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So sick of the ATTITUDE

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Really, is he a 4 yo boy or a 13 yo girl???


He is so unbelievably rude and I am just done with it. How on earth do you keep your cool with all the slamming around, eye-rolling and not listening AND not responding to your requests? When he doesn't use nice manners, I remind him and he generally responds to that. But for everything else, like slamming doors and shoving things around, no response but more slamming when I say, "Something is going to break. Please be gentle." Then what? So he can't use whatever he was mistreating? No biggie. I have a whole trash bag full of his stuff that was taken away last week b/c he refused to put it away. He hasn't asked for it back yet. I reminded him today that he could have his toys back when the remaining ones were put away and when he was ready to put away the ones in the bag. No response. I'd love to just donate the whole thing since he doesn't seem to care, but I know he'll be hysterical if I do that. And the rest of the stuff is "my" stuff -- dishes, cups, other kitchen stuff mostly. So what, he can't use dishes anymore? I'm having a tough time finding "natural" or even logical consequences to this stuff b/c there just isn't anything. I get so frustrated I yell, and I think that's what he's going for. I've tried talking to him, asking if he didn't think a particular time that day that we were all happy and getting along wasn't better than when he was rude and being yelled at for it. He said it was easier to be rude and be yelled at, so no big deal. Great.... Now what??

post #2 of 13

I hate attitude from kids, but they are human so we have to expect it.


If he is not ready to put the toys away, just keep them put away. I think it is overwhelming for a 4 year old to have to clean a huge mess at the end of the day, so I would keep after him throughout the day and if he takes something out and moves to the next thing remind him to put the other thing away. Or you could keep an eye on the clock and every two hours work together to put all things away that are not being played with. I have found that it works to put a kids CD on and tell the kids that for 2 songs we have to run around and put away as much as we can. You can make it a fun thing.


Attitude is hard. My five year old regularly puts his hand on his hip and tells me that I am not his boss. He says no to me all the time and sometimes he even gets right in my face with a rude expression on his face. I don't allow it. 5 minutes time out on his bed and each time he says or does something rude I add another couple of minutes to it. It is hard because he does it over and over. Yesterday he blew up about something really small and told my husband he was a stupid jerk. I think the sour feelings dissipate quicker if you keep your cool but stay firm. Always get down to his level after a time out or a hard moment and talk lovingly about how that kind of behaviour hurts your feelings and it is not allowed. Give him an opportunity to also tell you what is bugging him and make sure to be receptive to it.


Anyway, good luck!

post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

I have tried to ask him what is behind this behavior. The only answer besides "I don't know" or "I just felt I wanted to" was "You and Daddy yell at me." Well, yes. We do. After we have asked him nicely a gazillion times to get dressed/eat breakfast/stop throwing toys/put stuff away/wash hands/anything. I explained that we are frustrated at having to repeat ourselves but that yeah, being yelled at isn't fun. And yelling isn't fun. So what can we do to make Mommy and Daddy feel less frustrated and you to feel happier? I don't know. ARGH!


Then, after the bazillionth time out of the day (which don't seem to work, so I'm hoping for a better idea here), I do sit with him to talk about it. I say, "It hurts Mommy's feelings when you say mean things." Response: "No, it doesn't." He CANNOT listen to anything we say. I say, "Hitting hurts. What did I just say?" He can't tell me. It's not like I'm lecturing him for hours and expecting him to repeat it all back to me. Three or four words, max, to sum up the problem of the moment, and he can't even focus on that.


He is NOT ADD. Or any other special diagnosis. He just can't/won't pay attention. That on top of the deliberate rudeness is driving me insane. He is not learning a lesson from his timeouts. He just knows he doesn't want to be in his room alone. He even came up with the bright idea to bring toys with him so he's not bored during his timeouts. Brilliant! (No, I don't allow that, but he thought it was a great solution.)

post #4 of 13

We were suffering with a lot of that recently (with DS, who is soon to be 9). First thing I did was take away kids' programming for a week. He picks up the snark and smart answers from the cartoons & such which pander to kids by appealing to their lowest instincts. And if kids go to school, I am sure a lot of it rubs off from other kids.


Also, we had to make the choice. Are we a power/dominance-based family, or are we a respect/freedom-based family? (in the respect/freedom model, we do the right thing and help each other out because we want to. We are motivated to help because we want to help. It doesn't mean that we all sit around like bums and do nothing.)


We are homeschoolers (mostly unschoolers/eclectic), so we have lots and lots of freedom to create the life we want. And I had realized that though I have always SAID I wanted to be respectful, get cooperation from all family members, take all family members' ideas and needs into account, etc. --at the end of the day I still pulled rank and used all sorts of manipulative things to get my way. From outright force on one end of the spectrum to "going on strike" at the other end of the spectrum (when I ceased getting cooperation).


So yesterday I sort of took a vow of silence. I said a few words here and there, but mostly, what needed communicating didn't need much in the way of words. And since my WORDS hadn't been helping and were probably hurting anyway, the period of silence really helped. Gave me space to think, and gave him the space to not need to react to me. And wouldn't you know it, yesterday was awesome! No nagging, no forcing him to do things "because he needs to learn how." Just space and respect, and requests (i.e. "no" being an option). An example being, he had made a big construction paper project and the paper, tape and scissors were left strewn all over the floor after he was done. I really WANTED to say "can you put that away?". But it was quiet-day so I thought about it. Why did I want him to put it away? Yes it's all over the floor, but why didn't I put it away? Because I wanted to teach him that HE needs to pick up after himself. But the constant telling, teaching (unwanted by him) had created such resistance. And did he really NEED me to teach him about putting things away? No! He already knew it. So I said "Hey, is that my tape over there on the floor?" and he went to get it. And then I said "Someone's going to slip on those scissors." And he not only picked them up but put them away in my art studio! And then I said "Is there any construction paper left in that pad?" He picked it up to look "Yes." So I said "Do you remember where it goes?" And he put it away in the craft area! All without my issuing any orders. He knew what to do. So when I take that approach where I get all resentful and think "He needs to learn!" I need to step back and say "Why? Does he really? Or does he already know it and you have some OTHER reason for wanting to compel him to do it on YOUR timetable?" (it is worth asking. I harbor resentments and scripts that date back to my own childhood)


Anyway, today, I decided to keep the minimal talking thing going. And we had the most miraculous result! The things I had been TELLING him to do previously (creating all sorts of resistance), he suddenly did by himself. On his own!! And he's been pleasant all day. Every so often he comes over to kiss me and goes back to playing.


This from a kid who was being a stubborn and disrespectful jerk the other day. You know, phrases like "Make me" and "Back at ya." and all the sass and body language that goes with it.


What I'm trying to say with this disjointed-sounding story is that it matters how WE behave. It is no coincidence that I've been reading my new John Holt book "Teach Your Own" that I picked up at the used bookstore the other day. He reminded me of just about everything I've been doing wrong. And just in time, I think. I felt like I was ready to move out of the house the other day, it had gotten so bad.


Well it's time to go out. I'll check back later.

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

I think you are right. When we get tired and crabby, we are not as "forgiving" in our language as we could be. DH loses his patience before the first time he even asks DS to do things sometimes. We definitely need to be more mindful of our choice of words and tone.


That being said, I have done the "asking" before: "Where do our dishes go when we're finished eating?" Sometimes he brings them into the kitchen with a huge "look at me I'm a big boy" smile and sometimes I get the dirty look, eye roll, and "I don't know. You put them away." That makes me want to slap him. Not want, but it's more of an instinct. I literally feel my arm twitch.


So then what? Be a doormat and put them away for him? If I said, "Someone's going to slip on those scissors," He'd say either, "No they're not" or "So?" So then I do the picking up, and he can't have them back again for awhile. No big deal, he'll do something else. So where's the consequence for the rudeness and not putting things away? There is none. Just Mommy being a servant picking up after the boy. What am I missing? (Other than to check out the John Holt book.... I'm on that.)

post #6 of 13

I think it's that mommy-as-servant mindset that gets us. It is my weak spot, seriously. And it makes me petty and vindictive. What if it weren't a power struggle? What if we didn't have that dialog in our head that unless we are forcing fairness, we are doormats?


This is going to be a hard point to put into words but I am going to try anyway.....


Kids can sense our spirit. If we do things for them, we can either do it with a willing and generous heart OR we can do it with a resentful attitude, a zero-sum-game attitude. They absolutely can sense it, and I believe it is THAT they are reacting to.


I wonder if that made sense. Let me try again.


They KNOW that when we do something out of a "sheesh I am a doormat waiting on you" place, we are angry or disappointed with them. We don't feel good about them and they don't feel good about themselves either. No wonder they put up such a stink about helping out. It's a power struggle.


Don't get me wrong. I am HERE with you in this. I was raised in a sort of parenting-as-commerce model....in other words, I do this for you, if you do this for me, and if you don't do this for me, I don't want to do anything for you. Stingy. Ungenerous. Unhappy. This was my home of my upbringing. And, truth be told, I get real resentful because my own mom was drunk most of the time and so I seriously got stuck with doing WAY more than I needed to do. I take it very personally sometimes when other family members leave me to pick up their messes. But then I remember that the past is past, and if I want to, I can take my new family life in a different direction. Our relationships don't have to be based on power and dominance. It isn't strong-dictator-father OR wishy-washy-doormat (my own family of origin). There can be a third way, where everyone is respected, even kids. In our society, it's weird to respect kids, to listen to them, to think they have anything to teach us other than the usual Hallmark-card-sentimental type stuff like looking at the world with wonder.


Do you acknowledge when he does something right....even the smallest thing? Not as in giving praise (because again, that would be about US and our judgement) but just noticing and acknowledging. They need that. I truly have come to believe that rotten snarky behavior comes from someone who feels bad about themselves.


Today my son did a great job for the first half of the day, keeping track of his video watching time all on his own, and sticking to his limits. In the afternoon, not so much. He ran way overtime in the afternoon. And almost made us late for robotics class in the process. But I didn't lecture him, as I would have before. I said "You did a great job this morning keeping track of your video time. In the afternoon, I notice you didn't use the timer, and that allowed you to just keep on going and not stop on time. So we were nearly late. I hope next time you use the timer."


If, tomorrow, he doesn't use the timer and/or he looks like he's going to go overtime again, I won't threaten, but I will say "In order to be able to continue watching videos this week, you will have to keep track of the time and stick to your limits." If he does not, then the following day the password on the computer will be changed and he'll take a day off from the videos. No lectures, just limits. I fully expect him to protest if that happens, but oh well, he will survive and, I expect, he will learn from it. But I won't get all in his face with words, words, and more words. In fact tonight, he was moaning "Why do I have to have limits!!????" I said "Is that a rhetorical question?" To which he said No. I said "Since I've already told you why you have to have limits, I don't want to repeat myself. If I repeat myself too much, your ears might fall off the sides of your head and run out of the room." Of course this cracked him up and defused the situation quite nicely.  :-)


As you can see, I spare my son the many words, but I don't spare you! Hope this wasn't too long.



post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

It's never too long! I think I'm more like him than I realize/want to admit. I need constant reminding. ;-) Reminding that he's only 4. That none of this is personal. That just because I'm grumpy doesn't mean he's not affected by my attitude and not going to reflect it back to me.


And as I'm typing this, I'm hearing DH's stern voice, full of annoyance, stooping to his level and engaging instead of letting things go....


We had a decent day today. He tried some of his usual attitude and not listening but I managed not to engage. He refused to eat his lunch so he had it for dinner. He really didn't think I was going to make him eat his lunch before he got anything else to eat, and then insisted that he needed "help." DH muttered that I shouldn't help him, but I compromised and helped him with one bite and told him he could do the rest. He did. Then he ate a plate of spaghetti and half a piece of garlic bread. It took a long time (DH went off to pay bills and I started cleaning up the dishes) but he ate and there wasn't a power struggle, no one taking his plate away and threatening not to give it back.


I'm going to have to talk to DH about being more conscious of this, and hopefully he will be willing to give it a try (as he starts to yell at DS for fooling around in the bathroom instead of standing on the stool for teethbrushing). It's too much yelling. And obviously, reacting to his obnoxiousness with anger doesn't make anyone feel better.

post #8 of 13

Yeah, getting the little ones through the bedtime routine can be VERY frustrating. Ours is almost 9 and even now, he will go into the bathroom to brush his teeth, shut the door, and then 10 minutes later I can hear him in there, laughing and telling himself stories. What a riot.


It really struck me when you said your DH didn't want you to help DS at dinner. That is very belligerent, wouldn't you say? I mean, you guys are not on opposing teams, parents vs. kid (right?), so I can see that if the mindset is one of opposition, your son will pick up on that. And he's too young to know it. At this age he just reflects like a mirror. At 8 our kid can talk about whether I'm being unfair or not practicing what I preach, but at age 4, no way. He probably would've bitten me (and he did). My understanding of when parents get mad, is that it's usually something else, like fear. As in "I am mad because he won't eat his dinner because I am afraid he won't get enough nutrition." or "I am mad at him not going to bed on time because I am afraid that he won't get to school the next day and the whole school will come to see us as inept parents if this keeps up." or "I am mad that he won't obey me because I am afraid it means I am a failure as a parent." All these little things can float through our heads and turn us into beasts.  :-)


It's hard, because so much of conventional parenting wisdom says there is so much we need to do TO our kids to FORCE them to be some ideal that we don't even really live up to ourselves. It's a small wonder they fight back. But I always say, they have a lot to teach us, if we are smart enough to listen. When my son was 4, I had ZERO idea of any of this. I am just sort of figuring it out now. But whatever happens, even when I am utterly clueless, I am honest with my son. I will come right out and say "Look, I know this is frustrating for you. I know these rules probably make no sense to you. But Dad and I are here to take care of you and here is what you have to do right now."


But I believe that nobody can expect "good behavior" from their kid if they are in combat with that kid. It is just not possible. If the parent is using force, the kid is going to use it right back, in whatever way is available to him. Unless you break his spirit or something, and I don't think anyone wants that. So to achieve the ends you're seeking, ask yourself if there is a better way than fighting him. There are so many resources out there. Here are a few of my favorites:


Between Parent and Child , by Haim Ginott
P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training), by Thomas Gordon
How Children Learn, and Teach Your Own by John Holt (re: homeschooling/unschooling)
Kids, Parents & Power Struggles, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk, by Faber & Mazlish
Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey

post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 

I have been borrowing books like that from the library right and left, and just need to keep reading so it stays fresh in my mind. I have even left them in the bathroom for DH to "find" but I don't think he's read them. I have tried to talk to him (and need to again) but I just don't think he's on board with this mentality. It is so foreign to him b/c he was raised with even more yelling than I was. Dads are stern and yell and aren't "friends" with their kids. He wouldn't come right out and say that (I don't think) but that is the mentality that he was raised with and that his instincts lead him to.


Thank you for the list. I have read some of them, but will look for the others. I have the day "off" today, so hopefully that will be a big help too. (Poor Grandpa....)

post #10 of 13

I find this very, very challenging. I, too, was raised in a family where strictness and punishment were allegedly the way to get kids to do the right thing.


Politically, I've been studying George Lakoff's explanation of "frames" (our ways of seeing things), and his idea that there are two main frames: there's the "strict father" mentality and the "nurturing parent" mentality. Now, mind you, he talks about politics this way, but my assertion is that these frames affect how we see EVERYTHING, not just politics, but personal dynamics at home, in the schools, etc. So if he really, truly BELIEVES that being strict and scary is the way to raise a good kid, you will not be able to persuade him otherwise.....easily.


I am a case study in this. Raised in an authoritarian system where no one DARED contradict my father (and then soon after, we were in a single household with a mother who was utterly the flip side of that, and not in a good way), I had been very heavily indoctrinated in the rationale of force & punishment both politically and interpersonally. I was NOT ready to give any of that up, but then of course life has a funny way of teaching you things. I met and fell in love with my husband, the total political opposite. He, too, had been raised in a traditional authoritarian home but for some odd reason he had NOT been afraid to think for himself, to read (history was his favorite subject, so he knew it all quite comfortably) and lo & behold, when I would state my views, he would calmly cite facts to the contrary, or ask me questions, and soon I realized that my views were not really mine, per se, but instead were me perpetuating what my overbearing yet charming and intelligent father had drilled into me (with much fear, I might add) all my life.


So once I started asking questions and reading and considering other ideas, slowly but surely I left behind my old authoritarian ways of thinking, but even so, BOY did it take a long time for that stuff to let go in the field of childrearing. So now, I am on the polar opposite side of everyone in my family. EVERYONE. They are all operating under the old system, unquestioningly. My brother, who is raising his kids in the authoritarian manner, has disowned me because my politics are now different. He probably thinks we're a bunch of crazed hippies out here in the East (they are Midwest).


My point being, your husband's beliefs likely run very deep. He is probably afraid. Afraid of failing his kid, afraid of doing it differently than his parents did, afraid of being one of "them." I would say the best way to approach this is do some reading and get evidence to support an assertion (if it's yours) that the strict disciplinarian stuff may indeed ensure short-term compliance, but it increases many other undesirable things. Not the least of which is a diminished relationship with your son, but also the son maybe feeling he needs to sneak to avoid punishment....you know the drill. I distinctly remember thinking just that when I got to college: "Now they can't see me; I can do anything I want." And I had been set loose in the world with NO internal rudder, no ability to think and evaluate. It was all about getting the good grades, and what my parents didn't know about the partying couldn't hurt them. I wasted many years.


Try and convince your husband that not being angry and forceful does NOT mean you don't want your kid to follow the rules, eat right & all that. Not at all. You are just advocating a different route to get to a desirable result of a home where family members are not at war with each other, but love and respect each other, and do the right thing because they are strong, because they have made the choices freely, because the kid is secure that the parents have "got his back," through thick & thin. These things will serve you as he goes into the teenage years, and he starts to face some peer pressure decisions, and do you want him to think "I can do this [wrong] thing as long as my parents don't find out." OR "I won't do this because it's wrong."


Wow. Something about this topic has got me writing some really long posts. This means a lot to me, I guess. :-)



post #11 of 13
Thank you, ladies! I so needed this today!!! 5 YO DD and I have been locked in a power struggle for weeks now and I was just this morning thinking that I'm the one who needs to change my attitude/behavior. I'll definitely check out these books since I really have NEVER seen gentle/respectful parenting in practice. I really want that for my kiddie but I'm finding it terribly difficult to model behavior that I've never seen. I'm trying, though! I'm so sick of all the yelling and constantly doling out time outs and I know here's a better way. Thanks again for the insight and inspiration smile.gif
post #12 of 13

Yeah, sometimes it is so easy to lose heart. I find myself wondering....am I crazy? Is it REALLY possible to go to the other side? But I have to persist. Because I've seen the devastating results in our own family and in my own life, and there is nothing I have ever been given to do that is more important than raising my child.

post #13 of 13

Another person's post reminded me of these wonderful free webinars from the author of one of the books I recommended:




I just watched the one on Perception and it really seems to address what we are talking about here. I hope you find them helpful; I do.

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