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Please help me to help my 6YO DS

(34 Posts)
OohMrDarcy Thu 08-Sep-16 20:41:58


my DS is 6.5 (Y2 at school) and it just... so defiant.

We've had violence (lashing out when angry) issues on and off since my marriage ended two years ago, but it had really settled down since easter.

Even when not being violent he is extremely defiant at home. It isn't all the time, and a lot of the time he is a lovely kind, caring boy. But when he gets these moods - normally when I say its time to do something he doesn't want to do - he's awful.

I just don't know what to do when he's like that! An eg below:

Me - DS in two minutes it will be time for bed so your kindle will need to go off.
Me - Right DS, time for bed. Turn your kindle off please (this is just an example and will relate to ANYTHING he is doing when he doesn't want to do something else)
DS - Ignores me
Me - DS, I'm going to count to 10 and if your kindle isn't off, I'll be taking it away
DS - Ignores me
Me - right <takes kindle>, you won't be playing that tomorrow now DS.
DS - Screaming "You're so mean!"
Me - Come on, up to bed (ignoring the silliness)
Me - DS, you can either go upstairs nicely like a big boy, or I can take you like a little boy if you can't behave
DS - Ignores me
Me - <picks him up>
DS - Starts screeching, might hit me, probably cry
Me - <tries to distract and get him to bed>

Those nights will often end with him hitting his door or something in anger.

Tonight he was being very unkind to his older sister so I told him it wasn't nice and to apologise, which he ignored and carried on. I told him he had 3 seconds to apologise or he would be off to bed early (only 10 mins before bedtime anyway).. he ignored, so I went to pick him up calmly to take him up... he started hitting and screaming at me. Then ran off upstairs.
I followed him up and calmly explained that he had the chance to apologise but refused so he had to go to bed, I asked if he was going to get changed nicely or if he'd have to go to bed in his day clothes - he said he wasn't changing, so I turned to leave him to calm down.
At which point he whacked me over the head with a hexbug set! I admit I did the wrong thing here and lost it at him but that bloody hurt! I screamed, and shouted at him that it was a horrible thing to do - walked out shutting his door, and promptly burst into tears for 5 mins on my bed sad
It was mostly shock. I went in once I'd calmed down but he was still being awful so I left again and went back another 5 mins later when he was sobbing that he was sorry and he didn't mean to hurt me!
There are times when he will simply refuse to do something and I have no idea at all how to make him. EG getting in the car to go somewhere - I've tried to go pick him up and put him in but he'll run off. I refuse to pay hide and seek to get him to do as he's told. I've tried the walk away thing and it eventually works sometimes, but long after it should do.

We talk about who is in charge and who makes the rules - and when he's in a defiant mood he'll say he is and no one makes his rules. Tonight he agreed that I am in charge and make the rules.

We have strategies for his anger which do help when that happens (which are why the violence is much rarer now), and we talk about how home is a place where you feel loved and safe, and I asked if he feels loved and safe (he does) and if he thought I did after that (he didn't think so). He agreed it wasn't fair etc - but the after bit is always easy, he's a clever kid - HOW do I deal with the defiance and enforce the structure and rules he needs?!

OohMrDarcy Thu 08-Sep-16 21:22:24

Oops that was a bit long and not exactly succinct ....

Any advice on dealing with a defiant six year old would be appreciated!

<far shorter version>

Believeitornot Thu 08-Sep-16 21:51:37

First thing that jumped out at me was you picking him up. He's 6 - you can't do that for much longer! (I have a 6 year old and dh tries this and I have to remind dh not to pick him up - I see it as manhandling).

You should try setting rules. So instead of a 2 min warning, remind him earlier as to what needs to stop and when and why.

It takes a bit more time but usually I can get ds to do something, it just takes patience on my part. Sometimes I will give him a bit longer and he will cooperate.

Things like hitting - he knows this isn't allowed and I have to remind him to talk about his feelings instead of hitting. Many many reminders needed. But he occasionally does the right thing and gets loads of praise for that.

With my 6 year old ds I've found that he's been worried about starting year 2.

With sibling rivalry - it might be worth getting both sides of the story as you might have missed something.

What nice things do you do with your ds?

OohMrDarcy Thu 08-Sep-16 22:05:40

The picking him up is because when he goes like this he Just.Won't.Do.Anything
I REALLY don't want to be doing it, but I don't know what else to do in that situation. If he's not absorbed in something I can get him upstairs by making it a race for example - but thats when he's not in the defiant frame of mind.

I don't think its ok for me to sit there telling him for 10 mins that he is meant to be in bed whilst he ignores me until he's finished whatever it is he was in the middle of. I always give him reminders before anything has to happen as I know he gets absorbed.

There are rules - he knows the house rules, just seems to think they don't apply to him sometimes. I also make sure he knows why needs to do XYZ - but again, when he gets like this just doesn't care... IE - I say you need to go to bed in 10 mins DS, you've had a long day and need a good nights sleep before school tomorrow (or whatever) .... he'll say , well I'm not going to go so it doesn't matter!

With the sibling thing - I was sat in the room and observing the conversation, she didn't do anything wrong (this time). I'm fully aware that she does wind him up sometimes and she always has consequences for this. I think my issue is because DD has always LOVED rules and structure - so that side of things has just been easy (plenty of other struggles along the way of course). I've just never met with such defiance that I see from him sometimes!

Nice things? We do loads - we snuggle up for cuddles and TV / stories, we read to each other, we play lego together, we go for pokemon go walks - which he adores, we go swimming, camping, he likes helping do things he sees as being grown up / man jobs... so he likes to bring the shopping in from the car... even if he can barely walk! When his sister is at Brownies I'll sometimes take him for a sneaky costa, we do have lots of lovely times honest! He just doesn't like structure, and not being in charge of what he does next sometimes I guess

CodyKing Thu 08-Sep-16 22:16:57

Me - DS, I'm going to count to 10 and if your kindle isn't off, I'll be taking it away
DS - Ignores me
Me - right <takes kindle>, you won't be playing that tomorrow now DS.

That really escalated very quickly

Try to calm it down - seems like you expect a fight so get one

If he's into the kindle - can he have it for 10 more mins in bed?

But take him up 10 mins earlier? So it feels like he's winning?

Then remove it when you pop back up for a chat - engage him - or read to him - and remove item gently?

Grumpyoldmomma Thu 08-Sep-16 22:27:16

OP my heart goes out to you as I am having exactly the same problems with my DS. It is such hard work but I am hoping persistence and consistency works. Maybe a chart to show what is happening next? And lots of reminders. I do feel your pain though flowers

OohMrDarcy Thu 08-Sep-16 22:38:14


You are probably right that it does sometimes escalate quickly. I think because I can tell when he's in that mood, and I also know he is a nightmare for just ignoring me until he's finished. I really want him to get used to time is up, put it away - he is perfectly capable of this stuff when it's for something he wants to do... Am I expecting too much?!

Allyoucaneat Thu 08-Sep-16 22:45:48

I could have written this myself. My nearly 6yr old is very much like this. He's getting more angry and defiant by the day. Perfect child at school and generally good for his dad but on the three nights I have him on my own he is a little horror and we both usually end the night in tears. I'd be interested in some strategies to help deal with it.

Or for someone to tell me it's a phase it will pass and my kind caring funny boy will come back and our relationship won't be damaged by me losing my shit on a weekly basis sad.

CodyKing Thu 08-Sep-16 23:23:46

Well you have a head start because you can tell how it's going to pan out

So change something

Maybe a game in his room - if he brushes his teeth so you leave rather than him

Maybe a story - if he gets into bed nicely

Action - reward story game

In action lo reward no story no game

So you don't escalate the punishment
No game no stroy no kindle no sweets etc toll it spirals

Make a plan - ask him to help you they do this at school

If you get pjs on - this means you get X
If you brush teeth - you get Y

So natural consequence rather than mom shouting

Hitting etc - should be loss of privileges - no kindle - until he's earner it back -


Believeitornot Fri 09-Sep-16 06:48:15

I don't think its ok for me to sit there telling him for 10 mins that he is meant to be in bed whilst he ignores me until

You don't have to tell him for the whole ten minutes. You can set a timer for example. Tell him you're coming back in a few minutes and when you're back you want him to finish his chapter etc.

But you're making it a bit of abattle unnecessarily. So what if he wants to read that bit longer? Reading is great! So I would pick your battles and be a tiny bit more flexible.

It sounds like a power struggle. Ultimately you hold most of the power here so give him a little back. He's a bit older so you need a different approach. I think that's the struggle at this age - try talking to him and giving him some space.

Explain why you've asked for something and give him a choice - eg read until the end of the chapter and pop upstairs. Check that he listens and understands. My 6 year old gets so absorbed that he genuinely doesn't hear me or his brain tell him to do something else (this he has told me and I believe him - he still has a little bit of an impulsive streak in him grin)

Believeitornot Fri 09-Sep-16 06:57:16

I should add - defiance in my 6 year ds is really draining on me and dh - but generally he's pretty good. I think we expect a bit too much and want 100% compliance but that's unrealistic as he's growing up and we need to adjust our approach to this as we go along.

It's tough!

eyebrowsonfleek Fri 09-Sep-16 07:28:48

One of my children is like that so I had to be crafty and make sure he wasn't on a gadget close to bedtime or that I had a drink/snack for car rides.

If you talked about his unreasonable behaviour the next day, would he be more reasonable? When my children are being naughty they need some time to sulk before they are ready to apologise or accept responsibility. So bedtime behaviour usually ends up being discussed the next day and by then, it's easier for me to dish out calm, firm lectures or punishments rather than shout.

OohMrDarcy Fri 09-Sep-16 09:22:21

I don't think I'm being clear about the bedtime example. Let me try again

So I give him a 10 min heads up that its nearly bed time, I will generally remind him that he's running out of time with 2 mins to go and suggest he finishes what he's doing so he's ready to turn off. Then AFTER the 10 mins, he will continue to ignore me for however long it takes him to finish whatever it is he wants to do (unless I escalate / pick him up /whatever). This isn't just about gadgets, he could be reading, playing lego, colouring, anything really - if he is in the middle of something- no matter how much notice I've given him, he will NOT listen to me until he is ready to.

I hope thats clearer... for me - that isn't acceptable, I don't expect to say 10 mins until bedtime for it to then take 20-30 or whatever. Maybe I'm a bit on the strict side, but only with timings really - if we have to be somewhere then we have to be somewhere and I need to know he can do what he's told when he's told. As a single parent I have no backup or other options to cover those situations.

Cody - any violence always has a consequence. If he throws anything at me - that thing goes in the bin (assuming its a toy - and by bin I mean charity shop). I say if he can't look after his belongings he doesn't deserve to keep them. If he hits he loses his kindle until he's behaving better consistently again.
I do like the action / natural consequence thing... unfortunately I don't think it would work. If I managed to get him upstairs and then said say, right time to stop the lego and brush your teeth - you can play again after / whatever fun thing after - his brain would be like... why should I ? I can just ignore you and keep playing now.... any ideas to get around that would be appreciated!

Believe - It is definitely a power struggle at times, yes - never had this with DD (9.5)... I do give him choices when its appropriate, and give him the chance to help me / make decisions whenever possible. But with three of us in the house that can't be all of the time, and he is only compliant when he is doing what HE wants.

Eyebrows, he's always reasonable after the event / the next day or whatever but it doesn't change anything in the future! He's very 'in the moment' with this stuff

I'm really appreciating all these insights though all - thank you, please keep them coming!

corythatwas Fri 09-Sep-16 09:45:49

I do agree with other posters that you reach a time when the physical handling has to stop. Not just because they get too strong and heavy, but because they reach an age where they develop ideas of bodily autonomy and dignity which are very similar to yours. They get so angry!!!

Imagine if you did something wrong at work and the boss tried to solve the problem by physically picking you up- however justified he was and however crap a worker you were, it would still not feel right, because of the invasion of your dignity.

I am not saying that a 6yo is right to have these feelings, and maybe it is still quite young, but he certainly will in a few years time, so it's worth coming up with strategies that are safely non-physical.

I appreciate the fact that there are times when you have to rely on instant compliance, but is bedtime really one of them, to the extent that you can't even wait a couple of minutes without it escalating? Would it be possible to find a bedtime routine which is enjoyable for both of you? I think I would pick my battles here.

OohMrDarcy Fri 09-Sep-16 09:54:39

I completely agree about the manhandling, I don't want to do it and it doesn't feel right. The problem is - with him, this could happen at any time. I'm just using bedtime as an obvious example... The problem is it is never just a couple of minutes - I'm always spending at least 5 mins repeating myself with the 'DS, I said its time for bed <or whatever> you need to turn your kindle off like we agreed <or put away lego / book / whatever>

It is NEVER just a few mins of reminding him - he will only stop on his terms... it not a case of finishing a page / level on a game... he will make sure he continues. Even if he had just finished something he will restart it quickly or something similar to MAKE SURE he only goes to bed on his terms. At 6, I don't think he should have any say in when he goes to bed personally - but maybe I'm way off here?!

My 9.5 year old has no say - her bedtime is 45 mins after his, and she goes up a similar time but sits in bed and reads - no issues, good as gold.

corythatwas Fri 09-Sep-16 10:50:48

I can see what you mean and I agree it is utterly frustrating- I had one just like it and it really drives you up the wall. All I can say is, it's a lot easier now he is a teenager and has more control over his own life.

I think some people are just better suited to being older iyswim; they find it utterly frustrating to be under the control of others and will do their best to quietly sabotage it. Come to think of it, I was a bit like that myself: find it much easier to be an adult than a child.

For the parent, the frustrating thing is that you actually have to control them until they are old enough to do it themselves, because that is your job.

The only thing that got us through (at the times when I felt we were getting through) was a sense of humour and trying to keep a long fuse. He needed to know that once I did go into battle I intended to win: I needed to know that I did not have to go into battle over everything. I think I just accepted that I would have to spend more time than I might have liked telling him to get up and telling him to go to bed. He never developed any serious issues over it, and he got less frustrating over the years.

CodyKing Fri 09-Sep-16 12:23:49

Part of your issue is treating them differently - I remember Mim doing this and it was totally unfair -

Send the older one first with lots of praise - and then DS

Let her read longer if she's quiet

When in bed distract him and remove the pad - then tuck in

OohMrDarcy Fri 09-Sep-16 12:32:35

Am I treating them differently? In my head I'm treating them the same, but age appropriately. A 9 year old just doesn't need as much sleep as a 6 year old. She also has more homework to do. I have explained and they both know that their bedtime moved 15mins each birthday. So when he turns 7, he'll stay up a little longer etc.

Most of the time I'll ask her to go up and get ready at the same time, but not always as she might be doing homework etc.

Is this me being unfair? I'm honestly baffled by this one - I thought it was normal that different age children will get different bedtimes, as well as different responsibilities and privileges... which progress with age etc. The time he goes to bed now, is pretty much the time she did at that age (though actually slightly later, as he has never needed quite as much sleep as her at the same age)

Asuitablemum Fri 09-Sep-16 12:56:44

In the taking things off him thing it really helped with my son saying that I wouldn't want to give him tablet etc if he was unable to give it back and/or had bad behaviour afterwards. So not a punishment or consequence to anything but just explaining how I felt. I think he got the idea that if he was really good at stopping when we ask then he was much more likely to get it again later or another day. Also praising when he listened first time, well done for listening and thing back etc. I found calmer easier happier parenting book really useful for dealing with things like this too.

Asuitablemum Fri 09-Sep-16 13:03:03

The other thing that helped at bedtime is focusing on the next thing starting not the current one ending and making it positive or fun eg. Who can get to the top of the stairs first, which book are you going to choose.

MammouthTask Fri 09-Sep-16 13:04:48

I used to only count to 3 and then expect them to do whatever I asked.
Still do that now (they are nearly teenagers!) when I cant get to them. And yes they are still very grumpy.

What helped is
1- to not add a punishment on the top. They are already struggling to stop playing so adding a punishment is likely to feel too harsh and unfair
2- to have some flexibility, eg you can finish your game first (just be careful he doesn't start another!)

Be careful not to set up the scene ready for a fight, eg by giving no other possibility than to stand up to you if he wants to finish his game (and finishing WILL be extremely important to him!)

It helps to reframe the situation not as him being defiant and violent.
But as him struggling with endings, esp on things he is really into.
Then you can treat it as something he needs support for rather than him being 'bad' in some ways iyswim

CodyKing Fri 09-Sep-16 13:09:34

I do think it's unfair

He will never be the eldest - never go to bed later than his sister - he can't change that - A whole year and still he's 15 mins behind.

You are asking him to be grown up but will never be equal to her

What else to do so that's age appropriate? Does she get more dinner? More sleepovers? More time in the front seat?

OohMrDarcy Fri 09-Sep-16 13:16:36

Of course he won't be the eldest, he just isn't! Am I missing something here?! I'm not asking him to be grown up at all - I'm just expecting normal age appropriate behaviour..
Yes DD gets slightly more dinner - she's entering puberty and needs it, they both get the amount they need / want
Yes DD goes on sleepovers (very rarely, a couple a year) because she's 9.5... I know of no 6 year olds who do
Front seat time is split - DD gets more as he's not tall enough for me to consider it safe to be a regular thing yet - however always one day a week he is in the front, once he's outgrown his booster seat it will be alternated.

I do give him opportunities to do 'grown up' things too - this morning he helped me make his favourite breakfast for them both - choconana porridge.

However I can't treat him the same as someone 3 years older just because he wants to - where would that stop? DD takes things to the post box for me, because she is old enough and sensible enough to do it safely - I couldn't let DS do that as he can't even cross the road properly whilst he's holding my hand! He however knows that if he wants to be allowed to do that one day, we need to work towards him being safe to do so and are working on him crossing roads safely.

Suitable and mammoth - thanks, I'll think through those ideas.

niceupthedance Fri 09-Sep-16 13:21:46

God I'm with you OP, have also been a single parent since he was born and I just think DS struggles with the whole 'who is in charge' concept even though I have explained as nauseam why a grown up has rules at home.

The other day DS was colouring, it was bath time. I gave him 10 min warning I was running bath, called from upstairs saying 2 minutes left. Then when I asked him to come to the bathroom after he had coloured a last shape, he put the pen down, picked up another one and carried on with another bit. This happens at least twice a day and makes the red mist descend!

Now in our house it is removal of privileges for the next day eg boring snack after school instead of one he loves, no playing with the neighbours' kids, no iPad etc. I never remove his hobbies like swimming etc. I'm a bit sad it has come to this but it does work and I'm hoping it's a (very long) phase.

HabitualLurker Fri 09-Sep-16 13:39:08

I could have written your message OP, but about my nearly 4 year old. I know it sounds ridiculous - he's still only 3!!! - but the complete lack of cooperation and insistence on ending activities on his terms only is so wearing.

It's behaviour that has definitely escalated with the arrival of a new sibling and the long holidays so I think it is very much based on a need to be in control. The comment about some people being better as adults than kids does seem to get to the heart of it. I feel like he would really prefer to be in charge of himself, which is obviously not possible. It's all unfamiliar for me as I was very much like the OP'S daughter - happy to follow rules and for someone else to be in charge.

I'm mainly looking for ideas myself rather than offering solutions. We try providing incentives for cooperation - eg story, time on Kindle / phone at bedtime if he gets ready - but then he tends to get in a massive strop when we say he needs to stop those. We do resort to physically forcing him sometimes, but I feel awful doing that and it's certainly not a long term strategy. Ultimately he always wants to be in control. Arrrgh - it seems like it's going to be a long few years to come!

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