Our 4-year-old son is a minefield of destructive and inappropriate behavior. He throws things, picks paint off the walls and pounds toys and other things on the ground. When he gets mad at us, he pees on the floor, yells at us, eats the cat food and steals treats when he thinks we aren't looking. Due to a physical disability, I have a hard time getting up and down and moving around quick enough to keep up with him during these situations, and he knows it. How can we get him more under control?
At 4, many children become more of a handful, even if their behaviors up to that time have been, for the most part, manageable. They test everything to see what they can get away with, where the boundaries are and how far they can push them. Here are a few suggestions that may help get your son headed in the right behavioral direction:
- Give him structure. Sometimes, increased structure, such as what’s provided in a preschool setting, can help a child get his behavior under control. If you’re not sure where to start when looking for a preschool, contact the school he will be attending for kindergarten and ask if someone can recommend a preschool that can provide the structure he needs in order to prepare for kindergarten. Then work with your son on skills and behaviors he will need when he gets to preschool. The first and most important one is controlling his bodily functions.
- Take him to the doctor. Some of your son’s behaviors, such as peeing on the floor and eating cat food, fall outside normal misbehaviors. You may want to schedule an appointment with his pediatrician to make sure there are no medical causes for these behaviors. Let the doctor know what you are observing and ask for suggestions. On a practical level, after you feed the cat, put its food away so your son can’t reach it.
- Put dangerous items up high. Move breakable, heavy and glass items out of his reach so that he can’t hurt himself or damage them when he is angry.
- Reserve treats for rewards. Use treats to reward his good behavior. Or, consider not having them in the house at all. If you do that, you can give him a coupon for good behavior that he can use to “buy” a treat when you go to the store.
Be consistent and firm, yet loving with your son. With a little structure and a lot of patience, you can help him turn his behavior around and learn how to express his emotions in a more positive, peaceful and healthy way.
I am a single father, and I have been raising my 10-year-old son for most of his life. He has learning disabilities and speech disorders. He also has ADHD as well as a gene deficiency. I feel, however, that we have addressed these issues pretty successfully. One thing that does bother me is the fact that he likes to sleep in my bed with me. He has his own bed and he sleeps there occasionally, but when he asks to sleep with me I allow it. Am I doing him a disservice as others have suggested?
You say that the current sleeping arrangement “bothers” you. Any behavior that your son does that “bothers” you needs to be addressed and substituted with an alternate, more socially acceptable behavior. After all, it is just a behavior. By using some of the same techniques that you have found effective with him, gradually teach him that there are benefits to him sleeping in his own bed.
First, identify why he comes to your bed. Is he scared or does he feel lonesome? Prepare a plan that will help him feel more comfortable and secure in his own bed. Follow that plan every single night. It may include reading a bedtime story or saying prayers, but it needs to be done in his bed – not yours. Make sure there is a night light in his room. Turn on relaxing music. Prepare a chart that records how many nights he goes to sleep in his own bed, and perhaps another that records the number of nights he remains in his bed all night.
Together, set a goal and reward him when he attains this goal. You are forming and shaping new behaviors and habits. Be patient. This takes time. It took 10 years to learn the old habit. New habits cannot be established in just a few days.
We parents do what we feel is best for our children. Others can be so judgmental. It is doubtful that there will be long-term effects of this behavior. But it is our goal as parents to develop independence in our children as they get older. Your new plan will do just that.