DS 4 out of control, at the end of our teather, advice needed!(36 Posts)
I really need some advice about my 4 yo as he is becoming more and more difficult to handle. It has got to the point where my incredibly mild-mannered and patient husband says he hates being at home with him and flies off the handle at him in a way I have never seen him act before.
I love DS to bits, he is loving and can be very kind but I feel like he is spiralling out of control emotionally and I am really worried that I am losing him. The problem is: generally unless he is having one-one attention and gets exactly what he wants he is disruptive – ie if I am sitting playing duplo with him, he is a dream, if we are looking round a museum with him and another friend and the other friend wants to do something different to him, he will kick off spectacularly saying he hates the other activity, falls on the floor, screams loudly etc; if you ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do like get dressed he will throw a fit; he is very antisocial at school – makes faces at the other children and calls them names repeatedly to the point of making them cry, makes really loud noises in the their face, messes up things they are doing etc – when we (rarely) have play dates, I wonder how he will ever have any friends as he is so dreadful to the other children; about half the time at school he is disruptive and says he hates it and other days we get glowing reports.
I wondered whether anyone has any advice. Over the years we have tried all the traditional methods – reward charts / rewards / time-out / time-in etc – I tried being very strict but found that it made absolutely no difference and just made me miserable so we now try Dr Laura’s approach which is being kind / listening / lots of cuddles etc, but it seems to make no difference at all. On paper he has a text book upbringing – lots and lots of love, time on his own with both parents + grandparents + extended family; lots of exercise, lots of free play etc – I have read all the books and know how important all these things are.
Everyone I know loves giving me advice as to what we should / shouldn’t be doing – too strict / not strict enough etc, and I feel like saying I know, I am trying, every minute of every day I am trying and nothing seems to work! Anyway, grateful for any feedback – it is the being unpleasant to others aspect I struggle with the most, I can handle tantrums etc, but he just seems to get on so badly with his peers and always has done and I don’t know how to change this. I don’t think he is on any spectrum as he his communication skills are excellent (it’s just unfortunate that most of the time he communicates that he doesn’t want to do stuff or hates things), and some of the time he can be amazing – like the girl with the curl – when she was good she was very very good and when she was bad she was horrid! Anyway, grateful for any advice on how to handle this, sorry for the long post!
Hello didn't want to read and not reply! He sounds like hard work tbh, have you read the 'how to talk so kids will listen...' book?
I found that one the most useful when at the end of the tether with dd, also I found that age 4-5yo to be hard work behaviour wise - it did get better!!
You sound like a lovely mum
That sounds really tough. What do his teachers think? It doesn’t necessarily sound like autism-spectrum but such an extreme need for control and one-to-one attention, the anti-social behaviour and fit-throwing, not getting on with kids his own age, they could just possibly be some variant of autism spectrum. Have you looked in to PDA (pathological demand avoidance)? And when you say his communication skills are excellent, is he good at listening and following the turns of a conversation, or does he tend to do all the talking? There are other possibilities too, like severe anxiety, which might also be worth looking into.
So whether or it is autism spectrum or not, given the level of struggle you are having with him and his real social difficulties, I would go to the GP and ask for help. Maybe get some assessment for him. You may get pointed at a parenting group first of all; if you do then go along because if you’re lucky you might get some more ideas on how to improve things, and if they don’t improve then that’s more evidence to take to the GP.
I agree that “How to Talk…” is good. If the levels of tantrums and negativity are really extreme then you might want to look at Explosive Child as well. And maybe try The Unwritten Rules of Friendship to help his him with his negativity and his behaviour towards other children.
By the way it is really important that your DH tries to stay calm, at least on the outside, whatever happens. The more visibly upset and angry he gets the more anxious and upset your DS will get, and you'll have a vicious circle. It must be very painful and frustrating for your DH to be unable to stop DS from doing these things, but it's better to let things go than to fly off at him. My guess is that your DS isn't fully in control of a lot of this behaviour so getting angry at him wont change anything and will only make things worse.
Thank you both - I appreciate the (virtual!) support...I read the "how to talk" book ages ago, but maybe I need to re-read it, although generally we do try and let him be in control as much as possible - ie if he doesn't want to wear a coat, I don't make him etc...maybe the GP would be a good option as I think a parenting group might at least make me realise that I'm not the only one or that it's my fauly...we now have a DD and she is the complete opposite, it is like she has all the characteristics that he doesn't - sociable, friendly, well-behaved, and it's really really hard not to make him feel like he's not the one who is always in trouble or the "naughty" one - by a miracle the two of them get on pretty well, at least for the moment! Thanks for the other book suggestions.
yes, just read that about DH - I know, we have discussed it this evening after another horrible incident yesterday with DS saying that he hated daddy and wished he wasn't alive anymore!! I think we both recognise that us flying off the handle really isn't the way to try and get him to control himself.
My goodness, you could be describing my DS. Mine isn't at school yet though - starts in September.
We're at our wits' end too. He's always been a"challenge", made harder because his older brother is very easy going, but he is just getting worse and worse. On the school run for example I get a barrage of abuse - I won't carry him/he's too cold/ his brother dares to walk in front of him/it's a day with a 'y' in it - including being hit and called all manner of names. I can't tell you how many times he calls me an idiot every day. I try ignoring the obnoxious behaviour, or taking away privileges, but nothing works.
He is also a menace with other children. He picked a fight with a 7 year old at the weekend - the 7 year old came off worse. We can't spend time with friends as he teases them or winds them up constantly. He also constantly picks on DS1, who is 6. They'll be watching tv, and DS2 will just shuffle across the sofa and kick him in the head. He is awful. And yet at other (admittedly few) times, he is a delight.
I honestly don't know what to do at about my DS and I wonder where we've gone wrong .
Sorry for the long reply but just wanted to let you know we're in a similar boat to you!
His executive processing skills sound poor, though I'm pretty sure that there is a wide spectrum of executive processing abilities in 4 year olds, though some children will be furhter along the development pathway than others.
Things that can help executive processing - organised sport, music and you have to approach his poor behaviour as a teaching exercise. You have to model for him how to stay calm and get what he wants by using his words or only getting what he wants when he calms down. Your DH by getting angry with him is modelling for him exactly what you don't want him to learn!
ANd the usual big praise for small victories - "I loved the way you asked for that using your nice voice" etc
I have a child with an executive processing disorder (I'm not saying your child has but the approach would be similar whether its just a developmental phase or not) and what works for us is not punishment or star charts or naughty steps but natural consequences. "If you can't stop crying and sit at the table then we will have to leave (where ever you are) because it isn;t fair to everyone else to have to listen to you when they've come out for a nice day" then you have to leave if he can't stop.
How old is DD? Does Ds have time on his own with just you?
People might mention autism and/or adhd because they tend to have executive processing problems but all young children have limited executive processing difficulties but they should develop over time.
Ignoring all bad behaviour works - then him come in have the tantrum and don't look at him don't speak carry on any conversations and what you are doing - they hate it!!
I find that ignoring it often makes it worse as my DS gets destructive, for example if we're at home he'll start pushing over chairs, or sweep everything off a table. I will calmly start clearing up the mess, and then he'll move onto something else to destroy while I'm doing that.
I second completely ignoring the bad behaviour.
Maybe you could start it at home though and build up to public settings as you will probably get stressed testing it out in public.
Does your ds get angry if you won't play with him at home?
If so I would start there. When you have finished playing with him if he get upset and asks for you to play more as long as he's safe and not going to get injured I'd just give simple instructions with no room for budge room and say something like say no I've finished playing now and leave him to scream it out without responding to the behaviour at all.
It will be hard at first and he will probably get a bit worse before he gets better while he tries to see how far he can push the boundaries
Initially, literally the second he stops having a tantrum give him positive praise immediately and over praise everything he does well in between the tantrums.
Even things like 'you are sitting and playing beautifully on your own' 'thank you so much for taking your plate into the kitchen etc' things you might not necessarily praise normally so he knows he gets attention for good behaviour but completely ignore bad behaviour.
If he is at risk of injuring himself with the tantrum go to him and remove him from the danger without speaking to him and then leave him to it again.
Not sure if you've already tried this but if you haven't it might be worth a go.
What if you were cuddling and kissing him when he's good and cuddling only dd when he misbehaves and ignored him
Do you think that would work?
Also have a look at his diet.. Some products can cause a dodgy behaviour like dairy or gluten
You can try removing one and see how he is
Diet can help but I wouldn't eliminate major food groups from his diet at that age without speaking to a nutritionist, and I think cuddling one DC because another is tantrumming could cause bigger issues in future.
Agree with ignoring when at home, and leaving wherever when in public - easier said than done though!
Do you talk to him about the day before you go? Ie checking that he knows he is not in charge and other people will get to make some of the decisions?
The executive function stuff sounds similar actually...haven't really tried ignoring, but he has such a loud, eloquent voice it seems almost impossible...he is very good at arguing and always comes up with excellent reasons for why he has to do various things that it makes us look unreasonable - I know this sounds ridiculous as I write it as he is only 4! talking before we go places is something we discussed this evening, ie laying out what our expectations are, making sure he understands and then agreeing consequences...I have a feeling we will end up leaving a lot of places!! We do spend a lot of one on one time with him, probably a good few hours every week and that time is usually magical, then literally as soon as a few other people arrive, the behaviour goes out of the window, it is like flicking a switch and as if he he can't cope with the change.
Diet can help but I wouldn't eliminate major food groups from his diet at that age without speaking to a nutritionist
Nothing will happen if she experiments for a few days. It's not worth the hassle getting referrals and waiting for two months If it's only for trying it it for a week! If it brings results then yes obviously!
cuddling one DC because another is tantrumming could cause bigger issues in future.
That's why I asked OP I didn't tell her! She knows her Ds best she will make he best judgement call
Dismissing it because it might cause future issues doesn't help . His behaviour will cause even bigger issues , all we are doing is suggesting ways for him to understand the consequence of his actions
Children psychologists actually advice doing just that , getting the DC to understand implications and my comment was a mate's advice who is a child psychologist
I was going to recommend the aha parenting website, but see you already use it.
Have you seen patenting science?
My 4 yo its very strong willed and I find that he will test boundaries rather than accept verbal rules, so it's essential to be consistent and to only make threats that you're willing to act on (e.g. "last warning").
Do you fly off the handle at your ds?
So in some ways he might just be copying. So for example I get quite stroppy with my two but reigned it in as realised that he was copying my reactions in the manner of a four year old.
He sounds quite smart but being four he doesn't have control of his emotions quite get. So you need to a) label his emotions for him (eg I know you're angry ds) and b) give him tactics to handle the situation (yes I know you're angry but it is scary/rude for other people. Please do X).
I find that reward charts etc are fine for toddlers but I don't like them for older kids as they don't really teach them proper Consequences (ie that behaving in one way upsets other people. Reward charts are just a form of bribery)
Another good book is siblings without rivalry - I find it good for tackling behaviour issues generally as well.
I see PDA has already been mentioned, that was my first thought too (a close friend's DS has it). The communication thing could be a red herring - my friend's DS is very bright and has no speech delay at all. Of course none of us can diagnose over the Internet, but maybe you could have a chat with his teacher and ask if she thinks it's worth getting a referral?
* don't tidy up while he's tantruming
Sit chat relax ignore
Yes it gets worse as they try bigger things to get your attention - don't do it!! Ask DH not to sigh or comment etc ....
For me the niggling concern is that your DS gets on so badly with other kids his own age. From what you are saying there is no outside trauma or misery that could explain it, so it sounds like something internal, and not caused by your parenting either. I didn’t mean to over-emphasise autism-spectrum; I was mainly trying to say that you can be very good at some kinds of communication but very bad at others! So on the one hand I wouldn’t rule autism-spectrum out, but on the other hand it might not be that at all. And I do think it’s worth trying to find out exactly what is going on. Kewcumber’s advice is good and I did use similar strategies but I couldn’t use them in quite the same way because my DS had other issues as well (especially communication, though one-to-one with an adult he could be wonderful). So I do think it’s worth talking to his teacher and the GP.
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