My son is 5 years old, and we are having the most troublesome time with him. He does not listen and does not show respect. We have taken away all of his toys, T.V. time (only allowing him to read books), time outs, special day trips taken away, ‘spanks’, not allowed to eat supper with us (will eat by himself), quietly talking and telling him what we expect of him — NOTHING works. His real father left when he was 2.5 years. He has a wonderful stepfather in his life, who is very consistent (something my son definitely needs), but nothing is working. He punches me and says ‘I hate you, you idiot’. He smiles and gives us a goofy face when we try to punish him. Please, please help.
It sounds like you are having a very difficult time. At this point your son does not believe you when you set boundaries. It seems that he has more control over you than you do over him. I suggest watching the DVD “123 Magic” by Dr. Phelan and reading the book “Making Your Child Mind without Losing Yours” by Kevin Leman. These two resources should give you some tips.
It is important to look at how you react to your child when he is misbehaving. Do you also lose your temper? Do you tell him that you are feeling hurt or angry? It is important that children know that they have no control over their parent’s feelings and actions. Your son needs to know that mom is happy, grounded, and is going to have a good day whether he behaves or not. Your day can not be a reaction to his moods. If you need additional support in learning how to be non-reactive to your child’s behaviour, I suggest speaking to a local therapist.
Also, as you start to set new boundaries, you can expect your child’s behaviour to get worse for a while. He will not believe you when you set new boundaries and will think he just has to try harder to get what he wants. If you give in, you are supporting this belief. Therefore it is very important to remain true to what you said and to the punishment you set up despite how bad his behaviour gets. He has to learn that you are serious and he has no control over your choices. Remember, he is going to try everything in his power to keep things the way they currently are, so you have some tough times a head of you. Just be thankful that you are committing yourself to doing this now that he is five and not later when he is thirteen.
Good luck to you.
Tina Cowan, Masters Intern