Now We Are Six

My six year old son gives up so easily. He is afraid to try new things and when he does, he gets angry and gives up. How can I help him focus and get over the hump?

A six-year-old has major challenges in his life, the biggest one being school for six hours per day! In school he has to deal with new adult authorities, learn new information in a variety of subjects, pay attention for long periods of time, sit still, relate to many new children and find his place in the pecking order. He does not need any challenges besides these ones.

People can assimilate only so much change at a time, and too much stresses us out. I don’t know what new things you think your son can’t handle, but I really don’t think you should expect him to do any other new things besides school! He is obviously feeling insecure about his abilities, which is something many children feel when they begin school. Children compare themselves with one another, looking at who’s bigger and stronger, who learns faster, who’s more athletic, and so forth. Kids can be really cruel to other kids at this age, and many kids feel they aren’t capable or aren’t likeable based on what other kids have said, or just on comparing themselves with others.

My guess is that block to your son’s willingness to try new things is emotional. If you try to push him to “focus and get over the hump,” the problem will only get worse. He needs your understanding. You need to gently ask him what’s wrong, or how things are going, and then listen and empathize with whatever he shares with you. Don’t deny the validity of his feelings or tell him how he should feel. He will feel more encouraged if you just listen, accept his feelings, and then help him figure out what to do, telling him you believe in him. When he’s mastered the present new challenges in his life, he’ll be ready to take on others.

Perhaps you should teach him A.A. Milne’s great poem, from the book Now We Are Six :

“When I was one, I was just begun.
When I was two, I was nearly new.
When I was three, I was hardly me.
When I was four, I was not much more.
When I was five, I was just alive.
But now that I’m six, I’m as clever as clever.
I think I’ll stay six now for ever and ever.”

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