For example this weekend we took a family vacation and yes I understand that kids are excited and what not but I do not think I can just play this off as boys being boys. He asked if he could have this candy coated popcorn I said no let's choose a healthier snack, so he goes to his stepdad and I thought he was just getting him to get something else but no he comes out with the flipping popcorn I said no to. I took it away and later made him throw it out, but he didn't even seem to care that he was throwing it out which in hind site i should have thrown it out right when we bought it. Later he asked what was in a box I was holding; I said that was his step dads adult item and to leave it alone. Thirty seconds later he opens the box and is waving it around saying what is this? I flipped out and told him he can't be doing whatever he wants and he needs to listen to me. Last night was the tip of the iceberg, we were goofing around with him and his 9 month old brother and he smacks me with his book not hard or forceful but enough that I told him that was not a nice thing to do and he cannot be hitting people. A couple minutes later I was pretending to be the baby and him and his little brother were the dads and out of nowhere he punches me in the back and tells me I can't be a baby anymore! WTF!! I sent him right to bed without a story told him he needs to use his words not his fists if he needs something. So he's balling and screaming in his room and said he wants to talk to me; I go up there and he said he's sorry he overreacts all the time and doesn't know how to deal with his emotions. He still wanted a story I said no it was bed. So he comes downstairs at least two more times for I don't even know what I finally threatened him and said if you come down one more time you're grounded.
I do not want to have to threaten the kid to get him to listen to me, but it's like he thinks I'm a joke. He is a very smart kid, well above the average for his class, so I dont know if he actually has no idea how to control his emotions or if he thinks He can get away with this all by saying that. I have no idea how to discipline him or get him to listen anymore. If someone had some suggestions and advice for peaceful parenting and gentle diaciplne I would appreciate it.
I do wonder if there's something developmental at this age. I have a 6 year old boy as well, and he's acting similarly as well. He's actually fine when it's just him and adults, or him and children his age/his friends, but he is having a very hard time when I'm talking to other adults or when his big sister is talking to her friends.
I'm afraid I don't have any other advice, just commiseration. We are working on getting him more sleep, as he's an early riser and I see circles under his eyes some days, which is clearly not helping his mood. Other than that, I try to point out to him when we're having a nice time together, and to remind him that we will be able to do that again the following morning, if he can show good behavior the rest of the day. (We have quiet time together before anyone else is up, chatting and reading). We talk about what that means. We talk about what to do instead of hitting, or instead of snatching things. In the moment, I end up yelling, which isn't helpful, and taking away privileges, which also isn't helpful.
We are trying something starting today that's a bit of an incentive system to see if it gets us back on the right track, where he can earn special privileges for particularly good behavior at a challenging time. So tonight what we talked about was that if he could wait calmly while his sister was in her ballet extra class, even though it was a late night for him, tomorrow we'll get donuts for breakfast. It's bribery, but it's also a bit realistic. He's going to be stuck outside her class regardless. If it's enjoyable, I'll have enough energy for breakfast out. If it's a disaster, I will not...
Book loving, editor mom to 2
The hitting thing is not ok. An exagerated response (tears from you) may have triggered more empathy. Also, when my kids do things like that, it is followed by a very lengthy conversation about why it is wrong to hit, what caused them to do it, why it was probably not a good idea, and what to do next time. We concentrate on the incident, at length, until I feel there is some sort of resolution and plan for the future.
Punishing a child for hitting (sent to bed, no story, etc...) has no produced a second, larger conflict in the eyes of the child. He is now not focused on why he hit, but on his anger and frustration at being punished.
6YO's are still little and impulsive. They need a lot of gentle guidance. He'll grow up soon enough.
" rel="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/familybed2.gif"> DD1 12/05, DD2 12/08
Computer Engineer- I write better in 1's and 0's. ;-)
My son is a lot like this at times, and has been for years. I know that some of our problems come from my being inconsistent and over-indulgent with him when he was 2-5 and I was frequently overwhelmed by migraines, and from his father's refusal to learn and use effective strategies with him rather than yell and throw self-centered fits--we are nothing like perfect in dealing with this, and that's probably why it's been such a problem for so long, but we're working on it! What I'm going to tell you for each of the examples you gave is what I would do if I were having a good, effective day, because these are strategies that usually work when I actually use them.
This is an issue between you and his stepdad, as well as between you and your son. Address it immediately with both of them.
To son: "Hey! I said to choose a healthier snack. You know you were not supposed to have that popcorn. When I say no, that means no. It doesn't mean ask other people until you find someone who says yes."
To stepdad: "I wish you hadn't bought that for him. I guess you didn't hear me say no." (If he tells you he DID hear you but thought you were wrong, and launches into a whole thing about how you never let the kid have any fun...stop him ASAP and say you'll discuss it privately later. Make sure you do. Work out a policy about healthy snacks vs. treats that both of you agree to stick to.)
We don't waste food. I would let him keep the popcorn but explain that there will be no more sweets today, only healthy snacks. Then stick to it. Even if the whole rest of the family gets ice cream cones later, he doesn't get one, because he already had his treat. If stepdad did anything less than fully acknowledge the popcorn purchase as a misunderstanding--so you feel like you can't trust him not to buy the kid more treats--keep the kid with you and do all the food buying yourself.
Sometimes when my child has gotten a treat I told him he couldn't have, after I've spelled that out for him he finds that the treat seems not to taste so good after all. I try to talk about that the way Mister Rogers would: "When I said no but you got it anyway, that made a bad feeling. Now the bad feeling gets in the way of enjoying the treat." or even just, "Oh, it's not so tasty as you thought it would be." I don't have to hammer on the point to get across that this is something to think about next time he's tempted.
Sometimes he'll offer to share the treat or give me the rest, and I make sure to praise his generosity. I won't eat it if I truly don't want to, but I try to refuse graciously instead of being nasty about how I would never taste such crap. If it turns out that he ate a very small fraction of the treat, I take that into consideration when deciding about the next treat opportunity--but I don't mention it until then, and if he immediately starts trying to negotiate with it ("Since I shared most of my popcorn, can I have soda at lunch, and can I have cotton candy later?") I shut that down quickly, reminding him that he wasn't supposed to get the popcorn and I want him to remember that.
I assume you weren't able to keep holding the box so that he couldn't get it? The best thing to do if I really don't want him investigating something is to put it where he can't get it and can't see it anymore. But I realize that on vacation, if you were walking around and also caring for your baby, that might not have been possible.
Take it away immediately. Say, "I told you: It's not yours. It's for adults. Leave it alone." Respond to any further protests by repeating these three sentences like a broken record.
KSLaura has a good point about an exaggerated response triggering empathy. Yelp in pain. Give him a very wounded look like you just can't believe he would do such a thing to you. Don't speak to him for a moment. He might take this opportunity to apologize. If so, accept the apology, but don't feel you have to act like that makes everything instantly better. Say something like, "Thanks.... It really hurts. I'm going to put some ice on it."
If at all possible, make his violent act disrupt what is happening. (Obviously, if he hits you while you're packing the diaper bag before racing out to catch a bus to the airport, you can't just stop. But if you're playing, stop.) Do something to treat your injury, or just say, "I need to rest until it stops hurting," and move aside holding the injured part and looking sad. If baby brother is present, take him away with you and explain to him, "When someone feels like hitting, we move away. We don't want to play a game where anyone gets hit."
Avoid speaking too generally: "You cannot be hitting people." Focus on how he hurt YOU and show him that it hurts your body and hurts your feelings.
No story. But stay and talk with him about how to deal with his emotions. Teach him the song "What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?" which suggests some safe ways to act out your feelings. Tell him some things you do when you feel frustrated.
It sounds like you were too angry with him and too overwhelmed by all these incidents piling up, to accept his apology or to stick around and talk with him. I understand that completely. There have been times when my son was finally apologizing for his bad behavior and begging for my forgiveness and help, and I just slapped him away (figuratively) with my hostile, dismissive, I've-given-up-on-you attitude...and I know this harmed his development and our relationship. I'm only human, and sometimes I just can't keep on being patient and kind when I've been pushed so far. But when I do recognize and make use of an opportunity like this, we can make a lot of progress.
Show some love. It's scary to feel yourself overreacting and losing control of your behavior. You don't mean to hurt people. Sometimes you just don't know what to do. Everybody feels this way sometimes. We all have to learn, as we grow, more and better ways of dealing with our feelings. Sometimes in our family it seems like we just can't stop feeling hurt by each other and wanting to hurt back. It's hard to be strong enough to stop and to stay stopped when the others haven't stopped yet so it's not fair how they are still hurting your feelings. But we love each other and need to work on this together. Let's talk about nice ways we can deal with our feelings.
He kept coming downstairs because he was upset and couldn't sleep, and because he wanted to connect with you. I know, you were too burned out on him, you didn't care what he was feeling, you didn't want him around. I know. But he knew it too, and it terrified him. He kept coming back to see if maybe you had started loving him again. He probably realized you weren't going to like it, but he kept trying anyway because he didn't know what else to do, because his feelings were too big for him to handle by himself. This is a time when bedtime can be delayed a little bit, not with stories or getting to stay up doing something distracting, but with some extra time with a parent lying next to him, cuddling him, talking with him.
But if you're trying to do that and he suddenly kicks you? Or he's arguing with everything you say and yelling at you? Table it. "I can't stay with you when you're kicking and yelling. We'll talk tomorrow about better ways to handle our feelings. Good night! I love you!" Then make sure that you do make another effort at talking gently about it tomorrow--don't get busy and let it slide.
I hope this helps! This is hard stuff. I get very tired of being the grown-up.
Mama to a boy EnviroKid 9 years old and a new little girl EnviroBaby !
I write about parenting, environment, cooking, and more.