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Father Christmas Parenting

(25 Posts)
WinkyWinkola Sun 09-Aug-09 17:59:09

This is a bit complicated.

I have a DS (aged 4).

He's a difficult child. He seems to have been very angry since he was two years old. We have found this incredibly stressful and upsetting. It's been like living with someone who will blow up at any moment.

He rages at the slightest thing e.g. asking him to put his shoes on, engineers opportunities to rage e.g. telling me he's finished eating his meal and then kicking off when he's watched me clear the plates and put his leftover food in the bin and is generally objectionable and contrary. My parents are often as flummoxed as I am at this behaviour as is my DH.

This behaviour is reserved for when we're at home (never at nursery) and is especially bad when we're on holiday as a family.

My approach to his rage is to put him in his room, give him very short shrift and no attention and therefore no oxygen to his anger. He can rage from anything from about twenty minutes to two hours. He will only be calmed by another person if the other person will give him what he wants. I leave him to exhaust himself.

My DH on the other hand, seems to think the best approach is talk to him (I've tried reasoning - it doesn't work), calm him down and ultimately, I've observed, give DS what he wants.

DS believes that he can get what he wants by yelling his head off when DH is around. It works. DH will then occasionally snap and go ballistic with DS. DS is genuinely confused when this happens. His tantrum worked before and suddenly his dad is furious with him about it.

I spend all week with DS apart from three nursery sessions a week. I get very stressed and upset with the way he behaves but I try to contain it by putting him in his room and ignoring it. His behaviour can get truly vile but it's reduced in frequency and intensity during the week when it is just me around. I then see DH at the weekends and on holiday continually undermining what I know works by alllowing DS to get what he wants in response. Then DS will come to me and ask for a hug because he's calm, got what he wanted anyway and obviously wants to make peace with me.

This inconsistency enables DS to play DH and me off against each other. Whenever I say no to DS e.g. another lollipop, he simply goes and asks his dad who gives him exactly what he wants.

As a result, DH and I do not work as a team. DS is running rings around us, is an amazingly badly behaved child and it makes me want to leave DH. I have explained to him my position and why I think it is important that we are consistent. He says all the right things but when it comes to the crunch, nothing changes.

The stress is too big. I am six months pg and do not want to carry on like this. I feel like we're making DS into a monster by not being consistent and a strong unit that has firm, regular boundaries for him to observe.

Please, what can I do? I feel so upset, worried and miserable.

edam Sun 09-Aug-09 18:01:12

Not surprised you are worried. Could you show dh exactly what you've written down here?

WinkyWinkola Sun 09-Aug-09 18:10:03

I keep thinking my only other option is to go back to work full time, put the DCs in a nursery, let someone else bring them up and then at least they'll have some consistency.

Mind you, my DD (aged 2) is fine - a doddle in comparison to DS but she too prefers her daddy because he's the great, benevolent one. I'm always bad cop. I don't mind this role but I really need some support. I'm not getting it. In fact, in effect, I'm getting two fingers from DH.

edam Sun 09-Aug-09 18:18:22

Going back to work wouldn't help, you'd just be taking you out of the equation to some extent. They'd still see you and dh doing things differently in the evenings or weekends.

I dunno, you really have to have this conversation with dh again and hope he gets it. Maybe write to Tanya Bryon's problem page (think it's The Times)?

edam Sun 09-Aug-09 18:19:44

(Although at least you wouldn't be dealing with ds and his rages all day every day, I suppose.)

Maybe talk to dh immediately after/the same day as one of ds's rages? And ask him, do you think there's any other way we could have handled that?

HuffySpice Sun 09-Aug-09 18:22:45

Have you asked dh how he would like to deal with the situation, and listened to what he thinks?

WinkyWinkola Sun 09-Aug-09 18:28:29

DH wants to talk and reason with DS.

But this doesn't work and doesn't calm down DS unless you give him what he wants in the first place. If I had seen it work, I'd be going for it like a shot. I've tried it for weeks if only to relieve us of the stress.

Then, after he's been talked to and given what he wants, the rage starts again when he doesn't get exactly what he wants when he wants it. We're talking at least five rages every day at weekends and on holidays. Fewer during the week when he knows he gets short shrift from me. It's so exhausting.

DH is convinced that DS actually has mental health issues. I just think DS needs the same boundaries from both parents that he knows he's not to cross.

Right now I just want to leave. It's relentless, this.

Bink Sun 09-Aug-09 18:51:49

Have you had any professional advice, eg from doctor? It was a long road for me but at last now dh is mostly consistent with the way I believe ds (who's 10.5) needs parenting - like you say, absolutely clear consistent boundaries, and simple messages - but it's not been really because of any way I've been able to persuade him, it's been because of a parade - dozens - of professional people (teachers as well as doctors etc.) saying they agree with my approach and gradually dh buying into it.

Sometimes it has to come from a third party.

IDreamOfJeannie Sun 09-Aug-09 18:56:14

Hair loss / thinning is a symtom of polycystic ovary syndrome, as is excess body hair. It's caused by excess testosterone apparently.

PCOS can also cause irregular periods.

IDreamOfJeannie Sun 09-Aug-09 18:58:03

Wrong thread

Sorry blush

WinkyWinkola Sun 09-Aug-09 19:00:06

grin I'm sure hair loss will be happening soon!

HuffySpice Sun 09-Aug-09 19:12:32

Sounds tough for you WW.

Am struggling a bit with the idea that your approach is the only one that works, when your approach can have him raging in his room for up to two hours. I'm sure as you say that dh's approach isn't right (and especially not the inconsistency of dh losing his temper once in a while). I wonder if there's a different approach?

I don't want to seem unsupportive, because you really do seem at the end of your tether, and you are obviously doing everything you believe is best for your ds. However, you do seem very inflexible on the issue of your way being the only right way.

The fact that he isn't like this at nursery is encouraging, I would think?

Sorry not to be helpful. Good luck.

Wallace Sun 09-Aug-09 19:28:08

It does sound like neither approach is working.

I suppose you have tried the "How to Talk..etc" book?

PortAndLemon Sun 09-Aug-09 19:38:39

I think Tanya Byron says in one of her books (I'm paraphrasing here) that the overwhelming majority of the problems she sees come from parents having an unrealistic idea of the extent to which it's possible to reason with small children.

Pennies Sun 09-Aug-09 19:40:37

WW - my DD2 (aged 3.8) is exactly like this, although, to give her her due when she's not raging she is adorable and lots of fun to be around. The temper though is full on and she's been like it since day 1. We say that she's still pissed off at being born. She too is a perfect angel at nursery!

Over the past year (maybe as long as 18 months) I've taken a very tough line on it and done exactly what you have done. The moment she kicks off she is removed, usually to her bedroom. I have been totally consistent with this and now we are at the stage whereby I just say "go" when it starts and she'll take herself off to her room, go mental in there for a while and then come down and say sorry and that's the end of it.

My DH has been like yours and was doing the anything for a quiet life routine. Consequently she will try it on with him but he's seen that the no-nonsense approach works with her and is now using it (although his instructions for her to go are always a long time after i'd have given them so I guess he's more tolerant than me!). It's starting to work.

My advice is be consistent with what you are already doing. Talk frankly with your DH about this and devise a plan (i.e. that you havesome kind of codeword for you to give him when you can tell he's caving in so it looks like he's changing his tack without you having explicitly told him, so you're not the ogre IYSWIM).

Good luck. It is totally draining on the whole family.

Pennies Sun 09-Aug-09 19:42:47

PandL - if the OP's DS is anything like mine, reason is utterly not possible when the rage is at its height.

PortAndLemon Sun 09-Aug-09 19:51:15

That's what Tanya (and I meant) -- people think you can reason with them faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar more than is actually possible and hence create problems rather than resolving them. Sorry if it came across that I meant the opposite (now I read it back, I did phrase it sort of ambiguously if you hadn't read the original passage to which I was referring)

Bumperslucious Sun 09-Aug-09 20:08:47

I don't really have any advice but it seems that the first problem you need to solve is to get you and DH on the same page.

Have you tried reading 'How to talk so kids will listen' and has DH? (Although I have read it and I thing it works better for older kids).

Could you suggest that you try one of your methods for 2 weeks and then the other for 2 weeks and see which one has the most success? I have no other suggestions but you have my sympathy, this sounds very stressful.

I can understand the feeling of wanting to leave DH but remember that things are just really stressful for you and feel he is not cooperating. You sound at the end of your tether. I wish I could help a bit more

KTNoo Sun 09-Aug-09 20:38:26

I have 2 dcs a bit like your ds sounds (and one who is a breeze!)so firstly, you have my sympathy, and well done for being consistent.

My own experience of them (they are now 8 and 6) was that around age 5 they calmed down quite a bit, and seemed to "accept" the boundaries more. I feel that this could have been partly due to starting school, but the main reason was, I think, the consistency from me and dh in the early years.

However I have made some changes in the way I approach "battles" - my first 2 dcs really challenged me and it was hard to accept that my instinctive no nonsense approach wasn't always the best. So, I choose my battles. Sometimes, if I knew they would kick off, I would give them what they wanted, even if I didn't REALLY want them to have it. But, the important thing here is to give it to them as soon as they ask (nicely!) and not after they have been raging for 20 minutes. So, maybe you don't really want him to have another lollipop, but you could think in that situation "Does it really matter if he has another one, as I know we'll get an hour of screaming if I don't give it to him?" If your ds is like my dcs, he might respond well to having more control over his life.

Do you think this is something your dh would consider? You could present it as a compromise - you will choose your battles and try not to have stand-offs over unimportant issues, and for his part dh must look long-term and think how your ds is going to be in a few years if he can already manipulate situations now?

RinkyDinkyPinky Sun 09-Aug-09 20:39:35

When parents have different approaches a child may be confused as to the boundaries and then play "divide and conquer" to get his/ her required result.

You say that your DH ultimately gives your DS what he wants. So perhaps his "reasoning" approach is not as effective as he'd like to believe. Your DH needs to understand that you do the majority of the childcare and he should follow your lead in this respect. It can be difficult when a partner works all week and wants to spoil a child, albeit subconsciously, at weekends. Has your DH had much time alone with the DCs- it might be worth letting him have a day parenting by himself to remind him that boundaries are necessary IYSWIM.

If you continue with differing approaches you may become even more polarised in them so it's really important that you decide on a common way. Your DH may resent your authority and feel his is not respected, at the same time as undermining you. You need more support than this.

When my DDs ask for something and I know they've probably already asked my DH for it I will always say "what did your Daddy say?". So we (try) to show solidarity and respect each other's authority; even if I don't always agree on his decision (I'll talk to him later about it).

It might be a good idea to show your DH this.

Bink Sun 09-Aug-09 21:19:16

Something else I wanted to mention from our experience: which is that once he starts school, nobody there will have the time to do the reasoning approach - he will just have to accept "because that's what we do".

Would it help to point that out to dh? And to say that, from our experience, it caused extra difficulties at school having a child who was used to being talked through something (instead of being expected to comply)?

hettie Mon 10-Aug-09 13:52:51

hi, have you thought about making it clear how serious this is to dh? You say it's making you want to leave? Whilst I agree that you must must have a united front and agree on a way of dealing with behaviour that is consistent it sounds like agreeing with you dh over how to handle it is causing a lot of the stress. What about a third party... for example Relate or a local parenting class?

WinkyWinkola Tue 11-Aug-09 20:29:50

Thank you for all your kind words.

DH and I have had another talk about it. He asked me to remember that he's not actively seeking to undermine the boundaries I have tried to set. He is just lost when it comes to dealing with DS.

We've yet to work out a third way. I've looked at the book How to Talk but I think my DS is a wee bit too young for that just yet.

We're kind of banking on his attending school in September sorting it all out for us. Ho hum.

Nighbynight Tue 11-Aug-09 20:47:42

I agree with KTNoo, picking your battles is important. if it doesn't matter, let the child have its way, don't just automatically thwart them because they look like having a tantrum.

DontLookDown Tue 11-Aug-09 21:07:04

WinkyWinkola you could try having a look at David Coleman's book Parenting is Child's Play (I think that's the title) as it has a sort of "third way" between time-outs and reasoning and I found it very helpful with my son where more traditional no-nonsense approaches didn't work. Also if dh reads it you might be able to pick up bits you both agree with.

Also what helped with my son (he's a year younger) is going to a speech therapist and discovering that while his expressive language is quite sophisticated his receptive language is not very good at all so he actually does not understand a lot of what is said to him even though he is good at masking this by saying something that sounds as if he has understood. He also has some sensory processing issues that make him very confused,frustrated and angry. So the more impossible he's being the more he is actually in need of a little TLC and a sympathetic cuddle. I also find if I can make him laugh he will often cheer up and co-operate of his own accord.

So it's worth checking out that nothing else is up as it could have important implications for the way you handle things with him. Also, if he behaves well at nursery, have you tried having a chat with them about how they handle things? - they might have some insight into him that helps.

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