little competitive. That helps explain the bigger reaction now. It's not about disliking the baby; it's about dealing with shifts in the household, feeling like he has less parental attention or support at times, absorbing the feelings around having to wait or not getting listened to right away, AND having old feelings of loss restimulated. The fact that he was so little when he started having to share you & your attention would account for old hurts.

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:52 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

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