Boiling Over - FamilyEducation
Boiling Over
07/08/2007 at 22:39 PM

I am so torn by saddness and the need to straighten out my son.  He is a 5 yr old  middle child that often times obeys me half way.  If I am in the room when he does this it makes me crazy.  I just want to yell at him or spank him on the spot.  Most of the time I have the willpower to control myself and disipline him in love with a time out, loss of privledges or spanking but honestly nothing seems to work.  Tonight was a case in point that I just couldn't believe.  He had been grounded to the back porch for disobeying.  I had let him in while I was empting the fish tank.  I told him to NOT play behind the couch as the fishes were on the floor in a bowl.  Well upon my return from the front yard he tells me he went behind the couch but didn't knock over the fish.  I had just told him not too.  I had told him he would be grounded to the porch for the week if he knocked over the fish and would have no special days with mom.  Why would he flaunt his ability to disobey?

My husband says I have put up with this behavior long enough, that he is manipulating me.  What am i to do?  To top it off I am pregnant.


I have 4 kids.  My oldest, a 10-year-old boy has always been a great child...obedient, helpful,etc.  However, all that did was set me up for a rude awakening with my two oldest daughters (now 7 & 5-1/2).  The 7-year-old was openly defiant and went out of her way to be disobedient until around her 5th birthday.  Then it was like a switch was changed and she became sweet & compliant, and, for the most part, has been that way ever since.  I figured when my middle daughter started around 3 with all of the defiance and difficulty that the same may happen with her.  However, we are now in the summer before Kindergarten and I have had to threaten to hold her back from school because her attitude remained terrible.  She is very headstrong and emotionally manipulative.  In the last month, through constant efforts at giving a great amount of praise for good behavior and a long explanation of why we can't continue with bad behavior, she has finally started to turn a corner.  I truly believe that she feels she does not get enough attention, despite the fact that my husband's and my whole world revolves around our kids.  Because all of the punishment/consequences were not having the intended result, we started trying something different, which was to go out of our way to praise her every time she did something good (no matter how trivial it may have been).  She thrives on that positive attention and is now seeking negative attention less and less.  I sympathize with your problem.  Perhaps trying a different angle will help in your case as well.  Good luck!


Be consistent with your time outs make them short and remind him why he was in time out when its over.  My son was not allowed to speak to me at all when he was in time out. If he ask any questions I would remind him he is in time out and he's not allowed to speak and if he did  it again I would add a min. I never grounded my kids until they were 8 and then they would lose their play station or they wouldn't be allowed to leave the yard to play and then it would only be for a day or two.


Thanks to both of you.  I actually do most of what you have suggested.  I use to run a group home for behavior disordered kids.  I learned a lot about praising everything they do well and even praising approximations.  I have never let my kids talk to me in time out he just doesn't really care if he is in trouble.  Don't get me wrong he cries when he is sent to time out but I believe that is just another way to get my attention.  I hope I didn't give the idea that he was grounded for 5 days.  When he is grounded to the porch it may be for the whole day but he has jobs to do out their and if he does well he gets to color or play.  It is really just a greater restriction of his privledges.  At the group home they were grounded to the kitchen table.


It does sound like attention getting behavior. Can you try something like, "Joey, I have a great idea. If you remember the right way to behave all day today, like doing exactly what I say, I will take you to see that movie you wanted to see. Just you and me. What do you say?" If he messes up, stay firm about him missing out on the special treat and never, ever loose your temper. And of course, follow through with your treat, don't delay it or make excuses, like, "Honey, I'm so tired, can we do it tomorrow instead." Then he'll never believe you the next time you try it. Make sure everyone lets him know how mature he was that day, make a big deal out of it. Keep coming up with special rewards, even if it is small, like deciding what dinner will be. Eventually, he will switch using bad behavior for attention, with good behavior. But, it will take awhile. He will mess up sometimes, but eventually get it.

Another possibility might be that he has ADD and doesn't actually remember everything you told him. I have one son like that. We had to first get his attention and then keep our requests more simple and repeat them frequently. He was just such a day dreamer that when we talked to him, he didn't tune in until we were finishing our sentence. His elementary teachers had to do the same thing. He wouldn't hear all the instructions, maybe only half, so they had to go up to him and individually repeat the instructions just for him. We first observed this behavior during swimming lessons at the age of 4. The teacher would give instructions to all 6 of the students, and everyone would listen but him. I knew he wasn't trying to be defiant, he just was in his own world and never heard what she said. She eventually figured it out and would call out his name to make sure he heard the instructions.


I guess this is why kids don't come with a manual.  They are all so different yet so much the same.  Parenting is a step of faith in the hands of God


Just one more suggestion. Think of it this way: Don't think of a black horse. At least one picture of a black horse popped in your head. So it was with the fish. He heard you tell him about the fish and had to check it out. Instead of telling him what NOT to do, tell him what TO DO. Say, help me empty out the fish tank, then praise him for helping you (even if all he did was place his hand against the tank as you carried it). Or say, it's time to help with the trash (and do it together). Find small ways (for now) that he can be helping or in charge of what is happening. Keep praising him for helping and for being responsible. He will feel that he is getting the attention he craves and you will be getting some help AND some peace!