I'm not being heard. Advice? - Mothering Forums
The Childhood Years > I'm not being heard. Advice?
swd12422's Avatar swd12422 08:59 PM 03-22-2012

DS has always been a little... in his own head. I just chalked it up to his age (twos, then he got a bit better at three, but maybe he's a bit delayed there in the social realm....) Now he's four. I can't get through to him, whether it's to pick up toys or leave his younger (foster) brother alone or go wash up. I get so frustrated that he ends up in timeout for not listening. Timeouts do NOT work with him. They work okay for FS, but not for him. He just can't wait to get out. At the end of each timeout, I go to him, talk to him about why he's there and what we can do differently next time. His answer to that one is "I don't know." or "Behave better/use nice manners." Okay, but you said that LAST time and you didn't do it!


Even when I tried to talk to him about the changes in our family since our FS came to us, he couldn't look at my face while I talked and couldn't listen to what I was saying. Believe me, I kept it short and simple. I don't lecture. He gets lost by the second word. I even stop after each phrase/sentence and ask him to tell me what I just said so I know he heard me, and sometimes he can, but then he doesn't act on it five minutes later.


I end up frustrated, sometimes yelling b/c I feel like that's the only way he can hear me. Not how I want it to be. How do I get through to him?

LynnS6's Avatar LynnS6 09:43 PM 03-22-2012

What do you do when you tell him to do something? Do you go over, touch him gently, get down to his level and tell him what to do? Do you gently escort him when he needs to go do something? It sounds to me like he's easily distracted. If that's so, you may need to be physically present with him/physically assist him to get these things done. We always had to be with our kids to do things like picking up. They'd do it if we were alongside them, but would get distracted by toys if we asked them to 'pick things up'. I know he looks huge compared to your younger son, but he's still pretty young to expect to be able to do a lot of things he doesn't want to on his own.


And, have you  had his hearing checked?

swd12422's Avatar swd12422 08:25 PM 03-23-2012

It's definitely not his hearing. I do think he might benefit from more of a presence with him, but I also have times during the day where I need him to play nicely so I can get stuff done. Even if I'm right there, he finds a way to annoy the little one, doing things he knows will cause a tantrum. Or he does things that he has known are no-nos since day one (like jumping on the furniture, throwing toys, being unbelievably rude, etc.) and has never really done them except when he's wound up and excited to have friends over. But now he has a full time "friend" and the behavior is off the charts.


I've asked him if he knows that whatever particular thing he did was not how we do things here, and he says yes. I ask if he could have made a better choice, and he says yes, and sometimes even identifies the better choice (although most of the time it's "NOT do that..."). But then he goes off and immediately continues the behavior that got him in trouble or something comparable that he also knows is not a good choice.


It is SO frustrating. I have talked to him at night, in the dark with no distractions and only get a little further. I feel like our relationship is deteriorating and I don't know how to fix it. All we do is timeout, yell, punish and I don't want to do that, but GD is not working for us at all with him. I even try positive reinforcement and again, it just results in an immediate reaction to do just the opposite. Then he's upset when the consequences come along and can't figure out what went wrong.


As I type, he's arguing with DH about kicking the furniture. "WHY??? <kickkickkick>" REALLY??? WE DON'T KICK ANYTHING EXCEPT BALLS OUTSIDE. THAT'S @#$%^ing WHY!!!!!!!

transylvania_mom's Avatar transylvania_mom 09:13 AM 03-24-2012

Does he like books or legos? I had (have) the same issue with ds (except rudeness) and if I want him to behave while I'm doing something I give him some books or legos to keep him busy. Now that I have a toddler it doesn't work any more, but that's another story.



swd12422's Avatar swd12422 09:35 AM 03-24-2012

He likes both and has plenty of toys that can capture his attention when he's willing. But he's not willing when there is another kid in the house he can follow around, annoy, or track to make sure the kid doesn't break his stuff. I tell him all the time that if he can't play nicely with the younger one, he should go and play somewhere else, with something else. He just. can't. do it.

meemee's Avatar meemee 12:29 PM 03-24-2012

do you get alone time with him. just him. just the two of you? and the same with his dad?


i think you need to figure out how to spend at least 20 mins alone time with him - if you are not doing that. 20 mins with your full attention on him doing something he likes. 


his actions seem to me a kind of protest. a kind of forcing your attention on him. or a child getting used to a new sibling. 


also (not to make you feel belittled) how are you asking him to play nicely? are you being specific or are you telling him to play nicely without defining what play nicely means to you.


the kicking the furniture, the arguing with dad - to me are signs of protest. to get a reaction out of you. 


if he is scared of his toys breaking (is he a perfectionist) then go over which ones are his specific treasured toys. and put them away where FS cant get to them. and then make it known that the rest is for both of them. 


how long has it been since FS entered your life. i think along with being 4 your son is going through many emotional changes that is making life hard for him. 


developmentally he is VERY much into the very egocentric stage. life is all about ME. expecting him to be anything else is asking for trouble. 


but you as a parent keep repeating what you expect out of him. in a few months he will get it. 


if your FS is fairly 'new' you need to watch their play more often.


i cant remember exactly what age, but i think it was till about almost 5 we had to watch dd play with her bf VERY closely. 4 was a very hard age for her bf who is a perfectionist. he would lose it if dd didnt play his way. if she put together the puzzles the way she wanted to. then maturity suddenly hit - like a light switch overnight and they played well together and did not need any supervision. 


and mama to put it gently - i think you are expecting a lot out of him. 


is he getting a lot of wrestling time with daddy (or you if you can do that). that is a magic pill which really helps a lot of children (to get physical and emotional workout at the same time).

LynnS6's Avatar LynnS6 12:33 PM 03-24-2012

Do you phrase things in terms of what he should do? So, instead of "don't kick the chair" are you saying "keep both feet on the floor"? It does make a difference.


But really, given the how clear you are that he can't do what you ask (and not just won't), l'm wondering if it's time for an outside consultation. Clearly discipline methods that work for most kids aren't working for him, and it's understandably stressing you out. I think I might start with a developmental assessment to see if there are some underlying causes for his lack of impulse control (that's really what you're describing) and the fact that he simply cannot remember to do what you've asked him to do. It could be sensory, it could be language understanding, it could be allergies, it could be attentional (though no 4 year old should be identified as ADHD because many of his behaviors are typical for the age), it could be something else.


Then I'd consider maybe seeing if you can get some parental coaching/family therapy. When the conventional methods aren't working and your relationship with your child is being affected, it's time to call in someone who can help you think outside the box. If they can see you interact with your son and see how he responds, they might be able to help you find ways that we can't to reach him.


The only other advice I can give is:

You need a break. You're sounding like you're at the end of your rope. What recharges you? For me, it's puttering around the house while no one else is home. Sometimes, it's a blissful 2 hour nap. For my husband, it's going for a long drive with no destination in mind. For others, it's going for a good long run and taking a hot shower. Whatever it is, get your husband to take both kids for a couple of hours where they won't disturb you, and get your break.

meemee's Avatar meemee 12:39 PM 03-24-2012

Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

The only other advice I can give is:

You need a break. You're sounding like you're at the end of your rope. What recharges you? For me, it's puttering around the house while no one else is home. Sometimes, it's a blissful 2 hour nap. For my husband, it's going for a long drive with no destination in mind. For others, it's going for a good long run and taking a hot shower. Whatever it is, get your husband to take both kids for a couple of hours where they won't disturb you, and get your break.

YES YES YES!!! right on Lynn. that is what i got too. 


swd12422's Avatar swd12422 02:53 PM 03-24-2012

Thank you both, Lynn and meemee.... I love reading your posts b/c you two are always right on.


Yes, FS is new (9 days new). Yes, it's a BIG adjustment for everyone, especially with him not sleeping through the night just yet. Yes, maybe I'm expecting too much of my 4 yo, but he has regressed back to 2 yo behaviors and it drives me batty. Nevermind that it's just not appropriate behavior. I've explained to him that FS needs some time to learn the rules but he does get timeouts too when necessary. (And he usually takes them much better than DS ever has.) I've explained how important it is that we all model good behavior to teach FS instead of imitating his unwanted behaviors and making it seem like those things are okay. DS is turning it around, saying that since FS is doing it, DS feels it's okay to do. Argh.


Yes, the bad behavior is a cry for attention. But he is GETTING attention from us. Just not all of it. On nights that DH puts him to bed, I go in to have special time with him at the end of the day. And I make little pockets throughout the day too. I am even doing little things like making sure I put his plate down first, letting him choose dessert, etc. so it doesn't feel like FS is taking over.


Yes, we went through his toys and removed what he felt he doesn't want to share. He still has a bunch of stuff out there, much of which he's never played with, or hasn't in a long time. My parents bought him a cheap old-fashioned top several months ago and he has NEVER ONCE used it. But yesterday, as soon as FS found it and started trying to figure it out, DS freaked and asked me to hide it so it wouldn't get broken. I refused. It has not been touched since.


Yes, I am getting one-on-one time with DS, as is DH when possible. (Right now they are out while FS is napping. I spent an hour with DS this morning out of the house without FS, and spend and hour+ with him in the afternoons while FS naps. Maybe he needs more than quiet time cuddling? You may be right about the wrestling...)


Yes, today I made it to the end of my rope. It just doesn't seem that a "recharge" like reading or napping during quiet time in the afternoons is enough. It's enough to get me through the rest of the day, but by dinnertime or bedtime sometimes I've just had it. It's more a break than a recharging. I can't seem to get it to work that way.


And yes, I think it may be time to get an eval. This morning the kids were playing roughly, rudely and downright dangerously IMO and I lost it after redirecting them several times and each time they found something even worse to do. I told them they had plenty of toys to play with. Everything else is off limits. That didn't work either. After I lost my temper and got it back, I sat DS down to apologize. We talked about making better choices and I told him we can't make good choices unless we stay calm. I had him repeat, "Stay calm and make good choices." He cried and said he couldn't do it after I asked him to say it a second time. I swear, you'd think I was torturing the kid.


I had him in timeout and asked him to repeat the phrase in his head. He said he couldn't. I told him there would be a test, and a few minutes later, I asked him what he needed to do. He couldn't tell me. I said it, he repeated it 5 times. I waited a couple minutes and asked him to repeat it again. He couldn't. With prompting, he made it but reversed the order. I waited again and asked again, and he couldn't tell me. (He came up with "Be calm and be a good listener." Be a good listener is always his answer to what he could have done better in a situation, unless it's "I don't know.")


So he definitely has an attention .... issue. Whether his is normal for a 4yo or not I guess I'll have to find out.


Gawd, if it's dietary, what could it be??? He doesn't drink much milk (I know dairy can be a biggie) -- gluten? That's the only other biggie I can think of that he eats in quantity. He doesn't eat much in the way of processed snacks, artificial colors, etc. (although I don't know what goes on at school... the snacks there are mostly "healthy" but can be things like granola bars and canned fruit.)



AllisonR's Avatar AllisonR 03:03 PM 03-24-2012

He is 4 and just got a new sibling. His life has completely changed, radically. It takes time to adjust to a sibling. And in the meantime, there is often reversion to babyhood. And if that is coupled with the opposite from the parent, suddenly expecting more out of the "older" child, it is a recipe for a big mess. I'd remind myself that he is only 4 when he does things and he may not have the attention span, discipline, self-reliance that you wish for him, yet. I agree about the pp saying get down and touch him lightly to get his attention. I had to do that a lot with my son at age 3 and 4. And suggest what he can do, instead of what he can't do. You can't jump on the sofa, but you can jump on the bed if you take off your shoes. Or whatever works for you. I also agree with the pp's about getting real one-on-one time with him, doing legos or whatever interests him. And a break for yourself. Ask your husband, friend, family. You deserve it. A relaxed mom can do wonders for the rest of the family. It will get easier. 

swd12422's Avatar swd12422 03:33 PM 03-24-2012

Thank you for that, too.


I wanted to say (in case I didn't already in my sleep-deprived ramblings) that DS has ALWAYS been like this, not just since the new little guy came along. It's just that it has gotten exponentially worse. Timeouts have NEVER worked for him, even at 2.5. He just doesn't get it. So as forgiving and flexible as I can be (and I know I need to be more so) it still worries me that there's something not connecting in there for him


FS RAGES seemingly uncontrollably. I've never seen a child tantrum like this one. His temper is HUGE. And yet, he will stay in timeout, cry/scream/whatever through it, and then when I redirect him by asking for a hug or whatever, he's fine. And he goes back to playing, not to repeating the same annoying behaviors that got him into timeout to begin with!

Tags: Child