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How do kids learn to control themselves? Staying home is torture w/ 3.5 yo!!!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I have the opposite problem of another mom who posted about kids misbehaving in public. Almost 4 yo DS1 is pretty great when we're in public - doesn't run away, listens (somewhat) well. DH manages a café and I can trust him to wander around by himself and chat w/ ppl while I have a coffee and nurse DS2. He can even go out front and be trusted not to go too far or on to the street. We live in a small, very safe community btw. So going out is not the problem.
Problem is HOME! DS1 throws everything, knocks things over, just for the sake of it then walks or jumps on what he just knocked over. When I try to fold laundry he can't help himself but to run and jump on the clothes I've just folded. He throws things in our pond (where are all my gardening tools?). He just destroys everything and creates chaos in our house. He's not being malicious either... he just does it. Won't play with toys - unless they are being thrown.
I would spend all my time out, but this is hard because DS2 is 6 wks old and wants to constantly nurse... at home. getting ready to go out is awful because DS2 screams a shrill piercing scream when I put him down (wakes up immediately if I've put him down asleep). I only bath 1-2 times per week! Then there's getting all of us dressed, which is hard when clothes haven't been folded and put away... remember DS2 is still screaming. DS1 is farting around, flinging clothes up in the air. When I pick DS2 up again to comfort him, all that will console him is nursing... for another half hour, even though he just finished!

Any tips on how to teach DS1 to control himself at home like he does in public? I know he's bored at home... but he was like this before DS2 came along too, it's just worse now because of how long it takes us to get out the door.
post #2 of 17
My dd is close to your ds in age, and we have the same problem. I find that a lot of gross motor stimulation helps. Building and knocking over blocks, rolling a ball, or helping do laundry (putting wet laundry in the dryer, emptying the dryer into a basket, helping put away stuff by taking items that don't really need to be folded to put in a drawer) are good activities. My dds have both needed a lot of direction at this age. The Out of Sync Child Has Fun also has some good suggestions for kids who need a lot of stimulation that work well for NT kids too - I've had occasional success with asking my dd to hold up the wall for a minute or two and giving her a bottle baby to play with in the backyard.

That said, everything is hard with a new baby. There really is no easy way to get out of the house every day with a 6 week old. Can you get some help? Having someone take your 3yo out for an hour or watch both kids so you can shower might really make a huge difference.
post #3 of 17
Yes, that's my child who can't control herself in public so we've obviously got kids with very different temperaments. But here's some ideas for home that you may or may not have tried already!

lots of outdoor play;
trampoline with a safety net
a mud pie area in the garden with old pots and pans
things to climb on
a giant chalk board with chalk, spray bottles and cloths
cubby, etc etc

play dates if you're up to that

Remove any toys that don't get played with and are simply used for throwing around. Or rotate them. Bring them out for 30 mins and then they go away again if they're not being played with.

When DS was born I relied on dvds for DD. She watched more tv at this time than I would have liked but it helped my stress levels alot. DD also likes to listen to music cds in her room. She's happy to do this by herself for about 20 minutes at a time while she plays with toys- not sure if this would work for you?

Does he like helping you with jobs? My kids both LOVE vacuuming- they would do it every day if I could stand the noise. They also love 'cleaning' windows with spray bottles and cloths- the result is, of course, fairly murky windows and not clean ones at all. A kids level clothes line for hanging out washing. Washing up with bubbly detergent in a bucket is also good for warm days.

Wouldn't it be great if our kids could share their secrets for how to behave when out or at home with each other!

Good luck.
post #4 of 17
Originally Posted by francesruben View Post
Wouldn't it be great if our kids could share their secrets for how to behave when out or at home with each other!
This is probably not what you meant but it sparked a memory for me. A few months ago, my DS (age 4) was having trouble listening to his teachers so we sat down and brainstormed some ideas to help him.

I try to do this as much as possible. If I am having a problem with his behavior, I ask HIM what I can do to help him. Sometimes he has a usable idea, sometimes notsomuch. In either event, he feels like he has a voice and I often end up with both a different perspective and a new tool.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the ideas! I have been brainstroming too... it's just my to-do list is so long (as in I still haven't sent out thank-you cards from baby shower in june!!!). I wanted to try to make beanbags tonight so DS1 can knock over towers of DH's beer cans . I have definitely been doing the DVD thing... but he's even bored of that... bad, eh? And we do a couple of playdates a week. Hmm... I know, organization is key - I'll have to get better at it and have more routine in my life, which I think will be better when DS2 isn't nursing so constatnly. Thanks!
post #6 of 17
What are the consequences for that kind of behavior at home? DS would lose whatever toy it was. Have to go sit in his room until he could be calm, etc.
post #7 of 17

I would use discipline

Instead of distracting him with fun things to do when he misbehaves, I'd use discipline to teach him the right way to behave. Use whatever tools you generally use-- timeouts, taking his things, etc.

If you don't learn to discipline your child, you can expect the problem to get worse. The way you're going right now, misbehavior is actually a positive-sum game for your son; he's rewarded for it.

I would also suggest not instantly giving in to the baby when he screeches, at least when he does it as a complaint that you're putting him down for a moment. Letting your baby control you to the point that it interferes with your personal hygiene is unhealthy.
post #8 of 17
The baby is six weeks old. Six week old infants are not controlling or manipulative or in any way deliberate in their intentions.

It's possible that this particular baby is having a hard time with startling. Time and swaddling may help resolve the issue. Letting the baby scream will not.

Putting toys in time out when they are thrown might also help. It's worth a shot.
post #9 of 17


I missed that. I agree, six weeks old is too young for most children to show controlling behavior. Still, I think it's a good idea not to let a consistently crying baby prevent one from bathing. If nothing else, if the OP doesn't want to put him down for any reason at all (I will state the obvious here-- I am not an extreme attachment parenting fan, although I do think in general it has much to offer), she could bathe while holding him or otherwise having him with her.
post #10 of 17
Yes, letting a consistently crying baby prevent mom from attending to personal hygiene is bad for a number of reasons. Letting a 6 week old cry while mom showers is also bad. Especially when there is an older child in the house who will use who-knows-what creative problem-solving methods to deal with the babe while mom is showering and can't hear much. That is why I asked if she could get help.

A lot of moms have trouble showering when their little are brand new. Those issues are really much more about finding support and building routines that meet all family members' needs than about parenting choices like attachment parenting.
post #11 of 17
If (big if, maybe, given your post about the 4 yo.) you can trust the 4 yo to watch a DVD while you shower, you can just have the baby in the bathroom with you in a bouncy seat or just on a soft rug--that way you know where baby is and 4 yo. isn't trying to "help." Maybe with a paci and swaddle for just the 5 min that you are in the shower?
post #12 of 17
I used to put DD in a swing in the bathroom and let DS jump on the mattress in our master (I shower in the en suite). So we're all close but the baby is closer to me than to him!

re: crying/showering etc. I HAVE to shower. It doesn't take me long. But if I shower and the baby cries then that's just what happens. With my second child specifically I was acutely aware that my proverbial oxygen mask went on first!
post #13 of 17
I completely get the problem here!! My son is similar and I can't trust him inside to not hurt himself or do something dangerous for the 5-10 minutes that I would be in the shower... so I feel your pain and I only have one. I have another on the way so we'll see how that goes when the time comes but I can only imagine how it must be to also have one screaming as well. I'm not a fan of letting a infant cry alone for just about any reason! I've found that trying to wear out my son when we are in public is helpful and I also agree with the idea of lots of active indoor things. My son loves to be helpful, so I am lucky there. It sounds like your son needs his energy channeled, as does mine... which I can think would be mentally challenging with a newborn as well. It seems some help in this situation would be wonderful, if you have it.... that and the constant reminder that most things are phases and will eventually fade away, even though it can seem like an eternity when you are trying to figure things out minute by minute! Good luck!
post #14 of 17
Not everyone will or does agree with how we do it, but we practice Sitting down and just chilling, type situations. I be sure to tell them that we are practicing self control. Sometimes we will play a board game, and if things start getting wild, I remind them, nope we are having a calm gme... no it doesnt always work but starting young is the way to go. Or if we are all sitting and enjoying a movie on tv, they always want to get up and literally run rampant on the commercials... I tell them that nope... we are still sitting and having calm time, self control time. In my experience doing these little things also help for when we have to be out in public or at an office waiting our turn for something like the Drs.
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Ha ha Iucounu - I guess that bit about not bathing did sound bad. Rest assured, I do sponge bath every day and wash all the important bits, I just don't get the chance to hop in the tub as much as I would like. However, I do think it's funny that that's the part that you seem so focused on. Also, I'm not sure where I even wrote about what I'm doing to discipline or not (I can't see it), but I'm definitely not permissive. It's just that nothing I try is working, which is why I'm asking for suggestions. I am turning into an exhausted, frustrated, fire-breathing dragon because i'm at me wits end, and I feel terrible about it. And with DS2, it is necessary to put him down and let him cry whily I help DS1, or just to get ready, or to make food or tidy, but there's a limit on how long I can do that for.

Also, I do attempt to discipline DS - I have taken toys away and put them in storage. At one point we took all of his toys away. He doesn't seem to care. I've also tried the timeout thing - it doesn't phase him. I truly believe it is because he's bored, so he doesn't mind being bored in timeout any more than where he was being disruptive. You are right moonSnail, he does need his energy channelled - this is my biggest challenge right now while also meeting the needs of DS2. I swear, DS1 was meant to be a LITTLe brother so that he could have someone to follow around and play with.

Fairyannanicole, I like the idea of making DS1 conscious of practicing self-control. Thanks!

D McG, I pine for a shower... we only have a tub in our cabin at the moment A shower would be quicker and lovelier.
post #16 of 17
Being bored is good. If they're never bored, they'll never have incentive to learn to entertain themselves. I don't think that's the problem, the problem is that instead of getting creative, he throws things.

For whatever reason, your post reminded me greatly of DD's behavior after DS was born. She has never been a big toy player and after the little guy came along I would constantly find the cushions on the couch thrown around the room, sheets pulled off my bed, shoes and coats everywhere, etc. My reaction was WHYYYYYY?? I hated that mess. Toys on the floor wouldn't have bugged me at all, because it would have seemed so normal.

Around that time I read Alyson Schaefer's Honey I Wrecked The Kids and really related to some of her suggestions for preventing power struggles...the theory that a power struggle can be a sign that they are ready for more responsibility. So you give them more responsibility, in an age appropriate way, and with a clear timeline or logical consequence. For example - DD was a huge hassle to get ready. So I told her to get herself ready, and set up some situations where I told her, and could enforce that if she didn't get ready we wouldn't go or I would leave without her (clearly, DH was home for that one.) Yes she tested, and I enforced, and no more power struggle about getting ready. Anyway, the getting ready thing may or may not apply, but just to give an example of how the technique works.

DD used to be pretty bad for throwing things and creating a giant mess, but I have tried to be really consistent with imposing logical consequences on that - you throw, you clean up. Of course she doesn't always want to clean up, but I usually insist that she does before we move on to the next activity. She has tested me on this but over several months of this she is used to the house rules and understands the expectation. I still have to supervise since she is too young to stay focussed on cleanup, but I do not ever pick up stuff that she throws. Ever. She doesn't throw as much anymore...what's the fun when you just need to pick it up?

DD also does 30mins alone quiet time per day, which has helped increase her toy play and ability to entertain herself.

Just some thoughts, take what you like and leave the rest. Good luck I hate to say this too shall pass because I'm not naturally patient when I hear it I feel so powerless as a parent, but, um...this too shall pass. He will soon get past the craziness of having his life turned upside down by the arrival of a baby and will have an active baby brother to play with. While you are waiting, just try your best to fit in the self-care and get the help that you need to be patient with your DS!
post #17 of 17
Op, my son does some things similar, and what I am finding out is that he needs to go to school. He needs more stimulation than I am capable of giving him. Some children are overwhelmed by many other children and some follow positive social pressure, and i believe my son is one of those. He just has so much to do and say!

Also, this too will pass, your son may be reacting very strongly to a new baby in the house. Especially if you had a few weeks of people helping you out, and now it is just the three of you during the day, it may mean he is not getting enough one-on-one time with you. If possible try to spend a few hours a week directly interacting with your eldest (my boys are 3 and one years old now, so I just went through this, believe me). I think it really impacted my son's adjustment to his little brother along with fostering an amazing relationship between the two of them. It really sounds like he wants your attention and may be feeling less than he is used to.

Also, try asking your son what he is feeling, or asking him if he is feeling frustrated you are not playing with him as much. He may have some surprising answers for you.

Good luck!
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