4 year old acting out-- Need advice

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Melfee, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. Melfee

    Melfee New Member

    Hello everyone. I am new to this site but it seems super informative and helpful. I'm hoping I could get some advice as to which direction to take. Here's my short story:

    My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and a half now. He has a kid from a previous relationship. He will be 5 in two weeks. The boyfriend and i moved in together about a little over a month ago. I understand that kids act out because of change but its getting to the point where I don't know what to do because i'm jumping in to something i've never dealt with and trying to get rid of some bad habits that were formed before me. He has seen his mom a total of maybe 7 times his whole life. She is pretty much non existent. For a while they lived with the boyfriend's mom and she let him do whatever he wanted. She let him play video games all the time and watch tv. She even made him separate dinners than what they were eating so he could have something he liked!!!
    Now he lives with me.... the new evil step mom (dads girlfriend is what he calls me.)

    He has been hitting kids, throwing toys at them and screaming and crying every day. He has a hard time sharing toys with others too. This all happens while at daycare. He is a super smart funny young kid but he has real social problems. When we pick him up we always get a report on what he has done wrong and how many time outs he had that day. I think pretty soon he might be kicked out of this awesome place.
    At home he normally does fairly well. He always helps clean the house. He dishes are always in the sink. There isn't really a fight when its bed time. We do have an extremely hard time with him at dinner time though. I always make sure there is something he likes but i also add a veggie and something new to try. OMG wow the screaming and crying that goes on is almost too much for me.
    We do not let him play video games at our house either. We are always doing activities or trying to get him to play outside. I need to get him interacting and off his butt. He gets really mad that I stopped that.

    Just recently I made a new chart that is on the fridge. Its an angry birds chart (it's his fave). It has every day of the week on it. If he was good at day care he gets to put a red bird on the top row. If he was good at home he puts one in the bottom row. Now if hes bad he has to put a green pig there instead. I told him if he gets 5 in a row of red birds we will go to the dollar store:) It may be too new of a process but it doesn't seem to be helping.

    He freaked out today and started to hit me. Hes been getting worst. I know he doesnt like to live here with me. He lets me know at least once a day. He wants to live with gma. Its so heart breaking. I don't know what to do...
    One thing i thought of is he no longer has naps but he sleeps for 10 hours at night... should i be letting him take a short nap in the afternoon? Im afraid if i do he wont be as good getting to bed at night.

    Any advice for me The new mom would be appreciated.
    Thank you in advanced
  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    You're "just" a step-parent... so what you can do is limited. But you might be able to influence your boyfriend.

    That statement alone would be a red flag. Social issues and acting out can be part of a number of dxes, but one of those is Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) - autism spectrum disorder, which includes things like Asperger's. These kids can be crazy-smart or pretty normal... but they don't learn the way neurotypical kids learn, they don't process the world around them in the same way either.

    Has he ever had a comprehensive evaluation? If not, it might be really useful, especially before he gets into school. (in reality, it takes long enough to get an evaluation that he'll probably be in school anyway, but it's not too late).

    Meanwhile... try reading The Explosive Child by Ross Green. it really provides a different perspective on kids with challenges. Really changed my thinking.

    Oh, and... if he is on "the" spectrum? Forget sticker charts. Forget trying to introduce new foods. Forget... anything you think of as normal parenting. These kids NEED to be parented differently. Right now, just the transition to having you around is a huge challenge. These kids don't handle transitions well.
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    You're not even a step parent. You're dad's girlfriend who he has lived with for a month and are trying to take over and control his life. in my opinion not a good idea. He has issues that are probably inherited and due to his chaotic beginnning (attachment probolems maybe). If Mom drank while pregnant, he may have a form of fetal alcohol affects. He could be on the autism spectrum. Or he could have attachment issues, which is huge.

    The chaos in a child's early life can mess with them forever and interrupt their developing brain and trying to over-parent him and change his entire life will not help him become social. He needs an evaluation and professional interventions and you need family therapy. You need to know when you are overstepping your boundaries. You are a new adult trying to step in and do it all for a kid who doesn't know, doesn't even probably like you, and should be getting help from his father the most, not you. If Dad won't step up, that tells you a lot about what he may be like to any future kids you and he may have, if in fact the two of you last. Kids like this often break couples up and you're not married yet.

    Napping alone will not undo his behaviors. You're looking for a quick fix. There is none. We have all figured that out here.

    It would help us a lot if you told us about his life as an infant and toddler. You seem to think this is all behavioral, due to indulgence. This is wrong thinking. Indeed, if he lived with three different people his first three years and if his mother was gone, he could have attachment problems which cause serious problems, but they are not caused by lax parenting. They are caused by inconsistency in his early years...and you can't get that back and all those typical parenting methods won't help him.

    If he is on the spectrum on top of it, you are going to have a hard time down the long haul with him. You probably will anyway. Oh yeah. The vegetables. If he is on the spectrum he may have sensory issues which cause him to reject certain textures of food or certain material of clothes or loud noise. You can't parent this out of him either. When I tried to make my Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) son eat veggies, he threw them up. It was not deliberate. He is 20 now and doing well, but he still won't eat vegetables.

    Where is his father??? You never mention what HE does? Why do you think different parenting will straighten him out? For whatever reason, he is differently wired and kids like this don't respond to overly strict parenting, reasoning, charts, time outs, and especially not spanking. Hope you aren't doing that...remember, legally he is not your child. And in his heart he is not your child either.

    An evaluation for the little guy by a neuropsychologist or a group of professionals from a university hospital would help a lot. So would therapy for all three of you. You need to know your own boundaries too. You don't seem to think very highly of this child, but he had a rotten life and those first three years are critical. And, yes, Dad is a part of those first three years when the child was bounced around. But, no, you alone can not fix him or make him socialize better by forcing him to go outside. He may go outside. He may even try to play...or he may be perfectly happy alone. If he has no imagination, which is common in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids (if he IS one), he may decide to throw stones out of boredom. Or he may become the neighborhood bully because he doesn't KNOW how to socialize and he can't learn without the interventions and help I mentioned.

    You need to know more about him and in my opinion you need to give him time to get used to you before you start throwing tons of rules at him. If he doesn't like you, he isn't going to try to please you. And pleasing you may be very hard for him even if he does get to like you and even if he wants to. I don't think trying to re-make this child is going to work or is a good idea. You need professional help.

    I hope you can get Dad on here. It would be helpful to know more about his place in his son's life and about his son's early years from Dad's memory.

    Welcome to our corner of the world and I hope you continue to post :)
  4. TeDo

    TeDo CD Hall of Fame

    I agree with MWM. You need to back off for awhile. It sounds like he's got some things going on that he's not getting any help dealing with AND now he has this woman that "doesn't like me". He is going to need time to accept that you're even there, in HIS home with HIS dad and trying to "ruin" HIS life. You are trying to change waaaay too much waaaaaaay too fast and it isn't even your responsibility. Trying to change what could easily seem to him to be everything about him would kill anyone's self-esteem. I can just imagine the messages going through his head. You REALLY really need to back off and just let him be. If it's that concerning, have DAD take him to a child psychologist.

    I highly suggest you read the book The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. For me, it helped me see other ways to interpret my son's behavior and taught me how to dig for the reasoning behind the others of his behaviors. By doing that, I learned that my difficult child 1's behaviors made complete sense and I had to learn to think differently.

    Good luck.