Strange and troubling interacting between mother/father/eldest son
Greetings, I'm new here, but have hope that wiser minds than mine can help sort through some of the issues we just can't seem to figure out, especially with my eldest son, who's 5 years old. He is a very intelligent boy, but struggles a lot with aggression and acting out. He especially dislikes me, I believe largely due to mistakes I made in raising him in the past, going all the way back to infancy. I was a very ignorant and lazy mother my first couple years as a mom, I'm ashamed to say. I've been trying to rectify that, but I sometimes fear it's too little too late.
Anyway, one thing I cannot figure out is how he views interpersonal relationships in regards to himself and his two parents. When I'm the only parent around, he's still misbehaving quite a bit, but it's much more low key and predictable- he knows I'm not watching so he steals a cookie. Or my cell phone. or he waits until I'm on the phone then he takes a marker and writes on the wall. He argues with me then when I try to discipline him afterwards and tell him the consequence of his action, but usually eventually dials down and accepts his penalty- at least for the next three minutes.
However, If his father comes home or wakes up or is suddenly present, his attempts to misbehave skyrocket and take a really manic turn. Suddenly he is desperately trying to show me he's being bad, and testing the limits by refusing to stop, and often begins screaming for no reason but to draw attention. Sometimes he was become physically violent towards me, hitting me and shouting that he won;t stop hitting me until I back down.
Just to give an understanding of interpersonal dynamics, when when he is alone with his father he is perfectly well behaved and under control and generally just having fun and acting like a little angel.
When he is alone with me he is considerably more out of control and ill-behaved, but still maintains some semblance of control and we can often play together and have fun, and he can behave himself, sometimes for an hour or more at a time.
But when he is in the room with both of us, even if only I am interacting with him, and even if I am *NOT* interacting in any way with my husband (I know when I was young I would get very resentful and angry whenever my two parents were conversing with each other instead of with me), he is completely out of control and "trying to be bad" as he will often shout as he runs around creating chaos.
Is this the right forum to post this in? Can anyone provide any insight? Thank you for your patience reading this...
5 is the age of such behavior. My daugther is 7 now, but sometimes she tries to be a very bag girl. She wants to strike my attention and show the she is near me. I don't really know why she behaves such strange way... Maybe children don't know how they can catch our attention which is so important for them.
Some things to try:
Singing what you need to say instead of speaking. Sounds crazy, but it might help to break some of these patterns.
Trying to establish very predictable routines and patterns. Meals at regular times. Bedtime at the same time every day, with a clear pattern of how to get ready for bed (doing everything in the same order) and ending with a story.
Don't ask what he wants or give him choices. Phrase things as expectations. "Now you may wash your hands and come to the table for lunch." Many little kids are constantly being asked what they want and I have this awful suspicion that it may feel rather burdensome. I wouldn't like it if people were constantly asking me what I wanted.
From your description I get the feeling of a child who is actually hoping that the grown-ups will take control and help him find a saner way of life.
Forgive yourself for your past mistakes. You can't change them at this point, so it is no use wallowing in guilt (I'll admit I regularly wallow in guilt, myself. This is one of those things where it is a lot easier to advise than to achieve.)
Thank you, your suggestions are very helpful. I'll try to have a bit of a strategy prepared for when his father comes in, that can distract him from misbehaving.
I'm not sure his father really knows how to talk to him about this. He will often sternly say "obey your mother", but he doesn't really have conversations about discipline very often with any of our children. And I'm not really sure what his best strategy for addressing this issue with our son would be either, I'm afraid.
But Deborah, you are likely also correct. We just finished a big move, and a big change in all of our lives, and things are winding down from being chaotic for a couple months. So I suspect he is suffering from still feeling a lack of routine, and I'll try to establish more routine faster.
Again, thank you all for your responses.
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