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musikat 10-01-2008 02:05 PM

I have a 6 1/2 year old son (and two who are younger) who has always been more challenging. Now he is adding talking back/attitude and outright defiance to the list.

My question is, what do you do when you formulate a consequence and the child refuses to accept/do it. For example, when he is fighting with his younger brother and I tell them they should go "cool off" or even that they need to take the rough play to the basement. He says no. Then what? I can't physically force him to comply, but it just escalates from there.

Yesterday we had a horrendous time and I was just at a loss. I wanted to cry. The boys have Kindermusik about an hour and a half after school. Since it is about a 20 minute drive away, I usually take them to either a park or Chick fil A to get out some energy and have a snack before music. So yesterday the weather wasn't so great and we went to Chick-fil-A. We weren't there 5 minutes when I noticed that he just wasn't in the right frame of mind. He was trying to force his brother to play something he didn't want to, was being physically agressive, etc. So I asked him to come over and talk to me. I was ignored. I went over to him and actually physically made him come over to me. I asked him to be calm and listen to what I had to say. He kept trying to pull away.He was pulling and fighting me. I tried letting go after he promised to hear me out. He started to run (to climb out of reach into the play structure) so I had to grab his shirt. I was getting physical, but I honestly didn't see a choice.

I never did get to say what I wanted to (which was just to settle down and leave his brother alone if he didn't want to play right then. I also wanted to call him on a name-calling I'd heard). So I decided we would have to leave. He refused. I had to physically put on his shoes and socks (not gently), then he started to run up the play area.

I just left. He did follow but had an all-out tantrum in the car. He was throwing things from the back as I was driving. Threatening all sorts of things. Boy was he MAD! Well I did go through the drive through, because they needed food and then went by the music class and parked. He was climbing all over the car threating to take his brother's food and throw it on the floor and stomp on it. Would not sit down when repeatedly asked to. What finally worked was when he kept putting his feet on the back of my seat after I asked him to stop I grabbed his foot,took his shoe off and threw it out the window! (we were parked by then). THAT got his attention. After that he calmed down enough to get a snack so that he could go get his shoe.

This was unusual, even for him. But it is constant that whatever he is doing that is unacceptable, if I give a consequence it will be fought against bitterly. His general response is "No! Never!" Sometimes I take his toys away and he will literally try to climb up to get them right back down. I have to threaten to actually throw them in the garbage if he does that. Then he stops. How do I stop this escalating and get him to accept consequences??

mamaduck 10-01-2008 10:50 PM

Is he in first grade? Is it his first time going to school for a full-day? Have there been any reports of misbehavior at school?

I'll tell you what -- my kids could not handle ANY after school activities until they were 8 or 9ish. Even then, it was a stretch. I had to take them straight home from school each day and let them crash, or else there was hell to pay (like the day you just described!)

My question is, what do you do when you formulate a consequence and the child refuses to accept/do it. For example, when he is fighting with his younger brother and I tell them they should go "cool off" or even that they need to take the rough play to the basement. He says no. Then what? I can't physically force him to comply, but it just escalates from there.
You might try giving him a choice between 2 things. "You may either take a break, or take it to the basement. You choose." When you give him one direction, he is perceiving a choice to say no. When you present 2 choices, you control all the options. Another example would be, "You may stop fighting and find something else to do, or you may do some chores for me. You choose."

As far as the overall problem -- I have just a guess.

Whenever someone describes behavior as disrespectful and/or defiant, my first guess is that the child is not feeling connected. It feels like you are on different sides of a battle -- and if you feel that way, you can bet that he feels that way too. So he is fighting. I imagine having 2 younger siblings to compete with for attention aggravates the situation. I suggest some quality 1:1 time with him to reconnect. Maybe a "date night" with just the two of you every weekend, without siblings. A nice fun night (not a reward) just to get to know each other and remember what you like about each other. You need find a way to feel like you are on the "same team."

I also think you might find some useful ideas in the book "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene.

musikat 10-01-2008 11:11 PM


Thank you for the suggestions. You bring up some good points. I like the choices thing. I used that when he was younger, and still do in some instances (like food, or when to do certain tasks), but I guess didn't think of in this instance.

He is in a Montessori school. This is his third year of full day school and he has done after school activities before. We keep it to one day a week, so we are not running around every day. I do think, on that day, it was a blood sugar thing. But it is not easy with him on a good day, either.

I also agree about the connection thing. I have often thought about that. I don't know if it is feasible. Although, as the oldest, he gets one hour of "time" every single night with me after both of his brothers go to bed. I have been thinking of an occasional thing where he and I go out somewhere, though.

Mizelenius 10-02-2008 03:01 AM

After school activities would also be too much for my 6 yo, so I can see that sort of situation happening. In that case, I'd probably go over to him, tell him that it's just been a long day, so we'd get the snack to go and skip music.

I really like what my DD's preK says . . .they say that in a difficult situation, they tell the child that they will HELP THEM when there is a problem. I try to keep that in my head: when my child is acting out, I say in my head: DD is having a problem doing ___. I will help her do ___ until she is ready to do it alone. In some way-- a hug, a reassurance that you are there-- convey that you will be there alongside your DC during this period of need. He's not going to have to deal with it alone.

For example, in the case of your boys fighting, I'd say something like "It looks like things are getting too rough between the two of you. Why don't we go do _____." You stay WITH him while he's having trouble.

As for the escalating/consequences thing, I find that the #1 most effective way to change this is to change my expectations. The closer I align my expectations with what my child is truly capable of, the better off we all are. Also, if you have the firm belief that HE IS DOING HIS BEST (I'm shouting because I constantly have to remind myself of this) then somehow, it gets easier. Less pressure on you both.

Finally, I find the less talking I do (not evident in this post!) the better. When DD yells at me and I ask something like, "Have you had a hard day?" then we usually get somewhere (vs. "don't yell at me!").

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