My oldest son is the sweetest and most guileless child I know. His teachers adore him and always tell me how kind and considerate he is. He is diligent to a fault, always insisting on doing impeccable schoolwork and on pushing himself to do well in his extracurricular activities. I rarely yell at him, send him to time-out or banish him to an early bedtime.
Now, before you throw up in your mouth a little as I describe my child’s perfection, I’m going to add an asterisk. He does this one little thing that makes me want to bash my head against a wall.
He fact checks me.
This is how the scenario usually works: My son asks me a question. I provide a (usually) lucid and well-reasoned answer. Then, he goes and asks someone else, usually his father, the same question. For example, if he asks me, “What is the capitol of Israel?” and I respond, “Tel Aviv,” he’ll wait a few minutes and then ask his father, “What is the capitol of Israel?”
Yesterday, I was trying to bring our AppleTV out of sleep mode so that my sons could watch something on Netflix. They are obsessed with natural disaster documentaries right now…that and Spongebob. Anyway, the device wouldn’t respond when I pushed buttons on the remote control. I asked his dad for some help because I rarely watch television.
My son yanked the remote control out of my hand and started pushing buttons on his own. I grabbed it back. He punched the television screen.
His reaction surprised me. I said, “Let’s try this again. Why don’t you say, ‘Mom, can I give it a try?’ instead of just snatching the remote away from me.”
He responded, “I don’t want to.” So I sent him to his room for a few minutes while I fixed the problem. Then, I went to his room, put on my best self-possessed Mom voice and said, “It bothers me when you treat me like I can’t do things or like I don’t know things.”
I’ve had conversations like this with my son on multiple occasions. We’ve discussed how he fact checks me when he doesn’t fact check his dad, his teachers or any other adults. I’m not sure how I became a resource he doesn’t think that he can trust. He doesn’t display a distrust of women in general. It’s just—me.
When I’m not around, though, he acts differently. His teacher last year, for example, told me that she was amazed by some of the facts that he knew that most first graders did not. He told her, “I learn them from my mom.” So he does give me credit sometimes, just not when I’m nearby.
So, fellow parents and amateur (or professional) psychologists, why does he do this? And what, if anything, can I do about it?