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Is this acceptable? Dealing with battles of wills with 5 year olds.

(186 Posts)
wigglylines Tue 17-Jun-14 09:12:12

How can I help DP avoid getting into battles of wills with DS?

Total meltdown from DS this morning and DP is really cross.

DS was mucking around, he didn't want to wear his eye patch (he's got a lazy eye) to school (first time I've heard this) and was refusing to go out the door. We were at the point that they had to leave then and there or get a late mark (again).

DS had already argued about going to the toilet, having his hair brushed, and a couple of other things, and DP was irritable from being in pain from a muscle injury and not having enough sleep, so it was already all a bit fraught.

DS was getting increasingly hysterical and refusing to respond to any threats of consequences. He wouldn't put his glasses on or leave the house. DP and I had both raised our voices to him. I left the room and when I came back DP was physically picking a screaming DS up off the sofa and was about to lift him out of the house.

As far as I'm concerned that's not acceptable. It hasn't helped DS learn good behaviour, it's just using DP's might to "win" and for a start I don't think that's modelling good behaviour on DP's part (DS is also very strong, I don't want him thinking it's OK to be physical with his friends if he's loosing an argument) and also it doesn't help DS learn good behaviour for next time. DS is too heavy for me to lift when he's hysterical, so that route is not available to me. It also escalates the situation as DS responds by becoming more hysterical if his dad tries to force him out of the house by picking him up.

For me, it's a line that shouldn't be crossed. Am I right here?

I could see it just wasn't working and asked DS to come for a cuddle and eventually we reached a compromise that he could walk to school without his patch and put it on there. DP kept interrupting to lay down the law again.

How do I help DP understand what my point is here? We need to start listening to DS more IMO, it may seem to be him being "naughty" but there's usually more going on isn't there?

Andro Tue 17-Jun-14 09:50:05

Your DS acted up, refused to do as your DP (your DS's dad?) told him, had a tantrum about it and what he got was mummy cuddles and (at least part of) his own way?

I think you've managed to undermine your DP and send a bad message to your DS. You compromised on the eye patch which he needs to correct a medical problem...would you have compromised on prescribed medication if he didn't want to take that?

As for how to stop your DP getting into the battle of wills, talk to him about remaining utterly calm and factual - he's the adult and can choose not to engage with the drama.

Thisvehicleisreversing Tue 17-Jun-14 10:01:45

Totally agree with Andro

You undermined your DP in front of your DS. Giving him a cuddle for playing up? hmm

To be honest I'd have done exactly what your DP did. School is non negotiable, eye patch is non negotiable.

Parenting is a lot about battle of wills and for me, when it comes to things like school or medical issues, the parent should always 'win'

When my DS's were younger and playing me up like that they would've been manhandled out of the door too. They're 12 and 8 now and lovely, well behaved boys so having to do that sometimes hasn't turned them into vicious tearaways.

I think you should give your DP a break. He's trying to parent the best he can, just like you.

noblegiraffe Tue 17-Jun-14 10:10:38

You are making things worse, not better. Lifting up a recalcitrant five year old is fine.

There was a thread on here recently from a parent who had been asked by the head specifically not to behave in the way you are doing, negotiating with a child when they should be following reasonable instructions without argument because it was causing problems at school.

The books 1,2,3 magic, or How to Talk so Children Listen might be helpful to both of you to find a middle way, but ultimately you need to stop undermining your DP.

DeepThought Tue 17-Jun-14 10:22:55

Yes I would and have picked up and carried out kicking and screaming.

The Rugby ball underarm hold was v useful.

catkind Tue 17-Jun-14 10:59:33

Yes I'd pick my DS up in that circumstance. Though I'd hope we'd have managed to get through to him by explaining before that, it sounds like you all had a bad morning. I do think picking him up teaches him to behave better next time, it teaches him that leaving for school on time is non-negotiable. When he's calmed down you can explain why.

I'd see picking him up as a gentler solution than shouting at him tbh, which it sounds like you'd both tried. If DS behaves like a toddler he gets treated like a toddler. When they're in a tantrum they're not susceptible to reason so you can threaten consequences all you like, but if you want to get to school on time you just have to go. I wouldn't see that as using force any more than carrying a toddler upstairs when they refuse to go to bed is using force - dad's not hurting him, just taking him where he needs to be.

Out of interest, were you late? And did you follow through on the threatened consequences?

wigglylines Tue 17-Jun-14 18:44:48

But DP shouting at him and picking him up makes the situation worse. DS gets more hysterical. He's then got to get to school, a 10 minute walk. Carrying him out of the house is not going to result in a child happy to walk to school - quite the opposite, it ends up being an ongoing drama.

The way I see it, I diffused the situation, DS left and walked to school relatively happy and put the patch on when he got there. I don't always cuddle him when he tantrums (which he still does), but the situation was getting out of hand and required something to give IMO.

DS and DP got there quicker, and more ready for school than if DS had been literally dragged there kicking and screaming.

DS is a very strong boy, much bigger and stronger than almost all of his peers. I'm concerned that modelling such physical behaviour is going to get him into trouble if he copies it (which I believe he is starting to). Would this not be a concern?

noblegiraffe Tue 17-Jun-14 18:49:20

You are placating him by giving in to him, letting him call the shots and rule the roost. It won't change his behaviour, it will encourage it. Whenever he doesn't want to do anything for you from now on he will argue and negotiate. He will also play your DP off against you because it works.

You might have had a kid happy to go to school, but tomorrow you'll have a kid who will fanny around again.

If you could say to that kid 'mess about like you did yesterday and I'll be carrying you to school again', then he would piss about far less.

It's like the parents who take their kids to school in their pyjamas. They usually only have to do it the once.

reluctantphotographer Tue 17-Jun-14 18:52:02

In my opinion, it is a battle of wills. Some things are non-negotiable. If you don't sort it now and gain some respect from your 5 year old that he knows how to behave, that there are standards, and that sometimes he just has to do as he is told, what will you do when he is 15?

Andro Tue 17-Jun-14 18:55:11

You didn't diffuse the situation, you gave in to him.

Any unacceptable physical behaviour needs to be stopped, but physically moving a child who is having a tantrum/hysteria fit is different. The only modelling you have done is to show him that you DP has less authority than you and he can strop his way out of doing what your DP tells him if he escalates it far enough.

PrincessBabyCat Tue 17-Jun-14 18:56:21

It sounds like your 5 year old is in charge, not you. If DD threw a fit, I'd be picking her up and forcing her into the car seat to drive to school too. If you give into tantrums it just teaches them to throw tantrums to get what they want.

The fact that he's already been late shows you don't really have control over him.

He's a 5 year old, not an adult with solid reasoning and logic skills. You need to treat him like a 5 year old.

georgedawes Tue 17-Jun-14 18:59:09

Yep got to agree with the others, sometimes you just have to do the tough love and it works out better in the long run. No negotiating over things like this.

OeufieTheEggaphant Tue 17-Jun-14 19:00:17

Nothing really to add, but agree with pp, you negotiated on something non-negotiable afaic and his behaviour won't improve from that.

So you've taught him that if he acts up enough he gets a hug and his own way? Sorry, but I'm with your DP.

wigglylines Tue 17-Jun-14 19:20:13

He's been wearing the patch for 2 months, without any fuss at all, he's been really good. This morning he said it was stinging. It may have been actually stinging. I don't think forcing it on him is necessarily the best way to go.

He kept complaining that his legs were tired a while back, like if we had to walk somewhere. Both DP and I thought he was acting up so used the usual threats / bribery to get him to walk. Turns out he's actually Vitamin D deficient and his legs really do hurt. Have been for ages but we didn't listen to him. It's since learning that I've reassessed how we relate to him and I am trying to listen to him more. He's only 5, if he doesn't want to wear the patch unusually one day, perhaps there's a good reason but he's unable to articulate it because he's only 5.

Today, he didn't get to not wear the patch, only to have a 10 minute break from it (which is perfectly fine, medically).

wigglylines Tue 17-Jun-14 19:23:14

Anyway, this isn't AIBU. I'm trying to find ways to help DP not get so wound up by DS's behaviour as it makes it so much worse. They end up at loggerheads and it could be avoided if DP could employ some methods which weren't direct confrontation. DS would not be so hysterical if DP had not raised the temperature by shouting at him.

I did get a couple of books (Calmer Happier Easier Parenting and How to Talk So Children Listen ...) but AFAIK he's not read much of either of them.

reluctantphotographer Tue 17-Jun-14 19:39:39

I don't think your DP did anything wrong. I have done the pick up and dump in the car and force straps on them on many occasions. Can't be late for school. You go. Now. Or I put you in the car.

Sometimes they just have to do what they are told. Not all the time, but on the way out to school, on a schedule, is not the time for debate.

My kids have never had a late mark. Because I just didn't ever allow them to mess about to be late in the mornings. We have to go to school. That's the rules. We leave. Now.

cornflakegirl Tue 17-Jun-14 19:48:05

I think it depends on the situation. With 9yo DS1 we had (and have) battles about him doing what he is told, when he is told, and I have manhandled him on occasion.

4yo DS2 is generally much more compliant, but sometimes gets really worked up about things until he is pretty much hysterical. Enforcing doesn't work with him - he needs time to calm down and a cuddle or we just get nowhere.

noblegiraffe Tue 17-Jun-14 19:51:05

DS had already argued about going to the toilet, having his hair brushed, and a couple of other things

His patch might have been stinging, but your description of the morning suggests that your DS is not normally a compliant delight. You didn't mention a concern that his patch was playing up in the OP, merely that you wanted DS to walk to school happy. Walking to school happy is a bonus not an aim to be gained at any cost. The cost this morning was you completely undermining your DP. If it wasn't the patch it would have been something else, from the sounds of it.

You also said that you had raised your voice to DS, but you only blamed your DP for 'raising the temperature' and creating hysteria. You said DS didn't respond to any threats of consequences, but you didn't actually say any consequences were applied, which might explain why the threats were ignored.

Perhaps you both need to discuss a combined approach where you support each other.

GoogleyEyes Tue 17-Jun-14 19:56:17

Hmm, I don't agree with the majority here. In the end, if you have to use force with a child this age then I think that's a sign that you need to change things. Personally, I always support DH regardless of what he's doing, I think it's crucial to present a united front to the kids. He does the same for me.

But, having done that, I would want to talk about how to avoid the same situation happening again. Books can help, or talking to other experienced dads if he's not the type to read parenting books.

I do think that five is a bit big for manhandling - and you say he's too strong for you to do that anyway. I would try and set up strong routines, consequences and rewards in partnership with your DH, so that he knows the plan and feels he's shaped it. Maybe your DH could plan to say something like 'if you make us late for school, then no screen time today. I'm waiting here with my book, tell me when you're ready to go'?

specialmagiclady Tue 17-Jun-14 19:57:56

Sorry but I think you did the right thing! Your partner's approach wasn't working and you both got what you wanted - child at school and in patch. What does it matter how it went on, as long as it went on.

I really don't think we can expect our children to just do as they're told when we bark orders at them. They are not robots.

Also, if one parent is getting so angry they are about to use their physical strength to get their way, maybe it is time to "tag" their team mate and see if another approach.

Yes, school is non-negotiable, but there are other ways to get unwilling children if this age there without bodily lumping them around.

Disclaimer: my ds2 was pushing the boundaries the other night and I had to lump him screaming into the house. But I view that as a failure.

My kids are mostly brilliant - and "obedient" - in spite of ASD but I always try to understand that all behaviour is communication and if they are kicking off, there may be underlying reasons that may need to be explored.

As for how to convert your OH, read "how to talk..." Again and start putting things in place. Then start raving about how much easier you are finding stuff and how brilliant you are finding it. He may then read it and do same. (That's what happened here)

littledrummergirl Tue 17-Jun-14 19:58:37

It's like the parents who take their kids to school in their pyjamas. They usually only have to do it the once.

Been there, done that. It was only the once. Have also made ds2 walk to school barefoot. I told him he was not making his sister late and could put them on when we got there.Again this only happened once.

Of course kids play up, its normal. You are in charge though and set the rules. When they are set you enforce them. Its called parenting.

You and your dh need to discuss strategies when ds is not around, decide what you are going to do and stick to it. Good parent bad parent doesnt work.

specialmagiclady Tue 17-Jun-14 20:00:01

Oh yeah also that. ^

LastTango Tue 17-Jun-14 20:02:22

You undermined your DP. So what if DS goes to school kicking and screaming...........I'm damned sure it would be the last time.

I only took my son to school ONCE in his pyjamas.....tee hee.

It is called firm parenting.

Jennys2108 Tue 17-Jun-14 20:03:09

I have sympathy for the OP. I read somewhere that 'a child needs a hug most when they deserve it least' and I've tried to stick to it. Children get frustrated and don't have the communication skills to say what they mean. A hug reassures them that it's ok and provides a bit of time to calm down. And what's wrong with compromise? The eyepatch was worn.

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