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Is it too late for our son?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I am a little nervous writing this, because I know what you will think of me once you finish reading it. I am only doing this because my husband and I want to help our son and stop yelling and screaming at him.

I had never heard of GD until I came to Mothering a few months ago.

We don't know what to do with Keltin. It seems like all we do is yell, scream, spank and time out him. He's three and a half and very active and very challenging. We've talked to some teachers and they think he might benefit from a behavior therapist, but we don't want the therapist to label him ADD or ADHD or whatever.

The final straw was when I went to give Keltin a hug and he pulled away from me, IN FEAR, that he'd get hit. We do smack him when he screws up, not knowing what else to do. As I'm writing this, I'm crying because I am ashamed. I just don't know what to do. I know that what we're doing is not right, but we were both raised with spankings, timeouts, etc if we were bad.

Please, is it to late to start gd? If so, WHERE do we begin? I know that everything we do is wrong. I don't want to raise our 7 mth old daughter the same way, and I don't want her around all the yelling all the time.

Can you please, PLEASE give any insight? Have we ruined our son? We love him so much and want to raise him to be a good man. He really is a good kid underneath all the activeness. I don't want him to be afraid of us, that really really hurts. I love him so much.

Thank you for your time.
post #2 of 21
I attended a relationship workshop many years ago for women taught by a woman who had had some tragic and difficult things happen in her life. One thing she said was

"You don't know what you don't know."

When you were raised with punitive means, that is what you know. In order to do differently, you need to learn differently. That is a process.

You know that spanking does not work. I'd start with that. Can you commit to NOT smacking or hitting or pinching or in any other way cause physical pain to your child in order to get him to change his behavior? Think of things you can do instead of spank. You can walk away. You can just simply stop, freeze your body and breath deeply. If you can stop your behavior (spanking), it allows you the space to think of a substitute.

I am currently reading Alfie Kohn's book Unconditional Parenting. I would strongly suggest you get it and read it with your dh. See if it is available as a book on tape or cd. Maybe your husband can listen to it on the way to work and you can find some time to read it maybe when the kids nap and at night you can discuss what you have read. It is really helping my dh and I to get a clear picture of how we want to be with our child.

And with your child is the key. It's not about what you want to do to your child to get them to behave but what you want to do with your child to raise them to be caring responsible successful whole people.

Good luck.
post #3 of 21

I don't have any magic advice, but I want to send you lots of hugs!

I don't think you are too late! EVER!! Children are very resiliant.

Changing the way you communicate will be harder for you than him and "results" may take a while, but it doesn't sound like what you are doing is working for him, so you can only improve

I suggest these few books that might help:
- The Discipline Book by Dr. and Mrs. Sears
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber/Mazlish
- Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Bailey

The last one is kind of advanced, so I'd recommend reading How To... before Easy to Love.... The premise is that EVERYONE is "easy" to love when they live up to *your* expectations of how they should behave, but it's when they fall short or act *completely* differently that it's hard to look past your own frustrations, stay calm, and stay in communication with your child/spouse/friend/etc.

These books might help you change the way that you talk to him, listen to him, and react to him. They are not going to teach you how to *make* him do anything, but about how to set up the environment and his knowledge of your expectations to *encourage* him to **choose** to act in ways that will work for both of you.

Good luck finding GD practices that work for you!!
post #4 of 21
"We don't know what to do with Keltin. It seems like all we do is yell, scream, spank and time out him. He's three and a half and very active and very challenging. We've talked to some teachers and they think he might benefit from a behavior therapist, but we don't want the therapist to label him ADD or ADHD or whatever."

If he weren't challenging as a 3 1/2 year old, I would wonder if there were something wrong with him! I mean, what 3 1/2 yr old isn't !?
So please don't let anyone tell you your son has ADD! My goodness, it's far too earlier to assume he's got a screw-loose.

I've been in your shoes and felt awful, because I was a single parent for a few years to a young dd. I myself am young and had a lot to learn about being a mom. But I was depressed and it came out in my parenting. My dd is actually a very well-behaved child, but I wasn't in the right place.

You've realized this isn't something you want to do, and now you have to put it into action. Your son is counting on you to be the adult, meaning that he will tend to be challenging for his age, but you should be able to handle it maturely. This means instead of with spanking, with creative discipline. I think the best form of handling a challenging situation is diversion. Completely remove him from the situation that is causing him to misbehave.

When dd starts misbehaving, I remind myself that the most important thing that will teach right from wrong is my example. I have to set a good one.
Baby steps, and good luck,

post #5 of 21
It is NOT too late. Make a life decision right now to only touch your children in kind, loving ways. You can do it. Your motivation is the look in your sons eyes when he is frightened of you. Since some of your actions may come out of reacting, you need to come up with an alternative reaction. The good old counting to ten works. Stick to this decision as if your sons life depends on it, because in a way it does--who he becomes depends on it.

I agree with pp, choose a gd book to give you some solid structure to your daily routine with your son. You'll never regret taking the steps to guiding and teaching your child rather than punish him.

Good for you for having the courage to ask for help and guidance. I wish you luck and patience. I, too, have a "spirited" child and I know it can be very challenging. If you want to PM me, I'm happy to chat with you and we can share our trials and tribulations.
post #6 of 21
Also, on a seperate note, could his diet be contributing to his behaviors?
Additives, food colorings, preservatives, refined sugars, can all make it even harder for a child to concentrate and perform at his best. Perhaps you've tried changing his diet already. If not, consider it. Again, PM me if you need some suggestions.
post #7 of 21
Today is the day to change your relationship with your child. The best thing to do is think of all the discipline problems as your's and your partner's. Make a goal- no matter what the hitting has to stop. It just doesn't work and makes everyone angry. Sit down with your partner and make a plan and promise to back each other up. Nothing your child does matters right now, just the two of you changing your pattern. Do whatever it takes to not yell, not hit, not lose it.

There are two ways our brain parents- logically, the stuff you know, you read, you decide, you pick and instinctively- from your gut. The instinctive stuff is from our childhood, from our fears, from our insecurities and it happens so fast, you don't have a chance to decide. So mostly- take a breath and think..."how do I want to handle this?" No one takes a breath and thinks and then decides to yell. Not really. If you can take a breath, you can change your parenting. Come here, come often, get support. And you will struggle, it is hard to change your behaviors. Just do better every day. It is so worth it.
post #8 of 21
I understand your predicament. My very spirited daughter (who is 2 1/2) would do something and in response, almost without thinking he would smack her bottom, or put her in time out or something else that we realized in the end didn't work. For us, it's the realization that those things don't work. Just understanding that is the first step. Then the research starts. Read all you can, but read slowly, absorb and try to relate it to your relationship. For us it was a matter of our first reaction not being one of anger, but of understanding. So when she would do something that we didn't like, we had to learn to stop, breathe, and think. THEN react. It's an entirely different manner of thinking and behaving, but it is possible. The fact that you realize that what you are doing isn't working is the first step, now just keep on steppin'
post #9 of 21
I dont think that it is too late. At least I hope not. We were where you are not long ago. These are hard things to change, we are still working on not yelling and screaming at the kids. We used to spank but have made the decision to only touch with love. *sigh* Our 5 year old is very high energy, very impulsive, has concentration issues etc....we are researching dietary issues so what a pp said may have some relevence for you as well, but this behavior is normal at 3 1/2 also so it just may be how your son is. s to you again and if you want to talk to someone who is on the journey to change also, please PM me or IM me!!!
post #10 of 21
(when i started responding, there were no replies, but i am slow :LOL. i will post this anyway)

it is not too late
it is hard to break the cycle.

you are on the right track -- you are aware of what you are doing, you have asked for help. it WILL get better.

i would start by reading the following books:

Easy to Love Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey (she addresses parental issues, lots of 'how to')

How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk by by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish

Hold on to your Kids by Gordon Neufeld (philosophical support for GD ideas)

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn (philosophical support again)

Playful Parenting by LAwrence Cohen (great ideas).

Don't be too hard on yourself -- it won't be a smooth road, but you will get there.
post #11 of 21
I also want to recommend the book "Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline" by Becky Bailey. At the beginning of the book she asks you to make a choice. There is a fork in the road and there are two paths: one is discipline through fear and one is discipline through loving cooperation.

The best part is that she says in the book that every moment is an opportunity to start again. In other words, if you explode one moment, you can recover in the next and start again. She feels (as do I) that it is NEVER too late.

I think you are a very courageous woman to come forward and admit these things and ask for help. It is not too late. And won't it be nice to have peace in your household instead of anger? It will not happen overnight but if you work hard it can happen. Children are very forgiving so you must be to.
post #12 of 21
I agree with previous posters that it's never too late. It takes courage to admit that it's time to change your discipline method.

If so, WHERE do we begin?
A great place to begin is to start reading any of the books suggested by previous posters. Start building a gentle discipline "toolbox". My favorite gentle discipline tool is the positive timeout. For my family this means that when my son's behavior is out of control (whining, screaming, flailing limbs), my husband or I take him into the bedroom and read books or play on the bed until he is feeling better. It is a distraction from whatever he is melting down over, he gets some attention and sympathy, and it works like magic. Some people even have a special cuddle corner or comfort corner for positive timeouts, where they put comfy pillows, loveys, books, and whatever else may be soothing for the child.

Another tool that helps us a lot is empathizing and reflecting feelings with my son. It helps avoid a lot of meltdowns. For example, when we're in the car and he starts whining that we forgot to bring Berry (his bear, which means a meltdown is on the way), I might say, "Oh no! We forgot Berry! You must miss him! I wonder what he'll do all by himself at home?" I'm always amazed at how well this works. Knowing that somebody understands their feelings, and that their feelings are valid, works wonders for a child's inner peace!

Try not to dwell on your mistakes, but think of all of the positive changes you are going to make in your family.

post #13 of 21
Another parenting tool I have is to remind myself that I am not responsible for my child's feelings or expressions. What my job is is to help her channel her emotions in a way that is not harmful to others or herself.

If my dd were to cry and become upset about not being able to have something, I would say to her "It is upsetting when you can't have something you want. I understand." And I would not do anything to get her to stop crying (like threaten her, or belittle her by calling her a baby or spanking her). It's a legitimate reaction for a small child. If I am in a public place, I handle it just the same way. I care far more what my child thinks of me than any stranger on the street. All the while, trying to keep in mind that I am not responsible for her feelings.

Gotta run, I'll be back later.
post #14 of 21
I love to see posts as yours!! It's never late to change and I admire your courage and dedication for the new wonderful GD adventure that you are about to begin with your son. Enormous, big hugs to you mama
All the book references that have been mention here are great, I'm sure you will enjoy reading them. I also suggest you to stay close to the Toddlers and GD Forums, there are wonderful mamas here with great and creative ideas. There's a very interesting thread about Spirited Toddlers.
I hope you will never have to feel the fear from your son again, you are on the right path!
post #15 of 21
No, it's not too late at all!! You are a brave and strong woman and mother to admit parenting faults and ask for some guidance. That strength is going to help you change your parenting for your ds.

I don't have much to add to other posters. I'm quite 'new' to GD and the things that have changed my parenting are reading many of the books suggested by pp and on the GD book sticky. Some helpful ones for me thus far are 'Playful Parenting', 'Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline', 'Kids are Worth It' (I'm reading this one now and so many of her quotes and insights are very inspiring with regards to understanding where your child is coming from and how you want to impact and affect your child's self-worth). 'How to Talk So Kids Will Listen' is another good book with lots of specific examples of how to communicate with your child.

And, of course, the GD board has been an invaluable source for me. There are so many 'real-life' examples and suggestions offered by other moms that I learn something new everyday.
post #16 of 21
I suggest a wonderful book called Raising your Spirited Child. It explains spiritedness and has real help for parents to adjust to their high needs child and parent in a loving and workable manner for all involved. It's possible that your ds is spirited and that you and your dh are also. It is that way in my household and makes for interesting evenings around here sometimes. (more on that later)

My first suggestion that went thru my head was that if your ds is "always misbehaving, etc..." then it's a real possibility that you are expecting him to act developmentally like a much older child, not the actual 3-1/2 years old that he is. It's also important to understand that self-control (which is what we use to stop ourselves from yelling when we feel like yelling, stop ourselves from spanking when it is our first reaction to something, etc....), self-control is a learned trait. If you are not modelling self-control to your child at whatever adult age you are now, but you are expecting your child to exhibit self-control at 3-1/2 years old, your expectations for your child are set too high and that just sets him up for failure every single time. It is an unrewarding situation for you both. You don't get to have your expectations met and he doesn't get to have any support in his day for being a good child (that you say he is). If you lower the bar (which is not giving in, it's gentle parenting and only expecting what a child is able to do is just plain common sense), then your son gets to *win* in his day and gets to feel good about himself a lot, which motivates him to do that again and again and also helps him to see that you value him for *who he is* which again increases his self-esteem and helps him to learn how to behave in a way that also happens to make you happy.

I also recommend Nonviolent Communication. It is a wonderful help in my parenting and makes SO much sense and since you will have a lot of help in your changing your initial reactions, you won't feel like you are *losing* in your *battle to get your child to behave*.

I think it is important for you to feel like a *good parent* since it will help you to continue on your journey in love for your children. You obviously do love your children and that is the first huge step in the right direction. Your ds is so young, he certainly has plenty of time to build up his self-esteem and learn behaviours that please you and him simultaneously.

In my parenting, I am a natural yeller. I personally don't stress about a bit of yelling here and there as long as it isn't every week/day, it's part of my culture, I am a spirited adult, I'm not perfect, etc... But I also don't have a lot of rules that my 2 yr old toddlers are not able to live up to so I am not put in the position often that I actually *want* to yell at them. If they are doing something that is very dangerous such as jumping up and down on the kitchen counter near the sink where it is wet and they are holding a butter knife that they got out of the drawer (yeah, this happened, I have spirited toddlers too here), I actually feel like yelling at them to stop jumping and get down! That's not safe! It's a gut reaction to a really unsafe behaviour. But it's better to just tell them calmly to sit down and I just run over there and grab them before they fall and put an eye out. And then I put away all the knives where they can't reach them again.

I think it also helps me a lot that I perceive the toddlers behaviours more as *wow, they are so smart that they figured out how to get into that cabinet* or whatever it is they are doing that really I would prefer they didn't do. That way I don't get mad at them, I see their inquisitiveness as what it really is, a learning behaviour that toddlers need to do. Then if I really think it is inappropriate, I childproof better so that they can't get into it again (until they get even smarter). It helps me a great deal to not have a lot of *no's* in my repertoire and to expect them to not know how to stop themselves yet from getting into danger, etc... And if they aren't in immediate danger, then they are allowed to do it. Although LOL I am still trying to get my dd to understand that I prefer crayon on her easel and paper and not on my floors/glass doors/walls/furniture. But I don't yell at her about it, I just redirect her 25 times a day. And I only purchase washable Crayola crayons now, b/c they wash off immediately with no scrubbing and no stains. I figure at some point she'll learn to draw on paper or become a muralist and either way, I'm cool with that.
post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 
Everyone, THANK YOU so much. I had braced myself for negative responses, but I am so relieved that everyone has been supportive. I really do want to change how we treat our son and change so that we don't make the same mistakes with our baby daughter. I know this will be a hard road, but it will be worth it. I have done great today, no spanking, and only yelling once. It is hard to take these baby steps but I know with time it will be easier.

I will try to change diet, thanks to posters who suggested that.

Just saying "Thank You" doesn't seem like enough. I was so worried about posting the original message, and had been putting it off for quite awhile in fear.

I wish I could give each one of you a big hug. Thank you.
post #18 of 21
Your child is 3.5 years old- it's most definitely NOT too late to GD him!!! If your son was 35, I'd say it's too late to GD him but there's hope for your grandkids

I'm not sure exactly where to begin- I guess read all you can about GD and start with whatever seems to "click" with you. It will likely take your DS some time to re-learn trust, and he may try and test your limits a LOT when you first change discipline styles- "Hmm, Mommy says she won't spank me, but I wonder what she'll do if I put my sister in the garbage pail...."

Good luck!
post #19 of 21
: You've gotten some great advice here. I can't really add anything except that I am also a big fan of the book, "Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline" by Bailey. If you decide to read it, try to be prepared and have an open mind. For me, it really shook my previous experiences and beliefs about how to parent and caused me to take a big step back and regroup. It wasn't easy; it's a lot of work but I sooooo believe it is worth it.

Best wishes to you and your sweet boy.
post #20 of 21
NEVER TOO LATE! What a lucky little guy you have. He has a mom who is trying to make the best life she can for him and looking for the tools to do. How many other moms would do that? Precious (truly precious) few.

All the book recs are great. Three year olds are just hell to live with sometimes! I have one who is just starting to come out it. There is a period of disequilibrium that all three year olds face. Harder on us or them? Who knows?

Take your high-spirited little man to the library tomorrow and pick up some of the books that have been mentioned. As he is throwing a fit when you leave (as three year olds often do), carry him lovingly. Give him empathy, "It is so hard to leave when you are having such fun." Wipe his tears and take a deep breath for yourself.

At three, they know that you cannot control their bodies. You cannot make him stay in one place (without sitting on him); you cannot make him not scream (without sticking a sock in his mouth), etc. They only person you can control is you.

You CAN do this. After I read Unconditional Parenting, I looked at my three year old and said, "No more time outs. I am going to do better, and as a result, you will too." At first, he got kind of fired up about no time outs. Woohoo! Party! But as I started to work with him in the instances that I previously would have worked against him, the 'need' for time outs decreased. UP will change the way you look at your kid forever.

Go, mama, go! If you need encouragement, we always are here.
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