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Are we too strict?

(28 Posts)
stillfrazzled Mon 25-Jul-11 14:20:24

DS1 is just 4. He's a fab little boy - bright, funny, confident and loving.

He's also got a firm set of opinions that he doesn't see as mattering any less than ours grin so we do have the odd battle of wills. And he's developed a bit of a pre-teen swagger the last few weeks, so we've had the odd spit or muttered 'bad word'.

DH and I agreed not to smack before having DC, and used time-outs till it became a separate discipline problem to keep him on them for the allotted time. Now we mostly use confiscation of toys for set times, which is clear and seems to work fine.

However, my parents seem to think it's outrageously strict. On holiday last week, DS1 used a swear-word and then chucked a tantrum at bath-time and DH spent half an hour dealing with him - explaining the consequences if he didn't apologise, carrying him up to bed, reiterating that he would lose toys for the next day etc etc etc.

It probably sounded awful, bathroom acoustics being what they are. DS1 was also asking for a cuddle (which to him ends the incident, so DH had to say no, they had to finish talking first).

At no point did DH shout, or smack.

My family appear to be avoiding us, and my dad blanked DH for the rest of the evening. I THINK they're just being idiots, but DH and I are really upset and starting to wonder if we're dreadful abusive parents.

Are we? FWIW, DS1 was perfectly cheerful the next day and told DH that he'd 'needed to learn not to say those words' and that he'd be telling the friend he learned them from, too...

HappyDoll Mon 25-Jul-11 14:29:01

Honestly? I don't know if you are being too strict because I wasn't there (obv!) BUT I do know now (10 years on) that bath time battles are pointless.

A fab 4yo can go from fabulous to fretful in a matter of seconds at that time of night - honestly, 10 minutes and everything changes. Once they are tired, that's it. They don't need discipline, or insistence on apologies or any other nonsense. Tired children need to be in bed.

30 minutes dealing with a tantrum at bedtime is too long. A 4yo can only cope with one thing, repeated over and over, at that time.

He was asking for a cuddle which may mean it's over, but it also means I need a cuddle. I need to know you're in control because I am not. I need to feel safe.

Oh but FWIW, it has nothing to do with your family how you do this, unless of course you ask his opinion.

holyShmoley Mon 25-Jul-11 14:34:04

i'm sorry but i'm with your parents i think.

IME the vast vast majority of tantrums are due to tiredness and punishing a child the next day for being tired is... well it isn't something that happens here.

Swear words are ignored.

The 'battle of wills' makes me shudder. Of course as the adult you will be able to impose it at this age, but your ability to do it is diminishing all the time. So why not find other ways of parenting that don't involve you setting yourself in opposition to your child.

Lastly, when you child tried to hug and make up (i.e. Admitted defeat and Subdugated himself to your Will) and was REJECTED I think it was just plain wrong and not fair on a four year old.

But, loads of people will disagree with me! So it is only one opinion.

Henrythehappyhelicopter Mon 25-Jul-11 14:36:21

I think you could have played it down a little, ignored the tantrum and got him to bed.

You cannot expect a 4 year old on holiday, busy days, over tired, to be perfect.

I find it best not to have a head to head battle of wills unless absolutely necessary.

But agree with HappDoll nothing to do with your family.

stillfrazzled Mon 25-Jul-11 15:00:36

V fair point on bedtime, think we may be overdoing the consistency. And hadn't thought of cuddle request like that, either.

Damn, feel even worse now.

FWIW, battle of wills was a bad choice, I just mean that he's - understandably - defiant sometimes, and if not.hitting then you have to reason with him.

stillfrazzled Mon 25-Jul-11 15:13:09

Oh, and we didn't punish the next day - it was done and dusted before bed. DS brought it up next day. Sorry if not clear, posting from phone.

HappyDoll Mon 25-Jul-11 15:35:17

I think that whilst it's not ok to keep the problem running overnight, it is ok to cuddle a fretful or tantrumming child in order to calm them down.

You can explain that the behaviour is unnacceptable, even when they are in your arms. I don't agree with the supernanny approach of tone of voice always having to be forceful, meaningful, dominant.

Of course, whilst the misbehaviour is going on you need to use a stern voice, there can be no misunderstanding, the child must not have an inkling that you don't mean what you say.

But, if they have gone beyond that and lost control, they need to know that you know what you are doing and that your love is unconditional. By refusing a cuddle you are saying "I'll only love you if you behave".

You can get and retain eye contact, explain the consequences of bad behaviour AND be holding them lovingly. FWIW I would have held him, calmed him, then told him "I love you and I KNOW how fabulous you are, but when you use bad words it makes you look silly. Clever boys would find a better word to use and I know that you are very, very clever. Now. I need you to say sorry (to the person you swore at) then we can have a lovely story."

colditz Mon 25-Jul-11 15:37:09

Don'tpunish children for things they do half an hour from bedtime, because usually they are knackered and can't help it. tell them off, but don't carry things on.

Other than that you sound fine, not too strict or mean at all. your son is happy because he wasn't badly treated, despite what your parents might think.

stillfrazzled Mon 25-Jul-11 16:42:53

Am going to talk this through with DH tonight (it's been v much on his mind, he had trouble sleeping the night it all kicked off).

Am def taking on board your points about a lighter touch close to bedtime, and about cuddling while making a point. Thank you again for taking the time.

Am still pissed off with my family, although wondering if I have any right to be now.

Glad I started this thread, but feeling very sad about getting it so wrong. Am hoping that DS1's v happy demeanour and frequent spontaneous 'love you's mean we haven't traumatised him.

Hassled Mon 25-Jul-11 16:48:43

I'd be pissed off with the family too - but then I'd imagine I'll be a complete soft touch as a grandparent. I bet they were much stricter with you than they are with your DS.

Your description sounds like you made the fatal mistake of not picking your battles, but in no way over-strict or abusive or anything like that. Your son sounds happy and confident, as he should be.

Re the swearing - as long as he keeps getting a reaction from you he'll keep doing it. He's testing his boundaries; just a very calm "you know we don't use words like that" and then move on straightaway.

Also remember 4 year old boys can be notoriously hard work - someone once told me that's when they get a testosterone surge. All 3 of mine were bloody horrible at 4, and sweeties at 5.

michglas Mon 25-Jul-11 16:48:45

DD2 is 10 and I still recognise when she is mis-behaving due to tiredness, so am likely to cut her a bit of slack and get her settled asap. Quite often even if she has been naughty (whatever time of day) she gets cuddles while we talk through why her behaviour wasn't appropriate. I cuddle her lots at other times too, so she knows she doesn't have to be naughty to get cuddles. We never dish out a punishment that will take place the next day, she wouldn't sleep if we did due to fretting about it.

SecretSquirrels Mon 25-Jul-11 17:44:48

Sorry but I think it was a bit heavy handed but we all have to learn. Just when you think you have got the hang of parenthood they evolve a stage and you have all new stuff to deal with.
Actually I remember both my boys being quite tricky at 4 and having tantrums when we'd never had them before. I believe they have a testosterone surge at 4. They were much easier at 5.

I really think that while the tantrum is ongoing you should do nothing.
Ignore, ignore, ignore. If you can't ignore pretend to ignore.
DS2 would always end a tantrum with sobs and tears and needing a big hug.
After he had calmed down I would talk to him and remind him that I never give him what he wants if he paddys.

overmydeadbody Mon 25-Jul-11 17:56:22

Don't beat yourself up over this mistake though, at least you have rcognised that you were probably too firm with him so hopefully won't repeat that mistake!

Agree with all others, don't have battles just before bedtime, don't have half hour discussions, hug him if he wants a hug (sad) and try not to gewt into battles of wills.

Pick your battles. Relax. Give lots and lots of hugs, no matter what.

Sometimes less is more with young childrne too. Don't go over and over and over a point, talking it through till the cows come home, sometimes a simple firm sentence is enough, then get on with normal routines. Don't for goodness sake spend half an hour going over it with him.

And don't worry, you're allowed to make some mistakes! smile

RidcullySentTheBursarMad Mon 25-Jul-11 18:02:03

I think you are being unnecessarily hard on yourself here. You say yourself that your ds is "bright, funny, confident and loving." This is something you can be proud of. If your parents (not some casual friends) start to ignore/avoid you after witnessing a single incident where they may have considered your dh was too strict (but in no way abusive), it says rather more about them.

Of course, it is not possible to judge whether it was ott from a description on the internet, but clearly you are doing something right to have a young son who you can describe with the words you use.

HappyDoll Mon 25-Jul-11 20:04:48

frazzled PLEASE don't think that your actions now, every bit of advice you may or may not follow to the letter, every tantrum you deal with consistently or inconsistently, will traumatise him.

IME children need to be loved. All the rest is about how loud or quiet or stressful or relaxed life is. If you are loving him and not hitting him then just don't stress about the rest.

You had a crappy bathtime and it happened in public. Life goes on, it really does.

You clearly love him, you are proud of him and you value him as an individual. I wish all children were that lucky.

Herecomesthesciencebint Mon 25-Jul-11 20:18:15

agree with last couple of posters. you have tried to be consistant and set yourself quite hard targets on managing behaviour but not thru any desire to be unkind, purely trying hard to be good parents. But I think the posters saying you probably need to lighten up and be a bit flexible with discipline are right. Bed times never a great time full stop. I have only learnt this thru exactly the scenarios you post and have been in EXACTLY the situation you describe. have also refused a cuddle when in the middle of explaining why behaviour was bad etc but now realise little ones NEED cuddles when they ask and they need sleep when tired and so long as no major crime has been committed its not worth harping on a point when the child is way too tired or emotional to gain anything.

BUT, the bit of your post that hasnt been discussed is your parents reaction. Do you really think they have ignored your DH that evening on the basis of what they overheard? what kind of parents were they to you discipline wise? I wouldnt be able to stop myself talking to them about it. maybe saying you know it may have sounded bad but you love your DS desperately and have perhaps come to the conclusion yourself you need to lighten up a bit. BUT, you were upset by their reaction?

diggingintheribs Mon 25-Jul-11 20:39:12

I have a defiant 4 yr old so my sympathies

the only thing i would say is that trying to explain anything to DS when he's in meltdown is pointless. In the bath situation I would have calmed him down and then spoken about the behaviour

However, it is often easier said then done. DS drives me nuts sometimes!!

stillfrazzled Tue 26-Jul-11 22:56:18

I know for a fact that my father ignored my husband (we were sitting round a dinner table, with DH next to him, and not a word. Was v embarrassing).

I would say they were great parents, TBH - plenty of boundaries but also affection and support. Possibly on the strict side, and love unspoken rather than said, but then I'm mid-thirties so not unusual for the time.

They are far, FAR more indulgent as grandparents!

Dad also something of an Alpha male. However, has contacted DH today to suggest they meet and deal with the 'situation' (and he was making the first move since he'd started it). Am a bit gobsmacked - had sounded off to my sister about how upset we were but didn't expect it to lead to anything.

HappyDoll Wed 27-Jul-11 07:41:04

Wow. Ok. It'll be interesting to see why your Dad thinks its his business.

The answer is simple, you love your parents and you love your son. DH just has to stick to what he knows is his truth.

I hope this all works out fine and you're able to all shake hands and put it behind you.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Wed 27-Jul-11 07:53:04

OK, your Dad is way out of line not talking to your husband and meeting to 'deal with it' when 'it' is a four year old's tantrum. Your husband didn't shout, he didn't smack, he certainly didn't abuse his child. The only thing anyone here has said was, it might have been not worth half an hour of battling given the tiredness factor, etc. Your poor husband, I would NOT deal gracefully with in-laws treating my parenting that way.

The original incident - it was half an hour before DS calmed down? Or half an hour before DH rejoined the group? I mean, neither is anywhere near in the realms of anything except 'a learning experience, and one that probably exhausted your husband', but the latter is also not that long in anyone's measure, if it included putting him to bed after he'd calmed down. In that scenario, I'd have stayed with my child after the original incident was over, to spend some friends time together.

marzipananimal Wed 27-Jul-11 08:24:18

sounds fine to me, although I take other people points about trying to avoid big battles at bedtime. Don't worry, you sound like you're doing a great job!

holyShmoley Wed 27-Jul-11 09:02:30

perversely, i think your dad's phone call might prove to be a good thing.

It is the best opportunity you'll ever get to set boundaries and your DH should go with the express intention of doing that. Additionally, your father needs to know that you fully agree with your husband doing that.
Really your Dad should apologise for being so rude, but that won't happen. Your DH needs to realise that this is an alpha male fight so he absolutely needs to 'win' it. Your father's actions, while deeply Passive-Aggressive were designed to put your husband in his place, so your DH needs to recognise what your father is at, the tactics he is using, and have his gameplan very well thought out. If your Dad takes the hump for a while, well so be it. This conversation will set the level of interference you will be getting for years to come. Act accordingly.

Herecomesthesciencebint Wed 27-Jul-11 23:07:10

how did it go?

Tryharder Wed 27-Jul-11 23:27:05

Whether or not your DH handled the situation badly is neither here nor there. Possibly he could've done things differently but we all make mistakes and I am sure your DS will not be emotionally scarred for the rest of his life smile

But your Dad is being massively unreasonable. It's none of his business how you or your DH discipline your child - unless of course, you were abusing him in some way. I hope your DH told your Dad to butt out.

We are in a similar situation in that my mum will not tolerate criticism of our DS1.

stillfrazzled Thu 28-Jul-11 09:44:07

I think The Summit is happening at some point today. DH is prepared to say that he accepts we could and prob should have dealt with things differently (and it's we because we're a team on these things).

However, he says he's absolutely not going to listen to a lecture on childcare and if my father doesn't open proceedings by admitting he was in the wrong and it's not his business, things might not go well.

We shall see.

And I made it known (in confidence to my sister, who can be relied on to pass things on grin) that although I wouldn't keep them from the DCs, I certainly wasn't going to visit and have DH treated like that until it was all resolved. So hopefully the message that we are united on this has also got through.

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