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DS (5) kicking/hitting and being verbally abusive when he doesn't get what he wants. Practical, compassionate tips for handling this, please.

(13 Posts)
Scrumplet Sun 21-Jun-09 03:22:14

Exactly that. I find it so upsetting when I enforce a very reasonable, everyday boundary: things like no ice cream today because he had one yesterday; him not having a turn on every expensive extra at the theme park; insisting he give back my snack which he has taken, run off with and eaten half of. In the last few months, these kinds of interactions have resulted in me being hit, kicked, told I'm the world's worst mummy, that he doesn't love me/my family/himself, being spat at. I'm weary of these incidents, and (maybe I'm over-sensitive) feel hurt. I'm on my own with DS, and he doesn't behave this way with his dad, or at school (where he is saintly). I get it all!

In my mind, this kind of thing should be an absolute no. But I don't seem to be able to make him stop reacting to disappointment/not getting his own way in this way. We talk about healthy alternatives for expressing anger/'big' feelings, but I know I'm not great at utilising these myself, and in the heat of the moment, we both seem to forget and default to primal rage.

Last weekend, DS's treatment towards me (which feels like bullying, TBH) peaked with me losing my temper almightily, and shouting and screaming and whacking something benign in the bathroom on my own for about 10 minutes. I felt so utterly fed up and walked over. I exploded. I didn't hurt DS or break anything, so maybe it wasn't such a bad way to handle my feelings, but I expect it sounded a bit scary.

Yesterday and today, I got kicked and hit in the company of friends and family, again over saying a friendly but fair no to something. It's humiliating. I'm dreading setting boundaries now, which of course I still need to do.

I lean towards unconditional parenting, and while it works in lots of ways, it's not working with this. My fondness for DS is definitely conditional at the moment, which I know isn't healthy. Because I don't have an effective grip on DS behaving like this, I stew over it for ages afterwards, and lecture, and withdraw, and dread the next outburst, and it's not doing our relationship any good.

Has anyone any really good tips on handling and minimising outbursts like these with a big five-year-old? Thank you.

Astrophe Sun 21-Jun-09 05:15:46

That sounds really, really hard, and you sound like a really commited and lovely Mum. I don't have any advice sorry, but bumping for you - I hope you get some help

Tortington Sun 21-Jun-09 07:13:37

i think as a reward system - star chart or pasta jar type thing. with agreed on rewards - so involve im in the discussion and making of the chart.

in conjunction with that, if he kicks or hits, i would hold him in a forward facing hug. this stops him from hurting you whilst still being able to express his anger and you can keepsafe AND close and still remain calm and speak softly.

whilst at home - walk into a diferent room - there is absolutley no VALUE in behaving like this without you as the audience.

ahundredtimes Sun 21-Jun-09 07:49:34

Oh very good honest post Srumplet - I think this happens to plenty of parents you know, and it's not a reflection on you. Also your instinct in the OP is absolutely right, that you need to re-draw the lines, and REMEMBER what they are. Things can get blurry in both the heat of the moment and at the end of a long day, can't they? Or even at the start of a long day actually.

My plan would be: to get ahead! work out what your boundaries are. If he couldn't have an ice cream today, but he could yesterday - who knows why, I don't know why, am sure a 5 y-0 doesn't? If ice creams are for saturdays only, or after school on Friday - make that clear and stick to it. Once that is established, then he can kick against it all he likes - and he will for a bit - once he realizes that is sticking firm, he'll stop. Write them down if you need to, so you remember, and be consistent. Don't be afraid of your rules. But make sure they are reasonable and fair, and then stick to them. If he is prepared - draw up these 'rules' together.

Sometimes it's really hard to see the wood for the trees. So work this out in your mind. Enforce it calmly. Make sure he knows where the lines are. Be consistent. Be calm.

ahundredtimes Sun 21-Jun-09 07:59:19

On the minimizing front - there's a good chapter in How to Talk on not saying 'no'. Just because NO can be such a flash-word for dc who hear it and immediately start to bang on the door of the word NO. It transpires there are lots more ways of saying 'no'. grin

It's quite hard work but I found it helpful, and once you've changed the script, then your NO's - and I don't think there is any harm in saying NO at the right times! - are more meaningful.

sweetfall Sun 21-Jun-09 08:14:05

Walk away from him like you are doing. Ignore, ignore, ignore. It is a phase and you are doing a fabulous job.

I would say that if unconditional parenting isn't working for you then tweak it until it does and you are comfortable with it. No parenting theory should put you in a position where you feel a failure because you aren't following its prescription to the letter. Pick and choose.

And do not worry. It is a phase. We all feel it and go through it. This too shall pass.

oopsagain Sun 21-Jun-09 08:15:39

I have to same with ds1.
Pasta jar- he sneers and doesn't care.
And if I held him he would seriously FREAK when he's angry- that would be a trigger TBH.

But i am muddling through somehow.

We talk about it and how to express emotions where othr people don't get hurt.

It's sad when he's the same with 3yr old ds2.... but i think ds2 starts alot of the violence when theya re together.

I don't have alot of help- but i do understand where you are coming from.

It's hard- unconditional parenting works alot of the time here- but when it comes to physical violence and the shouting and calling names I'm afraid I am more tradiontional in my aprroach. The othr routes seem so wishy washy when being kicked or wacked somehow grin

foxinsocks Sun 21-Jun-09 08:33:22

I don't know if it's a phase. I think it's a personality type (of the child).

My ds has always been this way and at 7 years old now, still has a few moments like this.

I think you need to explain to him, as he's now old enough to understand, that violence like that is unacceptable. That losing your temper is understandable but he needs to learn other ways of showing it. That he may not like it when you say no and it's ok to be disappointed or unhappy but not express it in that manner.

I agree with ahundredtimes about predicting situations where it will happen. And also recognising that when they are tired or hungry, their tempers go quicker.

But it's the perfect age to step in JUST as he loses his temper and ask him to go upstairs or stand outside until he has calmed down.

I just asked ds why he stopped hitting and kicking me and he said it was because I was strong and told him not to (lol) and he learned to feel like he was going to hit but not do it! I think he still feels like it but can now control himself most of the time. It was also aimed at me. Although it feels like bullying, he's doing it to you because you're his safe person and one he feels happy showing his emotions to.

sweetfall Sun 21-Jun-09 08:39:28

Yes I think you probably have a good point there foxinsocks. It can also be a personality type rather than a phase.

And teaching tools to help the child break the cycle is a great concept. Breathing techniques can also work as can a punching bag in his room.

Scrumplet Mon 22-Jun-09 10:26:11

Thank you all so much for your posts. This is the first chance I've had to reply since I posted.

Some really useful points and tips. Custardo - forward-facing 'hug' is a good idea. DS does seem to get more wound up if I restrain him but maybe this would feel less like restraint?

Yes, boundaries need to be well-defined. Usually, they're OK - sort of. The theme park thing caught me out because, with a fair for example, I'd give DS a set amount of money for rides, and when it's gone it's gone. I wasn't expecting an assault of fairground-type attractions amongst the rollercoasters the other day. Our boundaries could do with tightening up, though. I do like them to be a little bit flexible, because where we're on our own, if we get a last-minute chance to do something, visit someone or go somewhere, it's usually enriching for both of us. It means contradicting some boundaries sometimes, though, which isn't ideal. I'll give this some thought.

We do talk about feelings a lot, also because I want him to feel he can talk about any feelings he has to do with his dad's and my separation. I keep trying to get across that anger is OK - it's normal and healthy. What matters is what he does with it. We have a punch bag, bats to whack a cushion with, talk about stamping feet, growling - all better than throwing/kicking/hitting. In the moment, these ideas seem to elude us, but we do repeatedly come back to them - discuss them - in calmer moments.

I am quite feisty. Tempers run in my family, I expect more due to conditioning than genes. It would be wonderful to break the pattern. We'll keep talking about alternatives to expressing anger.

I do have How To Talk - will look up the 'alternatives to no' chapter.

Finally, I wanted to share that, having read your responses really quickly yesterday morning, and looked at a few other related posts on Mumsnet, DS and I had one of the best days we've had in weeks! grin We had some fun, I took care to explain things and be respectful to DS, I focused on his best bits, smiled at him lots and gave him the odd hug - and he couldn't get enough of me. He went to sleep calling up from his room, every few minutes, "I love you, Mum." Ah, bliss. Every day can't and won't be this good, but I feel encouraged.

I think I'm realising I can't do autopilot parenting. The minute mindfulness goes, I default to entrenched habits and it invariably goes to pot. I think if you're trying to do things differently to how your own parents parented - to break the mould of your own childhood - it inevitably takes a lot of concentration, with consequences when this slips.

Thank you all again.

saintmaybe Mon 22-Jun-09 10:35:57

Yes, and the more you practice mindfulness, the more you change your default reaction / habits to more helpful ones. Also you have 'money in the bank' of your relationship with him so that when you're tired/ it's a tricky issue, you can cut each other a bit of slack.

That sounds really lovely yesterday.

MarmadukeScarlet Mon 22-Jun-09 10:36:15

Also I would, along with the other good advice on this thread, try to find a particular parenting course called 'The incredible years'.

I have recently done it, it is a back to basics reward based parenting approach with some time out (naughty step) style punishements for unwanted behaviour that cannot be influenced with rewarding the good behaviour with play, attention and small 'rewards'.

You start by playing for 10 minutes per day with your child, a child led game/activity of their choosing. Do not aske them any questions (what clour is the brick type, you can ask what they want you to do next if playing imaginary games) this gives the children a feeling of control over you.

I have a 4.5 yr old with SN, his behaviour was dreadful, I spent much of my time shouting and losing it tbh. After a 10 week course I rarely shout, have a much happier DS (and DD) he has not bitten or hit me for ages. I also now have a group of other local parents, which I didn't have before and we have since met up for 2 drinks.

angelbutterfly Mon 22-Jun-09 12:52:09

help!5 yr old in trouble at school 4 pinching cheeks,scratching, hitting.

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