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Are we too strict? Is my mother right?

(77 Posts)
MadYoungCatLady Sat 25-Jun-11 11:00:54

Hi I'm really doubting my parenting skills after my mum told me she thinks me and DP are too strict on my DS (almost 4).
He is a very lively child, very sure of himself to the point of disrespect towards us, and if we try to give him any undivided attention he gets totally hyper and starts practically bouncing off the walls. We have to put up with being screamed at whenever we try to calm him down, he will say things such as "i will just cry so loud you can't hear" if he is told not to interrupt or if, on the odd occasion, one of us tries to watch a tv programme, if we tell him off he laughs in our face, he kicks us and even spat on DP at bedtime the other day.
We want him to grow up respectful, polite and aware of others feelings, and due to this we try to make sure he sticks to some basic ground rules. These include:
Dressing himself in the morning, or at least giving it a go
Sitting at the table and eating his meals 'tidy' - not playing with his food, using cutlery etc
Saying please and thank you before he is given something
Washing his hands after the toilet
Not touching things he has been told not to
Sharing with other childen (he is very good at this tho bless him!)
Holding hands and NOT letting go when by a road or in a crowded shop
Not running off when we are out - even if its only a little bit unless we say its a safe place to run

We expect these rules to still apply when we are out in public, but my mum told me yesterday when we were out with her that we don't give DS enough freedom, we will knock all the stuffing out of him and we are bordering on ABUSE. I am feeling all kind of emotions - I have been struggling with DS as has DP for about 3 months since moving, and DS's behaviour has become harder to cope with (understandably due to change in circumstances but still driving us up the blinking wall no less), and for my mum to say this is a major blow.

Is she right? Are we too strict?

MumblingRagDoll Sat 25-Jun-11 11:07:09

It's hard to fathom why your Mum would say that when your rules are so reasonable.

Are you "on at him" a lot? The rules you mention are all good rules imo....but sometimes it's ok to relax...a bit of high spirits is normal...especially in the DC are expected to hold hads,say please and thank you etc but I do let them do "silly" things sometimes...such as eating their lunch in the cupboard because they wanted to....chalking on the patio because it's fun....

halcyondays Sat 25-Jun-11 11:11:18

YANBU, I wouldn't say we were strict, but we expect ours to do pretty much all those things too. (Doesn't mean they always do what they're told, sadly) but things like washing your hands after going to the toilet and sharing with other children are important. Dressing himself he may still need a bit of help with but he should be trying to put on his coat, shoes etc., even if he needs help with zips and buttons.

malovitt Sat 25-Jun-11 11:12:17

Your rules sound absolutely fine to me, take no notice of your mother.

I would have treated the kicking/spitting more seriously than the others though. At nearly 4 years old, it is not on to spit at or kick people.

Gay40 Sat 25-Jun-11 11:12:26

No, I don't think you are too strict. After all, you have to do all this on a daily basis while it is easy for someone else to swoop in and out with an opinion.
Basic ground rules are good to have. There are times for high jinks and you will know when this is.

piprabbit Sat 25-Jun-11 11:14:40

Your rules sound very reasonable.
But without more information about how you implement them, I can't tell if you are being to strict in your enforcement of these, pretty normal, rules.

WriterofDreams Sat 25-Jun-11 11:14:56

Hmm it's hard to say really. How is your relationship with your Mum? Would you generally trust her advice or does she try to put you down?

If you respect what she has to say then I think you should take a look at whether you're being too hard on DS. The rules you outlined are by no means unreasonable - I would expect most parents to want those things - but perhaps you are expecting too much from him by wanting him to abide by them all the time? It sounds like maybe you are afraid to give DS a tiny inch in case he will take a mile as he has done that in the past. He is very young so some wild behaviour is to be expected. Make sure that you're praising him for any good behaviour that he's showing and that your interactions with him aren't entirely negative. It's easy to become so afraid of the bad behaviour that you focus entirely on that and make the child feel trapped as he can do no right.

If your mum is generally reasonable would it be worth sitting down with her and asking her in what ways she thinks you're too strict and maybe asking for suggestions on how you can change that?

NearlySpring Sat 25-Jun-11 11:18:43

YANBU- Id expect all that from him too. My daughter is 6 and she does all that, tidied her room, clears her own plate, puts her clean washing away, takes the recycling outside the front door etc.

To be honest, if his behaviour is as you describe- a 4 yr old spitting, shouting, disrespectful etc then I'd say you're not be strict enough with him!

towardsZero Sat 25-Jun-11 11:20:15

My 4 year old DS dresses himself - with occasional help from us with buttons and zips.

I often find our DC grandparents are alot more indulgent of bad/naughty/hyper behaviour - right up to the rarely reached point of they've had enough - at which point it is our fault/poor parenting - even if we are not there to intervene. Generally they can be more indulgent because we've done the groundwork and they do not have to live with DC behaviour every day and age has mellowed them and rose tinted their parenting memories.

I have found other parents praise to the heavens the fact our DC walk nicely with us - but then negatively comment when DC are reminded that they are supposed to be doing that - I don't shout to achieve that but will stop moving and insist they walk back to me. Could it be this assumption that nice behaviour just happens with no reminders or parental input?

Adagoo Sat 25-Jun-11 11:28:38

your rules are the same as mine.

what do you do when he breaks them?

BabyDubsEverywhere Sat 25-Jun-11 11:33:13

Sound normal to me....arent they the pretty standard things we aim for with pre schoolers? Perhaps your Mom feels you are a little to rigid in enforcing these rules, rather than the actual rules iykwim? What do you think?

GreenEyesandHam Sat 25-Jun-11 11:34:02

It's quite simple, your mother doesn't have to live with him. She won't be the one talking to his teachers etc or dealing with any consequences.

I sympathise, we have our own little terror. I do sometimes feel a bit sad when I see my neice of the same age having that bit more freedom, but that's just the way it has to be until he's learned the boundaries. He's getting there.

anothermadamebutterfly Sat 25-Jun-11 11:34:29

If I only had my ds then I would say YANBU, as I in theory expect the same from my kids, and you don't sound unreasonably

But I also have an ADHD DD, so I would suspend judgement. To get my dd to walk nicely, stay calm, not mess about, not fidget, sit quietly for longer than a few seconds, not interrupt, not touch things, wash hands without messing with the water and getting herself drenched and lots of other fairly basic things at age 4 would have involved constant, and I mean constant nagging, which would have been extremely tedious and unpleasant for us, her, and anybody around, much more so than her hyper behaviour (she was never intentionally naughty, if you know what I mean).

So, I think it depends very much on how you implement your rules.

towardsZero Sat 25-Jun-11 11:40:11

How close to 4 - our DS behaviour deteriorated few months before and few months after - just coming out of it still. Lots of friends with DS did the same round this time - read in parenting section may be hormonal thing. Also do think our my have been tired - other DC went through phase of waking him early.

We re-enforcing boundaries ect with him what is acceptable/unacceptable behaviour and getting him out to large open spaces as much as possible - in afternoons after nursery. Have seen a visible improvement.

mrsbiscuits Sat 25-Jun-11 11:44:46

YANBU your "rules" seem eminently reasonable to me smile

olderandwider Sat 25-Jun-11 11:56:42

It sounds like the move may have disturbed him. If his routine has been disrupted that may be why his behaviour has deteriorated. Try asking him at a calm time - bedtime storytime perhaps - what he thinks about the move. Ask him to think about the old v the new, and what he likes best and worst. It may uncover some hidden worry.

Your rules sound reasonable, but if you are always "on his case" so to speak you may be frustrating him, hence his outbursts. All young children aim to please their parents, but they are not fully in control of their emotions (especially at 3 and 4!), have very little foresight, are impulsive, egotistical and full of energy. They also have not developed their "theory of mind" capacity - understanding what another person might be thinking.

Gentle reminders about what is expected is much better than full on criticism of minor misdemeanors over eating and dressing. Pick your battles and don't sweat the small stuff, as they say. Spitting and shouting are obvious no-nos, whilst hand holding near roads is obviously non-negotiable. The rest of your list is desirable but will take a few more years to become hard wired in, so take it slowly and don't expect too much.

Something Penelope Leach warned against is always criticising a child (even when it is "for their own good"). If a child decides that nothing they do is good enough, or pleases you, they will give up trying to behave well because it doesn't seem to make any difference to how they are treated.

Always commenting on his good behaviour is more important than always commenting on when his behaviour is falling short. He is still very young, and I think we, as parents, are afraid that if we don't din in rules early then our DC will become uncontrollable.

If you are really struggling, perhaps consider a parenting class together with your DP?

Oblomov Sat 25-Jun-11 11:58:23

I don't think you are over strict. Or if you are, I am too. But I am shcoked at your mums comment. I mean to suggest abuse is so ott, its unbelieveble. Does she actually know what the term 'abuse' means. Because it may very well be that you could be a tad over strict. we on mn don't know yet, from your posts.
So she could say, 'you are too strict , you know'. But to use the word abuse is ........ very strange.

piprabbit Sat 25-Jun-11 12:01:24

Oblomov until the OP returns to explain more about how she tries to implement her rules, we can't know why her mum is choosing to use such extreme language.

For all we know the OP is using smacking and derogatory/abusive language to punish her child when the rules are broken. Not likely perhaps, but without more info from the OP everything is just guess work.

Gay40 Sat 25-Jun-11 12:04:56

I know I am a bit strict. But DD is a happy, balanced, articulate and well rounded girl who knows where the line is (and goes right across it at times - but there we go). In general, firm but fair boundaries make kids feel secure.
Grandparents are somewhat indulgent, but that's their job and I don't mind....I tend to think "what the eye doesn't see, the heart can't bleed over" in that case, as long as manners etc are being used.
However my mother would never undermine our basic rules.

edam Sat 25-Jun-11 12:08:38

Agree it depends how you enforce those rules. Do you expect him to sit quietly at the table without fidgeting at all for an hour at at time? That would be an unreasonable expectation of a four year old.

Expecting 'please' and 'thank you' is fine but badgering him for ages in front of someone else because he's so excited/nervous about the situation to say it without prompting would be mean.

He will forget things, he will not pay full attention all the time to everything grown-ups think is important because he's four. When he forgets or breaks a rule, do you give him a gentle reminder at first, or go straight to major criticism, going on and on about it?

edam Sat 25-Jun-11 12:09:59

Not sure if those 'What to expect' books go up to age four, but if your expectations are a little out of kilter with his development, it may be worth seeing if there are any books about child development that could help to remind you what is reasonable and what isn't.

Journey Sat 25-Jun-11 12:11:49

I don't understand why you're worrying what your mother thinks. I'd be more concerned about your son's general behaviour. Your rules are fine but how are you addressing the kicking, spitting and screaming that your son is displaying? Shouldn't you be concentrating on these?

cory Sat 25-Jun-11 12:13:40

When my mum criticised me in a similar context (though with far more tactful language), it eventually became clear that what she meant was not that my rules were wrong (I'd learnt most of them from her!) but that she thought I was spending too much time nagging ds and it made me look very insecure which was bad for discipline (and it also made us quite tiring to be around).

jetgirl Sat 25-Jun-11 12:26:32

Hi madyoungcatlady. Your rules sound normal to me! One thing stood out in your post, to me anyhow. You said 'when we give him undivided attention..', which suggests to me this is unusual (though I may well have inferred that incorrectly) Is all the attention you give him picking up on all your rules, and not focusing on the lovely things he does/you do together? He might be getting really overexcited when you do/say something positive because he's craving that positive engagement. Apologies if I have totally got the wrong end of the stick.

With regards to your mum, she is being very ott calling your.parenting style abuse.

jetgirl Sat 25-Jun-11 12:26:32

Hi madyoungcatlady. Your rules sound normal to me! One thing stood out in your post, to me anyhow. You said 'when we give him undivided attention..', which suggests to me this is unusual (though I may well have inferred that incorrectly) Is all the attention you give him picking up on all your rules, and not focusing on the lovely things he does/you do together? He might be getting really overexcited when you do/say something positive because he's craving that positive engagement. Apologies if I have totally got the wrong end of the stick.

With regards to your mum, she is being very ott calling your.parenting style abuse.

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