Hello there --
I am a long-time lurker on these wonderful forums, and I've come here from time to time to gather resources/help/tips/etc. I'm finally coming out of "hiding" to make my first post here b/c I have a 5YO & I frankly don't know what I'm doing wrong in parenting him. I feel like I'm creating/have created a spoiled brat, & I'm hoping some of you experienced moms out there can give me some much-needed advice, or help steer me in the right direction--books, web sites, something! I’ll warn you all now, this is rather long (I guess I’m making up for not posting before!)….
(FYI, I first posted this in the Gentle Discipline forum, and got 2 helpful replies so far, but I just saw this forum too & thought maybe I'd get some more help from moms w/ kids the same age as my DS, so I'm posting my plea for help here too. Hope that's ok!)
So, here goes.... My DS1 is 5YO, & I also have a 6-month-old DS2. DS1 is very bright and overall a great, funny kid. Unlike his mom, he's also very social/extroverted. I've never really had any real "issues" parenting him beyond the normal developmental things that come & go. (He was a VERY difficult baby due to GERD & a MSPI, but that's a long story for another time & kind of irrelevant here. ;-)) Lately, as in w/in the past month or 2 (or 3…), DS1 has been VERY defiant, mouthy, full of attitude, & just overall pushing all my buttons! He has thrown the tantrums to beat all tantrums at home & in public--full-out screaming, throwing himself on the floor, running away from me, etc. He talks VERY disrespectfully to me & it really hurts my feelings--saying things like, as a (somewhat extreme) example, "I'm going to rip you up into a hundred pieces" or “I’m going to hit you in the face.” (He hasn’t actually hit me in the face, but he has hit me a few times in anger.) He will scream & carry on--not every time, but increasingly more & more often--if I ask him to pick up his toys before bedtime, to use the potty before we leave the house, to get out of his bath so he can get ready for bed, to not interrupt me when I'm on the phone, to wait a minute while I change or nurse DS2/go to the bathroom/put a load of laundry in before I help him w/ some non-urgent task.... It seems the simplest request from me can sometimes trigger a tantrum in him, but I never know what it will be. Sometimes he will just look at me & just defiantly scream "No!" or casually say “No way!” He's also been giving me & DH a hard time going to bed at night--coming out of his room again & again for the littlest things (which seem like silly excuses to me): "I hear a noise"; "The books on my shelf are messed up"; "My blankets need to be fixed".... DH & I try to calmly respond to these requests, & in & of themselves they’re not really an issue, but sometimes he’ll just flat out tell us he’s not going to bed. This latter bedtime battle often escalates to a screaming tantrum—the most recent one involved him repeatedly coming out of his room & throwing his stuffed animals out in the hallway, then throwing them against his door, making all sorts of noise & eventually waking up DS2! (I took said stuffed animals away from him until bedtime the next night.) Needless to say, he's falling asleep later & later--a few nights ago he wasn't asleep until 10 p.m., 2 hours later than usual! (I'm the first to admit that I do think there's an element of sleep deprivation going on here--it's a viscous cycle--and he does seem to have "better" days when he's gotten more sleep.) I am a big believer in natural/logical consequences, but I just don't know how to handle him lately. I have sent him to his room to calm down when he acts out & screams, etc., & that will work to diffuse the situation, but sometimes he'll refuse to go to his room & will continue to freak out. What do I do then? And even if he does calm down, & we talk about whatever caused the freakout to begin with, it isn't long before something else triggers him. And no matter how much I try to explain to him that he needs to be more respectful to me & DH, he just doesn't seem to get it. He'll yell at us, talk back to us, say "FIIINNNE" or "OKAAAAYYY!" if I ask him to do something. He sounds like a teenager! He's "lost" his manners & will "demand" that I get him more water or buy him a toy, etc. (More on the toy-buying later--another issue we're having....) I won't get him something (i.e., within reason anyway) unless he asks for it politely, but sometimes when I remind him of his manners, that can trigger a whole other yelling/shouting tantrum. “I KNOOOWWWWW!” And he'll actually pick arguments w/ me all. day. long. He'll ask me a question--it could be something as simple as what a word means, & I'll tell him the answer, to which he'll often reply, "No it doesn't/isn't." I try not to engage in the argument, but sometimes it's a matter of facts, & I'll keep trying to explain it to him & he'll get more & more angry until we're both yelling at each other! He'll also give DH a hard time if he doesn't do something the way I do it, or vice versa. He can throw a tantrum over it, or he'll just get very mouthy & say mean things about DH or me, like "He never does anything right" or "He never listens to me."
Today, after picking up DS1 from his weekly yoga class, I took him & DS2 to Starbucks, a special “ritual” we started years ago when DS1 & I took a mommy/toddler yoga class & something he really enjoys. He finished his snack & then asked for something else. I told him that we were leaving to go home & if he’s still hungry he can eat something else when we get home. He kept going over to the case near the registers & bringing stuff over to me—“Can I get this? How about this?” I kept telling him no & repeated what I told him about eating something else at home. He got increasingly upset & starting yelling, “You HAVE to get me something!!!!” I then told him we were leaving right now since he was freaking out. DS2 was on my lap, so I went to put him back in his car seat, & DS1 pulled the car seat out from under him, yelling, “No, we’re not going!” It was a good thing I hadn’t yet let go of DS2, or he would have been on the floor!! I told DS1 to stop & attempted to put DS2 in the car seat again, & DS1 pushed it away; he had his hands around the handle & wouldn’t let go! I told him firmly again to let go, we were going home. He pushed the car seat on the floor & then proceeded to keep kicking it again & again. My blood pressure was through the roof this time! I grabbed his shirt & told him to stop b/c he was going to hurt DS2. He threw himself on the floor & then started yelling, “Ouchie!! You hurt me!!” UGH! (Grabbing him by the shirt was not my proudest moment, but I was losing it here. ) I finally got DS2 in the car seat, & then said, “Let’s go!” Amazingly, he followed me out to the car, I buckled him in, & we headed home. We were silent the whole way home (except for DS2’s screaming off & on—he seems to hate his car seat lately. Why do I leave the house??!!). When we got home, he told me (out of nowhere) that he didn’t like my shoes… & then apologized a few minutes later for that comment & for acting up at Starbucks. I told him I’m glad he apologized, but we won’t be going to Starbucks for quite a while now, until he learns how to behave when we’re out. (He pulled a similar tantrum when we were out yesterday at a kids’ clothing store. I was looking for something specific for DS2 and for DS1; DS1 found the small section of toys in the store, pestered both me & DH to buy him 3 different toys, screamed when we told him no, yelling, “You NEED to get this for me!!” & then hit DH w/ one of the toys. We left right after that, w/ DS1 in tears b/c he didn’t get his toy.)
Of course, one would think that a lot of DS1's behavior could be due to DS2's arrival, & that might be true to some extent. However, DS1 is absolutely WONDERFUL w/ DS2--he dotes on him, showers him w/ hugs & kisses, reads to him, wants to play w/ him, talks to him, etc. He is a great big brother, & a big help to me when I ask him to help me w/ DS2. He hasn't shown any resentment toward him at all--unless his acting out toward me & DH is how he's showing it? Some of this behavior had been going on sporadically since before DS2 was born, but it has intensified since then. I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or not, but just though I'd mention it.
So, back to the manners issue--how do you all encourage good manners in your home? DS1 had always been very polite & others have always commented on his good manners, but lately his manners have been AWFUL, & he has been SO disrespectful to me & DH—just talking back & being mean, for lack of a better word. He has been SO greedy lately too. I feel like I'm creating this spoiled brat & I don't know how to undo it. He acts like he's entitled to whatever he wants--he actually said that to me & DH one day: "I can do whatever I want to." He also has said, "I can say whatever I want." I don't know where he gets this stuff! His grandparents have definitely spoiled him--pretty much any time he's mentioned a new toy he wants, it's arrives in the mail from my mom practically the next day! DH has certainly indulged him too lately, I think b/c maybe he feels guilty b/c he hasn't been able to spend as much time w/ him lately (due to work, etc.). But now it's gotten to a point where DS1 sees something he wants & he expects DH to run out to the store & get it. He saw some toy in one of the newspaper flyers a few weeks ago & threw a complete fit when we told him we weren't going to buy it for him, that he has enough toys & our family room looks like a freakin’ toy store!! He carried on for well over an hour about it. This greediness & materialistic streak really bothers me, & I'm not sure how to curb it. I certainly don't buy DS1 whatever he wants & I do say no to him a lot, but DH & his grandparents don't, so I feel like any effort I make is essentially useless. (Although DH has been seeing the “error of his ways,” so to speak, & hasn’t bought him anything in at least a few weeks.) We dealt w/ a lot of this greediness at Xmas last year--I remember trying to find age-appropriate books that would "teach" DS1 that greed is not good, but never found any that I thought would help. I had a lot of "talks" w/ him about it, but nothing seemed to ever really sink in--he just kept talking about all the toys he was going to get. Any advice here?
Interestingly enough, my parents were visiting 2 weekends ago & they had been planning to take DS1 to see the “Toy Story 3” movie, along w/ DH (I was going to stay home w/ the baby.) DS1 threw a HUGE tantrum at lunchtime about something—I can’t even remember what it was about now—and was screaming at me & DH. My parents were just shocked—they couldn’t believe how he was yelling at us. My dad decided he didn’t want to go to the movies w/ them b/c “DS1 is just going to act up again in a few hours.” My mom told me I shouldn’t let him go, that that would “teach him a lesson.” After DH & I had a talk w/ DS about his behavior (& giving him the benefit of the doubt b/c he was up too late the night before w/ the excitement of our visitors, plus my sister & her BF were here too), we decided to let him go to the movie. He had really been looking forward to it & he sees my parents who live in CA (we’re on the East Coast) only 2x a year. Both of my parents thought it was a mistake. I told them if I thought having him stay home & not go to the movie would “improve” his behavior, I wouldn’t let him go, but I didn’t think it would do any good. My mom ended up going w/ DH & DS; my dad did not. DS1 was very well behaved at the movie & had a great time (i.e., no tantrums, screaming, etc., & he kept telling DH & my mom “thank you for taking me!”). Weeks later, I’m still second-guessing myself & wonder if I handled this the right way. Would forbidding him to go to the movie had made a difference? Is this one of the things I’m doing wrong?!
Now, to give you more of the picture here, I'll admit that I don't think I've been handling things very well overall. DS1's behavior has been a lot for me to handle, along w/ taking care of an infant. I am very sleep-deprived (DS2 is not sleeping well at all), irritable, having trouble concentrating on tasks, & just overall unmotivated/lazy/too tired/too overwhelmed to do things like laundry, cleaning, etc. Patience has never come easy to me, but now I find myself losing my temper w/ DS1 a lot & yelling at him WAY more than I’d like to admit. I’m embarrassed to say that I’m sure he’s picking up a lot of his yelling/screaming/dealing w/ anger behavior from me. I need to find a way to dig deep into my patience reserves too, but it’s SO hard. When the baby woke up from a 20-minute catnap after not napping all day except a few minutes in the car, I actually started crying &, well, kind of yelling (not really at the baby, but just out loud), “Why won’t you SLEEP??!!!!” I feel awful & embarrassed about MY behavior too, but I’m not sure how to change it. These kids are really just wearing me out.
And as if on cue, DS2 just woke up from another catnap, so I guess this is a good place to end this post! A million thanks to those of you who actually read this far! And a billion thanks to anyone who can make sense of my sleep-deprived ramblings above & offer me some tips/advice/help in dealing w/ DS1. Even if you can just point me in the right direction—something to read, something to think about…. Other than trying to work on my own behavior (& I could use some direction here too), I am truly at a loss as to what to do & feel like I am the world’s worst mother right now.