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4 year old tormenting our kittens. Help! Not sure how to handle this anymore.(very long)

(76 Posts)
Theclosetpagan Mon 30-Jul-07 15:51:18

My 4 year old DS is being a real handful at present. Family who observe him tell me he is "strong willed" (oh hell yes)and that I need to be much firmer with him. My Mum says I am too soft and that he knows exactly how to work us to get his own way. Me - I think I am too close to it all to be objective but I worry all the time about being an over-critical parent. DS is an extremely active and energetic little boy and we have a great deal of difficulty getting him into bed at night if he hasn't burnt off sufficient energy by day.

We recently got two kittens who are lovely and affectionate. DS adores them and they sit by him and purr. It's lovely to see as he didn't have this nice close relationship with our old cat (who pre-dated him by several years). We make a real fuss of him when he is being kind to the kittens.

Trouble is that DS has recently realised that the kittens are a pretty good attention getter when we are busy. We don't ignore DS but sometimes phone calls come or there is housework to do (which we try to involve him in) and it's at these times when our attention is elsewhere that the destructive behaviour starts. He used to chase our old cat from time to time and we used time outs etc which helped in the short term but we are still having to use them alot and so far I cannot see that it is having any effect.

DH is of the opinion that smacking is the way forward but I don't agree with smacking and am not prepared to agree to this.

Today I am at work and I have just had a call from DH to tell me that:

1. While they were shopping DS played up so much that DH nearly put everything down we needed to buy and abandon the shop. He managed he says but it was an ordeal from start to finish as DS just would not stay with him - ran off etc.

2. (more worrying) is that once home DS wanted to play in the garden. DH said he could. We are lucky enough to have an enclosed garden so DH decided to wash up and watch DS from the kitchen window. He observed DS lift up a large plastic box and clonk one of the kittens on the head with it. DH says DS laughed after he did it. I suggested that DH should have been in the garden with DS but DH told me that this was reality and that housework had to be done sometimes. He feels that we should be able to wash up, take phone calls etc without DS harming the kittens. Is this expecting too much - I sometimes feel he is only 4 and that we are expecting alot when maybe it's closer supervision he needs?
DH said that he'd done time out with DS for his behaviour but that DS justlaughed at him and blew raspberries. DH says that DS has continued chasing the kittens since time out and both kittens are now hiding from him.

Help! I am at the end of my tether. DS is an only child so gets masses of attention from us - certainly much more than if he'd had several brothers or sisters.

My plan is to sit and talk to DS this evening when all has calmed down. He's 4.5 - will be 5 in December. Am I expecting too much from him. I just feel we are straying into seeing him as always bad at the moment. He does plenty of good things which we praise him to the skies for.

He also has something called "sensory integration delay" for which he is due to be assessed by an OT. In new situations it's like sensory overload for his brain and his behaviour is frantic with no real concentration on any one thing. Am not sure if this is affecting his behaviour.

Am at my wits end at the moment. DS starts school in September and at the moment I am worrying that they won't be able to manage him.

Mumpbump Mon 30-Jul-07 16:03:09

Do you think it would make any difference if you explained that hurting them isn't nice and if he carries on hurting them, they won't want to play with him or might even decide that they don't want to live with you?

hercules1 Mon 30-Jul-07 16:04:39

I have a nearly 5 year old nephew who does far worse things than this. COuld it be that because he is an only child it feels like his behaviour is far worse than some other childresns? Tbh he sounds fine.

handlemecarefully Mon 30-Jul-07 16:11:41

I think 4 years old is definitely old enough to learn that tormenting animals is not acceptable. My 3 year old (lively boisterous ds) does not hassle the smallest of our dogs (a full grown dog but due to her breed 'puppy size') - frankly he wouldn't dare.

Would suggest you take an extremely hard line on your ds for this.

Think it is vital for learning empathy, compassion for others etc

hercules1 Mon 30-Jul-07 16:14:22

HMC - quick thread hijack. Did you ever work out how best to bath a large dog?

Whooosh Mon 30-Jul-07 16:14:54

Agree with HMC-my dd aged 2 gets really short shrift from me if she tries anything she shouldn't witht he cats.
Four is definitely old enough to understand right from wrong.

I wish you luck because I know it won't be easy.

handlemecarefully Mon 30-Jul-07 16:16:55

hercules - yes, you hire someone to come with a purpose built van!

That's what I've done any how

hercules1 Mon 30-Jul-07 16:18:24

I have thought about that. WHen I took her to a poodle parlour once she wet herself she was so nervous so that puts me off gettting her to go into a van and be washed by a stranger. Trouble is the weather is too cold to use the hose and when I've done that before she absoluletly hated it and tried to get away.

CarGirl Mon 30-Jul-07 16:19:21

my dd's only have one warning for even brushing the cat the wrong way, if the hit him/hurt him on purpose they would get the same punishment as if it had been a person/child IYSWIM.

You need to work out what punishment/consequences would work on him if time out doesn't.

Saturn74 Mon 30-Jul-07 16:25:11

Agree that you need to have really firm boundaries about what is and what isn't acceptable behaviour around the pets.

For the animal's sake, but also for your child's sake.

He may be able to dominate your tiny kittens, but he could well try the same behaviour out on a less amenable creature, and he could end up getting seriously hurt.

I don't think you're expecting too much from him. He's old enough to know that living creatures need to be treated kindly.

Where do you put your DS for time out?

If he can blow raspberries at you at the same time, perhaps he needs to be in his room with the door closed?

CountessDracula Mon 30-Jul-07 16:30:54

I have always said to dd re our dog

IF you torment the dog and she bites you she will have to be shot

so don't do it

(prob a bit harsh, but true AND it works!)

wannaBe Mon 30-Jul-07 16:31:14

any tormenting of animals is unacceptable and should be dealt with severely. And he's not "only 4" he's 4, and of an age where he's old enough to start school so is certainly old enough to know that what he's doing is wrong.

If time out isn't working for you then I would resort to other tactics, ie confiscation of toys/favourite things, withdrawal of privilages etc. If your ds does not learn from this and continues to torment the kittens, then tbh I would rehome them as it is not fair on the kittens. And then I would very firmly explain to your ds that his behavior has resorted in the kittens being taken away for ever.

wannaBe Mon 30-Jul-07 16:32:56

cd I've said exactly the same to my ds re the dog. And I've also said that "if he bites you then it will be your fault and I will have no sympathy".

FluffyMummy123 Mon 30-Jul-07 16:33:58

Message withdrawn

oxocube Mon 30-Jul-07 16:36:10

we have 2 10 week old kittens and ds (5) is obsessed with picking them up and carrying them around. He would never intentionally hurt them but has to learn that animals need a bit of space and deserve respect. Like CD, I have told him that if he can't stop picking them up and 'restraining' them so they sit on his lap, they will go to another home. He is learning gradually. TBH, I was more worried about him when he was 3 and we got our dog. He knew I meant it when I said that if the dog bit him, even if teased, he would have to be put to sleep. Harsh but true.

oxocube Mon 30-Jul-07 16:37:23

dog put to sleep obviously, not my ds

HonoriaGlossop Mon 30-Jul-07 16:38:22

pagan, I think that you are very right in resisting smacking; how on earth will it teach your ds not to physically harm creatures that are smaller than him, if one of his parents hits him!

Don't be undermined by your DH about the time out thing. Your ds doesn't need to seem 'cowed' and apologetic for time out to work. I do agree with Humphrey that perhaps it needs to be alone, in his room so that he can't see you or DH. If he blows raspberries or laughs afterwards, ignore it; he's still had the consequence. And it will work, if you are both firm and consistent with it.

Each and every time you see him tormenting the kittens, he needs to hear a firm NO and that 'we are gentle with animals' and then to be removed immediately from the vicinity.

Firm and consistent is the way to go. He needs to feel a consequence each time but he doesn't need a smack.

With the shopping thing, I do sympathise, but then shopping is a four year old boy's worst nightmare! With my ds I needed to get him VERY involved and keep up a running commentary/use the trolley as a racing car/pretend it was a bus...etc etc. Anything that works. But it is hard work.

handlemecarefully Mon 30-Jul-07 16:40:34

hercules - I had to go in the van with my Bernese Mountain Dog because she was distinctly nervous. I chopped up around 8 frankfurters into small chuncks and fed her one chunk per minute to keep her compliant!

hercules1 Mon 30-Jul-07 16:41:09


FluffyMummy123 Mon 30-Jul-07 16:41:43

Message withdrawn

CarGirl Mon 30-Jul-07 16:41:52

if my dc don't apologise properly after time out/or laugh/be defiant about it then they get another time out...............I don't think I've had to do it more than once.

One is just 5 the other nearly 4. Even works on the 10 year old too!

stealthsquiggle Mon 30-Jul-07 16:43:44

There are some points at which you need to draw an absolute line, and IMO cruelty to animals is one. He shouldn't need watching every second at that age. My DS certainly knew a lot younger than that how to treat animals (not rose-tinted hindsight, he is almost exactly the same age as your DS).

Quite apart from it not being fair on the kittens, as others have said, if he doesn't learn how to treat animals he is likely to get hurt some day.

Whatever means you have (toy confiscation / long time out / no TV) of getting through that this is absolutely not acceptable, now is the time to use it.


KITTENSOCKS Mon 30-Jul-07 16:45:34

Cats Protection will not home kittens in any family with children under 5 for the kittens welfare and safety, perhaps you should re-think until DS is older and has his behavioural disorder sorted. He may genuinely not be able to control his behaviour without thinking about consequences.

HonoriaGlossop Mon 30-Jul-07 16:48:53

I didn't know that kitten - but I must have sensed something about it, or about my ds (!) as we have held off and held off getting a kitten till he's older. I really want one but it's precisely this sort of issue that's held me back

wannaBe Mon 30-Jul-07 16:50:27

no my ds has never picked up my cats either. he did torment the life out of my dog when I first got him though, but I think that was in part due to the fact that dog was 18 months old and highly boisterous so they kinda wound each other up iyswim. Many time-outs were had and toys were confiscated, and I even threatened to get rid of the dog (a guide dog so not a threat I made lightly), but after a couple of months things calmed down. ds was 3.5 at the time though and wasn't cruel just hyping the dog up into a frenzy. I still considered it unacceptable behavior though.

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