I have real problems with discipline, punishment in particular.(19 Posts)
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Just chatting with DP and a friend tonight hence the late post - it's been something I've been wanting to start a thread on here for ages.
DS is 4 and I find it really difficult to discipline him. I am good at positive reinforcement, I try to model the behaviour/morals/attitudes etc that I want him to pick up and this works well a lot of the time, and I'm good at redirecting/showing him the right way to deal with things, but I'm utterly shit at dealing with him when he's really acting out and pushing boundaries. I can't do punishments at all - even the thought of it, even writing out the word makes me feel really nervous like there's a big knot in my stomach.
I don't even know what it is - I've read up on loads of different things, and the philosophy of UP etc really appeals to me (which is where you avoid "generic" punishments and rewards and try to guide the child in the right way, show them the right way of doing stuff, look for the cause of the behaviour etc, rather than just dealing immediately with the problem and leaving it at that - lots of threads on this if interested) but I don't know if this is just because it skirts around the idea of punishment which I find really awkward/difficult to do. This approach did work well for us, until he got to about 3, and since then he's been running rings around me more and more. I now have a big conflict because I've read so much that says these UP methods work without using a generic kind of punishment or reward (by this I mean things like time out, naughty step, loss of pocket money, screen ban, etc) and the theory etc makes so much sense when I read it, but then in real life I'm struggling because it's not really working for us now. But then the alternatives go against the principles, and I get all confused and stressed out in my head wondering what is the right thing. I wonder if I'm being too black and white too and not seeing that most people manage to strike a balance.
If it's something simple and logical like removing a toy off him which he's about to throw or taking the pens away if he draws on something, I can cope with that easily, because I can see a justification for it - I'm directly preventing him from being able to do that thing. But something like him being rude to me, refusing to do something I ask (when it's a perfectly reasonable request) or even going right away and doing the opposite (which he does quite regularly) or even hitting/kicking, which doesn't happen often but can happen when he gets very wound up, I find hard to deal with. With the rudeness and ignoring then I tend to withdraw attention, but this doesn't work that well - I can tell from what he says sometimes that he literally thinks he's on the same level as me and he has just as much right to tell me what to do as I have to tell him what to do. If he hits/kicks then I can physically restrain him and have resorted to shutting him in his bedroom if I can't do this but I feel this would be a massive overreaction for other things, especially as I feel terribly guilty when I do this. In fact I feel bad when I impose any kind of punishment and always feel a really strong urge to let him earn the thing back or whatever, but this is just undermining myself, isn't it?
Please help me be less of a massive softy DP pointed out today that I'm always quick to excuse DS of bad behaviour, saying it was because he was hungry, tired etc. I have noticed that DS' behaviour is massively affected by his tiredness and hunger levels and so try to accommodate for this, also if I'm feeling run down or tired and am not interacting with him as much as I feel I should/could be, I think it's unfair to punish him for acting up because he's bored for example. But DP feels that I should be doing something to show DS that his behaviour isn't acceptable and not just blaming it on myself all the time. I really don't know who is right here.
The other thing that happens is that when I get really frustrated with DS I tend to shout easily, which I know is not constructive or helpful, and he probably stops listening to what I say when this happens. I wonder if I had more structure, whether it would be easier to control this and not descend into shouting as often.
it's so wonderful that you have such empathy for your son, and understand where the 'bad' behaviour comes from rather than just thinking he's being 'naughty' . I follow hand in hand parenting www.handinhandparenting.org it is totally compatible with the UP style of parenting, and they do recommend Alfie Cohen's book. But it is quite firm in setting limits but will explain how to do it a very loving and gentle manner.
The basic idea is that when children do 'naughty' things they need our attention and to connect with us, they are in a sense asking for a limit to be set. So we set the limit with love and warmth. There may be some emotional reaction to the limit being set, such as crying. That can put us off setting limits as we want to avoid tears, but actually Hand in Hand explains that tears are a way that children restore emotional balace, by releasing the stress and upset. (tears contain cortisol the stress hormone). The child just needs our love and support, when they cry, instead of us trying to make them feel better, with distraction, bribes, or ignoring etc.
Understanding this can really help you feel a bit braver at setting limits, because you understand that limit setting helps your child, improves your connection, and helps them remain in a state of emotional equilibrium.
I was so grateful to discover hand in hand as like you I wanted to do the loving parenting thing, but I couldn't understand how this was compatible with sometimes getting a child to do what I wanted! Now I understand that this doesn't make parenting less loving, but actually more so, because the child needs limits set, so they can release emotions and feel better.
I hope that explanation makes some sort of sense! The website has loads of useful articles about how to deal with different kinds of behaviour.
Your problem is that you are reacting emotionally to his behaviour rather than taking a step back and responding in the correct way. Discipline is another way of giving your child what he needs. He needs to learn how to behave so that he can become a well adjusted adult - do you really want him to turn into a man who thinks it is ok to verbally and physically abuse people and do what he wants without respect for others? No? Then you need to do the right thing for his future by setting boundaries and teaching him the right way to be. I'm sorry to be blunt but you need to find some backbone from somewhere deep inside you and claim back authority. Make sure he knows what your expectations are if him and make sure there are consequences for bad behaviour - do not make empty threats as these tell him you're not in control. With your partner's support you can do this - as hard as it is to see him upset - discipline is one of the things he needs from you and right now you're not giving it to him.
Two things, from a slightly different angle.
I have 3 children; the eldest is severely autistic & needs very clear boundaries. Sometimes this can feel mean, as he can get very upset. Bit over the years I have found he is much calmer and less anxious when there are very clear boundaries in place.
Second thing came when talking to a friend who happens to be an expert in challenging behaviours. We were talking about how behavioural issues can build up & how to tackle them. She said a lot of issues occur because when you put in place a boundary the child initially becomes upset and cries, no-one likes to see an upset child so they avoid tackling the behaviour. But they forget that being upset is a normal human emotion. There's nothing wrong with being upset about not being allowed to do something it's just part of life.
Ds2 & ds3 are NT. There's more flexibility on how to deal with behaviours from them - but I have found the same rules apply really. Firm boundaries lead to less anxiety & it's okay for them to be upset when they're learning appropriate behaviour.
If you have a child who doesn't behave well they're really no fun to be around so IMO you owe it to your children to teach them. You can be firm without being damaging!
Also each child needs a different approach. Ds3 is better not being met head on, ds2 reacts okay to that.
Analyse behaviour, see what it's doing, then react calmly & as another poster said in a non-emotional way.,
Thanks all. I ended up having a long discussion with DP about it the night I posted, we were up until 4am I've also just seen a thread on AIBU which has opened my eyes a bit and made me feel like I'm definitely making excuses with the hungry/tired thing. As DP said, even if I was in a shop and they said something was out of stock and I was really stressed out, I wouldn't find it acceptable to shout and scream at the shopkeeper, and DS needs to know that sometimes his reactions are inappropriate too. I am definitely reacting too emotionally.
With talking with DP we have worked out a strategy for me which is to carry on with my usual reaction to the behaviours I am successful in stopping/encouraging, try to make a conscious effort to do more with DS so that I don't feel so guilty, and then with the stuff which I struggle with (mainly rudeness and hitting/violence towards me) DS is going to get a warning & chance to back down (short explanation, counting to 3) and then taken to his room. Then I need to STICK to the timing of 4 minutes, restarting if necessary, and not engaging during that time, and when I go to get him, be prepared to return him to his room if he is still not acting appropriately. These last two points are what I have struggled on, even though I thought I was on board with "It's okay for him to get upset" I think I was finding it harder and felt like I needed to keep explaining etc why he was there which just wound him up even more.
I will never be a strict parent and I will probably continue to "pick my battles" and I feel that consequences should be constructive as much as possible, but I really don't want him to think that hitting, spitting, scratching, biting etc as well as calling me rude names is acceptable. I've let it go on for so long because he's literally never like this with other people, so I just assumed it was something he'd grow out of, but perhaps not. I'm still feeling extremely anxious about it, but I at least know what the plan is now and it's a concrete plan and I know I can do it. I'm hoping the anxiety will die down once I get used to it.
Hi Bertie, did you check out the site I recommneded? If you prefer a more gentle style of parenting, than there are options to set limits, without resorting to time outs, which is damaging to children, and though they can fix short term behviour, in the long run they make behaviour worse.
This article explains why.
Sounds like you've been getting good advice and taking it on board.
I think one of the most difficult things to remember about our children is that they are gradually growing up into people more or less like us, who will need skills more or less like ours, and that the strategies that have never done us any good (like taking our bad temper out on others) probably won't be helpful for them either.
Your dh is spot on with his example of the shopkeeper. It's not so much about "could I have an excuse?" (quite likely you might) as "is this behavior going to get me anywhere?" (you won't get served). I would also add "is this behaviour right?" as something you want your ds to take with him in life.
I don't think you have to necessarily be strict (I'm not very really - with a severely autistic child you do learn to pick battles), it's just necessary to have clear boundaries. There doesn't need to be a whole lot of them, but the ones that are there need to be respected. Does that make sense?
And yes to stop engaging. Just deliver the time out and refuse to engage with any tantrums. DS3 is tricky with this as he will take ages to back down and tends to scream his way through everything.
Thanks cloudhands, I had a look, but the site seemed very wishy-washy with what was actually involved with the "setting limits" without paying to read articles or books etc, and I'm already familiar with the kind of thinking about time out etc being counterproductive and I think that's what's got me into this mess I am sure it works great for some children, and I don't plan on using time out for everything, just the stuff that I can't solve using the more gentle methods.
Hi Bertie, I'm sorry you found it wishy washy! It's basically based on the idea, called Parenting by Connection, that says that when Children feel well connected to us they are naturally co-operative. But because a child's connection is fragile, and easily broken, ie. they need so much bloody attention ALL the time, that their misbehaviour is a sign that they need to connect with us. And so if you work on their listening tools, to connect with your child, there is much less chance they will behave badly.
Setting limits is done very firmly, and you can read free articles that show how to set limits about loads of different stuff like aggression.
So for instance for hitting you would physically stop him, and then deal with the emotions, crying, that may result from you setting a limit. You step in gently and with love, instead of shouting and time out, and that makes your child feel safe to release the emotions behind the bad behaviour. Because crying is healing then your child will restore their emotional equilibrium, so aggression is less likely in the future. I know sometimes you need to do something just to stop the behaviour, but time out, does make behaviour worse in the long run.
I have to say that I've read your posts for a long time, and always enjoyed a regular from mumsnet who is more the UP side of things, it gives me hope for humanity! and I would be really sad, if you turned to time out!!!
I am a really firm believer in limits, I have met kids in AP groups that just do my head in and mums that are wishy washy and don't discipline, because they are trying so hard to be nice to their kids. I realise now that they are not doing them any favours at all if they don't set limits.
But there is an alternative to time out!! I've really enjoyed learning the hand in hand way of doing things, as it gives me tools that I can internalise, I have a mindset i can act on instead, of just reading books in which case I would always forget what they told me.
The thing is though, I've always done the stopping him from hitting and accepting that he cries because he isn't allowed to do that and that it's releasing an emotion etc, and have always tried to show him different ways of releasing his anger, but it's got really really bad in the last 6-8 months, maybe longer (I can't remember when it started.) Far from aggression becoming less likely, it's just got worse - a lot worse - and the rest of his behaviour (which has always been excellent) has got worse too - to the point that I'm regularly in tears because I just have no idea what to do with him or how to stop him hurting me, sometimes I physically cannot stop him from hurting me either, he is getting strong.
I have never and would never try to stop him from crying or expressing his feelings, this is very important to me. But I can't ignore the fact that UP just isn't working well for us at the moment, DS barely has any respect for me as another human, let alone as his parent. If you've seen my previous posts then you've probably seen before that I have also always said it's possible to set limits and that it's okay to do something that upsets your child if that is something necessary - but if there is an option which works and doesn't upset them, that's a better one to choose. And the best option of all is something which shows them where they've gone wrong in a non-blaming way and gives them the opportunity to work out how to fix it, or how to do it better next time, even though they need help with that.
DP agrees with me on all of these points, but I feel like talking to him has helped me gain a sense of perspective. He feels that my approach worked fantastically until DS was about 3 or 3.5, but that at this age up until about 7 or so, things need to get a little more structured, just to build a stable base so that DC know how we react to things (and will help him in school as well) - then he said that he thinks the UP kind of methods will come into their own very much again after this period, and I was surprised to find that I agreed and felt this made a lot of sense. Again, I'm not going to use time out kind of methods for every little thing as I agree that there are many alternatives which can be used earlier and then if you're really going to do something that looks/feels like a "punishment" then it needs to be constructive if at all possible, but DS and I do need space from each other occasionally (And I've tried taking myself off to be by myself - he follows me, laughing, and then I get really mad!). Plus the set nature of these kind of boundaries/consequences helps keep me calm, because in the past when I got really desperate I'd end up shouting and even dragging/pushing him which is totally unacceptable on my behalf.
And also, his reaction isn't that terrible! He's definitely not upset by it at all - he knows that I'm not leaving him, and he's old enough not to be frightened at being on his own. His reaction is anger, always anger, and of course I don't know what's going on inside his head, but I know him well enough from past experience (and the things that he's saying) to be 99.9% sure that the anger/frustration is that he can't get to me to take his anger out on me. So, in effect, I'm just preventing him from hurting me and then containing him until he comes down from that place of violent anger. When I go to get him, he's playing with his toys perfectly happy, and I wouldn't want to stop him from doing this because "it's supposed to be a punishment" or anything. It's just giving him the space to calm down, and it just happens to be behind a door because I cannot physically restrain him myself any more. (Also, he seems to calm down much quicker, which makes me wonder if my presence just winds him up?)
I hope that makes sense, anyway. I'm sure that there are people who do UP/AP right up until their children are adults and it works beautifully for them, but I feel like this is right for our family right now. I will still continue to believe strongly in the principles of UP (although TBH I don't think I ever subscribed fully to UP in particular, but the hand in hand/how to talk/TCS type thing, you know what I mean?) and I will use this when possible, but I feel like DS' attitude towards me is becoming quite worrying.
We've been on UP threads together in the past. I may have namechanged since.
Firstly, 4 year old boys are challenging! Even calm and not very physical ones like my DS.
Regarding whether UP is 'working' it may be too soon to tell. DD has an explosive personality and at 4 was definitely still trying to hit me whilst behaving like an angel at school. Somewhere between then and now (8) I realise it has stopped but the explosive reactions are still there, it tends to be drama queen stuff now! She has got there without any time out or punishment although I remember a couple of times where I have picked her up and put her in her room to oblige her to take a desperately needed nap.
She is a different person when hungry or tired. Refraining from exploding verbally over trivial things within the family is a work in progress. She doesn't do it with others.
I can understand the feeling guilty thing but you can't let it get in the way of what your son needs. From other threads I know you are a reflective person so I am sure have a good idea of what that is now and that you'll adapt as his need change.
Hadn't seen your last post. Following you when you've made it clear you need time alone to calm down is definitely not on and I would definitely be saying 'I need to be alone and if you can't respect that you'll have to stay in your room'.
I don't know what UP is, and I'm bumbling along with my 3-year-old making it up as I go along (with DH I should say!) but a couple of things jumped out from your posts. Firstly, it sounds like both you and he need to understand the difference reason and excuse - so tiredness or hunger is a reason for bad behaviour but it shouldn't be an excuse. Secondly, it's not bad for him to be bored - it'll encourage him to be more creative. He's presumably starting school in September and there will be consequences to bad behaviour there so he needs to get to grips with this before he starts - life will no longer be just about him and his needs / wants.
Is he at pre-school or anything like that? What's he like with other children?
Yes he is at preschool, and he's been going to a childminder since he was 2. At preschool/childminder he's absolutely fine, in fact, they all say how wonderful he is and how much he just listens. He's perfectly behaved with other children, to the point that he's a bit of a pushover and tends to get pushed around a bit. He got very upset last term, because one of the teachers told him to drink up his milk and he didn't want to in case it made him need a wee, I mentioned it to another teacher, because he was really anxious about it but wouldn't mention it himself - I thought if I showed him it was okay to speak to his teacher about something that was worrying him, he would feel more able to do this. She said that was fine and he didn't have to drink it if he didn't want to, but the next day a different teacher had told him "Yes you do have to drink it" and he was massively upset over this later, although he'd done it at the time.
Now I know drinking milk is such a minor issue and I'm not about to go running into the school complaining or anything, but that's the kind of example I mean, he won't go against any other authority even if he feels strongly about things, and I've seen him as well (from a distance) interacting with other children and they walk all over him just because they're not really old enough to have the empathy to realise he's not really into whatever they're doing and he's not confident enough to say anything.
I get what you mean. You must do what's right for your family. It is so hard when faced with challenging behaviour in the moment, I've found setting limits with humour to work quite well, making it into something to laugh about, but still being firm has helped both a lot, and relaxes us both.
I also signed up for this scheme with hand in hand which is called a 'listening partnership' that means when you talk to another parent about the challenges in your parenting life. I talk about the things that make me angry etc. and express my own emotions, and that means I'm less likely to get angry at my DD, and because I've talked about all the things that bother me, (to someone who listens and supports but does not give advice). Actually I think listening partnerships are the key to the whole hand in hand approach, because they allow you to release your feelings, so your child's behaviour doesn't drive you crazy anymore.
Maybe it's not possible to do UP or other variants, without having some way to deal with our own emotions, what makes us angry etc.
I read an amazing book called Parenting from the Inside Out by Dan Siegal, which is explains how the things that we find hard as parents were the things that were difficult in our own childhoods. and that talking about our own childhoods helps us not to make the mistakes our own parents did.
anyway it sounds like you are doing a fantastic job, who could want for more, than for our chlld to get on well with other children and be a good listener?
I did come across this article that might be useful r.e the lack of respect your son is showing?
bad words from good kids
Thanks cloudhands, I'll have a read.
Also, I guess I am worried a bit. He is good at listening and following instructions which is good from a behaviour point of view, but I suppose he's a bit of a people pleaser which isn't always the best trait to have, especially as he gets older. DP wondered if he's storing up all his frustration and upset about things which happen with others and saving them for me because it's "safe" to let them out with me, hence the lashing out. That makes sense but it would be nice if he could have a bit of balance. I don't really know how to help him with that though, being a bit of a people-pleaser myself!
Massive lightbulb moment!! Perhaps DS is such a people pleaser because I am and I pander, perhaps more than I realise, to him? So me being more assertive with him and saying "Actually this behaviour is not okay, I don't like it" rather than thinking of what might be affecting him etc might actually help by giving him more of a role model to follow?
That would make sense in fact because he is constantly trying to please everyone all at once, the only person he doesn't is me (although, to be fair, he is thoughtful and helpful towards me when he's in the right kind of mood) ... Because of the stuff I've read on UP etc as well I'm not overly in there with the "Good boy!" and OTT praise etc, instead I'm more descriptive and just generally have a different kind of thing going. (I do acknowledge good/kind/helpful behaviour, I'm not some kind of screaming, never has a positive word to say banshee ) hmm. Food for thought indeed