behavior management

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by jfstewart, Aug 17, 2008.

  1. jfstewart

    jfstewart New Member

    Do other parents get tired of being the bad guy? I am constantly taking away priviledges, hearing "you always" and "you never", yet trying to encourage him (8y/o) to work toward his rewards (which he frequently forgets he got them, tho written down). He is entitled, and I have to be authoritarian to get him to understand that he had to work for his rewards. Sensitive to internal and external discomforts with extreme grouchiness: I'd love to have the terrible 2's back! Those limits were easy to deal with. Maybe because I expected them from someone only 2. I love to give my kids events, things, and do activities with them; Now he has to work for everything. And sister is trying to be perfect or total avoidance; I'm glad to see her act out at times (less PTSD?).

    Don't get me wrong: I see progress. I find it so hard not to be grouchy myself with his kicking, screaming and calling names. The best part of the day, is when he's asleep, and I can go in and give him a kiss. Or today, when he gave me a big hug for no reason--I can go on.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there.
    From your description of your son, it sounds like he does have some issues. Has he ever been evaluated?
    Can you give us an overview of his early development? Did he have any speech or motor delays? Potty delays? Trouble with eye contact? Does he know how to appropriately relate to his peers? When you say "he doesn't remember" it is quite possible that he doesn't--or that he doesn't understand cause and effect.
    Are there any psychiatric problems or substance abuse on either side of the family tree?
    You might want to do a signature like I did below. I am not convinced that this is a problem you can solve just by behavior management. I think you need to get him an evaluation--I favor neuropsychologist evaluatioins, especially since it sounds like you have a few red flags there for something neurological.
    Others will come along.
  3. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome! Mwm asked some good questions. Yes, it is tiring. With kids like ours that need such consistency and challenge us at what seems like every moment it is exhausting-notice my board name of "Wiped Out". The kicking, screaming, and name calling is so wearing. I can relate to the best part of the day being when my difficult child is asleep. He always looks so peaceful and can't fight away my good night kiss. It's also a time of some peace and quiet!

    I'm glad you found us-you are not alone and will find great support here! Be sure you are taking care of you by getting in some "me" time which I know is easier said than done.
  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Yes, I get extremely tired of being the authoritarian. Even with Wiz living with the grandparents, I am the only authoritarian for the other 2. Heck, my 8yo still gets what he wants from his dad by crying in public. husband lets it go until he (husband) blows up and yells at the kids.

    Our kids make it worse because many of them have a very hard time making connections between their actions/choices and the consequences.

    I strongly encourage you to read "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene and "Parenting with Love and Logic" by Jim Fay and Foster Cline (
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Susie's recommended a really good book. For us, it has turned things totally around. We stopped the authoritarian method (it wasn't working anyway, it was only making him worse).

    It took a little time and a lot of persistence. And a vast amount of SELF-monitoring (it's surprising how sometimes the bad habits we have ourselves got into, can continue to cause problems when we think we've changed our methods and we haven't really).

    "Explosive Child" works for us because A LOT of difficult child 3's bad behaviour is triggered by HIS need to control his environment. And yes, that doesn't mean it's good to hand over the reins and put a kid in the driving seat. But that actually isn't what happens. It might LOOK like it, but that is not what is going on.

    What happens if you use this book - you end up helping the child learn self-control. And if YOU aren't the one applying the strict punishments etc, then how can he get mad at YOU?

    OK, it's slightly more complex than this, but for a quick update, look at the discussion on this in the Early Childhood forum.

    One thing I'm big on - natural consequences. It means backing off a lot on punishing a kid for failure to comply, if the world applies its own punishments.
    For example, it's cold outside and beginning to snow. Other kids are outside throwing snowballs. Your kid is impulsively heading out the door to join in. You COULD say, "Do not set one foot out that door without putting on a coat!" and you're likely to meet a lot of resistance. Or you could try, "Which coat do you want to wear - the blue one or the red one?" and have them ready to grab.

    What I've done (not that we get a lot of opportunity with this scenario - it happened ONCE last year for us) was to suggest to difficult child 3 that he put his coat on. difficult child 3 (by this stage far more malleable than he used to be) did pause long enough to put his coat on, but I didn't think he had enough warm clothing on underneath. I said nothing; I could see he wouldn't stop to put on an extra jumper.

    What happened - difficult child 3 went outside still not with enough warm clothing. It wasn't too bad - he lasted about five minutes. Then he was back inside, loudly asking me where his jumper was. He was loud because he was impatient to get back outside and not miss any fun. I didn't allow it to offend or upset me, I stayed calm and said to him, "You move faster than I do, plus it's YOUR jumper, it wouldn't fit me. You have a better idea of knowing where it is. Have a look on your bed, it is probably there."
    difficult child 3 went upstairs, found his jumper, put his coat back on and came back downstairs. I had his beanie there for him and said, "Would you like to wear this as well? Your choice."
    He said, "Thanks, Mum," and pulled on the beanie and gloves I handed him.

    HE made the choices. When he made a poor choice, the natural consequences worked on him. Because I was there and nearby, I was in a position to apply gentle influence. But because obedience didn't come into it, then neither did disobedience or punishment. And therefore I was not an ogre or party pooper.

    A simpler example. difficult child 3, tonight -he wanted to play a computer game. I called him for dinner. He had been nagging me about being hungry but I told him I had tasks to do, and he would get fed when I got to his name on the list of my tasks. Eventually (not long, about ten minutes later) I put a hot meal on the table for him. I called him for dinner.
    "In a minute," he called.
    OK, no skin off my nose, sonny boy.
    By the time he finally stopped his game and got his dinner, it was cold. OK, it's no big deal to reheat it in the microwave oven, but I'm not doing it for him. HE has to to it himself because HE is the one who let his dinner get cold. He couldn't be angry with me for his cold dinner.

    This involves the other aspect, the other most common problem with a lot of our difficult children. The difficulty with changing tasks. difficult child 3 and difficult child 1 could lose themselves in computer games. But especially in the evening, jobs must be done, they need to do their bit to slot into the family evening routine.
    We found what worked best was giving them time to change tasks. Instead of saying, "I've told you five times already to stop playing that computer game and come and have your dinner!" then walking over and switching off the game (which would trigger an explosion of Krakatoa proportions and utterly derail everything else we hoped to achieve that night) I made sure that the boy knew that he HAD been given a time warning. When we were first setting this up, I would ask, "How long do you need before you can get to a logical point to save that game, or pause it?"
    If the boy gave a figure that was just too long, I would say, "You have a few things that must be done; if you can't stop the game for that long, then pause it for now, do what I ask, then you can come back and finish your game."
    If he gave a time which was acceptable (perhaps fifteen minutes) I would write down the time on a post-it note and stick it somewhere visible but not actually blocking the screen. We don't use the post-it notes any more, we don't need them. But if he insisted he hadn't been told (and sometimes they really don't remember, they have mentally bleeped it out) the note is proof. As the time approaches I give a time warning ("you have five minutes left") and I find I get good compliance these days. Not always perfect, but close enough.

    The outcome of this - because in doing this I am no longer the policeman, I have become the helper. I am making it possible for difficult child 3 to finish his computer game, instead of him constantly worrying I am going to arbitrarily shut it off on him. He knows I am respecting him. And by modelling respect in this way, I can begin to require the same respect from him.

    Even children who you might think are very bright and therefore should be capable of learning to show politeness and respect, and yet they can't seem to - they will learn it fastest if you model it for them. But if what you model for them is nagging, bossing, organising and disrespect, then that is what you will get form them.

    An example I've given - easy child 2/difficult child 2 was an exceptionally bright child, apparent easy child. But she could seem so very insolent. This was longbefore I learned about "The Explosive Child".
    easy child 2/difficult child 2 was three years old. I could give her the clean folded washing to go in her room and ask her to put it away, and know that she would. I could trust her to put her dirty washing in the washing basket. But I expected compliance - after all, I was never off duty as a mother, so she should never be off-duty as my obedient child.
    Picture this - easy child 2/difficult child 2 playing with her dolls and I'm folding washing in the laundry. I call out to her. "easy child 2/difficult child 2, come here and collect your clean washing. I need you to put it away in your room."
    No answer. "easy child 2/difficult child 2! Come here NOW!"
    She comes in, but cranky and sulky. "I was playing with my dolls," she said. "Surely this could have waited a few minutes?"
    OK, she sounds insolent. She's a easy child, she should be a perfect child and be compliant, malleable, obedient...
    No, she's a kid. A three year old, in fact. An individual.

    What brought it home to be that I was disrespecting her - I was in the laundry folding clean clothes (a week later). She called to me, "Mummy, I want some juice!"
    I called back. "In a minute, honey, I'm folding clothes."
    "Mummy, I want some juice NOW!"
    "In a minute! I'll be through here in a minute, you'll have to wait until I am ready!"
    Almost immediately, her little head peered around the corner. "I said I wanted juice NOW!"

    She was doing exactly what I had done.

    OK, the position isn't equitable - she was a kid, I was the parent. But to a kid, especially a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kid (as it turned out) this difference is simply invisible. They do not see it. To them, it does not exist.

    We expect instant compliance from our kids, but we ask them to be patient with us. It is frankly not reasonable to try to handle this by giving the kids instant compliance, in order to show them that is what we want form them. Instead, allow them some time to task-change and think about it form their point of view. THIS DOES WORK.

    difficult child 1 & difficult child 3 are driven by their anxiety. Before Explosive Child, I would have been the parent getting fed up and shutting off the power to the computer game. Now, because they know that I won't shut off their game, they feel safe about it. This actually makes it easier for them to comply with requests. I can now say to difficult child 3, "Will you pause that game for a minute and go fetch in the rubbish bins?" and he will comply within seconds 99% of the time. The remaining 1% will be because he is unable to pause for a few minutes.

    Most computer games these days can be paused. Or if they can't, the period of time during which they cannot be left, is only a matter of a few minutes. It's the way the games are being designed these days, because that is how kids want them.

    I use computer games as my example, because for us, it is the biggest issue. We've eliminated a lot of other problems.

    We do have routines, we do have rules. We have high standards. But we don't have punishments. We have rewards (or bribes), we have politeness. We have fun. And we have natural consequences. If the routine is badly broken, we involve the child in discussing what we should do.

    For example, difficult child 3 is permitted to help himself to ice cream for dessert. He earned this trust by being responsible and not having more than two to three scoops of ice cream. However, he has a time limit - he must have eaten his ice cream before 9 pm. If he has not, then he must forfeit it for that night. We are flexible - if we're late because it was not his fault (maybe we got home late) then we will discuss this with him.
    He may only play computer games at night once he's eaten his dinner, had his dessert and had his shower. Computer games must stop at 9.30 pm. Lights out are 10 pm. He may read a book up until 9 pm and because he's earned the privilege, we often let him turn his light back on to read a bit more, after 10 pm. Sometimes it's difficult to settle your mind.

    We adapted the rules to suit each kid's needs and what they could handle. And because we adults need flexibility, we have allowed some flexibility. But not if it gets abused - we do have to insist. The incentive (if one is needed) is a reward for compliance. We do not punish for non-compliance. The reward is preferably non-material (ie no sweets, no food, no gifts). The best reward for us has been to spend fifteen minutes with difficult child 3 the next day, playing a computer game with him. It was amazing just how much incentive that was for him.

    With Explosive Child, as with what I have shared - you don't copy it all exactly. You take what you can use and leave the rest. YOUR child needs YOUR touch. You know him best.

    You need other people on the same page with you, for THEIR sake.

    We found that improvement has been slow, but apparent, It also began even before I'd finished the book. What you find will be different, because your child is different. Also, this isn't the only thing you need to do. But it is something YOU can do, rather than something someone imposes on you, or something you have to wait for (like a medical appointment or an assessment). This works for a wide range of problems. It also works on PCs, partners, schools, organisations, officials.

    I love it!

    Welcome to the site, sorry you need us but glad we're here for you.

  6. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Oh, yeah! I get very tired of being the Bad Guy.

    I am just starting Parenting With Love and Logic, and The Manipulative Child.
    Sometimes I get good ideas from them and sometimes it's just helpful to know I'm not alone.

    It's not easy being a Warrior Mom.
  7. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    Yes, I am tired of being the bad guy. Rewards, consequences, behavior charts, only work for my difficult child at school. He sabotages himself at home. So we don't use them (although I'm thinking he might be mature enough to try something like that again). We give him immediate consequences and rewards that are directly related to his behavior. If he throws the controller to the X-box, he can't play with it. If he doesn't eat supper, he can't have a snack. If he gets in trouble playing outside, he can't go outside. If he hits or threatens someone, he has to leave the room.

    I think the Explosive Child is the best book to start out with. Not only did it give us a system we could work with, it helped me understand difficult child's way of thinking so much better.

  8. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Welcome!! I think you have already gotten great advice here so I won't repeat the same things. We all have had frustrating moments with our kids- hang in there. I like what Marg said a lot- it has worked well with us. Natural consequences might take a little different angle for an 8 yo, but still, this approach has helped my son to see that I am not a dictator or a "buddy", I am his Mom, and I am here to guide and teach and care for him. But, his choices effect the outcome. As odd as it appears, my son has learned more responsibility for himself using this method than any behavior modification method even approached by us.

    Let us know how it's going, and again, welcome!
  9. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Definitely! I was a single parent for several years, so I was the 24/7 bad guy. Not pleasant. Terry's's not easy being a warrior mom.

    Welcome to the board!
  10. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Have you considered trying earning rewards rather than losing priviledges? If your child starts with the basics - food, shelter, clothing - then earns things like video games and designer clothes and phones, you aren't taking anything away, and you are praising good behavior.