I’m terrified that I might be raising a little monster. My 7-year-old’s behavior has become very scary, and my 3-year-old daughter started following in his footsteps.
My son does well in school and is very intelligent. However, he has always been challenging, questioning or negotiating everything, saying, “You can’t make me.” As a fair-minded, easy-going parent I feel totally powerless. My husband spanks and punishes, but that hasn’t changed anything except strain their relationship.
While at his grandmother’s, he poured liquid soap into her tea because she washed his mouth out with soap. After being corrected by his uncle, my son swung at him with a plastic bat. His uncle grabbed and broke the bat, and my sweet little daughter stepped in to slug her uncle! He refuses to stay in timeout, lies and gets out of it because he’s “just kidding!” and intentionally scares his sister until she cries. I’m horrified!
A child who runs a household can ruin a household.
Your son’s lack of respect is very concerning. Focus with consistency on the steps below, and consider seeking a professional evaluation. Behaviorally, he needs immediate logical consequences for every positive behavior and misbehavior.
Give logical consequences. What were the consequences for pouring soap in grandma’s tea or hitting the uncle? Have him help with dinner dishes for a few weeks, so he can learn to use dish soap appropriately. It’s never too late for consequences.
Teach outside the event. Yelling or punishment while the problem is occurring won’t teach a new behavior. Present new rules and recognize him as a valued family member when he complies. Temporarily restrict him from visiting grandma’s because of his disrespectful actions. Enumerate his unacceptable behaviors, and help him write a letter of apology, teaching accountability by offering remorse for exact misbehaviors.
Take control. You may not have the power to physically force him to sit in timeout, but you do have the power to identify unacceptable behavior and put him in a blackout. Nobody talks to him, all electronics are removed, and meals or rides to soccer are on hold until he apologizes for the exact behavior, accepts a consequence and becomes accountable by doing an act of kindness for accountability.
Be firm, be fair and be consistent. He is modeling for his sister, so view each problem as an opportunity to teach them both.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed. is a parenting coach and author of “Parenting with a Purpose.” Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find additional parenting resources at Diana Boggia’s website, www.yourperfectchild.com.