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Is it just Christmas or a sign of worse to come?

(48 Posts)
ThePerUnaBomber Fri 26-Dec-14 18:14:33

This will be long, apologies in advance. DS (4.5) has been ratcheting up the defiant behaviour over the past 2 days. I'm not sure whether to ascribe it to being overwhelmed by Christmas (this year's build up was far far greater than last as he is now at school) or a re-manifestation of behaviour I had thought was eliminated a year or so ago.

Context: DS has been incredibly ill for the past week with a chest infection and bad asthma. He's been taking himself off to bed at 5pm. Yesterday he was very defiant (opening crackers despite being told not to, playing up at the dinner table, calling DP - not his dad - bogey brain and other names). DP has been around since DS was 2, so not a new arrival. I didn't see DS last Christmas so I don't know how he behaved but my impression is that he is indulged and allowed to behave in this way at his dad's / paternal grandparents' houses.

He was very defiant as a toddler but has come on in leaps and bounds over the past 18 months or so in terms of obedience and behaviour, especially at mealtimes. He only eats one meal a week here (gets dinner at childminders mon-fri and with his dad one weekend night) so this is a long time for him to be here with us, over a week now.

Tonight I asked him at 4pm if he wanted spicy pasta (a favourite since toddlerhood) for dinner. We cooked it together - him at his new play kitchen which is next to the cooker in the 'real' kitchen. Then we sat down in front of TV - very rare treat to eat and watch Pirates. He started moaning about it and I said he would have to leave the living room and we would eat in the dining room. He acquiesced to this and then sat there, refusing to eat. I said I would remove all toys and screens tomorrow if he continued to refuse and he trotted out the "I'm tired" line - which was totally my line as a child, so no way do I buy it. He stared defiantly at me throughout as I ate my meal and then stared more as I began to put all toys up on high shelves. I put him to bed at 515 - he went straight to sleep.

The difficulty I have is that DP is super hard on DS (despite his own kids being pretty poor in terms of behaviour and his utter, utter lack of ability to issue consequences ever - they are preteen and teen and pretty badly behaved/rude) but he insists on DS being punished for anything that seems out of line. So he's insisting I don't allow DS any toys or screens tomorrow. Even if DS apologises.

I suppose my question is whether this latest bout of bad behaviour - after 18 months or so of really good behaviour is down to a combo of Christmas, being ill and tired or a re-emergence of his previously very defiant self. Or whether I should tell DP to butt out and cut DS some slack. If DP had not been standing over me I may not have escalated the consequences but have let DS just go to bed without dinner which seems to be punishment enough. Instead he's going to spend all day tomorrow until he goes to his dad's with no toys or screens.

Sorry it's so long and thanks for reading - all input gratefully received!

myotherusernameisbetter Fri 26-Dec-14 18:24:11

I think i'd be more concerned that he is still not bounced back from his chest infection. He actually does sound tired. Clearly I wasn't there but i'd be inclined to cut him some slack. He is old enough to have a chat with in the morning and explain that, he was tired, mum was tired too and maybe banned him unfairly and if he is genuinely sorry then maybe you could have some "quieter" toys and a snuggle up to watch a movie together and see how he is with that.

I am actually very strict but he sounds a poor soul who probably doesn't deserve a severe punishment this time.

Coyoacan Fri 26-Dec-14 18:24:32

Am I right in understanding that the problem is that he didn't want to eat? It seems very OTT to punish an ill child for not wanting to eat. Even if he weren't ill, the punishment for not wanting eat surely is having to wait for the next meal to be able to eat, nothing else.

Who would punish a sick child?

HoggleHoggle Fri 26-Dec-14 18:27:57

Personally I would ascribe this to illness and Christmas bad behaviour. Cut him some slack but if it continues then obviously that's different.
It's none of my business but IMO I wouldn't enjoy feeling that my dp was harsh with my child - is ds picking up on this? If so, that's really unpleasant and upsetting potentially. I come from divorced parents myself and although good manners etc was expected at all times, my step parents didn't discipline me personally. If they did have an opinion on it, and in all likelihood they probably did, it wasn't within my hearing.

PrettySnowyPictures Fri 26-Dec-14 18:28:14

I would tell your dp to fuck off, and your poor ds clearly was tired (and told you he was!) If he went to sleep at 5.15.

theprodigalmum Fri 26-Dec-14 18:33:13

I agree with Hogglehoggle and I think you do too, reading between the lines. What a horrible, uncomfortable position to be in - always willing to see the bad in your own child's behaviour in order to please "d" p. It was Christmas Day. He was tired, had had a chest infection & doesn't have a particular routine with you anyway.
I think you were expecting way too much. As pretty says. Tell your "d" p where to stick it, & While he's there, bring his own kids up properly.

ThePerUnaBomber Fri 26-Dec-14 18:35:00

I'm minded to agree with you and feel that DP was doing his usual 'your kid is a nightmare' projection stunt on me. The only thing that makes the doubt enter my mind is that DS was staring defiantly at me - as he used to - throughout me eating dinner and removing the toys without a shred of sadness or protest. He nodded when I asked him if he understood why I was taking the toys away and shook his head when I asked him if he would eat 5 bites. He went to bed readily enough - but then again, he always does.

He has a cough but has been sleeping well for the last 3 nights, he's not 100% but not as bad as he was when he came back to me last Friday. I wonder how much of it is down to being utterly utterly spoiled this Christmas - he has had more presents than he knows what to do with. And was a bit rude about some of them.

Islander79 Fri 26-Dec-14 18:35:38

How do you imagine he will behave with no toys tomorrow?! Not well, I imagine...

longestlurkerever Fri 26-Dec-14 18:42:26

My dd is smaller but a day with no toys or screens sounds like a punishment for you to me! What is he going to do with himself? You keep saying "defiant" but it's just acting up, surely? He's still very little.

ThePerUnaBomber Fri 26-Dec-14 18:42:51

It's never happened before. He normally behaves himself after I say I will count to three. I've not used the naughty step in over a year. He has been far more unwell than this (hospitalised with asthma) before. So the only thing that is different is the Christmas part. Maybe I need to tone it down next year. DP is being an arse as usual about it.

Coyoacan Fri 26-Dec-14 18:45:38

As I say, no everything is solved by punishment, OP, and I think it is horrible that you and your son lives with a man who thinks he is a nightmare.

An entire day's punishment for such a small child sounds extreme to me.

ThePerUnaBomber Fri 26-Dec-14 18:45:38

Defiant means staring at me and shaking his head repeatedly, even when faced with more and more consequences. I started with leaving the living room, then 123 step, then remove screens, then toys, then straight to bed. He stared at me and agreed with all my consequences rather than eat one of his favourite dinners at 430. He used to do this all the time and I made three or four meals in order to get him to eat.

Coyoacan Fri 26-Dec-14 18:49:52

I am a grandmother now, so another generation. Many wise mumsnetter don't believe in punishment as a way of obtaining good behaviour and I am re-evaluating it. But I do know that my dd was, on occasion, a very defiant child in the face of punishment, that was when I found that punishment doesn't always work. In her case, I found that too much punishment made her stop loving me, and as far as she was concerned, if she didn't love me, there was nothing on earth that would make her obey me. So I had to regain the love before I could correct the behaviour.

longestlurkerever Fri 26-Dec-14 18:53:38

He is pushing the boundaries. Calling your bluff, as it were. You can't keep escalating the threats beyond what is proportionate. You need to find a way to bring the confrontation to a close. If it's just about something small like tea then something like "fine, no tea then. Off to bed" would do, I think (though am probably a bit soft on dd, so accept there are other ways of doing things).

LumpySpacedPrincess Fri 26-Dec-14 18:55:49

I think your dp does sound like a bogey brain.

How dare he expect you to parent in a way that he never did.

That aside I would never punish over food, it's up to your son if he eats or not, he told you he was tired and he was, I can't see what he has done wrong

myotherusernameisbetter Fri 26-Dec-14 18:58:31

Coyoacan is spot on. I get much better results with love than shouting but none of us is perfect and I've resorted the latter more than I should have as mine were growing. As I said before I am strict, but I save the hard line for when it's required. I have 13 and 14 years old boys and if I do put my foot down and send them to their room or whatever, they do it without question - which is good because they are bigger than me and could just tell me to get lost and carry on doing what they were doing regardless. I'm presuming it's because they love me rather than being scared of me.

poocatcherchampion Fri 26-Dec-14 19:03:28

Agree with coryyan too. Is sounds like he wasn't hungry?

Ramping up the threats and punishments is not a grand plan for anyone.

It sounds like you are not happy with your dp?

PurpleStripedSock Fri 26-Dec-14 19:05:49

I still don't understand what the original offence was. Was it simply that he wasn't eating while watching TV?

I'm 41 and under the circumstances described, I'd probay have sat and stared at you in contempt while you are your food too.

Unless I'm missing a whole lot of information, I simply don't get it.

ThePerUnaBomber Fri 26-Dec-14 19:10:45

Ok, Coyoacan, how should I now deal with this tomorrow? I'm absolutely not challenging, but genuinely unsure about how to deal with it. I will do what I feel is right, regardless of DP and his thoughts as he has two of the most thoughtless, lazy children I have ever known. But of course I'm not allowed to tell him that - though he can criticise DS all he likes as his kids are older and he's been there done that (with an ex wife who used physical violence as punishment of their two - that worked well). How can DS earn his toys back? Or should I just take him straight out for the day and then to his dad's? That will avoid DP's comments (which have been plenty over the past week) about DS.

FollowTheStarship Fri 26-Dec-14 19:11:30

My DD or a similar age hasn't been ill and her behaviour definitely deteriorated in the run-up to christmas. She got ridiculously demanding and entitled, but then telling children to write lists of what they want and get massively overexcited about santa is possibly in some way connected! Even if we try to scale that stuff down, she gets it at nursery and they definitely get it at school.

We've been quite firm and made it clear she does not get what she wants by just demanding it. She is also very difficult at mealtimes and we have to be firm - if she doesn't eat a reasonable amount, she doesn't get anything else and if she whines for snacks, the food comes back out of the fridge (thios is food she likes btw).

So I am not a pushover but I would not punish for refusing to eat. Just stay calm and take it away and don't offer anything else.

And lastly no way in hell would I let any DP dictate punishments and parenting style, let alone one who was not the child's parent, and certainly not one who didn't parent his own DC the same way. Nip that in the bud now.

ThePerUnaBomber Fri 26-Dec-14 19:13:29

He was hungry, he was happy to help make the food and it's one of his favourites. I probably should not have taken the food into the living room at all as it's a huge distraction. That was the start of it.

ChippingInLovesChristmasLights Fri 26-Dec-14 19:14:00

Your DS isn't well and it's Christmas. He is four. He wasn't being tremendously naughty, he just didn't want to eat.

Anyone doing the your kid is a nightmare' about my poorly, tired 4 yo, would get told to get himself to the far end if fuck and stay there.

Clue: DS is not the problem.

ThePerUnaBomber Fri 26-Dec-14 19:15:04

And yes, I have huge problems with DP and his attitude toward my kid compared to how he deals with my comments on his kids. I scour the step parenting board for ideas.

Fairylea Fri 26-Dec-14 19:15:16

Wow I think this has gone way too far. He didn't want to eat, so what?! Sometimes we all don't want to eat or to eat what we're given. No big deal. I would have just said fine and offered him something plain like toast or a sandwich. We don't make an issue out of food at all in our house. In fact ds aged 2.5 had a tuna sandwich instead of Christmas dinner because he wouldn't eat the dinner. Thankfully dd aged 12 is a non fussy eater now and I'm betting ds will catch up eventually.

All this talking of taking toys away etc all sounds very heavy handed and joyless.

ChippingInLovesChristmasLights Fri 26-Dec-14 19:15:47

No, he's not well, he thought he was hungry, then decided he wasn't.

Even if he was being defiant, why not just say 'find' and let him go without. No toys, no screens all day tomorrow is a hugely over the top reaction to a non issue. He didn't eat his dinner, he didn't strangle the cat.

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