I need some help!(7 Posts)
Background here, DSS is 4 (starts school this time). DP and his ex split up when DS was around 18m.
I have been in DS's life for around the past 18m. I also have a 3 year old DS of my own (not DP's).
Recently, DSS's behaviour has been challenging to say the least. We have him every weekend, one full day of which he spends with DP (and my DS if he wants him to come along, we will always leave this to DSS to suggest to see if he actually wants DS there, if that makes sense?).
He used to be the sweetest little boy but his behaviour has gotten progressively worse. He takes toys from DS, refuses to share toys, kicks and stamps/screams when he doesn't get his own way, tells lots of lies (some of which are your normal 4 year old lies, e.g. Who got those toys out/not me sort of scenario), some of which are serious, he told his mum I scratched him (thank god she knew this was untrue!), told us his a bruise on his bum was from his mum hitting him (he'd got this bruise at our house whilst him and DS were playing in a river), he's displayed violent behaviour to my DS, pushes and hits him. He's also displayed this behaviour towards animals, he hit a dog with a stick, and tried hitting some ducklings at the canal 😔
Me and DP just do not know how to deal with this anymore. I try not to get involved in discipline with him other than 'DSS why don't we do X instead of Y' or a 'please will you/please dont'. DP has tried talking to him, a traffic light system like we have for my DS (worked brilliant with him), time out, reward charts/stickers. We've even tried completely ignoring the bad and making a huge deal out of the good but nothing seems to be helping. We have also tried asking him how he feels when he does X, or when he is behaving bad/good and how we can manage our feelings etc.
He also displays this behaviour at home, and at nursery, although from what his mum tells us it's marginally worse there. He told me that when mummy tells him off he just tells her he doesn't care.
I've spoken to DP and told him he needs to address this behaviour between himself and his ex, and they need to get together and try and figure out the causes. I do wonder if he doesn't spend enough time with her as he is with us at the weekends and she works full time; does anyone maybe have experience of this?
Any advice would be so much appreciated, even if it's just to tell me it's us going wrong. It breaks my heart that one of my children (I know that biologically he's not mine but when DP and I got together I knew I was to take on another child too), in my opinion is distressed and unhappy, and I haven't got a frigging clue what I can do to help him!!
The months before starting school is a strange phase. They are the oldest at nursery (therefore very confident) but have picked up on the fact that they'll be going to Big School soon. September is a concept that's hard to grasp for a 4 year old. The fact that adults call it Big School builds up the scariness. I think a lot of kids in his limbo phase end up behaving badly as they feel insecure. In my experience it calms down once they start school, settle in and suss out what's going on.
I think that he probably sees your sons and feels insecure too. He probably thinks that the nice things you do as a family when he visits is what you do all the time and will feel jealous. Is dss an only child? It's very common for kids to regress when they gain a sibling and that could mean an increase in tantrums etc.
The important thing is be consistent and stick to routines like sleep, meals, drinks etc
Most of he behaviour we can deal with. It's just the lies, and the violent behaviour that's the most concerning to us. I have to think about my DS in this and I don't want him to feel unsafe, he has a right to feel safe here, just as DSS does.
DP is meeting up with ex and they're going to have a talk about what they think would help. He has been mentioning his mum a lot so maybe it would help if he spent more time with her instead of all week at nursery, and all weekend every weekend here. Maybe we will try alternate weekends and during the week for tea.
Both of my sons turned into demons around the age of 4/5 years old! It was horrendous. Very hard to deal with. I'm still not quite sure how I got through it! I got cross and shouted, punished, tried naughty step, consequences, love bombing, rewards. It was a slog. All I can advise is just keep on keeping on with positive reinforcement, distracting from naughty behaviours, diffusing squabbles before they escalate, clear rules, consistent consequences/rewards. You and DP need to be on the same page.
I thought of maybe getting a jar for him and DS and maybe putting a marble in every time they're good, and if they're badly behaved taking one out and when the jar is full they get a treat?
They used the jar system at my kids school so I think that it's a good way to incentivise good behaviour.
It's an idea. You would need to start with a very small jar. Aged 4 he will need to see his rewards pretty sharpish for the message to get through. Also, how likely is it he will fill the jar? If he is being very naughty at the minute you will likely end up with the scenario of very quickly having no marbles in the jar to take out when he is naughty. What do you do then? You can't change the rules midway. Also, is removing a marble likely to result in him kicking off? Which would require another marble removed. Which leads to escalation of the tantrum. Where do you go from there?
Personally I would have the (small) jar and reward for good behaviour but don't take any away for bad behaviour. That way he gets to see his jar filling and sees that good behaviour= rewards. I would keep that going for a few weeks, 4 at least and see if there is any improvement in behaviour at the end. If not then maybe the jar is too big or the request to "be good" is too vague. Adjust how you apply it. Break it down into requests he understands. Rather than saying "if you are good you get a marble" say things like "these are the good behaviours that you do to get a marble" and then list them. You could have a picture cue for each expected behaviour. Things like sharing, speaking nicely, (model what that means so he knows what is expected), helping you/dad/step brother, tidying toys when asked, keeping hands and feet to himself. It involves you and DP both watching like a hawk and praising even the tiniest good behaviour. Do it for both DCs.
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