Please, Please help me understand my son

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2008
Please, Please help me understand my son
Thu, 08-28-2008 - 5:49pm

My son will be 4 Sept 18. He is into everything, and anything. He purposely waits for me to be doing something else in another room sometimes so he can do something he knows is bad, but he does anyways.

I'll just run down the list of some of the things he does daily

-We live on the second floor of an apartment building. If I happen to have the balcony door open on a cool day he purposely throws something off so he can run down and get it. Sometimes I can catch him, other times I can't. Why don't I run after him you ask? The more I chase him, the funnier things get and I'm afraid he'll run into the street.

-He's constantly into rooms he shouldn't be, like the bathroom. Day before yesterday I was vacuuming and I noticed he was rather quiet. When I went to check on him, he was in his room with the carpet deoderizer. He'd gone into the kitchen while I was in another room vacuuming, taken it from under the sink and dumped it all on his floor. He was driving his trucks through it. I took it away, reprimanded him and went back to finish vacuuming. A few minutes later I went back to check on him, and he was sitting there with a spray bottle of Oxy clean that I use to clean the bathrooms. He was spraying it into the pile of carpet deoderizer.

-He's constatly into my room, in my jewelry, I can't count how many pairs of earrings he's lost. I can't put my good jewelry into there because he gets into it and I can't risk losing my wedding rings etc.

-He's part monkey, constantly into the kitchen, up on the countertops. I even caught him up on the fridge top once. He was digging into the cupboards above the fridge. I can't tell you how many food related items he's gotten into and ruined because I can't keep him out.

-Forget him listening to me, him and his 5 year old sister (who started kindergarten last week) totally tune me out and it's next to impossible to get them to listen. They scream, run around and just bounce off the walls, especially at bedtime. It's like they've taken a drug and they're so hyper they're litterally bouncing from one wall to the other. Sometimes it's next to impossible to get them to settle down to goto sleep.

-Don't even get me started on getting him or him and her to clean up their room. It's impossible.

I feel like a bad Mother. I can't even catch my own son while out in public for fear that he will run and hurt himself. He's run out into a busy parking lot all the while looking back at me and laughing because I'm trying to catch him. I am embarrassed to be seen in public with them, but moreso my son. Everything is a joke for him.

I've tried time outs, sending him to his room, asking him to stop, yelling, spanking, consequences, taking toys/things away. Saying he won't go somewhere that he likes going. Making a chart and saying if you do X all week you'll get a prize for being a good boy. I feel I've tried it all, and it's just not working. Everything I do is a joke. It's all funny, no matter what.

I'm at the end of my rope and I don't know what to do to make my son listen. My daughter is a little better since she started school. At least I don't have to go through it daily with the two of them anymore. It's just my son. I'm about ready to pack it all in and say goodbye. That's how bad it is. I just don't know what to do and I wish someone could just turn a switch and say it's going to be ok now. I'm so stressed at the end of the day. I can't enjoy my kids, because I just want them to goto bed so I can be rid of them. I feel bad for thinking that, but they just put me through so much emotional and mental stress daily.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-22-2004
Thu, 08-28-2008 - 9:31pm

OMG I could have typed that myself.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Fri, 08-29-2008 - 2:00pm

Different things work for different children and different families. I will tell you how I would handle what you have described. Plus you need to find something that you can do consistently to discipline when he doesn't listen. It will take some time because he has been doing whatever he wants for a while, so that it is why I'm saying think about it and find something that can do that you will stick with. It could take 2 weeks or more of doing this consistently to get him to start showing improvements.

-- Anything he throws off the balcony would be lost. If it belongs to someone else, I would get it later but if it is his, its gone. If it is still on the ground when we go out later, it will be picked up and thrown away. He would not be the one going down to pick it up any more.

-- If he can not be trusted to be in a room alone, he loses that privilege. He will have to follow me around while I clean or do other things around the house. It is not doing me any good to have him in another room while I clean because he is just making a big mess in there that I will have to clean up as well.

-- See above, he would not be allowed to be alone in any room unsupervised when he is not awake. You don't touch or go through other people's stuff. How would he feel if he trucks got lost because some decided to go through them without his permission?

-- You can't climb in the house, its not safe, if you are good we will go to the park and you can climb on the play structure. Because he will be with me more, I will physically pick him up and make him spend time in the corner of whatever room we are in if/when he tries to climb on things. My telling him to get down isn't working so I will pick him up and take him down. I can out last my kids though it is annoying to have to go down that road. You won't sit in time out, you keep getting put back until you do.

-- I stop talking as much if you are not listening to me. I explain the rules, expectations and consequences, they get 3 chances and then they get the consequence if they don't do what they are suppose to do. I don't feel guilty about this because they have been told, they get the reminders. It's not me being in a bad mood or stressed; its not me deciding on a whim, its a plan they were told about before this happened and they chose not to listen. They have made a CHOICE to not listen so they have chosen to have the consequence. In all honesty the hardest part for me is sticking to what I said, when I'm tired because I know they are going to cry and beg for me to give them another chance and I can't.

-- You don't help clean your room you lose your toys. They go into time out and you have to earn them back. I say help because I don't expect a child under 5 to be able to do it on their own without some sort of supervision and a helping hand. Some kids need you to tell them pick up all the blocks. Okay now pick up the cars. Otherwise it just overwhelms them. When my kids are cleaning up, I lend a hand as long as they are working and not playing I will help. As they get older I do less. With my 9 yo, I can tell him to go in and straighten up the bookshelves and he'll do it quickly without any help. My 5 yo needs help as the books start shifting and she freaks out (her brother was the same way at this age). However she can pick up all her legos or the dress-up stuff all on her own; I just have to say go pick up all the legos before I come in and she does it. Occasionally they both need reminders that if they don't pick up, I will, and they will lose their stuff.

-- If he runs away, he loses the right to walk on his own without holding my hand. He can lose going to the park because I can't trust him to not run away from me.

When you've tried these things in the past, for how long did you do it? When you talked to him or punished him for doing stuff how was your reaction? Were you mad, were you loud? Did you throw your arms up and say why am I even bothering? He doesn't have to cry or act concerned for a punishment to be effective in the long run. My little brother was frustrating for my parents because often to him the punishment was the price you paid to do what you wanted. So he shrugged off losing toys, even when they went in the garbage or to charity. He didn't cry when he got spanked. He didn't care if he lost getting to go to the park or the zoo or to a friend's house. When he turned 5 he discovered baseball and other sports. That was it, all he wanted to do was play sports either on teams or pick up games around the neighborhood. That became the coin my parents used to control him. He would still act like he didn't care if he couldn't go to practice or go out play football but he really did. He just refused to show my parents that it bothered him. He didn't get in as much trouble any more, he was listening more and doing what he was suppose to. He didn't want to give them a reason to take it away but he wasn't going to let them know it bothered him if they did. Often laughter or treating your parents punishments as a joke is a way to get them to give up doing what they are doing -- because they will stop taking things away if I act like I don't care and refuse to listen. Its happened in the past, so why should I believe that this time will be any different? You have that working against you right now so you are going to have to stay the course, deal with challenges to your new rules and wait them out.