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At a complete loss with my 4 year old- please help(18 Posts)
I am so sad to be writing this. Am hiding behind a namechange so please be easy on me. I am really struggling with my ds's behaviour to the point that I have started almost wishing him away, which is just awful. He is almost 5. I am a lone parent to 3 dc, and he is the middle one. Eldest is dd who is 9 and has always been 'good'. Youngest is just one. Dp left me shortly after the birth of the little one last year so it's been a year of upheaval. Ds's dad left when I was pregnant with him so I spent the first 2 years of his life really in a state of PND, anxiety and fear. I took antianxiety meds while I was feeding him and I worry now what they may have done to him, or even to our bond. He's always been very defiant but my worry now is that he seems to have no kind of control over his behaviour. He just never seems happy, whatever I do is wrong and it's affecting every single part of our family life. Going out for a day is a chore because all he'll do is misbehave and whinge. A few days ago he got a little stamper in a kinder egg and I found him later putting it all over the wall. He knew it was naughty, but said he didn't know why he had done it. I sent him to bed, the first time I've ever done that, and he was soon asleep. Today, we got back from a day out and I nipped upstairs to get the laundry. I heard a bang and youngest ds started screaming, it turns out ds had dropped him down the stairs I sent him to his room again, and left him for 10 minutes while I calmed down. I went in intending to give him a hug, to find that he'd weed all over the floor. Not wet his pants, which he's done on and off since he potty trained (relatively late if that's relevent) but actually pulled his trousers down and deliberately weed on the floor. Suffice to say I was not happy.
But now I feel stuck. I feel truly awful for him. I feel like he's trying to tell me sonething through his behaviour. I know he was unsettled when xp left as he was the only real father figure he's known, and we've moved house and area since. I just feel I should have more patience, but nothing I do seems enough. He is apparently fine at school bar the odd wee accident, but he also comes out of school in a bad mood. I'm struggling with perhaps knowing I may have PND again as this year has been awful for everyone, and thinkign this might be why I'm finding this so hard. I'm also wary to jump to the 'special needs' conclusion, but he just seems to have no impulse control. He also struggles with being very literal with language, he needs things explaining in very simple, straightforward terms. If he knows he'll get told off he'll do it anyway. And if there is no medical reason for his behaviour, it comes down to just me being an inadequate parent and having a naughty boy I can't control. I'm really really struggling to even like him, let alone love him at the moment, and that's possibly the worst thing I've ever confessed. I don't really want to admit these feelings to a doctor or health visitor as they're so awful. If I could leave him with someone then right now I feel that I would. I dread every day knowing there'll be something else I have to deal with. And yes, I know this is what parenthood is about. But I don't know what I can do to make it better when we just both seem so cross with each other all the time.
Could you talk to your health visitor, or someone at a Sure Start children centre about a parenting course to help with strategies? Im half way through one called Triple P and it has certainly helped. I was at the point of just wanting to walk away from him.
Try to catch him being good, praise whatever little thing you can, even if it feels a struggle, or false/tv mum-ish. Basically fake it til you make it. My four year old drew on wooden drawers last week with a felt tip - he knew it was wrong but still did it. But on the whole, four weeks into the program, he is a better behaved little boy, at home and at nursery.
I hope you can find some help x
No advice but just wanted to give you and little ds an unmumsnetty ((((hug)))) as you sound so sad. What a lot you have all been through.
Hopefully someone will be more help soon.
Sounds bloody awful, I feel for you so much and sending hug your way. My ds (4) is currently going through a bad sleep stage and currently sitting on the stairs outside his room freezing my a** off, heavily pregnant and wishing to scream 'go to sleep you little sod' but obviously can't. I don't really have any words of advice other than from what I have seen on here, it looks like he is seeking your attention. Cld you possibly give him some one to one time (if friends of family cld keep an eye on the others for a bit). I don't think its anything you have done so please don't fret, I think most kids personalities are fixed at birth, and some are always going to be more challenging than others. Speak to the health visitor, they have been a life saver for us during tricky stages, and will have seen worse so don't feel embarrassed. Sometimes they can help u see the woods from the trees. And most of all, be easy on yourself, its bloody hard being a single mum and you are doing the best you can x
I've tried praising, I really have. I praise him for walking nicely, for listening, sometimes it has felt total overkill. It's always something. He used to come out of his room umpteen times at bedtime and wake early. He's grown out of thta now but it was awful while it lasted. I know xp struggled to cope with his behaviour and that's one of the reasons he left I think. He wouldn't accept that he was just being a 3 year old. But now I think maybe I was just too excusing of his behaviour and actually he had a point that I should have been disciplining him better. I just feel things will never get better. Like my life for the next 14 years and evermore is going to be a constant struggle fo trying to make him behave. And I know logically that to think that way is more than a little fucked up. I really really really don't want to put all of this on his shoulders. I don't want him to be labelled the naughty one, though that's exactly what I'm doing.From the minute I wake up I am almost resigned to the fact that the day is going to be a battle of wills.
I think he probably is struggling to deal with all of the upheaval and doesn't know how to express it otherwise. It doesn't sound massively worrying to me long term - I think he's hurting and doesn't know how to ask for help and of course is going about it in a really destructive way.
I would separate out the two issues so that he's not getting extra special attention for the misbehaviour. Deal with things as calmly as possible - he's looking for a reaction. And try to minimise damage by not leaving him unattended if you can help it unless he's contained/the baby/pets/valuables etc (watch out for any easily breakable things like laptops just in case!) are elsewhere. Mess etc can be cleaned. This too shall pass!
To address the actual hurt/anger etc he has, one thing I find really good is to have some one on one time at a neutral time of day - bedtime works for us - and talk about things that made us feel happy/sad in that day. We go for one positive memory/thing/feeling of the day and one negative. It gives them a chance to talk about sometimes frightening or confusing feelings without blame or shame and helps them see that anger/sadness/fear etc is normal and even mummies have these feelings. It can just help them feel listened to and it might help him feel less like he has to act out.
Good luck - I'm really struggling with this age too and we haven't had half as much going on, I really feel for you. I think it's a hard age for DC, a real "transition" kind of age from toddler to child.
And - don't beat yourself up about your discipline!! That is your fw ex talking, not you. I don't think I'd have managed to keep my cool if my 4 year old had pushed his baby sibling down the stairs! You sound like you're handling things exceptionally well, and I would think if your ex was the type to expect "discipline" to stop a 3 year old being 3, your DS was probably reacting to his father rather than being particularly "bad" or hard work just in personality.
Bertie, I like the idea of reflecting at the end of the day. He just cannot be made to do something if he doesn't want to. If I suggested that and he was distracted by something else then it just wouldn't happen. I worry I've been too wrapped up in my own misery to worry about how it's affected the dc. I think dd has become overly helpful and trying to minimise her demands on me which is massively worrying in itself. I did the same thing in my childhood, I had (have) a mother who just didn't have time for me. It hurts me a lot that my dd is behaving in the same kind of way. Ds does have his lovely moments of course. He'll always come in in the morning and snuggle in bed, tell me he loves me. But at night, I have to kiss and hug at exactly the right time, say the exact same thing every night, 'I love you, goodnight, see you in the morning'. He gets very upset if any part of it is wrong. He's very ritualistic in many things actually. He will get very upset if things aren't exactly right. Perhaps he's just wound very tight.
He sounds like a normal 4 year old - or at least very like mine! We're having big problem with focus at the moment where I have to keep reminding, confiscating distractions etc, and yes to the rituals too - loads here and many of them change according to the time of day and I can't keep up the thing with the reflection is it shouldn't be forced, so if he's not interested just drop it. I found bedtime was good because he is willing to engage with anything just to delay lights out! And he's all relaxed after his story etc. But it's not always right every night.
If you're worried about yourself, are you getting adequate support? I see you beating yourself up when in reality it sounds like you're dealing with a tough situation - cut yourself some slack! If DD is 9 then perhaps she is being empathetic rather than feeling like she has to be more helpful? You can always talk to her too - let her know you're really grateful for her help but telling her its ok to just be a child sometimes too and that she can always talk to you if anything is worrying her and she mustn't worry about upsetting you with anything she's feeling/worrying about. Maybe encourage her to invite a friend for tea or something to let her know you appreciate she needs down time?
Maybe mornings would be a good time? Think of one positive thing that will be happening that day or that you will try to do that day - could be seeing his friends at school or getting sweets on the way home or promising to say yes as much as possible or anything. And something negative that you/he will try not to do - eg, shout, or mess around at dinner or serve his worst vegetable or that he hopes someone at school doesn't ruin his game (you could remind him to tell the teachers if this happens) - big or small, the point is that at some point semi-regularly you're opening the door to him being able to tell you stuff. DD too
What do they say at school? Is his behaviour similar there?
Also have you looked up about your meds? If there is no evidence that they can cause problems when breastfeeding you should try to put that out of your mind so that you can look at what's really going on.
Is his Dad still involved with him? If so, can he help with ideas?
And finally, don't forget your experience of having a daughter first will affect your response to having a boy - they are just different, especially at that age.
You NEED to talk to your GP about your mental state, deffo. And a friend of mine told me about the testosterone surges that boys go through around 4/5 which turn them into little shits. She recommended the book Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph for more info altho I've not read it yet.. Good luck, I hope you find a way through this. A defiant 5 yo plus a 1yo is hard work.
I love Bertie's posts on this thread. Agree with her that 4 is a difficult age and you sound like you are doing so well at a very tough time, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Bertie, we moved to get support but the reality is I just feel more isolated so I'm sucking it up and moving back in a few months time. I can't even get an appointment with the gp here, my team before we're brilliant and I'm going ton refer myself straight back to them when we've moved. He seems much better this morning so I'm hoping it continues. I've always said exactly that to dd, that its not her job to worry about me and she can tell me anything. This house is bigger than our last so I've made sure she's known her friends are welcome and that's been nice.
And no, his dad isn't involved at all. Never will be which makes me worry for the future too. It's going to hurt him a lot when he realises he wanted nothing to do with him. Apparently his behaviour at school is fine, but he always comes out looking fed up, grumpy and is a handful after school. I make sure he has food and drink straight away but from himemtimemtil bed time is a challenge. Likewise in mornings it's a real struggle to get him dressed.
I really sympathise, my 5 yr old is being similarly very trying at the moment. Since he was about 3 he's been increasingly stubborn and controlling and I have often heard myself saying that nothing I do is right for him.
This weekend me and DH have made a big big effort to be ultra kind and understanding to him and baby him a bit e.g. instead of expecting him to put on his own shoes, I have said sit down here and I'll put your shoes on (same as I do for my 1 yr old), we've been trying to treat him as nearer in age to his little brother than his bigger one and done lots of cuddling esp when little one is napping. He's also a middle one and has a 1 yr old brother. He's been a lot better although not perfect and it's hard to do when you are trying to get everyone out of the house and he won't wear a coat or decides he needs to dress as a pirate, for example.
Having an adult to share concerns with is helpful to me. Is there anyone you could share your concerns with? Maybe you get on with his teacher (a good teacher would give you ideas of strategies you can try at home) or have a close friend? Just talking things through can be so helpful. Continue to post here too.
Don't torment yourself with the things you cannot change e.g. lack of a father figure, just concentrate on making the most of the situation you are in day by day and you can help him turn things around.
Good post from Zipity. Perhaps babying him for a bit will help. Sometimes we expect too much when they're not ready.
My ds is nearly 5 and similar in a lot of ways to yours. He's off school at the moment and we've been out for a few activities and he's just sat on my lap like a baby while my other 2 dc's run off and play. He's missed out a bit (with 2 siblings) and it's like he's making up for lost time. Jut a few minutes of cuddles a day and he's happier but still impossible and grumpy at times! He's great at school but it's like he holds it all in then gets home and takes it all out on us.
I've found a lot of good reading about hand in hand parenting - www.handinhandparenting.org/ which is a bit like love bombing.
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