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I have two kids...the dream child, my daughter who is 8. She is sweet, loving and wonderful.

Then there's my challenging, but sweet boy. He's 5 years and 9 months and he has very few issues at school. BUT lately he has been hitting his sister, calling her names and hitting me. He has been transitioning to Grade 1 and to a new daycare/summer camp classroom, so I know he has a lot on his mind.

He's very sensitive and easily becomes anxious. I have been spanking and yelling and it's not working.

I tried the empathy approach with no consequences (this week) and the little guy took me for a ride and his behavior became absolutely horrible and worse. The gentle approach did not work for him. He lost respect for me.

So I made a list of rules and put them up where he can see them. I told him if he breaks a rule, he will go in a time out and if he doesn't stay in his time out, he will lose a toy each time he comes out and after 3 times, he loses his tablet for the night. Thereafter, he will continue to lose a toy everytime he continues to come out of his time out. I have to act with no emotion which will be tough b/c he really likes to test me and push my buttons.

My son is very stubborn and strong willed. It has been an extremely tough job parenting him. I never expected to get a child this difficult. I have to admit, I am really tired and my cup is empty. I am still hopeful though that things will become better.
 

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I have a challenging boy too, he's 13 now. Whenever we've gotten into a phase like you're describing it has been a long haul back out, I'm sorry to say.

While giving chances and taking away toys seems more fair, what might happen is that he ends up with no toys, no tablet and no way to entertain himself and stay out of trouble. He needs toys or things to do, so he can make better choices.

Your son knows how he's supposed to behave, giving him lots of chances creates a gray area where he doesn't need to follow the rules... yet. It makes it harder for him to know where the line is. Swift consequences might be a more effective option. They don't need to be harsh consequences... the tablet can come back in an hour, or after he's taken time to himself or made amends. I'm saying the tablet here because I got the impression this is maybe his most prized belonging.

One thing that sometimes worked was reframing things... instead of 'time out' my son could go have a shower/bath, or take some time for himself in the yard or his room. If none of that works another option is to 'take space' and you basically just state where you're going to be and you need time away from him, or your daughter states where she will be and he's banned from that room for a period of time... we often used the kitchen table for this.

Another thing to look out for is your sweet girl... I have one of those too, though my boy is the older one. One thing that took a while for me to catch on to is how *sneaky* my girl can be. She can say a few little quiet words and set my son right off. An example is, one day he tried a new hairstyle... he's an anxious type, too, so anything that can attract attention to him like that is hard for him to do. Well my girl asked "Whats up with your hair?" in a snotty tone. All my husband heard was our son loudly and aggressively rip into our daughter for her rats nest hair that she doesn't even brush. So my husband got him in trouble, and it wasn't until later that my son told me about what his sister had said. She can make herself seem so innocent, I have had to have eagle ears/eyes to catch her instigating things. I don't know if this is happening in your home but it's something to keep in mind... some kids are a dream but no one is perfect.
 

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If you want to stop spanking, then stop spanking. You are using an authoritarian aproach to parenting your children with the expected results. At least some of your children don't behave well, don't respect you, and have learned to hit. You can change your philosophy of parenting and have well behaved children that are peaceful and respectful. This form of parenting is called authoritative.

When I became a mother I didn't want to spank and I didn't want to parent the way I saw others parent. This was over 30 years ago and what I did was become involved with La Leache League and read the books in their lending library. I knew about the different forms of parenting from college psychology courses but at that time LLL was the only place I could find that had info about parenting alternatives. I subscribed to Mothering Magazine around 1980.

Books by Elizabeth Crary are a great place to start. Time outs are punishment do not work. Your children and their behavior are not the problem. You need to learn a whole new way of looking at parenting and learn parenting skills. It isn't your fault no one taught you the skills you need and you haven't seen good parenting modeled. It would be great if you could become involved with some kind of support group where there is good parenting happening.

https://www.parentingpress.com/elizabeth-crary.html
 

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@Serapa I'm sorry you've had such a negative message there. Mothering is usually a place to find supportive, non-judgemental help.

Grade one is so hard, my own parents were at their wits end when I had a complete personality change at 6 right when I entered grade one. I remember how I felt and it was like this change happened where I had no control over my environment anymore and I was really angry about it but I couldn't articulate that. I have a feeling something is really bothering your little guy and he's not telling you what it is -- yet! Eventually my own mother managed to understand that I was bullied and how toxic the social environment at our local school was and having no other school options she pulled me out the next year and homeschooled and all my desperate rebellious behavior and meanness toward my younger sibling disappeared. So whatever that thing in his life is that's really uncomfortable, if you find it together and work through it or remove it, things will get better.

As far as discipline vs. punishment techniques, there are tons of great books out there. I only have a 2 year old right now and am starting my own process of reading and trying different tactics. We do time-ins rather than time-outs, where we sit in a quiet place together and talk about the behavior and discuss better ways to express feelings. Usually his acting out has everything to do with needing some one-on-one, down-time, alone time, sleep, food. If I get really angry and feel like I'm not able to give firm but gentle boundaries then I get myself some space. My own parents did a lot of yelling and some spanking and I really don't want to go there and it sounds like you don't either! Good luck to you and I hope you follow up and let us know how your process is going.
 
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My first thought had been bullying as well -- at least worth checking in to it to rule it out.

When I started a new school when I was 8, my mom says I cried every day for weeks. Transitions can be difficult at any age, especially for sensitives.

Other thoughts: My youngest is now 8, (we have an 11 yr old son also who never had any discipline issues) and we've had a long road since he was the same age as your son is. We've never spanked, always used time-outs and natural consequences and tried to model good behavior. But of course we yell sometimes. No one is perfect. Just don't let anyone tell you that you have caused his behavior or that he is this way because of something you did .....or didn't do. You are loving your child and doing your best and raising children is a process -- for both of you. Everyone is different and has a different brain and different processes.

Our DS has had great difficulty with 'keeping his body to himself' (poking and pushing his brother) and with extreme temper tantrums -- hitting, kicking, throwing, etc. He is incredibly sweet, caring, loving, but loses control of himself. It has boiled down to him having difficulty regulating his emotions and difficulty understanding consequences (both aspects of ADHD). The last one is difficult to accept as a parent since he's truly a bright boy -- hard to accept that he can't understand them, but he really has difficulty 'getting it' and applying the concept to his actions -- it's part of executive functioning that he is not strong in. It makes it look like he's obstinate, but he truly isn't trying to be, he's at a complete loss. He also has an anxious tendency -- interesting to hear from others too. He is bright and can understand the big picture beyond his age level, and he's a perfectionist -- all I think helps add to the anxiety and that helps add to the difficulties. And -- remember, he's not an adult! They may seem like they know and understand everything, but their perspective is still that of a child -- some of their worries and processing are quite literal.

We have had to learn as parents to have super-human patience (we succeed more than we used to). Keeping the emotion out is really helpful. And -- we've talked to him always about strategies for him. Self awareness is the first step to self control. Deep breaths, punching his pillow in his own space, going in the yard to do something active to get that anxiety/energy out, lots about how to express emotions -- what different emotions feel like, how to name them, how other people express them (there are children's books), there are childrens' relaxation tapes and books. We talk about all of us endeavoring to be polite and respectful and patient. Noticing and catching him when he succeeds at even the littlest bumps is also helpful -- builds confidence, and success is a consequence also!

When I see him winding up or misbehaving, rather than ordering him from across the room (which is my first reaction), it has helped a lot for me to quietly and gently take him aside and give him any instructions/consequences/reminders face-to-face (hopefully in a non-emotional manner). It minimizes distractions for him (a real issue), helps to set the more gentle tone, and can make a huge difference in what happens next.

Everything's better than it used to be! He's learning. We've learned. The thing that I've tried to hold on to and constantly voice to him is that my husband and I are here to help him learn how to be the best person he can be. And, for myself, without "giving in" on behavior expectations, I want to preserve my relationship with my son.

Oh, and eliminating sugar and junk food and milk also helps my son.
 

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I highly recommend you read the book "Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child" by Robert J. Mackenzie. It will validate your feelings and give you many tools. Indeed some of us have been given extra challenges as parents, but you can do it!
 

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I agree with bellymoon -- don't blame yourself! Some children are very strong-willed and will do everything to push our patience. It's not something that you or your husband did or didn't do. I don't have a strong-willed child myself (my daughter sounds like your daughter), but I am a preschool teacher and I have had students like your son and have talked with several parents in situations like yours. It sounds like you've made some good changes -- you are trying not to yell and spank, which (as you've found) don't really work, and you're trying to set some very specific rules and consequences. Here are a few things that I have talked about with parents in the past:

Did you have him help you come up with the rules? Giving him ownership over the "behavior program" that you're doing may help. You could also have him help come up with the consequences. Stubborn children are often looking to have as much control over their lives as they can, and we can help them to feel some control even over their consequences for negative behavior.

Are you guys praising him for positive behavior? I'm sure you are, but it can be hard to remember to do it. Some parents I know have set timers on their phones, just for themselves, to remind themselves to praise their child -- whatever he's doing, that's not bothering you or his sister (eg "I like how you're playing with your blocks." "I like how you you're sitting by your sister now." "I liked how you ran all around the backyard."). You could also have a sticker chart or something for good behavior. It depends on how frequently he's acting up, but you could give stickers as frequently as you want. Sometimes at school I've done it every hour for kids who have a really hard time handling themselves. He could again have a hand in making the sticker chart, and in choosing the rewards. I would suggest having the rewards be something non-tangible and non-edible. Extra TV time, extra bike time, special time with Dad/Mom, getting to choose a game to play with you, going to the park; whatever you think would be motivating to him.

Speaking of control, try to give him as much control as you can throughout the day. You can figure out how much this works with him, but I've seen it work with lots of stubborn kids. Think about what you can give him choices on throughout his day. The list is extensive: which clothes to wear, what to have for breakfast, which color of cup to use, water or milk to drink, which toothpaste to use, which game to play, which car door to get in, which side of the couch to sit on, to put on pjs first or to brush teeth first, etc. Make sure that they are real choices, and choices that you can live with, and choices that are not one real thing and one punishment (like "Do you want to put your shoes on, or do you want to stay home from the party?"). These choices allow him to feel in control, and the idea is that when he's NOT in control (such as, you don't have a choice about whether you go to bed at night), he'll be more acquiescent. This doesn't happen over night!! But you may find that giving him choices like these, when he's in a good mood, can help the day overall.

I recommend the Love and Logic program, and you might even be able to find some classes in your area. I feel like they're really helpful, especially for stubborn kids. I also like aha parenting, as someone else here suggested. I also like "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" by Adele Faber.

And whenever you can, take some time for yourself! We have to take care of ourselves so that we can come back and be better parents for our kids.
 

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You must stop hurting your son

I understand how frustrated you must feel, and my heart goes out to both you and your son. However, you must stop hurting your son. The more you hit him, the more pain you are inflicting on him holistically and the more damage done to him. How "compliant" would you feel if your partner hit you? There is no simple solution to your son's behavior; no magic "technique". Behavioral, "power-over" approaches will only exacerbate the problem even if they appear to "fix" it in the moment. You must change completely the way you view your son and his behavior: If you switch to a needs-focused way of viewing his behavior, you will see that all of his behavior is an attempt to meet a need. If he is aggressive, he is acting out what he has been taught as well as his pain and rage at not having his emotional, physical and connection needs met. You mentioned that he is in school- That signals unmet needs, as schools are often negative, distressing environments for children, especially boys.

If you are interested in healing you relationship with your son, please reach out to me. I offer coaching for parents of children suffering mild, moderate or severe behavioral challenges. We would discuss a full history and I would help you with an individualized plan for healing yourself and your son. You are also welcomed to read my book, "Instead of Medicating and Punishing: Healing the Causes of Our Children's Acting-Out Behavior by Parenting and Educating the Way Nature Intended". http://www.laurieacouture.com/testimonials/
 

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:Hug It's hard being challenged all the time and dealing with such a negative kid!! I hope that he's been calming down as the school year continues.

To regain his respect, work on your Calm Firm Voice. Practice when you're alone. You want a tone of voice in which you can say, "This is what will happen," and everyone hearing it will accept that it's going to happen and there's no need to get angry about it. Believe that this will work. Breathe deeply.

So I made a list of rules and put them up where he can see them. I told him if he breaks a rule, he will go in a time out and if he doesn't stay in his time out, he will lose a toy each time he comes out and after 3 times, he loses his tablet for the night. Thereafter, he will continue to lose a toy everytime he continues to come out of his time out. I have to act with no emotion which will be tough b/c he really likes to test me and push my buttons.
I think you need to stick to this scheme for at least two weeks to see how it goes. It's been longer than that since you posted; if he's accepted this scheme now, EVEN IF his behavior hasn't improved so you're having to take away all the toys every night, I think you should stick with it for the sake of consistency.

But if you've given it a fair try, I suggest that you keep the rules but change the way you do consequences. Think of a consequence that is directly related to each rule. When he breaks a rule, immediately impose that consequence. If you then get an apology and/or protests that he'll behave better now, give a second chance. For example, the rule is no eating in the living room, but you find him in there with a bowl of cereal. In your Calm Firm Voice, say, "Give me the cereal. The rule is no eating in the living room." Take the cereal and put it in the refrigerator. When he says, "But I'm hungry!!!" say, "You were eating in the living room. We only eat at the kitchen table. Will you eat your cereal at the kitchen table?" If he says yes, say, "Okay, you may have a second chance." Keep an eye on what he does: If he's eating normally, when he finishes say, "Thank you for eating neatly at the table." But if he does something like purposely dribble milk onto the floor, swoop in and take away the bowl, and say, "You had a second chance, but you were making a mess on purpose. That's not the right way to eat. No more snacks until dinner."

Suziecue wrote:
Speaking of control, try to give him as much control as you can throughout the day. You can figure out how much this works with him, but I've seen it work with lots of stubborn kids. Think about what you can give him choices on throughout his day. The list is extensive: which clothes to wear, what to have for breakfast, which color of cup to use, water or milk to drink, which toothpaste to use, which game to play, which car door to get in, which side of the couch to sit on, to put on pjs first or to brush teeth first, etc. Make sure that they are real choices, and choices that you can live with, and choices that are not one real thing and one punishment (like "Do you want to put your shoes on, or do you want to stay home from the party?"). These choices allow him to feel in control, and the idea is that when he's NOT in control (such as, you don't have a choice about whether you go to bed at night), he'll be more acquiescent.
If you tried this and it's working, great! But some kids actually act up because they're looking for firmer limits; they don't WANT to be in control. This is especially likely when starting a new level of school with a bit more responsibility and independence. If offering choices seems to make your kid more hostile, back off from that and just calmly tell him what's going to happen, using declarative sentences ("We're having peas tonight.") instead of questions ("Would you like some nice peas?"). Only offer a choice if he's objecting ("I don't like peas!" "You need to eat a vegetable. Will you have spinach or carrots?").

Oh, and instead of, "Do you want to put your shoes on, or do you want to stay home from the party?" try the When, Then structure: "When you have your shoes on, then we can go to the party." Smile, step back, and continue getting yourself ready to go, showing your confidence that he will put on his shoes.

Good luck! Let us know how it's going.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Wow...guys thank you from the bottom of my heart. Great advice here.

About 2 weeks after my first post, I subconsciously spanked my son on his foot after he kicked me. Because I go into a deep fight vs. flight response, I cannot do "time-ins" with him right now b/c of my own fight vs. flight response. After I smacked his foot, I was shocked and I held him and apologized while he screamed for 10 minutes. He then said, "I still love you, but I don't accept your apology." and I told him that I understand and that hitting him is wrong. We put it behind us.

I purchased and read "How to Discipline Your Strong Willed Child" and followed it and it has saved my life. I have not spanked my son in 4 weeks and I have been yelling WAY less. I have also read the AHA Parenting and Hand in Hand Parenting websites. I also visited Lori Petro's website and took one of her parenting courses. While the time-ins don't work for me bc of my own abusive childhood and my sensitive fight vs. flight response, I am following many of the techniques.

I am using the techniques in "How to Discipline Your Strong Willed Child". I'm not yelling nearly as much...I haven't spanked in 4 weeks and when I'm really angry, I tell my kids that I need to go to a cooling down spot and to leave me alone until I come out. I'm also using the techniques in the websites as per above, and I'm doing a lot of connection exercises. I am laying with each child for 5 minutes in the morning to make mornings better. I'm playing with them more and trying to connect on a deeper level. It's going really well. My sons behavior is improving a lot. He stopped himself yesterday from hitting his sister and I praised him for it.

I'm also focusing more on logical consequences as much as possible and reserve time outs for hitting and calling names. My son wouldn't leave the park the other day, so I told him no more visiting the park for 2 days and that next time I say it's time to go, he can try again. Or if my son throws his ball in the house, I take the ball away for one day. If he won't brush his teeth, no sweets. If he is fighting with his sister, they both get a 15 minute cooling down period apart and then we talk. I need that cooling down period too or I will lose it and yell at them. Once we are all calm, we can talk about what happened and how to act next time.

I can honestly say that it's going really well and I think spanking is behind me for good. The yelling is still happening, but it's going to take time. I'm not perfect.

For those who responded judgmentally, I was beaten to a pulp as a child. I was not spanked, I was beaten. I was kicked to the ground and kicked in the chest and stomach against the couch. I was slapped hard across the ear on a regular basis until my ears bled. I was abused in other ways also. My childhood was hell.

But, I am now doing well. I have been to therapy off and on since I was a teenager. I put myself through university and have a high paying and interesting job. I'm in a happy marriage with a wonderful man. I have never beat my own children. All I have ever done is an open hand to a clothed bum, foot or hand. I spend every waking minute with my children bc I love them so much. I love being with them. I am told by their school and by friends that I am a wonderful mother.

There's always room for significant improvement and I have decided not to spank my son. I have decided to not yell. I have looked for ways to cope with my sensitive fight vs flight responses. I want to help make the world a better place and that begins with forgiving myself and doing the best I can.
 

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Wow...guys thank you from the bottom of my heart. Great advice here.

About 2 weeks after my first post, I subconsciously spanked my son on his foot after he kicked me. Because I go into a deep fight vs. flight response, I cannot do "time-ins" with him right now b/c of my own fight vs. flight response. After I smacked his foot, I was shocked and I held him and apologized while he screamed for 10 minutes. He then said, "I still love you, but I don't accept your apology." and I told him that I understand and that hitting him is wrong. We put it behind us.

I purchased and read "How to Discipline Your Strong Willed Child" and followed it and it has saved my life. I have not spanked my son in 4 weeks and I have been yelling WAY less. I have also read the AHA Parenting and Hand in Hand Parenting websites. I also visited Lori Petro's website and took one of her parenting courses. While the time-ins don't work for me bc of my own abusive childhood and my sensitive fight vs. flight response, I am following many of the techniques.

I am using the techniques in "How to Discipline Your Strong Willed Child". I'm not yelling nearly as much...I haven't spanked in 4 weeks and when I'm really angry, I tell my kids that I need to go to a cooling down spot and to leave me alone until I come out. I'm also using the techniques in the websites as per above, and I'm doing a lot of connection exercises. I am laying with each child for 5 minutes in the morning to make mornings better. I'm playing with them more and trying to connect on a deeper level. It's going really well. My sons behavior is improving a lot. He stopped himself yesterday from hitting his sister and I praised him for it.

I'm also focusing more on logical consequences as much as possible and reserve time outs for hitting and calling names. My son wouldn't leave the park the other day, so I told him no more visiting the park for 2 days and that next time I say it's time to go, he can try again. Or if my son throws his ball in the house, I take the ball away for one day. If he won't brush his teeth, no sweets. If he is fighting with his sister, they both get a 15 minute cooling down period apart and then we talk. I need that cooling down period too or I will lose it and yell at them. Once we are all calm, we can talk about what happened and how to act next time.

I can honestly say that it's going really well and I think spanking is behind me for good. The yelling is still happening, but it's going to take time. I'm not perfect.

For those who responded judgmentally, I was beaten to a pulp as a child. I was not spanked, I was beaten. I was kicked to the ground and kicked in the chest and stomach against the couch. I was slapped hard across the ear on a regular basis until my ears bled. I was abused in other ways also. My childhood was hell.

But, I am now doing well. I have been to therapy off and on since I was a teenager. I put myself through university and have a high paying and interesting job. I'm in a happy marriage with a wonderful man. I have never beat my own children. All I have ever done is an open hand to a clothed bum, foot or hand. I spend every waking minute with my children bc I love them so much. I love being with them. I am told by their school and by friends that I am a wonderful mother.

There's always room for significant improvement and I have decided not to spank my son. I have decided to not yell. I have looked for ways to cope with my sensitive fight vs flight responses. I want to help make the world a better place and that begins with forgiving myself and doing the best I can.
@Serapa Wow! You are doing amazing. ;)
 
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