‘My child makes a problem out of everything’

Father: “I can get quite annoyed by my 6-year-old son who can really make everything into a problem. He doesn’t want to open the car door when it rains because then his hands get wet, the threads in his socks irritate him and it is therefore a hassle every morning to get his socks on ‘properly’, he wants a clean spoon at dinner if his spoon accidentally touches any of the ‘wrong’ food, he won’t put on his winter coat because the sleeves feel cold inside, et cetera. I’ve tried several ways to make him whine less, such as understanding, rewarding, punishing, more one-on-one contact. The best tactic is humor but sometimes I’m too tired for that. How far should I go with his ‘whining’? I’m about to buy seamless socks, but am I doing it right? I wish him a more uncomplicated attitude. Moreover, I am afraid that his behavior will lead to a less rich social life. I also prefer to hang out with people who have a positive vibe around them and don’t make everything a problem.”

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Hang his coat over the heating, put an extra spoon next to his plate

Marga Akkerman: “The examples sound like a problem with his tactile system. This system includes the entire network of the skin, including the mouth. Your son may have tactile hypersensitivity: what another person thinks is normal to touch is a strong and unpleasant stimulus for him. You can find information for research and treatment on the internet.

“In that sense, your son is not a poseur or a whiner, and that makes a difference to your approach. Seamless socks could be easier for him, but take him to the store and let him feel the fabric for himself. Hanging his coat over the heating, an extra clean spoon next to his plate, it makes life easier for him and for you too. The number of moments of conflict will decrease and the negative charge at his difficult moments may decrease.

“Tactile hypersensitivity can be a symptom of various developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD. Discuss with a specialist whether it is important to have this ruled out.”

Dealing confidently with sensitivity is also a form of standing your ground

Stijn Sieckelinck: „Socks with seams, only one spoon next to the plate; the world is organized in a way that works well for many people. If someone deviates from this, we call it whining, or a disorder. But we are not all wired the same. Research on neurodiversity shows there is more variation in the human brain regarding learning, attention, mood and other mental functions than many believe.

“That specific wiring is part of your child’s individuality and can easily be accommodated, for example by buying seamless socks and letting your child grab an extra spoon. Fortunately, those are not big sacrifices.

“Which may play a role: many fathers find it important that they don’t bring a wimp into the world. But being able to confidently deal with a certain sensitivity is also a form of standing your ground. Humor and play help make parenting less stressful, but so does letting go of your image of what kind of son you would like. The poet Kahlil Gibran wrote: ‘Your children are not your children. They come through you, but they are not yours. And although they are with you, they do not belong to you.’”