Mothering Forums

Mothering Forums (
-   Parenting the Gifted Child (
-   -   Emotional OEs and discipline x-posted in Gentle Discipline (

hergrace 08-27-2009 12:54 PM

I am really struggling with discipline and my eldest. He has always been a challenge to motivate to behave well. He is a very smart, intense little boy. I think part of my problem is that he thinks and talks like an 8-year old and has the emotional maturity of a 4-year old. He is gifted, emotionally intense, and perfectionistic, and I think these all come into play.

He is very internally driven and his interests change frequently - except for his never ending desire to expand his knowledge of video games, movies, and tv shows. Except for screen time limits, there is nothing that consistently motivates him and if I guess wrong about where his interests are today, I get into a spiral where he gets mad at the fact that I don't "get" him on top of whatever the original issue was.

When he was younger, a very intense form of time-in was the only form of communication that could get him out of an emotional storm. These days, I find that I am not usually being able to be present for that level of intensity due to the demands of his siblings.

We have resorted to trying rewards and losses of privileges to try to motivate him as he is not motivated by anything as simple as feeling good about doing the right thing or making Mummy or Daddy happy. But, he has a massive emotional response to being remprimanded. And, getting him through that response always seems to blunt the impact of the original criticism.

On top of that, as soon as he has lost a privilege or failed to earn a reward, he completely gives up and figures he can be as bad as he wants because he no longer cares and he knows that we won't do anything*to actually hurt him. And, now he has taken things another step and started pretending that he doesn't care about the reward or punishment in order to avoid the emotional toll of being reprimanded. I know that I used to do that and the end result was that I stopped allowing myself to feel strongly about anything. And, because DS1 thinks so fast, this is all happening without the slightest consciousness on his part.

I need ideas on how to help him mature through this without being an absolute nuisance socially and without losing his enthusiasm for life. Any suggestions are gratefully appreciated.

Roar 08-27-2009 01:02 PM

I may just need more coffee...but I found that all interesting and sort of like I got a picture of him, but I felt like there was something missing which was the actual situations and behavior. What would be the sort of situation where there is a problem? What happens? You mentioned if you don't guess right about his interest of the day he gets mad - I'm having some difficulty visualizing what that would be like. He wants you to guess what he's interested in. You say Legos and he gets mad? What am I missing?

hergrace 08-27-2009 02:45 PM

Maybe I'm the one who needs more coffee. I'm having a hard time with specifics. I just seem to be in a bad loop.

The issues are pretty standard: getting ready to leave in the morning, helping around the house and behaving gently with his siblings being the big ones.

In general, a situation escalates quickly with interruptions from the siblings functioning to escalate things further because I lose my temper more quickly. I start with a request, move to an instruction, threaten a consequence, impose a consequence. He starts with a no, tells me to do it, shouts at me that he will never do it, and then moves to either telling me he doesn't care about the consequence or cries and lashes out at me physically. I then give him a choice of apologizing or going to his room to calm down. He shouts more.

I have given up using consequences other than losing screen time privileges because nothing else seems to motivate him. For his chores around the house, I give him the option of paying me to do the chores from his allowance, but it doesn't actually seem to have an impact.

The thing about his interests changing and him getting upset when I don't "get" him usually comes up when I am trying to thing of a treat to do after he does something that I am asking him to do that he doesn't want to do. If I offer an activity that doesn't appeal to him, then he gets upset. He doesn't actually articulate his feeling very well, but what what he does articulate suggests that he feels betrayed because what I think is a treat for him isn't something he thinks is a treat.

Once again, I know I am being general, but it's where my brain is stuck today.

Roar 08-27-2009 03:02 PM

How old is he? I saw his emotional age and his intellectual age - what is his chronological age? Is there any possibility that you are expecting way too much from him because he's the oldest?

It sounds like you are stuck in a big cycle of power struggle where you try to force and he shows you that will never work. He's right, it won't work and you need to listen to that.

My suggestion would be to try to figure out the top couple of specific problems - getting out of the house on time for example - and then trying to sit down with him together and make a plan to fix the problem. Start from the assumption that you both want things to go better and everyone is doing the best they can. Treat it as a practical problem not as one of attitude. Problems have solutions and together you can find one. Give him the respect that he is a person who has ideas and can figure out how to solve problems. It may work well to treat this as a formal meeting - hot cocoa in nice mugs, sitting down with a notebook and pencils with an agenda of things you would like to resolve. We've found it works well to come to a solution and then treat it as a trial. Let's give it a week and see how it goes and then we can reassess of this plan is working for all of us.

Also just one more thought - is much of this or some of this coming as he's transitioning off electronics? Like you say time to turn that off and get ready now.

loraxc 08-27-2009 03:14 PM

The discipline approach that seems to work the best with my intense, emotional, highly opinionated DD is one loosely drawn from the book The Secret of Parenting. We also use some techniques from The Explosive Child.

hergrace 08-27-2009 03:24 PM

loraxc: I'll check those books out.

Roar: DS1 is 6. I am sure that a big part of the problem is that I am expecting too much from him. It is so easy to forget that he is only 6 when he is acting well. And, with 3 2-year olds running around and making life chaos for everybody, it is easy to forget to take care of the guy who can take care of himself.

lolar2 08-27-2009 06:32 PM

This probably doesn't help much, but I just read a thread on a different parenting forum that was entirely made up of a group of mothers commiserating on how difficult their six-year-olds are. Some of those six-year-olds are highly gifted, some not-- apparently it's a difficult age.

OTMomma 08-27-2009 07:33 PM

I found 6 to be a hard age with my dd, who only has one little brother, I'm sure having 3 little siblings is intensifying things too- but here are some of my suggestions:

1. Turn anything you can into a game, or race. "Can you get dressed before I can get socks on all the babies?" or "Can you take your toy to your room before I can count to 5?" Let him win these little contests, but not by much. We also made games out of a lot of other chores, like it was a secret mission to take laundry to the bedroom, or bottles out to recycle.

2. Give choices even when you don't want to- like "We HAVE to leave the house in 5 minutes, you can get dressed, or you can go in your pj's but I have to leave". That's an extreem example, but I've had to do that one.

3. Don't ask too much at once- I found my dd responds much better when only asked to do one thing at a time, rather than a list. Even if the list is "Get on your pj's, brush your teeth, pick a book for bedtime"- its too many things strung together and is overwhelming.

4. Spend time talking through problem solving what to do when the younger siblings do something. For example- my 2 year old will hit my oldest, but I don't want her to hit him back, so we had to talk through ways for her to respond that were acceptable. The solution my dd came up with is to take away what ever he hit her with- block, book, or to hold his hand if he used a fist and not let him move it a minute. We've had to talk through a lot of things about what is reasonable to expect of her brother, how exactly to deal with a 2 year old isn't easy for most adults, kids need a lot of guidance to figure it out.

I would also try to see to it that your son is getting some one on one time with you and/or dh without all the siblings- knowing how much attention my 2 year old takes, I can't really imagine having 3 that age and also needing to give attention to the oldest.


Roar 08-27-2009 08:21 PM

OTmom has lots of good suggestions. Another thing we found worked well at that age was to encourage him to use a stop watch to compete against his best times to complete various tasks.

hergrace 08-27-2009 10:32 PM


My brain tends to be too fried to come up with game ideas, but he does respond when I come up with ridiculous enough games.

We did better tonight at bedtime when I followed up something silly he said with something even more ridiculous.

Samm 08-28-2009 02:23 AM

Originally Posted by hergrace View Post

My brain tends to be too fried to come up with game ideas, but he does respond when I come up with ridiculous enough games.

We did better tonight at bedtime when I followed up something silly he said with something even more ridiculous.
My dd is a couple months older and I just wanted to say, yeah, 6 is hard. They're doing huge developmental work on independence right now (IIRC it happens around 11 again).

The silly and ridiculous works really well here. Thanks for the reminder


Tigerle 08-28-2009 04:04 AM

You write he's always been intense but having three two-year-old sibs - the drain on your family resources like time, space, attention, energy etc. must be huge. I'm sure you try to give him as much 1-on-1-time as you can, but there are clearly limits to what you can do. Disappearing into the computer may be a safe haven from the toll this is taking on him. Is there another grownup who might give him special time (I know sometimes they just want mom and no-one else...)? How much personal space/stuff that is absolutely free from sibling interruption does he have? Does he go to school? Do the little ones go to pre-school or playschool? You may have to find solutions to give all of you a little space, even if it's just a couple hours per day.
Hugs. And admiratiion! This must be soo hard. I am trying to imagine my two-year-ld times three and I can't...

jilly 08-28-2009 12:10 PM

Wow, you are busy. I have one two year old and an intense 5 year old and I feel exhausted.

My ds is not this age yet, but we do have the same intensity issues.

I do regularly do the "get dressed now or go in your pyjamas. We can bring your clothes to school in a bag and you can get dressed when there's a break." Or something similar. "Eat now because this is your only chance until snack time". And then stick to it.

I have stopped doing time ins, especially for aggression issues -- the attention is a reward, not a punishment. But often when he is really unreasonable, it is just that he needs some space from his brother but refuses to go somewhere that he can get it because it means his brother gets me all to himself. So when he is getting too intense I send him to his room for a quiet time and tell him to build with leggos or play with his Playmobil or look at a book for 20 min or so. He always comes out saner.

Maybe you could ask him what he wants to do for a fun activity, rather than suggesting some?

Something else that may not be feasable in your situation is to just have a "break" from tv and video games completely for a set amount of time. We just did that because ds1 was sprialing out of control intensity wise, so we've had a tv free week. It has given him time to process a backload of images. I didn't say it was a punishment for anything specific. I just said he needed a break from tv so that he could remember how to play instead of bugging me about tv all day and remember how to co-operate with his brother.

Anyway, we haven't hit 6 yet, so maybe none of this applies at that age. Hope something helps, though. Good luck.

deminc 08-28-2009 10:05 PM

This thread is comforting. I'm totally commiserating and scribbling down the suggestions furiously.

I have a 2 yr old and a 5 yr old,and the power struggles are driving me mad. I don't know how you do it with four little ones in the house. (Tigerle - yeah, my 2 yr old times 3...gosh, I need a place to hide!) I thought it might be a growing up phase - independence/self-assertion etc - together with some rivalry issue. I actually picked up The Explosive Child at a recent library sale but been too exhausted to read it. This is a good reminder.

I tried to be understanding at first, but it just seemed to feed ds1's unreasonable behaviour. My2 yr old is starting to pick up the behaviour and goes around throwing mimicked tantrums - if that makes sense - complete with crossed arms, screaming "Now! Do it NOW!", or "I'm going to electrocute you!" So I've started grounding them (while I hyperventilate in the kitchen by myself). Told them there's no way I"m going to take 2 such obnoxious kids out to public. It seems to work...a little...for now.

hergrace 08-28-2009 10:47 PM

Thanks everybody! Especially those of you who think my life sounds hard. I try not to complain about how hard life is with triplets, but there are days when it really sucks. (And days when they are unbelievably cute - just fewer of them.)

Just by posting this and a couple of other related threads around MDC and reading the replies has helped me get myself into a better place with DS1. And, he does respond to me being gentler, more compassionate, and sillier.

He is a great kid, just intense. He has been forced to take a backseat to the demands of the trio for two years and it is starting to show. And, we have slipped into a new schedule that doesn't give him the one on one time we used to get since the trio aren't going to bed so early anymore.

And, although he says he is not scared, only excited, I keep forgetting that he is carrying around the stress related to the fact that he is starting a new school in the fall and will be taught in a foreign language.

mamasaurus 08-29-2009 05:28 AM

Originally Posted by hergrace View Post
I start with a request, move to an instruction, threaten a consequence, impose a consequence.
I have a gifted 6yo as well, and a 4yo. My 6yo has been and still is very, very challenging to deal with. She also has Aspergers Syndrome, and can be very rigid about what she thinks, wants, and needs.

Your quote above caught my eye because you said you "start with a request".

One of the most helpful things I learned was to NOT request anything of my 6yo if it was truly non-negotiable. For example, I don't say, "Would you like to go with me to the store?", when there really is not a choice in the matter - she has to go with me for various reasons. Instead I have learned to say, "We need to go to the store. You may choose a car activity to take along in the car - what would you like to bring?" So the choice is not about going to the store - it is about something else that she really does have control over.

I know this is no-brainer parenting stuff that you've probably already heard, but I thought I'd bring it up since you worded it that way.

hergrace 08-29-2009 10:56 AM

mamasaurus: Thanks for pointing that out. I do tend to make requests of non-negotiable things too often. Time for me to work on that again.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 11:31 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Resources saved on this page: MySQL 0%
vBulletin Optimisation provided by vB Optimise (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2020 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2020 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2020 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.