Children who don't care about consequences.

(75 Posts)
alligatorpurse Thu 20-Jan-11 15:43:01

I have one.

He is 7, almost 8. I think he wants to rule the world. His temper is overwhelming and the only way for him is 100% his way.

I have read Alfie Kohn's book "Unconditional Parenting" and I do agree with parts of it, I see that some children do not respond to rewards and punishments, and that long-term it's better to have a curious, intelligent thinker than a yes-man or, worse, a military coup on my hands when he's a teenager.

But my goodness, dealing with this little dictator day to day is bloody exhausting. And I don't feel I'm really into UP to be honest. I have 3 dd's who behave quite normally and mostly do what they are asked etc.

One of our current issues is homework. He won't do it. He has some maths, spellings and sentences to do each week. He screams, cries, throws stuff, and once put the homework in the bin. He can do the homework if he tries, he just hates the "waste of his life" as he always says. I have talked to the teacher about it - she said try not to make too big a deal out of it, but she has sometimes kept him in at playtime to finish it. He was angry about that, but still says he's not doing any homework.

He eats and sleeps well, no issues there. He resists any organised activities but we've insisted he learns to swim, which is another weekly battle, and he makes very little effort with it. I've told him many times he can stop once his swimming is good enough (it's not), but he says he can already swim and doesn't need any more lessons.

I'm finding it hard to get the balance between letting him have the freedom he seems to need - I'm acutely aware we will have a big rebellion on our hands before too long otherwise - and insisting he accepts some boundaries and that life cannot be 100% the way he wants.

You really can't imagine what it's like unless you have a child like this. Any advice from those who do (and anyone else too) would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

fel1x Thu 20-Jan-11 15:53:48

I have a child like this!
Mine is 5yo and the ONLY thing I have found to work a little bit is to focus on the ONE thing he DOES care about.
Is there something that your DS loves? That he's hate to be without? Perhaps even something that he takes for granted (like TV time)?

My DS's only real interest that he cares about is computers. We have a chart up on the wall that has 4 spaces on it. He gets 3 tokens to fill 3 of the spaces each day in the morning. He also gets the 4th token but ONLY if he has gone to bed nicely the night before (this is one of our big battles!)
Each token is worth 15 mins and he can use it on the Wii, on my laptop on cbeebies or on his DS.
If he misbehaves then he gets a warning that if he doesnt stop by the time I count to 3 then he will lose a token. Its very visual, as when he does lose a token you take it straight off the chart in front of him so it makes more of an impact.
You can use it as a carrot as well - for example, offer him the opportunity to 'earn' an extra token by trying hard in his swimming lesson. This has had good results too.

Its not a miracle way of getting them to behave but its made a significant difference actually having something over him that he cares about losing!
Some days Ds has 4 tokens and some days he has no tokens with plenty of days in between, so its always different and I also find when he's had a bad day and lost all his tokens then the threat has more impact the next day as its fresh in his mind that he had no computer time the day before.

Is there anything you can think of that your DS cares about enough to ration like this?

straightoutofthebottomdrawer Thu 20-Jan-11 16:02:48

One thing that might work for homework is picking a deadline an hour or so ahead and saying that if the homework isn't done by then then his book will need to go back in his bag with the homework not done. I think I read about that here. Then follow through.

That might work if deep down he does want the homework to have been done, but is constantly trying to put off doing it now. It won't work if he really doesn't care if it goes back into his bag undone though.

Much sympathy as this sort of temper stuff is hard to deal with.

alligatorpurse Thu 20-Jan-11 16:06:07

We do give pocket money and deduct appropriately for offences, but they can also earn it back again. He often talks about what he's going to buy, but if he's lost a lot of money he'll be so mad and doesn't seem to make the connection for the next time he doesn't want to do something he has to do,or does something he's not allowed to do. I don't think rewards work for him.

It's the same for small things like getting ready for bed - I tell him he needs to be ready by the time I've put younger sis to bed so that we have time for a story. He sort of wants the story, but not enough to do what I say obviously.

alligatorpurse Thu 20-Jan-11 16:07:50

I often put him homework in his bag half done or less, because we simply run out of days and time. He says he's going to tell hs teacher he thinks homework is a bad idea and not to give him any more.

LeninGrad Thu 20-Jan-11 16:11:39

Oh I know what you're talking about and predict DS1 will be just like in a year or two. This is a fairly good description of him.

No solutions, just a big nod of understanding and a good luck.

magnolia74 Thu 20-Jan-11 16:14:19

We had this with dd2 (she is 11) From age 8/9 she refused to do any homework at all hmm

I talked to her and her teacher (together) and the teacher came up with the idea of her looking at her homework and if she really insisted she wasn't going to do it then at least write half a page at the back of the homework book. She was allowed to write anything at all as long as it was half a page.

After a few weeks she decided doing the actual homework was better (most of the time)

If she did nothing at all she was kept in at lunchtime the next day (this worked well in the summer!!)

She is 11 now and always does her homework although last minute!! hmm

scurryfunge Thu 20-Jan-11 16:20:41

I would pick your battles -homework is not the be all and end all at aged 8. Save that battle for secondary. If he is progressing well enough in school then find things he is interested in.

Again with the swimming -if you want him to do it for the exercise than find another activity he is interested in and can develop.(and therefore bargain with). If he has been having lessons and can stay afloat and has confidence in the water, then encourage it later.

notskiving Thu 20-Jan-11 16:21:57

I have one of these children and he is 13.
He is a nightmare still. So I can only tell you how my son has been!

Some homework he will do - but not usually.
If he gets detention he isnt bothered and often will not go to them. He has been put into "academic remove" (not in lesson and by himself) numerous times for not going to detention regarding homework or being late to school (takes train) even though he has left in plenty of time, for being insolent to the teacher in front of the class (eg arguing why she is wrong about the subject - he is very opinionated about things that can be subjective eg English, RE, Geography, Art). If he decides he doesnt like a teacher (usually because they are 'strict') he will not make any effort in lessons either.
He has spent the first 2.5 years of secondary in trouble and frustrating his teachers; he is very bright, and still gets top marks in most subjects (in top set) with this terrible behaviour.
He is now being referred to have an 'inclusion officer' from the authority to follow him round in lessons to see how the school can change their teaching style to suit him! School has just started being great.
At home I could ban everything, and he wouldnt care. He doesnt have any great attachment to possessions. At your sons age he would trash his room if he didnt get his own way and has grafittied how much he hates us all on his door. He writes a lot of poems about people who annoy him.
Primary school were useless and really couldnt wait to see the back of him.

He can be nice if you pay lots of attention to the things he likes - in our case space, science, 'big ideas', bushcraft type things, cooking.
Avoiding a head on confrontation and using distraction techniques help.
Ignoring mediocre bad behaviour.

I feel for you - and look forward to reading the rest of this thread.

fel1x Thu 20-Jan-11 16:23:14

yes, def agree with ignore mediocre behaviour - you have to pick your battles!

notskiving Thu 20-Jan-11 16:26:04

i think it is a GOOD idea for him to tell his teacher he thinks homework is a bad idea - he can use his arguing skills to try and convince her, and hopefully listen to her reasoned response.

alligatorpurse Thu 20-Jan-11 16:40:46

Oh his arguing skills are very well-developed so I'll be interested to see what happens at school. His teacher is great and I'm sure would be open to alternatives to homework. If he was finding it too difficult or too much I would be more sympathetic, but he can do the work fine, he just doesn't want to. He loves all the practical activities he gets to do at school and home - if they said he had to make a pizza for homework he would probably be perstering me to get started. That's fine, but sometimes you just have to sit and think and write.

juuule Thu 20-Jan-11 16:47:50

I second what Scurryfunge said.

KateF Thu 20-Jan-11 16:56:07

Marking my place ecause dd2 is like this and I am out of ideas. Homework also a big issue here especially as she is dyslexic and hates writing. Have asked school for help with her behaviour this week as she can be violent so will wait and see.

alligatorpurse Thu 20-Jan-11 17:04:55

I guess we could stop the swimming. He can float but can't/doesn't do strokes despite a LOT of lessons.

KateF I suspect ds also has dyslexic tendencies although on test he came out in the normal range for everything. What has the school suggested? DS is doing ok with school work but not as well as I would expect from his level of intelligence. I'm quite laid back about education but I do think they need to get the basics behind them so that they can apply it all later in secondary school.

straightoutofthebottomdrawer Thu 20-Jan-11 19:12:53

Have you read The Explosive Child?

Well worth a read IMO. Amongst other things, it goes into the type of thing AK talks about but in a more useful and realistic way, I would say. It's aimed specifically at finding solutions for problems with kids for whom simple consequences just don't work.

LeninGrad Thu 20-Jan-11 19:42:33

I'm picking up a copy of The Explosive Child from the library tomorrow. TBH though we pretty much know how DS1 thinks and feels now, trick is to work with it and try and push in the direction that will be helpful and not a hindrance to him and others around him.

It's very hard to explain how they are and how all the tried and trusted techniques just do not work with children like this.

Finding out about PDA was like having a light come on, we've completely accepted how he is now and are getting better at helping him without him realising.

notskiving, I understand a lot of what you're saying there.

notskiving Fri 21-Jan-11 09:25:41

Sorry in advance if this is a slight thread hijack - wont do it again!

LeninGrad - i read about PDA and i dont think my DS fits into this - but at least the school are trying to help now(!)

I do think that having a 'label', finding something where 'the light comes on' as you say, is helpful, because you can accept it and know he is not just being bloody minded. My DH works with people who amongst other things have challenging behaviour and because they have a diagnosis and he knows its not their fault he is very patient and good. His own son he avoids interaction with and frequently screams and shouts at. I do think that if someone said "oh he is like this because he has 'x' 'y' or 'z' then DH would cope better.

DS has was referred to CAMHS last year but wouldnt speak to the psychologist at all - so obviously they couldnt help him

alligatorpurse Fri 21-Jan-11 09:32:42

Thanks for the book link - I am always up for reading a book which might help us and will try to get a copy.

LeninGrad I do want to know how to work with him, that's exactly right. I was (am?) very much a people pleaser as a child, intimidated by authority, didn't want anyone to be cross with me etc, and DS is so not like that it's hard for me to understand him. I know it's a GOOD thing in general that he doesn't care what anyone thinks, but we have to get through the next 10-15 years before I can send his confident self out into the world!

FredKarnosCircus Fri 21-Jan-11 09:52:53

Thanks for this thread. I've just had the shittiest of mornings getting my DS to school and was ready to throw myself under a bus. Thought I'd have a quick look on MN to see if anyone else was feeling similar, instead.

Have ordered the Explosive Child book, just so I can feel I've done something positive about the situation. My biggest fear is that I will end up losing my temper with him.

Chin up, all.

FredKarnosCircus Fri 21-Jan-11 09:55:52

One of my issues is that I remember being like him. I thought most of the discipline around me was a load of complete tosh.

LeninGrad Fri 21-Jan-11 10:51:11

FredKarnosCircus, it's an exercise in excessive chirpiness and empathy just to get ours to school for half days, we're seriously thinking about what to do.

I pretty much only did what I wanted to do, I actually just stopped going to some lessons at 14/15, I have no idea how I got away with it. I did well at the things that interested me though.

I did want lots of positive attention but I was ok with negative too and I absolutely was not bothered about consequences. I could distract a teacher for ages and easily fell into the class clown schtick.

Anyhoo, I did all right and didn't disrupt things too much for others. My younger brother left school with nothing and is also doing very well.

DS1 has a lot of anxiety and concern over control of a situation and very much has a comfort zone it is difficult to encourage him out of.

I think it will be better as he gets older and develops his own interests and sees some benefits to playing with others, or it could get a whole lot worse, who knows?!

Am looking to jobs and careers for him that lend themselves to those with a megalomaniac/ dogmatic streak.

FredKarnosCircus Fri 21-Jan-11 18:12:05

Leningrad - you and I sound pretty similar, you know. Question for you and all concerned with this stuff: what were YOU like as a child and how were you treated?

Boring auto-biography: my Mother was inattentive, then excessively (I thought) harsh when I did finally appear on her radar. I hated her - she was all about the bad stuff and never much bothered about my qualities, except to claim boasting rights. So I deceived/defied her from a young age. I didn't value her methods, so I didn't care much about her opinions. Even now, 20 years since I left home, i feel an underlying disdain for her (although we can rub along). But I suspect I was a real trial for her - pretty much like my DS is.

I want to be a different kind of parent, but when my son is deceiving and defying me (over really small things), it feels as if the only two options are a) to get tougher or b) to capitulate and let him be utterly obnoxious. What is that third way?

Your thoughts ... ?!

alligatorpurse Fri 21-Jan-11 18:15:24

Thanks for the support, it's so good to hear from others who have dcs with similar personalities.

Do you those of you who remember being similar as children find it easier to understand your dcs' behaviour now? I see nothing of myself in my DS, but a lot of my DH! (who seems to have turned out fine but his parents say he was so strong-minded as a child that he actually resented having parents at all). MIL and FIL did I think get a very good balance of being strict with giving freedom. I wish I know how they did it.

activate Fri 21-Jan-11 18:20:19

Personally I don't understand why you let a 7 year old argue with you

walk away FGS and save your sanity

he seems to have become the boss in this situation

I would say stop doing homework this year because it doesn't matter - tell teacher you're not going to do it and why

When homework has to be done - say year 5 and up agree that homework is to be done first thing Saturday morning before tv, computer, games and stick to it - but no arguing about it

Ask teacher to enforce consequences if not done (but try and make her agree to the write half a page concept first)

and grow some balls - set boundaries, enforce them and don't become a child trying to win the argument - you are a parent

alligatorpurse Fri 21-Jan-11 18:22:31

Fred, that third way is what I am looking for!

And as a child....I was really obedient and passive, on the surface. I think something might have been bubbling underneath as now my relationship with my parents isn't brilliant. They were always very patient but rather smothering (I don't have siblings), and (I see now but didn't for a long time) very manipulative and passive-aggressive.

My parents are terribly shocked at DS's outbursts. They see expressing anger as a bad thing I suppose. And they think if a child doesn't always and immediately do what the parent/adult says then the parent isn't being strict enough.

alligatorpurse Fri 21-Jan-11 18:32:27

And like I said before activate, you really can't understand unless you have a child like this.

I do almost all of the things you suggest. I set boundaries, I enforce consequences, he couldn't give a monkeys. And it's a very unpleasant struggle a lot of the time.

LeninGrad Fri 21-Jan-11 19:05:01

FKC - spot on, but reconciled-ish thankfully. Lots more besides that I won't put on here.

Do I empathise with DS1, damn right I do!

The third way - ignore, ignore, ignore. I just absolutely zone out and walk away as much as I can. I do lose my temper sometimes of course, but not too often. Also, I am like a stuck record with what I expect and why, it is sinking in even if he tries to pretend he's not listening.

activate, not helpful. You can try every method in the book with DS1, it won't work.

FredKarnosCircus Fri 21-Jan-11 19:15:06

I suppose ignoring is the way. But it's difficult to ignore something that impacts us all. We have big problems in the morning, when it's time to go. He will do anything to disrupt and delay the process. Writing that down ... maybe he simply doesn't want to go to school. Damn.

The other flash point is toileting. To be frank, I am sick to death of lies, avoidance and, inevitably, him wetting himself and whatever is around. Just. Go. To. The. Toilet.

alligatorpurse Fri 21-Jan-11 19:19:01

LeninGrad that sounds exactly like my situation. I have developed a strategy of almost talking to myself to keep calm when he's kicking off. I know getting loud and shouty back at him will not help, he can't even hear me when he's in a rage. But sometimes I really want to let him know in no uncertain terms how difficult he's making everything, and that his sisters are being ignored a lot because of him. I talk about all this when we're both calm and happy but them main response is a non-eye contact yes ok yes ok yes ok which really means can we stop talking now?

LeninGrad Fri 21-Jan-11 19:25:45

FKC, how old is yours?

ap, I just don't think you force empathy if that make sense? Another tactic I have used is to rush to the wronged person and really make an over the top fuss. He has to see it's not all/ always about him.

Big issues with school here.

alligatorpurse Fri 21-Jan-11 19:25:51

FKC we had big toilet problems between being supposedly potty trained just before age 3 and until over 5. I still don't know why but he would wait and wait and wait and refuse to go and there would be a big wet patch at the front of his trousers. I tried all different reward systems at various intervals and NOTHING made a difference.

In the end I had to just leave it all to him. He had total control over that and he knew it. He would wet himself at school in reception a lot and didn't seem bothered at all, even when a couple of times other children told him he smelled of wee.

I'm pretty sure that he finally decided to go before alredy being wet was his own decision in the end!

LeninGrad Fri 21-Jan-11 19:31:48

Mine would not use the loo, but decided to go without pull ups at night at 3/3.5 unprompted and was fine. We compromised on him standing in the loo in pull ups when he needed to poo until he was 4 or so and then one day he just went to the loo on his own and that was that. A whole load of effort cajoling and offering rewards completely pointless, he did it when he wanted/ felt comfortable to and felt in control of it all.

LeninGrad Fri 21-Jan-11 19:37:57

The thing with DS1 is that it is the expectations around everyday things that cause him anxiety, you can see it if you watch him. Because he then can't deal with his emotions and feelings it comes out as defiance and then meltdowns if not headed off. School is a deep joy for him as you can imagine. He likes his teacher though and we're making very slow progress.

FredKarnosCircus Fri 21-Jan-11 19:38:39

Re Activate's points: I can understand the irritation in your post, actually. You're the critical voice I hear, urging me to get tough and not endlessly go through this crap.

The problems I have are that a) like Alligator said, it simply hasn't worked. Your "no arguing" suggestion - he argues EVERYTHING. And b) I don't want to force him to be compliant, through fear. I don't want a well behaved child now, if it means he despises me for it later. I don't think that good behaviour is all (going on from Alligator's point). I want the relationship for life. I think you can lose children by insisting on being the only one calling the shots. My mother lost me.

He is brave, clever, funny and independent - I like him very much when he's not kicking me in the tit and telling me he loves me smaller than an ant. In fact, he's just my kind of person, but - ugh - being the person responsible for him is bloody difficult.

It's also difficult to explain my feelings on this without talking bollocks here and there blush

FredKarnosCircus Fri 21-Jan-11 19:42:57

Alligator - re toileting - you have described my son! He's 5 +3m, into his second term of Reception and - well, everything you said is our true for us.

So best to just leave it? I HATE that other children notice that he is wet/smells.

FredKarnosCircus Fri 21-Jan-11 19:51:42

Lenin: i'm not sure if expectations are a problem for DS. Sometimes he responds very well (cue my 'should I be more structured?' debate with myself), but that's usually in a one-off situation. Longer term, he really struggles to maintain it. His main instinct is to please himself.

How popular are your boys? DS often plays on his own. DH is very worried, but I remember doing the same ...

LeninGrad Fri 21-Jan-11 20:00:09

No friends yet but it will come with a bit more maturity I think. He is very funny and loving, just prefers adults atm.

activate Fri 21-Jan-11 22:07:10

it takes two people to argue

FredKarnosCircus Sat 22-Jan-11 10:27:23

Ah, that's just easy to say.

The fact that my son argues everything doesn't mean I do. I ask/tell him to do something, he refuses.

activate Sat 22-Jan-11 12:09:34

no it's not easy to say

and it's not bloody easy to do

but after 4 kids - 2 of them well into teens I have learned to say, repeat and ignore outbursts then once they've spent their ire say and repeat

no arguments

LeninGrad Sat 22-Jan-11 13:28:10

I do agree with that and it's what we do (mostly). Very difficult with DS1 when there is a whole load of genuine anxiety underpinning his resistance to things though. We've unpicked a lot of it but still some way to go.

LeninGrad Sat 22-Jan-11 13:30:57

Other tactics, loads of indirect requests/ observations, competitions etc. I'm sure you've tried all this but it's all that works with DS1.

Honestly we had major hassles getting out this morning to go to...the toy shop. Most kids would be out of the door really quickly, it's just the way he is with any expectation or request.

alligatorpurse Sat 22-Jan-11 15:33:50

FKC you summed up exactly how I feel when you said you don't want to your son to obey at any cost. I often say to DH that in Victorian "seen and not heard" times our son would have been severely beaten! And the thing is, I don't think I could rule him by fear. On the occasions when I have lost my temper and shouted, he's not remotely bothered. One thing I can do is force myself to stay calm (outwardly.

We also had problems getting out this morning. It was over getting dressed. Nothing was right, he didn't want to wear anything in his cupboard and got himself all worked up. He did in the end get dressedin clothes of his choosing, all unmatching and unsuitable for the weather but that is a non-problem for me nowadays. I always feel it's so unfair to my girls who get ready quickly and do what I ask.

He is VERY popular with the kids at school. I think he gives off such an independent, don't care attitude that they all seem to flock to him. He is often the one who comes up with the ideas that form the games they play outside at school. He is quite happy to play on his own too.

FredKarnosCircus Sat 22-Jan-11 20:12:37

Lenin, I think there is often genuine anxiety under DS's hostile surface, too. And if not anxiety, there is generally something else motivating him to resist. I will try asking 'why', I think ... he goes to football tomorrow and generally kicks off (unintentional pun) beforehand. He does enjoy it once he's there, but it can be such a trauma.

We've removed all computer stuff this weekend (he usually has some time on Club Penguin and/or a kid's app on the iPhone) and he's been far less explosive. There's a lesson.

straightoutofthebottomdrawer Sat 22-Jan-11 21:13:18

With mine a normal consequence not working is usually a sign that there's something under the surface like anxiety. It took us a long while to work that out. Now we do a plan B approach (Explosive Child jargon) whenever that's going on to try to get to the root of the resistance. It must be very hard if the anxiety comes merely from the fact that a demand has been made (not the case here, I don't think PDA is the issue for us, but other sources of anxiety can be).

Greeninkmama Sat 22-Jan-11 21:20:08

The Negotiation Generation by Lynne Reeves Griffin is worth reading - it is all about setting boundaries, in a good way. uthority-Punishment/dp/0425217019/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UT F8&qid=1295731154&sr=8-1

LeninGrad Sat 22-Jan-11 21:25:31

Will have a look Greeninkmama, thanks.

Indeed straightoutofthebottomdrawer, it is very hard, everything has to be presented in an insouciant, roundabout way else we're doomed. The other thing you have to do, which runs counter to everything you're told, is spring stuff on him at the last minute.

Forgot to pick up my copy of The Explosive Child at the library, will get it soon.

alligatorpurse Sun 23-Jan-11 09:28:30

I am also interested to see that book Greeninkmama

This thread is helping me to stay calm I think! Had on ok morning so far today. One angry outburst so far - told him to go to his room and calm down. He went reluctantly but came back fine after a few minutes.

I've also had a talk with DS about "compromise". I can see this is really hard for him, but we are a family of 6 people and he can't have everything 100% his way. I do think this is the root of the problem. For example, he came into the kitchen and said he wanted to make "his own recipe". I was using the oven already and said, yes, we could bake something together but after I had finished using the oven. He didn't want to wait, and he only wanted to make his own idea, not something from a book, which basically equates to him mushing together flour, sugar, eggs etc then the whole lot going in the bin later because it's inedible. After A LOT of discussion where we both managed to stay calm (he even said at one point "I'm getting angry now"), we agreed on a recipe of his choice from a book.

A large part of me still think it's ridiculous to negotiate for 15 minutes over which biscuits we're going to make, but it's preferable to screaming I guess.

straightoutofthebottomdrawer Sun 23-Jan-11 10:17:19

I think you may find the Explosive Child book very helpful for that kind of situation, as it basically gives a script for that kind of negotiation where a simple "no you'll have to do it this way" leads to an outburst. You would start by empathising - something like "you really want to just get on with it and start mixing it all up straight away don't you?", then your aim after that is to get him to join in with what the book calls collaborative problem solving. You express your personal point of view - your concern that it might not work if he doesn't follow a recipe (even the obvious concern - that if he starts straight away it'll ruin whatever's in the oven already - is worth putting into words for a child who's very narrowly focused on getting what they want). You propose the idea that you find a solution that works for both of you. Ask for suggestions. His first ones will probably be just that he does what he wants. You might say you've got a couple of suggestions if he wants to hear them. You discuss possible solutions and you point out where one of them doesn't work for the other person. Ideally you then settle on one that works for both of you to some extent, but crucially you haven't just jumped to that solution but you've laid out the reasoning and the need for both people to be considered.

The good thing about the Explosive Child book is that it doesn't just give you this script and assume your child will follow it. It's a process. Maybe the agreed solution won't be stuck to the first time, maybe the process will be stormed out of, but ideally over time you work towards a method of reaching a compromise that involves them truly having to think of the other person's point of view. It does seem longwinded and hard work compared to just suggesting a compromise and having it instantly accepted by a fairly compliant child, but in the long term I think it's very positive - it's a real skill they're learning, even if it's hard.

You do need to be prepared to compromise yourself as well obviously, to some extent. (In the recipe situation, if the thing he really wants to do is to experiment and see what happens then a good compromise could be to sacrifice a couple of eggs and some out of date flour to experiments.) You'll find that the empathy step is the one where you can find out what's really going on and sometimes it's surprising, the resistance isn't coming from where you've assumed. You might try a few things and hit the jackpot on only one - "you're really excited about trying this and just want to start straight away" or "you're worried that if you don't start straight away I'm going to use up all the eggs and there won't be any left for your recipe" or "you think a recipe from a book will slow you down and make it boring" - one of them might get lots of nods and then you've got useful information to work with when moving towards a compromise.

Sorry didn't mean to waffle so much. It is well worth reading the book - it goes into troubleshooting that kind of collaborative problem solving too so it will show you how it can go wrong - how tempting it is to jump straight to suggesting a solution and skipping the empathising stage or the stage of inviting them to provide their own solutions. And because it's all aimed at getting it to work with 'difficult' (for whatever reason) children it doesn't just give you the script and assume it will be easy. It also helpfully deals with some of the arguments from people who think you just need to be firmer and everything will magically start to work.

I'd also recommend this for anyone who's interested in reading in more detail about it all. It's aimed at professionals dealing with children more so it's a bit less simplistic, which I quite liked.

straightoutofthebottomdrawer Sun 23-Jan-11 10:34:03

And I know just what you mean about it seeming ridiculous for it to take 15 minutes - especially if you've got other children who would just go along with your suggestion straight away, and when it's so obvious to everyone else that compromise is needed and that the one you're suggesting is a good one. Going step by step through a tortuous conversation to try to get at what the real problem is and get some kind of joint agreement can be hellish, but it is great when it works even a little bit. It's much more satisfying than getting the threat of a consequence to finally work.

I ought to add that we still do do consequences some of the time, partly because some of the sources of anxiety my child had were (luckily) temporary and when they went he has become less explosive. Over issues where there's no anxiety and really we need instant compliance ("please get down off that bookcase"), if the first request doesn't work then a quiet firm friendly-voiced "or else this will happen" (which we follow through on if necessary) usually does work for us. But wherever possible I still try to do a collaborative problem solving type of approach because (and I suppose this is what AK is saying) I do believe that in the long-term it's better and teaches them a vital skill for adult life. Understanding where their resistance comes from, showing them that what they feel isn't irrelevant, teaching them how to find solutions to difficult situations... all good IMO.

alligatorpurse Sun 23-Jan-11 12:23:12

Thanks, that's very helpful. I'm going to order that book now.

The negotiations do take a ridiculously long time because DS is so good at arguing. He also has this knack of saying something really mature and perceptive in the middle of the discussion which catches me off guard! Like you said, I have to give reasons for everything I say, e.g. (today) He wanted to make something which didn't need to go in the oven so he could do it now, I said that flour needs to be cooked before you can eat it, so then he wanted to make something without flour etc etc. I explained that with baking you have to be very precise or it doesn't turn out right, which is why we use recipes. It's all a fine balacing act of making sure he's listening and letting him have his say. If he decides he's listened enough he switches off or tries to talk over me (reminds me of that Far Side card with the dog who hears only "blah blah blah blah blah, Fido").

I'm going to keep gently reinforcing the idea of compromise - I told him it's what we do when we can't get exactly what we want, we find something which is ok with everyone.

FredKarnosCircus Mon 24-Jan-11 20:03:45

Dropping to say that we have had a teal turnaround here. Offering empathy in response to an outburst has worked so much more than attempting to take control.

DH had been open mouthed at my sudden brilliance at dealing with DS. I am the Child Whisperer ...

But it's pretty obvious, isn't it? If his emotions have taken control, I need to deal with that first. Reason can come later.

He's so much happier, too. I feel sad it's taken so long for me to click onto this.

Of course, the goalposts will move in a week or two ...

alligatorpurse Tue 25-Jan-11 06:03:32

That's great FKC.

We had a good weekend too, I think partly because no homework was involved!

This thread is still really helping me. I had an off-moment yesterday at the end of the day while trying to get 4 kids into bed and DS didn't want to brush his teeth. I was tired and had lots of things to do before I could relax and I just couldn't find the energy to negotiate at length. But I KNEW deep down that loudly saying "DS, COME AND BRUSH YOUR TEETH, NOW!" was not going to get the desired result. Ah well.

FredKarnosCircus Tue 25-Jan-11 19:39:04

I am continuing to find this thread helpful, too

Am amazed at the way that offering support for DS's emotional state deals with so much of his resistance.

I think I have been too rational (lacking empathy) in my approach. It's something I accuse DH of, actually, so that's an eye opener.

Nothing can be achieved until the mist has gone.

ommmward Tue 25-Jan-11 19:47:46

this is a lovely thread

yes yes yes to acknowledging emotion

Some children demand to be taken seriously. IMO (and just IMHO), taking them seriously might be the answer, ethically and practically. as in Taking Children Seriously

But you may think that this is utterly moonbat. The ideas about compromise I am reading upthread remind me, however, of 'common preference finding' in TCS parlance.

Marking my place as I am very interested in this thread, but don'thve the time to read now.

FredKarnosCircus Tue 25-Jan-11 20:13:54

What an interesting link! Thank you. I feel instantly at home amongst those ideas.

I think I am instinctively uncomfortable with discipline, structure and coercion. I wonder if some of the irritation I feel when I have to handle DS's more challenging moments is that I don't want to! I hate being the sensible one.

DH is quite an authoritarian and conformist. I have tended to fall into line, I suppose, but then I find myself getting shitty with DS because I am enforcing a rule in which I don't really believe.

Sorry, this is self-indulgent - but ommmward's link is fascinating!

FredKarnosCircus Tue 25-Jan-11 20:25:58

Also, since I switched my attention from 'controlling behaviour' to 'finding out the reason for such a strong reaction', DS and I are loving each other's company. Our relationship is so much more loving and positive. And his behaviour is better!

FFS, I could kick myself!

ommmward Wed 26-Jan-11 08:51:11

DELIGHTED to have hit the spot, FredKarnosCircus

Davsmum Wed 26-Jan-11 09:58:01

Activate - I agree with you - however, I think it depends on you rown personality. All parents are different just as all children are different - I find it easy to take charge of this type of thing - but many people don't.
I find it difficult to understand when parents say their child WONT do this or that because I would not accept that from a child when it is something that I know they HAVE to do !
I don't see the point of pushing the swimming issue - but like you say - I wouldn't argue with a child, neither would I shout or rant at them - You need to set your intention and decide what you will and will not accept.
Its hard to understand that some people have difficulty with this when it seems easy to yourself.

turkeyboots Wed 26-Jan-11 10:18:42

Some of your DC sound like me as a child. I was very anxious and stressed about everything (and am dyslexic which added to it all). My DM still tell me that "I look down on her and won't let her help me". She couldn't cope with me and I am still considered the "bad" one in the family.

What would have helped is empathy and being taken seriously (was a very serious child). Once I got to teenage years and friends and boyfriends took priority for me, it actually helped me control my overreactions to things.

Davsmum Wed 26-Jan-11 14:41:38


You do not have to instill fear to get a child to behave, or expect a child to be totally compliant - What they do have to know is that ultimately you are the one in charge !
Children do not respect parents who lie down and let them get away with being disruptive or hitting them.
If you want a relationship for life you need to be respected - and that works both ways - you respect your child too and you listen to them - boundaries have to be reset and be age appropriate.
Why do people think their child is the only child where NOTHING works ??
Parents will even prefer to think their child has a 'condition' rather than think they need to look at themselves !
Being in control MEANS understanding why the child is angry/disruptive - it means LISTENING but ultimately - it means being prepared to take responsibility.

FredKarnosCircus Wed 26-Jan-11 23:38:49

Glad you came on here to berate me, davsmum. Or were you very cleverly showing me how it feels to be indiscriminately patronised and belittled, just to further elucidate the issue for me?

Davsmum Thu 27-Jan-11 10:36:33

Methinks you are overly sensitive Fred ? I was not berating you - or patronising at all - and certainly no belittling !
I cannot MAKE you feel anything - thats your issue, surely ?
Its possible one can over complicate a problem by analysing and too much thinking about it.
Mostly its common sense and logic.

FredKarnosCircus Thu 27-Jan-11 12:16:07

You addressed an entire post to me, most of which was pretty unsympathetic and disrespectful. You say what you like after the event.

You sound delighted with yourself and I'm not exactly crying into my coffee, so don't give it another thought.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ommmward Thu 27-Jan-11 12:34:55

Davsmum - I would like to suggest that you spend a decade or so living with a child with sensory processing disorder, or some sort of autistic spectrum disorder, before you so glibly and confidently write about the need for parents to "take responsibility" and parents inventing "conditions" to cover their parental inadequacies.

Fuck off now, there's a love.

alligatorpurse Thu 27-Jan-11 16:22:00

Yes, your post was rather insensitive Davsmum.

When I had one child who mostly listened and obeyed, I thought I had this parenting thing sorted. Equally when I had 3 dcs who slept through the night at an early age I thought it was because I was such a good mum teaching them how to fall asleep on their own from a young age. Then I had dc4 who woke up every 3 hours until she was a year old.

I've learnt from my own dcs how different children with the same parents can be. So I would never assume I understand another person's situation with their child. I can offer suggestions if they ask, but I would never tell them "this is how you should raise children."

FredKarnosCircus Thu 27-Jan-11 17:17:25

Alligator - I thought I had everything sewn up with my first child. Then he turned 4.

Having said that, he has really improved in the last week. I knew what I was doing was inadequate, but just didn't know the better alternative.

This thread has been really helpful for me, so thank you very much. DS will change again, so this is by no means the magic cure, but it's certainly made a positive difference now.

alligatorpurse Fri 28-Jan-11 05:54:53

That's great FKC, it's helped me a lot too. It's true that dcs constantly change, and we also have good and bad weeks, for no particular reason I can see. I think my mood and ability to stay calm (or not) definitely plays a role.

Davsmum Fri 28-Jan-11 09:40:03

Davsmum - I would like to suggest that you spend a decade or so living with a child with sensory processing disorder, or some sort of autistic spectrum disorder, before you so glibly and confidently write about the need for parents to "take responsibility" and parents inventing "conditions" to cover their parental inadequacies.

Fuck off now, there's a love.

As you have absolutely no idea of what experience I have with my own children - or what disorders they may have - your comment was frankly stupid.
It appears that yourself and Fredkarnoscircus want comments that you agree with and are sympathetic and are not realy interested in seeing it any other way. You prefer to make parenting more complicated than it need be. It isn't EASY -but it certainly does not need the intense analysis that you seem to need it to be, Forever looking for reasons. !
Children are quite straightforward - its adults who screw them up.
I am sure you will set a good example though - someone who says 'Fuck off now, there's a love' is obviously an excellent role model.

FredKarnosCircus Fri 28-Jan-11 18:54:29

You're a real charmer, davsmum!

I don't really rate what you say either way (I think your thinking is simplistic, self-centred and reactionary); I'm just sorry you decided to play the Bad Fairy on what was otherwise a really supportive thread. I'm sure you feel fully justified, of course.

Davsmum Mon 31-Jan-11 12:04:28

Thank you - I am a charmer, I agree.

Of course you will not rate what I say because you are not prepared to look at it any way that may be uncomfortable for you.
Your thinking is too analytical, complicated and because you are not prepared to look at your own responses - then THAT is self centred.
You see, whenever I had problems with children, I looked to myself and took advice and changed what I was doing - That is not self centred. Thats taking responsibility.

You really have not read my posts properly - You have jumped and reacted.

I am really sorry if you are offended. If you just want support and pats on the back, then I can't see how you will ever grow.

Triedalot Thu 22-Dec-11 02:59:22

I've read through most of this chain. Alligatorpurses' son sounded just like my son, who is now 25. I did what everyone here suggested, saw child specialists, read, [yes, the Explosive Child] always believing I could change him and make a difference. Well you know what? Parents can do a lot, but we're not magician's. We also have to work with the personality and issues our child comes with. And if you haven't had a child this challenging, never walked in our shoes, you have NO right to criticize or pass judgement.

I said my son is 25 and you know what, he hasn't changed that much. He has issues with relationships and accepting responsibility for what he does and learning from his consequences. I'm still trying to find some peace with him. I have two other older children, a son 30 and a daughter who's 33. Both are in healthy marriages with great partners and successful careers they love. I did nothing different with them than I did with my youngest son.
I get angry when people are hard on parents who have difficult children. It's hard enough parenting these children, without taking the blame for why they're like that.
What I'm working on is realizing that I can't control anyone but myself and to accept I've done everything and more to give my son a chance for success. If he won't take it, I can't do more. I've taken him to the water MANY times, but I can't make him drink!!

To alligatorpurse and other parents with challenging kids, do the best you can, get the help you need, enlist others to help you, but in the end remember,your child makes their own decisions, one's you are NOT responsible for.

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