I Can't Be The First Guy With This Problem... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 34 Old 07-26-2008, 07:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm the boyfriend.

It's very serious, though, and S has a six-year-old son (H) who I love dearly and who appears to be very happy about me, too. I have no kids of my own—we're both 38—and I'm a little awestruck at just how much and how quickly H's affection has come to matter to me.

The situation is as complicated as you would expect: Dad lives in the neighborhood, he's nice but a slacker, and H spends a lot of time over there, especially during the summer. I can tell how long it's been since he saw his dad by how long he can go without mouthing off.

So the problem is this: despite the fact that I spend a great deal of time with them, the relationship is not yet so mature that I am comfortable pushing the envelope S has established with H in terms of discipline. Yet while he is generally well-behaved, I get the DISTINCT impression that H has begun a deliberate exploration of the boundaries of MY envelope, generally by acting in an exaggeratedly defiant manner that would be hilarious if I saw it on YouTube, happening to somebody else

My concern is this: while I'm honestly not much of a let-it-slide guy, I think we might ALL be more comfortable in the short run if I let THIS stuff slide. Besides, I fear there's a limit to how much you can correct a six-year-old before he just quits paying attention altogether.

On the other hand, if I let him mouth off with impunity NOW, on what basis will I establish any authority LATER? Even in a place with "commune" in the name, I have to imagine parental authority has some redeeming value.

Anyway, as I said before, I am VERY new at this, and I want very badly to get it right. Any help?
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#2 of 34 Old 08-08-2008, 05:44 PM
 
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Have you talked to S about it? I think that her opinion about your role is probably the most important factor here. Find out what she's comfortable with and go with that...

So this is bliss! Proud mama to Katie, born gently at home 10/4/09, wife to my nursing student hubby (LPN down, RN here we come!), and coming in September....Katie's little brother!
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#3 of 34 Old 08-08-2008, 05:58 PM
 
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Originally Posted by jscroft View Post
On the other hand, if I let him mouth off with impunity NOW, on what basis will I establish any authority LATER? Even in a place with "commune" in the name, I have to imagine parental authority has some redeeming value.
The thing is - you aren't his parent. This is really something that your gf needs to deal with, at least for now. I suggest bringing up your concerns with her.
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#4 of 34 Old 08-08-2008, 06:44 PM
 
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Maybe post in the step parenting thread. Good luck!

mama to two DD's, 7 and 3 (3 rounds of IVF and more FET's than I can remember)
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#5 of 34 Old 08-08-2008, 06:56 PM
 
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I began my relationship with my DH when my son was almost 6, however, there was no "dad" in the picture which made things a bit different.

My DH and I really struggled with this. In the beginning (think first two years or so), I parented pretty much alone. If my son was disrespectful, mouthed off, etc, to my DH, I handled it. It took a long time for DH to feel comfortable parenting, not to mention for our parenting styles to mesh.

At this point, as you are not his "parent", I would talk to S about how you feel. I don't mean to demean your impact in his life in any way. It can be a touchy subject, but I think every family is different. I have a friend whose bf was disciplining her two kids within a few months.

Good luck!
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#6 of 34 Old 08-08-2008, 07:01 PM
 
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I think it depends on, well, a lot.

I'm newly married and my DH is not my dd's biological father (but is very much a father to her).

In the beginning, he was not a parental figure and he respected that very much. However, he is a person with feelings. If dd were to say something rude to him, it was and is, totally acceptable for him to respond as one would whenever one is confronted with rudeness or disrespect. Something like, "Hey, that hurts my feelings. I know you are upset, but the way you are expressing is hurtful (or rude or disrespectful, etc)." Or even the very simple, "Hey, that was NOT cool."


But, I'm a person who has always given my dd a lot of credit to handle interpersonal relationships and I don't use punishments or discipline. So it's never bothered me when someone else has called her out (respectfully) on ill behavior because that's life: if you're rude or inconsiderate, people around you might feel upset or hurt. Your partner might feel differently or might have a really different style of parenting that involves specific consequences for specific actions. If that's the case, you'll probably need to leave it up to her for now.

But, really, just talk to her. Maybe bring up a specific instance of something that happened directly between you and H and ask her what she would have done or if she has any suggestions for what you might do next time something like that happens. If you have some ideas that you think could be helpful, let her know (NOT in the moment though) in a respectful way.


Good luck!
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#7 of 34 Old 08-11-2008, 10:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the replies... neglected to subscribe to my own thread, so didn't realize I was getting any!

S and I do talk about it, and openly.

To some extent, I think she has been doing this on her own for so long that she isn't aware of what she isn't seeing. BUT, she's honest enough that when I point out H in the act of playing her (or me) for a fool, she gets it. And I think she's really beginning to appreciate having some backup, and even not always having to play bad cop.

We're so close to being on exactly the same page that I'm not at all concerned about whether we'll wind up in sufficiently the same place. What DOES concern me is the question of whether too much caution here at the outset will undermine my authority with H in the long run. I probably spend some time on either side of the line, wherever it is, but I have to admit I'm biased against screwing up the best relationship of my life, and I worry about any conflict between that purely selfish desire and what I conceive as my duty to be a father to H in ways that his own slacker dad appears incapable of being.

H calls me Dad sometimes. Usually I can tell that he's firing for effect, rather than experiencing a slip of the tongue, but either way the sensation has a very Old Testament feel to it.
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#8 of 34 Old 08-11-2008, 04:39 PM
 
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It is awesome that you and S are on the same page. I think starting to help out at this stage is better than waiting (at least in my experience). We waited so long that it was a real issue. My son had a really hard time accepting correction or discipline from my DH.
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#9 of 34 Old 08-11-2008, 05:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It is awesome that you and S are on the same page. I think starting to help out at this stage is better than waiting (at least in my experience). We waited so long that it was a real issue. My son had a really hard time accepting correction or discipline from my DH.
Wow. How old was your son when you guys started getting serious? And how long did you wait, and what were the, er, milestones?
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#10 of 34 Old 08-11-2008, 06:36 PM
 
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I do not think there is ever anything wrong...no matter whose child it is or what your relationship with the parent is.....to express to a child who is speaking to you disrespectfully that you do not like it. You can say this in a respectful way. You do not have to be forceful or authoritative. You are not taking charge or administering discipline. You are not overstepping any appropriate boundaries by doing this. You have a right to speak up for yourself when a child or anyone is speaking to you in a disrespectful manner. If this child wants a friendly relationship with you (and it sounds like he does) then he will probably take your feedback into consideration when deciding how to act towards you.

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and 3 , in our happy secular
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#11 of 34 Old 08-11-2008, 07:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I do not think there is ever anything wrong...no matter whose child it is or what your relationship with the parent is.....to express to a child who is speaking to you disrespectfully that you do not like it. You can say this in a respectful way. You do not have to be forceful or authoritative. You are not taking charge or administering discipline. You are not overstepping any appropriate boundaries by doing this. You have a right to speak up for yourself when a child or anyone is speaking to you in a disrespectful manner. If this child wants a friendly relationship with you (and it sounds like he does) then he will probably take your feedback into consideration when deciding how to act towards you.
Okay, this is useful.

A couple of points:
  • I'm okay with addressing H in a forceful or authoritative manner. His mom's okay with that, too... presumably she has her limits, but I'm careful not to stretch that envelope much.
  • I'm also okay with taking charge & administering discipline... again, to an ill-defined point that I have a vested interest in not pushing very hard.

Now, I freely admit that I don't know much about kids... but I also have my doubts that a six-year-old is equipped to "take my feedback into consideration." My (still relatively short) experience with him—which squares with my gut—tells me that he is more inclined to register whatever portion of my feedback lies in line with whatever the heck he wants to do and simply ignore the rest. Example: he doesn't say please & thank you because it's the civilized thing to do, but because doing so is more likely to help him achieve the object of his desire.

Having said that, he DOES want a friendly relationship, no question. It just appears to be very low on the priority list compared with important stuff like getting a handful of chips or not having his toys taken away.

Call me naive—after all, I am that—but obedience seems to me to be a desirable quality in a child, both in the interest of domestic peace AND the kid's own safety. I really don't want to have to wonder if he is going to decide to rebel at the precise moment when I can see the dump truck bearing down on him and he can't. As I see it, one of his jobs is to OBEY... and seek explanations only after he has done so, if at all. MY job is to exercise that authority with a light and nuanced touch... in other words, to be a grown-up about it.

I make H eat things he doesn't like because I know that it's essential to the neural development that results in a very useful breadth of taste later in life. That development will occur whether or not he thinks I'm just doing it to be a bully, and frankly I'm not convinced there's anything I could do to convince him otherwise. Same goes with the math workbooks and a million other things: that he DOES them is far more important, in a real-world sense, than how he FEELS about it.

Not that I wouldn't rather he enjoy all those things! Of course I want him to have fun... it just isn't my top priority, and I can't imagine any experienced parent would suggest that it should be.

What you appear to be suggesting is that I should reason with H and come to a meeting of the minds on every point of contention. This strikes me as something akin to reasoning with [pick the tin-pot dictator of your choice]: he only appears interested in negotiation to the extent that it gets him closer to exactly what he wants, and he will make ANY deal with every intent to break his word the instant keeping it becomes the very least bit inconvenient. Plus he has the attention span of a sea monkey... not very conducive to rational argument.

Have I misunderstood you? Is there a strategy there that actually works in real life? Anybody else interested in weighing in?
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#12 of 34 Old 08-11-2008, 08:19 PM
 
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There are folks here who might suggest something similar to what you thought I was suggesting ! However I can't take credit for anything that well-formed....you got more out of it than I put into it And, in case it comes up, I don't practice CL (consensual living) with our kids so I would not suggest it.

All I meant was, you seemed unsure in your original post of how far across some line you wanted to step with the child.....I was not clear on where the line was, or how you felt about being an authority to the child, or how his mom would feel about it.....and just wanted to throw out that in all cases, to me it is never overstepping any kind of reasonable boundary to respectfully stick up for yourself when someone, even a child, has spoken disrespectfully to you.

I'm not saying that alone is enough to get a child to behave how you want all the time when you are in the position of being an authority figure in his life. (At least it's not enough for mine).

Really, all I meant is that when someone is unsure of crossing a line with disciplining another person's child, voicing your own feelings in a respectful way about being spoken to rudely is never overstepping anything.

And I do think that when a child wants a friendly relationship with an adult, there is a chance that they might consider the adult's feelings about how they are spoken to when those feelings are pointed out to them in a non-disciplinary way. I have seen my MIL (retired teacher) do this with our DS, and I have seen the teachers in his park district classes do it as well. He has a babysitter who does it too. He is five and he does seem to consider it when they tell him they didn't like something he did or said. He likes these people and wants their approval and for them to like him. Having information about how they feel about his behavior seems to be useful to him in choosing his future behavior with them.


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Originally Posted by jscroft View Post

What you appear to be suggesting is that I should reason with H and come to a meeting of the minds on every point of contention. ......

Have I misunderstood you? Is there a strategy there that actually works in real life? Anybody else interested in weighing in?

DS1 March 2003DS2 Sept 2005,
and 3 , in our happy secular
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#13 of 34 Old 08-11-2008, 09:20 PM
 
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I see wayyy too much emphasis on asserting your authority and having control. And I'd be having a serious talk with the mother about her parenting philosophies. At our house, all this obey and authority stuff wouldn't fly in the least. And I was a single mom when I met my dh. He had a lot of baggage from childhood modeling of parents as the authority figures and the need to control kids. My dds bio dad wasn't and isn't in the picture and I met my dh when dd was a toddler. Gradually dh learned what consentual living was and came to enjoy having relationships based on that instead of power plays. Our dd is 18 btw.

I highly suggest you visit the gentle discipline forum.
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#14 of 34 Old 08-11-2008, 11:24 PM
 
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Now, I freely admit that I don't know much about kids.
you might want to check out books about child development...you can't punish a kid into being more mature.
I still rail against anyone who tries to assert authority over me...I've been like that my whole life and my mother is quite proud of it.

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#15 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 12:45 AM
 
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...you aren't his parent...
Ouch!! He's trying to be a parent figure and he's trying to do right by the child. I think he's taken a huge step in the right direction by joining "MOTHERING" dot com! Good for you OP! Don't we have any book suggestions on child behavior and discipline book idea's for him instead of putting down his efforts from the get-go?

To the OP: Hello, and welcome to MDC!

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Maybe post in the step parenting thread...
Click here to get there.

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...I highly suggest you visit the gentle discipline forum....
Click here to get there.

Also, check out "The Childhood Years" forum. These forums are rich with awesome parenting tips for you and your partner to explore for the better of your family.

I think you're entirely on the right track to being a good parent to this child. It's also very good that you and your DP have good communication. It's obvious you care a great deal about both of them.

From my personal experience; I find with my DP (who is not my oldest sons bio-dad; but who's been in his life since he was 1.5 yrs old); is more respected than I am in parenting terms. If I tell DS he can't talk to me like that (for example); it holds far less weight than when DP says "hey, you shouldn't talk to mommy that way." and explains why "we need to respect mommy because she does a lot for us". DP spends a lot of time playing with DS; so DS sees him more at his level and listens to him more; where I'm more the disciplinary and 'task manager' for our family. DP is also selective about what he speaks up about, and I believe this is why DS is more receptive to him.

Keep trying new things until you find what works. Persevere, and you'll establishing a good solid parent-child bond; and a good healthy family with your DP.




WARNING: The comments and opinions expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of the community in which I reside; or those of the internet parenting network.
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#16 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 02:59 AM
 
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I have been amazed to watch my daughter grow and discover the ways in which all humans work in a fundamentally similar way. As you began to describe it, young humans pursue their current desire. The place where I can't agree is in assigning them more complex behaviors to the point of manipulation, or more simple behaviors to the point of narrow-focused pursuit of a single desire.

Recently my wife and I discovered that the more we spoke firmly to our daughter, the more she would mirror our behavior as she perceived it and increase her opposition to what we were directing her to do, or increase her volume in yelling back at us (whether we had been yelling or just speaking firmly/scoldingly). Thankfully, it didn't take long for us to realize she was speaking harshly because we were speaking harshly. I thought about this for a while, and realized, as so many parents do, that I sounded very much like my father, who I constantly heard as "flat wrong" when he would speak to me in a commanding tone, to the point that I found ways as a young adult to prove him wrong and undermine his authority because he was so forceful.

My personal experience recently has taught me that pursuing obedience is a losing game. The more I speak clearly with my daughter, making sure she understands either what I am saying or the intention of what I am saying, the better each situation is, and the less I experience her yelling back what I've just said, because I'm not just berating her or attempting to force her to do something. She listens, as you pointed out, because it may well serve to her benefit in what she's trying to achieve, but she also listens because I am not attempting to herd her in a direction she doesn't like from the outset.

The other thing that has worked well recently is to reserve firm tones for times when there is the possibility for danger. When voices raise, she knows there is a reason to be scared. This works whether she is pulling something off the counter, getting herself into a bad balance situation, or attempting to pummel the cat with a foam soccer ball.

As many have mentioned already, you'll have to suss it out with your partner and make sure you are both clear on the tacks you'll take and which battles are worth fighting. All I can really suggest is that you listen closely to how and what you expect to say to him by default, and imagine someone saying that to you. Regardless of age, I believe that all humans respond in a similar fashion: if what you are about to say would make you angry if someone said it to you that way, I suggest finding another way to communicate your sentiment.

Best of luck! Kudos for asking and working on finding a better way.

Man is this unlearning thing a challenge.
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#17 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 04:46 AM
 
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I see wayyy too much emphasis on asserting your authority and having control. And I'd be having a serious talk with the mother about her parenting philosophies. At our house, all this obey and authority stuff wouldn't fly in the least. And I was a single mom when I met my dh. He had a lot of baggage from childhood modeling of parents as the authority figures and the need to control kids. My dds bio dad wasn't and isn't in the picture and I met my dh when dd was a toddler. Gradually dh learned what consentual living was and came to enjoy having relationships based on that instead of power plays. Our dd is 18 btw.

I highly suggest you visit the gentle discipline forum.
::
definitely check out the gentle discipline board
and talk with your partner.

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#18 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow! Thank you—ALL of you—for your advice & encouragement. Not only were they useful, but they helped me past my new-kid jitters.

Uh... okay, first things first:

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I see wayyy too much emphasis on asserting your authority and having control.... the need to control kids.
Hm. If you recall, the issue that prompted my post in the first place was a certain defiance on H's part. So your "too much emphasis" is sort of my "sticking to my point." Besides, are you seriously suggesting that only a power-drunk totalitarian would insist that a six-year-old eat his small helping of carrots? It isn't like I'm holding him down and forcing him to fill out an absentee ballot for John McCain.

I'd never heard of "consensual living" until I posted here. I still don't know much about it, but I don't think I'd be going TOO far out on a limb to file it as a parenting technique under "experimental." I admire any attempt to expand the scope of human knowledge—I'm a scientist myself—and I'm sure there are kids (and parents) who naturally gravitate to that kind of thing. But I don't think they live at my house, nor at S's.

Anyway...

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmankono
My personal experience recently has taught me that pursuing obedience is a losing game.
Now THAT's interesting! It sounds like a Zen koan: to find the Buddha, seek not the Buddha. I get it. I'm going to need to ponder that principle a bit before I have a clear idea of how to apply it, but thank you!

llp34, I get it, and thanks for the clarification. I have often wondered how I might leverage H's desire for a good relationship with me—trading on my approval, Arduinna, haha! —to get him to toe the line. (Man, that's hard to resist!) I imagine that leverage will grow over time, but for now either my approach is wrong or there just isn't enough useful material there to work with. I'd be interested to hear some specific scenarios so I can more clearly see the techniques involved.

Good point, also, about reserving harsh tones and the rest of it. Nobody likes a one-note band. S very rarely spanks H, and that's essentially why not: where do you escalate from there? In the Navy (don't ask me why) we used to say, "Don't waste your silver bullets." Same principle.

On the other hand, though, H is a smart kid, and he's figured out that he can pretty much do whatever he wants UP TO the point where voices get raised. Sure, we can talk about it—whatever the "it" of the moment happens to be—but frankly argument is the one exception to his sea-monkey attention span. He can belabor a point for HOURS, until either we trot out the big guns or we throw up our hands and give in. And he's PERFECTLY aware that, as long as he can keep us talking, those carrots are staying on the plate.

So. I'm getting that the solution lies somewhere between "seek not the Buddha" and "if there are still carrots on that plate by the time I get to ten, the Batmobile is getting flushed down the toilet." Success stories, anybody?

Incidentally, I've checked out a number of parenting references. We Jews have a saying: two Jews, three opinions. The same principle appears to apply to parenting books, in spades. That's why I'm here: the authors of those books can't ALL be right—not globally, anyway—so I find I'm much more interested in hearing about what actually works than what some lady thinks OUGHT to work if only dogs and cats would burn scented candles and share sensual massage with one another. Or if Marine boot camp were an appropriate environment for a six-year-old.

I've been there. It isn't.

I will have a look at the other forums (thanks for the links), and I'll close with a final question: does anybody have a link to a page that might decode the crazy alphabet soup you guys use? DD, DH, DS, etc... I'm sort of figuring it out by context, but I feel like I'm missing some nuances.

Thanks again for all the help!

J.
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#19 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 11:39 AM
 
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Besides, are you seriously suggesting that only a power-drunk totalitarian would insist that a six-year-old eat his small helping of carrots? It isn't like I'm holding him down and forcing him to fill out an absentee ballot for John McCain.
Many of us don't make our kids eat things they don't like or want to. Many of us provide healthy food all day long so small helping of carrots is not going to affect anyone's health but letting them choose to eat what they eat and how much will give them sense of of their own bodies and that food.

Also you may want to be aware that calling a very infrequent spank a "silver bullet" will not go over around here.
I know you don't know and are willing to learn but on the GD board and all along in these foums discussions of PRO spanking are not allowed.
You can discuss alternatives with the willingness to want to learn a new way.

See you on the GD board

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#20 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 12:14 PM
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i think that in these situations, a lot of 'unconditional' love is really valuable.

after reading Alfie Kohn's book, Unconditional Parenting, i am even more convinced that this "obedience seems to me to be a desirable quality in a child, both in the interest of domestic peace AND the kid's own safety is actually incorrect, as demonstrated by this behavior "he DOES want a friendly relationship, no question. It just appears to be very low on the priority list compared with important stuff like getting a handful of chips or not having his toys taken away."

in typical discipline structures of punishments and rewards, the focus does shift from good relating and internal emotional consistency and self esteem to avoiding punishments (not having toys taken away) and receiving rewards (getting chips).

what i think everyone really wants from their children is not obedience, but a good, trusting relationship which creates an environment in which an individual wants to relate in healthy, happy ways. instead of choosing to do things to avoid punishment or seek rewards, children do things because of their desire to be helpful, to relate, and because of the internal moral/feeling compass that they develop.

i was basically raised in this unconditional way (as described by the book), so i do know that it works well. i had a very happy childhood overall.

i think that these practices of unconditional parenting can be particularly helpful for the "non-parent" in these sorts of situations. instead of being involved in being authoritarian, disciplinarian, or whatever else, you actually simply become involved with the child and develop an unconditional love based relationship that builds on mutual trust.

it doesn't require punishments or rewards, but it does require presence and communication. as a PP mentioned, if you are hurt by an action, instead of punishing it as "wrong" simply assert that you are hurt. i find that most children respond to this among "other" caregivers far better than whatever punishment/reward system the parent has set up (i do a good deal of baby sitting, so that's where i practice).

anyway, it's an option. i do recommend the book highly.
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#21 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 12:26 PM
 
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I had to respond because my oldest child pushes buttons a lot as well. Kids have so many things going on in their lives that they have to have some control of something. Especially at age 6 (My DD dear/darling daughter will be 6 in Dec)... they are capable of doing so many things independently and have so many major life changes happening. My DD, for example, started K yesterday and her 6 yr molars are coming in as well. She can dress herself, write her name and other letters, in learning to read, etc. So many things to "handle" on an emotional level. It stresses her out. So she needs to feel in control of situations. To use a specific example that you brought up - dinner time. I offer my kids a variety of healthy choices for dinner. I do make sure that they each have 1 thing that they truly love and if all that they eat is that one thing then that is fine. I am not going to make them eat all their carrots. So, for a typical meal at our house (using last night as a good example):
Baked chicken breast
Carrots (sticks for 2 girls w/ranch, cooked for me, dh, and ds)
Apple slices
Peas
Cheese cubes
Muffin

DD1 (the almost 6 yr old) ate everything but the chicken, DD2 had 4 helpings of chicken and ate everything else but the peas, DS ate everything but the apples. IMO (in my opinion everyone ate a very healthy meal. I always make 2 veggies for dinner and offer a fruit as well but they get to pick and choose which ones they want to eat. Sometimes one of the girls will eat apples and cheese cubes for dinner. That's fine too. Haven't you ever just not been in the mood to eat something?

Just had to put in my 2 cents about this. I have very strong feelings about forcing kids to eat. I have just recently started eating pork chops... I couldn't stand them for years and got upset every time I thought about them because my parents made me sit at the table until I ate my pork chop one time. I was probably about 8 years old. I'm now 32 and finally able to get past that hatred of pork chops instilled in me from my parents being so awful about it. (Side note, my mother made the dryest hardest pork chops... had to take a bite, chew for 10 minutes and swallow with lots of milk). I had to sit there for at least an hour, it felt like days. Please don't force a child to finish their food.

Beth
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#22 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 12:47 PM
 
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Hi and to MDC! This is a wonderful spot on the internet. I have learned SO much here in the years I've been reading.

Here is the link for the explanation of our accronyms: http://mothering.com/discussions/sho...d.php?t=522590


You've gotten some good advice here. I was raised in a very authoritarian household. So was my dh. That's how we started out parenting our children. Then I started reading here. I learned about a completely different way of parenting. Gentle Discipline. I was skeptical at first. The more I read, the more it resonated with me. We started practicing GD. I can't even begin to tell you what a positive thing it has been for my family. My kids "behave" so much better than they ever did when I was spanking them and trying to force them to obey with whatever form of coercion I could come up with. I get completmented all the time on how respectful and "well behaved" my children are. Yes, they are wild, free spirited and crazy little people, but I never have to punish them. It's really awesome.

Anyway, all this to say: I was very skeptical about the ideas put forth here at the beginning. I recommend you do a lot of reading in the forums linked to you previously. Then, you and your gf can take what you want from it and implement what you want for your family. There is no one right way of doing things. There is no magic formula. There is, however, a lot to be said for mutual respect and understanding childhood developement. I really like the books by Alfie Kohn. They make a lot of sense. I had to relearn a lot of things, but it's so worthwile.

Oh, and just so you know, GD isn't just letting the child do whatever they like, it isn't "neglect" parenting, or "spoiling" or anything like that. There still can be rules, guidelines, etc. It's just approaching discipline from a completely different angle.

Kudos for you for looking for answers. There is a lot of joy that comes from being involved in parenting a child. :
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#23 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 12:54 PM
 
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I know that you said that this boy usually mouth's off worse after visiting his father, but at 6, mouthing off is very normal. I was shocked at my sweet son when he turned 6. He started questioning my authority, sassing constantly, saying "no" just because he could. It is an age of testing. It's a good age because it really allows your child to experiment with people and find out how much power he has in the world. I think it's beautiful...and aggravating! After I realized that my son was experimenting with his power, I would laugh and ask him "who are you?" "Where did you learn that!?" and generally joke with him that he was growing way too fast for me. If he pushed it too far and was extremely rude, I would tell him that what he said or did was disrespectful and would offer other suggestions. If it was something that other people would find offensive, I would tell him that what he was saying/doing would keep other parents from allowing thier children to be around him. He needs to be allowed this stage with some instruction on how to use his newfound wit in appropriate ways.

Alfie Kohn said something that really stuck with me. We all hate "yesmen", but we act as if we want our children to be "yesmen" You can't have it both ways. Either your child is a "yeschild" or you let your child find some power.

As an adult with a lot of interaction with this boy, I absolutely think that you have the right to figure out how to deal with this. The child already has parents, but he also has to treat you with respect. You set your own boundaries. The fact that the child is calling you "dad" sometimes, means (to me) that he's open to allowing you to guide him.

Good luck.
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Our children make a study of us in a way no one else ever will.  If we don't act according to our values, they will know.~Starhawk Rainbow.gif  New  User Agreement! http://www.mothering.com/community/wiki/user-agreement

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#24 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 01:13 PM
 
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I would like to add for the OP that I am currently reading a book that I am enjoying and finding some helpful ideas that are already helping me with our 5 yo DS who has been in a rather defiant behavior pattern lately. You might find it helpful as well:

Negotiation Generation: Take Back Your Parental Authority Without Punishment
by Lynne Reeves Griffin

I am only about halfway through it so reserving final judgment until I finish it. But I am already applying the advice in it and it is already helping us be much more positive with each other around here

I realize this is not a book that may find much approval in the GD area here because it is definitely not about being consensual or non-coercive. However it is about being proactive and clear and staying out of the lose-lose scenarios of power struggles and punishment.

DS1 March 2003DS2 Sept 2005,
and 3 , in our happy secular
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#25 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 01:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by gmankono View Post
Recently my wife and I discovered that the more we spoke firmly to our daughter, the more she would mirror our behavior as she perceived it and increase her opposition to what we were directing her to do, or increase her volume in yelling back at us (whether we had been yelling or just speaking firmly/scoldingly). Thankfully, it didn't take long for us to realize she was speaking harshly because we were speaking harshly. I thought about this for a while, and realized, as so many parents do, that I sounded very much like my father, who I constantly heard as "flat wrong" when he would speak to me in a commanding tone, to the point that I found ways as a young adult to prove him wrong and undermine his authority because he was so forceful.

My personal experience recently has taught me that pursuing obedience is a losing game. The more I speak clearly with my daughter, making sure she understands either what I am saying or the intention of what I am saying, the better each situation is, and the less I experience her yelling back what I've just said, because I'm not just berating her or attempting to force her to do something. She listens, as you pointed out, because it may well serve to her benefit in what she's trying to achieve, but she also listens because I am not attempting to herd her in a direction she doesn't like from the outset.

The other thing that has worked well recently is to reserve firm tones for times when there is the possibility for danger. When voices raise, she knows there is a reason to be scared. This works whether she is pulling something off the counter, getting herself into a bad balance situation, or attempting to pummel the cat with a foam soccer ball.
Great points! I'd like to add a resource given to me by a good friend, who has three really great kids. I'm not saying they don't give her and her husband grief sometimes, just that they seem to have found a good balance.

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Mom of two girls.
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#26 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 02:55 PM
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in regards to parenting techniques being "experimental" i highly suggest that you look into cultural studies.

cultural studies are essentially the study of how something enters and becomes part of the culture.

many of the modern parenting techniques that we see today that are considered "normal" parenting are actually 20th century techniques that are far more "experimental" than most people realize. it's only because that is what they experienced that they think it is the "norm" (which it is) and that it has "always been that way" (which it hasn't).

to give an example of a cultural study, prior to the 20th century, 99.99% of babies were breastfed one way or another. whether it was by the mother, a wetnurse, or through a bottle of expressed breast milk--very few if any babies were on any sort of formula, and those who were were on traditional formulas such as poi or those made with animal milks, blood, and other mixtures to make them good enough to provide for a baby.

yet, in the 20th century, breastfeeding went from being the "tried and true" and the "experimental" bottle and formula feeding was adopted. Today, more children are formula/bottle fed than breast fed--and this is considered normal while breastfeeding is considered gross, dangerous, and to some "experimental."

It is important to note that ideas such as "The Continuum Concept" and "attachment parenting" are actually very old ideas. In fact, the continuum concept is based on the study of a traditional society that has lived in a consistent way since the stone age. This means that they have "experimented" with this mode of parenting for many, many generations, and overall have happier children and adults with fewer of the problems that we face.

while many of our problems can be chalked up to modernity itself, other aspects can be directly linked to how we treat children in infancy and childhood--including things such as discipline.

it is important to remember that while something may "feel" experimental to you, that doesn't mean that it *is* experimental or that what you assert as being healthy or normal is healthy or normal, or that it is what is best across the board.

I had the weirdest experience with a doctor who does accupuncture. He wanted to prescribe me some new medication for some such (i do not take medications unless absolutely necessary), and i suggested, based on my research, that we do the acupuncture route instead (afterall, that's why i'd chosen him as my doctor).

he then said "accupuncture is still experimental." and i looked at him and said "6000 years of history of application of chinese acupuncture is "experimental" but this new drug that is just out on the market isn't?"

so, remember to keep an open mind. it may seem 'experimental'--but the reality is that most of what parenting is today is theorhetical, experimental, and modern. they are ideas that have come up to us within the last 150, 100, or 50 years, and now many of us are looking back to traditional societies that still exist today to see what they are doing well, and also what we are doing well. . .

to create a parenting style that balances the unique needs of modernity while still meeting the inherent primal needs of each individual.
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#27 of 34 Old 08-12-2008, 03:11 PM
 
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jscroft, I want to commend you on trying to parent this child well -- and in my opinion, you've come to the right place to learn! Like others have said, give things you read here a chance, and then take what you need and leave the rest.

My guiding principle these days (my kids are nearly 7 and 9) is "relationship comes before behavior" -- meaning that if you have a truly trusting, respectful relationship with your kid, they will behave (for the most part, or with gentle reminders) in a positive way. Also meaning that in any situation, your relationship with your child is more important than correcting whatever behavior you don't like -- the correction naturally comes with the positive relationship, as kids are social creatures, and want to get along with the people they trust and respect. Like zoebird said, punishment and reward get in the way of the true nature of human interaction, and make the kid act the right way for the wrong reasons, or at times even forces the kid to "misbehave" out of a grasp for power...we all need to feel powerful!

as for the carrot situation, I find that the more I insist that my kids eat something, the less likely they are to actually eat it. My dd liked broccoli until I *made* her eat it one time when she didn't feel like it. Now I give it to her and say not a word, and every so often she'll eat it...if she's in the mood for broccoli. I try to just provide healthy snacks all day, and some days she eats really well, others not as well, but the fact is, she'll grow and develop just fine without daily veggies -- her relationship with food is more important than what she actually ingests each day, as the relationship is lifelong... same goes for parenting!

welcome to MDC!

We're Tiffani , Mark , Lucy (9/99) , Dexter (8/01) ,and Zachary Marvin (3/07) and Naomi Rose (6/09), home 11/10, by way of Ugandan adoption.

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#28 of 34 Old 09-05-2008, 06:41 PM
 
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I do not think there is ever anything wrong...no matter whose child it is or what your relationship with the parent is.....to express to a child who is speaking to you disrespectfully that you do not like it. You can say this in a respectful way. You do not have to be forceful or authoritative. You are not taking charge or administering discipline. You are not overstepping any appropriate boundaries by doing this. You have a right to speak up for yourself when a child or anyone is speaking to you in a disrespectful manner. If this child wants a friendly relationship with you (and it sounds like he does) then he will probably take your feedback into consideration when deciding how to act towards you.
As a stepparent, though... If the child's parent is in the room, the correction should come from the parent. Otherwise it sets up a "stepparent is SO MEAN" scenario in the child's head.

It's taken me 6 years to learn this. By all means, you should stick up for yourself when appropriate. But if the child says something rude to you and his mother just sits there and says nothing, then there is a mixed message being given to the child and the behaviour will escalate. So, you need to talk to the boy's mom and make sure that she is going to correct rudeness, every time.

Also, as stepparents we tend to have a lower tolerance for rudeness and other misbehaviours than parents do. We often need to readjust our expectations to figure out what is age-appropriate behaviour.

Finally pregnant with #1 and #2! Due September 9th, 2014 
   
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#29 of 34 Old 09-10-2008, 08:17 PM
 
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To the OP: I think you have gotten some great advice! Best of luck to you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laggie View Post
As a stepparent, though... If the child's parent is in the room, the correction should come from the parent. Otherwise it sets up a "stepparent is SO MEAN" scenario in the child's head.

***
I do not necessarily agree with this all the time.

I do think it depends on the dynamic of the (step)parents and the dynamic of the (step)parents to child(ren). I think you can politely, calmly say something without being forceful and without the need for the biological parent to respond.
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#30 of 34 Old 09-29-2008, 11:30 AM
 
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i dont know if the OP is still reading this, but i will put in my two cents.

my mother got a new boyfriend when i was about 6 years old, my mom had always pretty much just practiced CL (consensual living) with me up until then. every once in a while i would do something really dangerous and she would yell, got the point across, whatever.
when he came into the picture, he had the attitude that you have of needing to constantly "disipline" me. he would force me to sit at the table while i ate (i was and still am an upright grazer, hardly ever sitting for a meal, thats just how i work) and he would make me finish what was on my plate. as well as he started introducing spanking.

i still have therapy sessions to this day regarding the breech in trust i have with my mother for introducing this man into my life, and also regarding the fact that this guy had no idea he was harming me in any way.

i guess my point is that you have to be very careful with talking strict discipline, as it walks a very very very thin line with abuse.

no one likes living with a jerk, not to say you are one, but it does seem that you feel children are lesser beings with lower comprehension levels.
trust me, they comprehend just as much as you or i, maybe they cant explain that, but they do.

be careful if you choose to use force in your tactics, ESPECIALLY considering that you are not his parent yet and have yet to fully gain trust with this young guy.

children deserve respect just like everyone else.
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