I am not trying to compare my 2 year old to my 4 year old, but I feel it's the best way to get my point across to people who don't know my kids personally...
My 22 month old daughter has always behaved amazingly. The most I have to tell her something is twice. She listens, she says please and thank you without being reminded, she helps me with chores, she throws away her own diaper and garbage and puts her dishes in the sink. If she does something rotten, like open a drawer she knows she shouldn't, I only have to tell her once to close it/put it back and she listens, even if she cries while doing so. I very very rarely have to raise my voice. She is my husband and I's daughter.
Now that being said, I met my husband two weeks after he and his ex broke up, and she came to him a few weeks later saying she was pregnant. So I have always been in their 4 year old's life. He's like my own son, and we have always had 50/50 custody so he is with us 50% of the time. We used the same parenting techniques with him that we do now with our daughter, but his mother does not have any rules for him and spoils him, and thinks his attitude is hilarious. He cusses because she lets him get away with it, he talks back, hits, throws hissy fits (the kind you'd think a 2 year old would throw, just a complete meltdown). I tell him 3 times nicely to do or stop doing something, then I raise my voice a little, then I go to him and nicely but physically make him listen (put his shoes on, stop throwing the ball, etc) it always ends with a tantrum and both of us with extremely frazzled emotions. He tells me "You have to be nice to me" or "I don't have to do that" or "You don't yell at Sissy" and I try to explain to him that his sister listens to me the first time I tell her something, and he does not. She does not throw full out tantrums, while he does.
My question is this...I know he is only 4, so he won't understand much, but shouldn't he understand by now that if he would just listen the first, or even the second time, daddy or I say something, he wouldn't always be in trouble? Let me be clear...this is not a minor occurance. This is ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. For every little thing. He does not listen. At all. I have spanked, done time outs, send him to his room to throw his tantrums, taken away toys, sat down and shortly explained things to him. He gets alone time with each of us so he doesn't feel like he has to share our attention with his sister all the time. We do a lot of fun things with him, but even those fun things (trip to the store, the zoo, out to eat) usually end in a fit. When I tell him he needs to behave (and give him examples on how to behave) he screams "I want to behave! I AM behaving!" and thinks that's all he has to do, is say it. He's not understanding that he has to actually behave.
Is every 4 year old like this? Is it purely because of the split home? He was a super sweet 1 year old, but when he hit 2, the tantrums and attitude started and they have not at all stopped, but have gotten much worse.
Any suggestions on how to approach this? I am so frustrated, and I don't want him growing up thinking his Daddy and I favor his siblings, because it's truly not that at all. It's simply because our daughter listens and he does not.
Have you taken him to family counseling? I think he really needs therapy to teach him how to behave appropriately. Obviously his mother won't reinforce it, but he can at least learn that he has to live under the rules of the house he's in.
I'm sure it's confusing for him, since he's still so young. I definitely think professional help is the best place to start.
Your son is seeking attention and doesn't care if it's negative or positive. He also is aware (as you've stated) that he gets treated differently than his sibling. He's smart, very smart. The two households can really do a number on him especially when there's no structure or rules being enforced in one of the living situations.
With that being said, I think you can definately be optimistic in seeing a change in his behavior. It will require alot of persistence and repetition though. Your son needs to know that when he's with your family, he has a way to behave. This tone is set by the parent doing 4 very important things. (1) If you say there is a consequence for not following directions, always calmly follow through, especially on the first violation. the punshment must be immediate, not after he has thrown the ball 4 or 5 times later. The consequence may be time out. If so, make sure he spends his time in time out. Be repetitve in the correction, less on the warnings. He knows better.
(2) If you want him to stop throwing the ball, use language that he understands what he can do, not just what he can't. For example, you want him to stop a behavior (throwing the ball). Instead of saying, "Stop throwing the ball", give him an instruction for what you want him to do (like roll the ball, toss against a designated wall, etc). That way, instead of him hearing what he can not do with the ball, he may be inclined to do something different with the ball that's safer, more pleasant.
(3), give responsibilites to the four year old just as the 22 month old is given (helps me with chores, she throws away her own diaper and garbage and puts her dishes in the sink). Allow him to become a helper who has no time for mischief. Give him instructions like "could you read the picture book to the baby?" This will create a sense of value for him in the home. (Not saying thta he doesn't, but just try it and see. This will get him to understand that we all take care of eachother in the house and family and look out for one another.
Lastly, (4) Applaud approximation, applaud, applaud. This is where the repetition comes in until you feel silly saying to your son, "I love the way you sat quietly (even if only for 2 minutes) while ______________ (fill in the blank). I am so proud of the way you are playing safely with your ball, toy, sister...whatever. This action on your part will make your son conscious of the behaviors you want him to do without announcing the negative behaviors; your child will have a desire to please you and get the approval (ATTENTION) that he requires and longs for; thus encouraging the child to continue to do the good behaviors which give him the attention (although now the type has turned from negative to positive) he used to seek after being naughty.
I am no expert but have seen this work in 3 different ways with each of my kids and a classroom full of children when I used to teach.
I also have a child that has to be a part of two households. Ours has structure, the other not so much if any. This is conditioning and will work over time if you are consistent. The child will also feel more loved. Don't ask me why, but kids love discipline and someone who cares about what they do each day. The also love structure and having an expectation of knowing what's going on next. Whether transitioning from breakfast to p[laytime, or that special bedtime after a bath and dinner. Explain things to him and keep him close. the more you show him, the more you become his guide to things like dinosaurs, goldfish snack crakers, and his favorite cartoon.
Hope all works out, I know it will because I can not only hear the frustration in your entry but more than that, I hear the cry of a loving mom seeking and answer to help better the lives of all her children :-)) . BE PATIENT and God bless.
Thank you so much! Sometimes I just need to step back and look at it from the outside. I know that he's looking for attention, but I felt like even when it was positive attention from me, he would stretch it further until I'd get frustrated and it would become negative. We also spent the 4th yesterday with his Mom and new boyfriend, so we got to witness firsthand how he is treated there. We'll put it this way....she still baby talks him. "Aww Landon wandon, you don't like mac n cheese? You want Mommy make you hot dog instead?" It was terrible!
I will be keeping your advice at the front of my mind, and pray that it works. Thank you again and God bless!
Also... if time out is used, after the correctiong, always love on him by hugging and explaing what he did wrong and also what he should do next time.
Oh hugs dear!! I'm sorry I don't have much advice. But the book 1-2-3 Magic I heard is wonderful. It's for ages 2-12. I'd give it a try. I downloaded onto my Kindle, Amazon store has it. My friend's 5 year old started hitting her and I suggested that book and it's done wonders for him.
I've heard a lot about that book, I should definitely give it a try!
"She is my husband's and my daughter"
I wasn't really looking for a grammar lesson, but duly noted. Thank you.
A lot of it probably is going from a home w/ rules to a home w/ no rules. It can be difficult having to change your behavior from one house to the other. Just for example- I lived w/ my Mom and Dad 50/50 when they divorced. At my moms house, my room was a complete mess just about 24/7... at my Dad's house my room was NEVER a mess and never allowed to be a mess. I would constantly leave clothes or a towel on the floor at my Dad's just b/c I wouldn't really think twice about it since I got so use to leaving clothes everywhere at my moms house. He constantly had to remind me to clean up my room until it just got really annoying to constantly be nagged and I just did it myself. I also had to pretend I didn't have a clue about how to deep clean a bathroom when at my moms, but all along it was one of my weekly chores at my Dads lol. So, it almost feels kinda like your living a double life at times. It is VERY difficult living a life between two separate families equal amounts of time. Eventually your stepson will probably learn you guys aren't budging w/ where you stand and the whining and tantrums get him nowhere... but he's gonna test what he can and see if he is able to get away w/ the same behavior he gets away w/ at his moms. I 100% agree with Jen that counseling would be a great idea. I went to counseling pretty much just after my parents divorced until about 8th grade. It helped tremendously for me to keep my life balanced out and understand things a little better.
I did go through a similar trantrum/behavior problem w/ my daughter around 3 years old (before that, she was a complete angel!). It seeemd to be worse when we were out, so I basically sat down with her and told her that I was very unhappy with the way she has been behaving (and even gave specific examples- meltdowns at restaurants, trying to run away from me, having a tantrum right in the middle of the store if she didn't get her way)... and said that until she is ready to be a big girl and no more bad bahevior she would no longer be able to go out. There were no more park visits, no more running errands w/ mommy, no more playdates. She eventually came to me and said she was ready to be a big girl... so we started going out again and she was an angel from that day forward. It was tough to basically have no social life or no family outings for awhile, but the long term gain of her understanding how to behave appropriately or there were gonna be huge consequences was well worth the short period of no outings.
You do make an excellent point. My parents got divorced when I was 12, but I was only with my dad every other weekend (If that, because he was a busy business man, or just conveniently forgot) so when I was with my dad, although he tried to enforce his own house rules, my sister and I rarely listened because we were only there two days anyway. I did understand the difference between households though, so maybe my subconscience is just expecting my stepson to understand like I did, even though I was 12 and he is only 4 (Not even 4 until July 30th).
I think a big part of my frustration also stems from the fact that my daughter is so well behaved, and I use the same parenting styles with her that I do with my stepson. I am just praying that in time and with age, he will understand that what he can get away with at his mom's, he cannot get away with it here. I do what you did with your daughter, and explain his bad behavior and that we can't continue that way, and then I will plan the day around my husband's schedule so my son will stay home and my daughter will run the errands with me. Unfortunately, so far all that results in is him saying "I don't like you anymore" and having a meltdown. But hopefully in time it starts to sink in!
I totally understand what you are saying... in fact with my twin boys (only 20 mos. tho) I too felt I should expect the same behavior from both of them... they are the same age, same exact parenting styles, same disciplining techniques, however I am slowly learning they are 2 completely different individuals and I cannot set the same expectations for both of them. One is definitely more well-behaved than the other. I have learned to treat them as individuals and not compare them to each other anymore. You are only going to keep getting frustrated and let down if you keep setting the same expectations for your son that you have set for your daughter. One day you will get there, but for now I would set up different expectations for your son... and even with the slightest improvement (even though it might not be anywhere close to where your daughters good behavior is yet) show how proud/excited you are, just like you found $100 on the ground!... just so he knows and can see with his own eyes that the closer he gets to good behavior the happier you are.