Her son never believes her!

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  December 19, 2011 06:00 AM

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How can I get my son to believe me more? No matter what I say, he doesn't believe me. He's only in second grade and he tells me no, mom, that's not right. He says this even when I am right! It really bothers me.

From: MT, Everett, MA

Dear MT,

I don't blame you for being upset. I hope it helps you to know that every parent, myself included, has had times when we don't know the answer to a child's question, or we know the answer but don't know how to say it in a way that's appropriate to the child's understanding. In those moments, we have a tendency to make something up. It's partlyl human nature -- no one wants to look stupid to our child -- and partly frustration; sometimes we're tired or busy or whatever and we just want to make him stop asking. Both strategies have a way of catching up with us, though.

Here's an alternative strategy. Sometime when you're just hanging out together, tell him, "I know you don't always think I know the answers to things. I just wanted to tell you that sometimes, in the past, when I wasn't sure about an answer, I would just guess. That was bad. From now on, I promise not to guess. If I don't know something, I'll find out the answer and tell you." Then, when the occasion arises and you don't know the answer, tell him: "You ask such good questions! I'm not sure what the answer is. I'm going to try and find out and I'll get back to you."

Do what you need to do to get an answer -- ask someone who might know, check on the Internet, ask a librarian or the teacher or a clergy person -- and then resume the conversation. "Remember a few days ago when you asked me about X and I didn't know. Well, I did some research. The answer is......"

There's a book that I often consulted when my son was a little bit older than yours, "The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents)" by Judy Calens and Nancy Pear. Sample questions: "Why are polar bears white?" "Why do I have to say I'm sorry?"

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2 comments so far...
  1. My son (who is 8) does the same thing with me at times and I know it gets to me as well so I understand where this writer is coming from! He will do it with questions or even when I am helping him do something. He will tell me I am either doing it wrong, my answer is incorrect, or that Daddy can do it better. One example was at halloween I was painting his face and he said that I wasn't doing a good job and that daddy could do it better. He wouldn't know if that was true or not since this was the first time myself or my husband had painted his face! My husband tells me not to let it get to me as maybe it has to do with me spending more time with our son since my husband works later hours so it may be his way of feeling closer to his dad.

    Posted by In the same boat. December 19, 11 10:05 AM
  1. I still remember the look on my mother's face when I assured her that my French teacher was right and she was wrong (she was French, he wasn't - and as I realized in later years, his French wasn't even terribly good...) - total bemusement! However, she just laughed, and was pretty secure in her knowledge that she was right. I think it's to do with control and independence - the pre-teen version of the "NO!!" period of toddlerhood. When they can tell themselves they know more than you do, it helps them feel grown-up. The next stage, of course, will be for everything you say and do to be a huge source of embarrassment - get ready!

    Posted by alien57 December 21, 11 10:25 AM
 
2 comments so far...
  1. My son (who is 8) does the same thing with me at times and I know it gets to me as well so I understand where this writer is coming from! He will do it with questions or even when I am helping him do something. He will tell me I am either doing it wrong, my answer is incorrect, or that Daddy can do it better. One example was at halloween I was painting his face and he said that I wasn't doing a good job and that daddy could do it better. He wouldn't know if that was true or not since this was the first time myself or my husband had painted his face! My husband tells me not to let it get to me as maybe it has to do with me spending more time with our son since my husband works later hours so it may be his way of feeling closer to his dad.

    Posted by In the same boat. December 19, 11 10:05 AM
  1. I still remember the look on my mother's face when I assured her that my French teacher was right and she was wrong (she was French, he wasn't - and as I realized in later years, his French wasn't even terribly good...) - total bemusement! However, she just laughed, and was pretty secure in her knowledge that she was right. I think it's to do with control and independence - the pre-teen version of the "NO!!" period of toddlerhood. When they can tell themselves they know more than you do, it helps them feel grown-up. The next stage, of course, will be for everything you say and do to be a huge source of embarrassment - get ready!

    Posted by alien57 December 21, 11 10:25 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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