I am a stay-at-home mom with an out-of-control 3-year-old boy. He is destructive. He throws toys, breaks things, screams, hits and torments the dog. When I try to discipline him, he yells, hits me and strikes himself on his head. I have tried timeouts and talking to him at his level. He just pulls away and screams at me. I am worried about his ability to learn because he cannot remain seated even to color.
The “terrible 3's” are just as common as the “terrible 2’s.” It is our job as parents to teach our children the responsibilities, life skills and acceptable social behaviors that go along with being independent. One way to do this is by being a good role model. When things don’t go our way, do we throw a dish towel or yell at our spouse? Your child is like a sponge taking in all the sights, sounds and behaviors around him.
When do these behaviors occur? Is it when he is frustrated? Or is it when you give him a simple instruction? Many temper tantrums come from not being able to complete a task because those fine motor skills are simply not developed enough yet. Make sure your son’s toys and games are age-appropriate.
A child has many opportunities to learn through play. Three-year-olds are interested in playing with children their own age. This might be helpful. Children can be role models for each other. They have parents at their side who can monitor and teach regarding a misbehavior.
For instance, if your son grabs a toy from a friend and yells, “Mine!” show him an alternative reaction. Tell him, “No, Thomas picked it up first. He is going to play with it for five minutes and then you can have a turn.” If you need to separate them, then do so. If your son throws himself down screaming, then move him to a different area.
The calmer you are and more consistent you are in teaching and modeling appropriate behaviors, the more likely his tantrums will lessen in frequency and intensity.
Boys Town Press has two good books: “Hands Are Not for Hitting” and “Help! There's a Toddler in the House.” These are good resources. Be sure to have some “me” time for you. And remember that your son is learning daily. As he gets older, his attention span will increase.
Many preschools have programs for kids as young as age 2. Think about putting him in class for just one day a week so he can have even more learning opportunities.
I have a 5-year-old daughter. Her mother and I have a split-custody order at the present time, but her mother just served me with papers to take my daughter all but 28 days a year. Social Services came a day after the papers were served. I want help and resources to handle this issue as delicately as possible, as my daughter is bright and observant. I don’t want her to be harmed emotionally or developmentally by the situation.
You are wise to keep your daughter out of the middle of adult issues and legal concerns. There is a program called Children in the Middle that some states require parents to participate in when they are going through a divorce. The program provides helpful information and strategies for parents to work out the complicated issues of custody and visitation without putting their child(ren) in the middle emotionally.
Regarding your legal rights, you would need to contact your attorney to discuss how to respond.
I am a single mother and I am having problems with my 16-year-old son. He constantly runs away from home because he does not like to follow the household’s rules. I have five other children to consider when I am out at all hours of the night looking for him. When I ask why he behaves this way, he does not have any answers.
He knows that I am legally responsible for him until he is 18. He uses this fact to manipulate me. He has had multiple run-ins with the police, but they were all minor enough for him to be released into my custody. I frequently have to take off work to appear in court on his behalf. I don’t want to give up on him, but I don’t know what to do.
It is good that you have established household rules. Is your son required to do certain chores every day? Do your other children have chores, and do your household rules apply to them?
When your son runs away, call the police. By involving the police, you won’t have to leave your other children and take on the stress of searching for your son. Also, the police will then have a record of all the times your son has left your home without your permission.
The next time you appear in court for an incident your son causes, request that the judge take some type of action. This can include putting him on probation or requiring mandatory community service.
It sounds like the main issue is your son’s lack of respect for your authority. As heartbreaking as this is, you need to stand firm and take away privileges (music, his cell phone, electronics and time with friends) each time he shows you disrespect. He can earn back some of the privileges that he has lost by showing you the proper respect and abiding by the household rules.
If he is the oldest, remind him that he needs to be a good role model for his younger siblings.
Do you have any supportive people you can rely on for help with your children? We have counseling referrals and parent support groups available if you e-mail us your city, county and state. You can also call our Hotline anytime. Our counselors are here 24/7 to help with difficult parenting situations. Our number is 1-800-448-3000.
I am very concerned for my sister and her two boys, ages 15 and 11. Her older son has become very aggressive toward his mother and younger brother. He is drinking alcohol and is threatening his family and himself. We don’t know where to turn for help.
Your sister needs to have her 15-year-old son evaluated by a professional. When a teenager becomes violent and threatening, a parent needs to react quickly before someone gets hurt, including the teenager himself. Where is he getting his alcohol? Is the person providing it to any other minors? This is illegal, and it should be promptly dealt with as well.
Boys Town has a database for the entire United States, and we would gladly provide referrals to you or your sister. You can either e-mail us back with the city, state and county where she lives, or you can call our Hotline for the information. Most mental health centers can do an evaluation and make recommendations for further counseling. We have crisis counselors available to talk 24/7. Please give her our phone number: 1-800-448-3000.
I am the stepmother of a 17-year-old boy who has been living with my husband and I for two years. Prior to this, he lived with his mother and then his grandmother. Both women were unable to handle him, so he came to live with us.
He is not doing well in school. He often skips school and earns failing grades. He is an 11th-grader with the credits of a ninth-grader. I smell marijuana in his room, but he denies smoking it. I also find cigarette butts in his room, which he admits to smoking.
He says he is old enough to determine what is good and bad for him. He sneaks out of his window when we tell him that he has to stay home. Friends sneak in as well. When he stays at friends’ homes, we won’t see him for a few days. He won’t text or call us during this time. We’ve almost reported him missing to the police.
He steals money and other things from us. I don’t know what to do other than placing him in Boys Town. But I don’t want to do this because he has already been in and out of juvenile centers while staying at his grandmother’s home. What should we do?
Raising a young man who repeatedly makes poor choices and disobeys you is extremely frustrating. It sounds like he has been engaging in numerous illegal and dangerous activities. It is great that you have considered calling the police. This is a difficult choice for parents to make, but sometimes it is the best choice.
The important thing is that he gets on the right track with school and leads a safe and healthy life. Stealing, drug use, truancy from school, leaving without permission and smoking cigarettes are all illegal activities of which you should make the police aware. You are not calling simply to get him in trouble. Calling the police could provide safety for your family and stepson. Also, the police could take legal action and put your son in drug treatment, which would benefit him.
What type of discipline have you been using at home? He needs an incentive to behave and make better choices. Taking away some of his privileges, such as limiting access to TV and the computer, is one option.
Reminding a child to make better choices often is not effective enough. Using consequences is difficult at first, and you will have resistance. But if you are consistent, you will see results over time.
When you do speak to him about his behaviors or you are disciplining him, do so CALMLY. It is easy to lose your temper, but getting upset will only make the situation worse. He is out of control, so you must stay in control. Pick a time to discuss his behaviors when he is calm as well.
Other than juvenile centers, what other services have you tried? Counseling with a trained mental health professional might benefit your stepson. Make use of all the available resources before considering out-of-home placement for your stepson.
What has his school done about his truancy? In many states, if a child is not going to school the police can get involved. In some cases, the parents can also get into trouble for their child being truant from school. You don’t want to get in trouble for the poor decisions he is making.
It is great that you are considering Boys Town placement for your stepson. The program is very effective for many young adults with behavioral issues similar to his. For more information, visit our website at www.boystown.org or call our Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.
I have twin girls and an almost 4-year-old boy. I am having discipline problems that are getting worse. I am getting frustrated and need some advice.
Learning to apply effective consequences is one of the most difficult parenting techniques. When your children are young, it is even harder because you might not see the effect the consequence is having right away. All you can see are the temper tantrums and limit-testing.
It is important to discuss what discipline is. Many parents equate discipline with punishments. This is not true. Discipline means structure and instruction. We have to teach our children appropriate behaviors (sometimes repeatedly). Otherwise they learn from other “teachers,” such as TV, their peers and the media.
Once you identify an inappropriate behavior, stop the behavior immediately. Once the behavior is stopped, issue an immediate consequence (a time-out, removal of toy, etc.). Then discuss and practice a more appropriate behavior.
For example, if a child is throwing a toy, calmly stop the behavior by describing what he was doing. This might sound like, “Right now you are throwing your toys. Because you chose to throw your toy, you cannot play with this toy the rest of the day.” Then explain to him how he should play with his toys.
His behaviors show that he needs reminding. So set your expectations of how you want him to play by telling him what he SHOULD do and not what he SHOULDN’T do. Focus on the positive. Then ask him to show you how to correctly play with a different toy. This is his practice. If he plays nicely with it, praise him for following your instructions.
Boys Town does offer a parenting class for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. If you are interested, let us know and we can see if there is a class being held in your area. If not, you can always go online to the Boys Town Press and purchase the book titled “Common Sense Parenting: Toddlers and Preschoolers.”
How do you get a 10-year-old to mind you? My son will not do chores, go to bed or do what he is told in general. He just responds, “No.”
At age 10, your son should be able to sit down with you and discuss the situation. Have this conversation with him when your family is not busy and everyone is calm and neutral. He will feel less defensive and thus, be likely to participate. Tell him what you are seeing and why you want him to change. Make certain you include things that he does well.
Point out how these changes will benefit him. For instance, say “When you do your chores, you will earn more free time and trust. I will be able to trust you to go to the park more often because I know you are following instructions and are being safe.”
He needs to learn to follow instructions. He is to follow your instructions to go to bed and do his chores, and he should answer you with “OK” and not “No.” Many times we tend to tell our children what NOT to do instead of telling them appropriate ways to respond. This includes saying “OK” instead of arguing when we tell them to do something.
Specific links on parenting.org regarding this skill and others are http://www.parenting.org/article/following-instructions, http://www.parenting.org/article/effective-praise-applaud-effort-not-just-outcome-0, http://www.parenting.org/article/listen-get-kids-listen and http://www.parenting.org/article/getting-kids-sleep-using-bedtime-routine.
He is going through a time in his life in which he will be looking toward his peers for approval rather than you for approval and positive reinforcement. Have you seen this? Are his friends becoming more important? This is a normal part of growing up. But try to make sure he is involved with a positive group of kids.
Involve him in sports and other organized activities. Typically, kids who are involved in these types of activities learn to respect other adults, are more motivated to be successful and feel more self-confident.
Also, try to point out all of the positive things he is doing. Studies show that children learn best when we say eight positive things for every correction or negative comment.
I am having serious problems with my 16-year-old son. He is lazy, sleeping all day and staying out with his friends until all hours of the night. He disregards the rules I set for the household. The most worrisome is that he has been caught stealing from family and friends and even a store on several occasions.
Most recently, he and his friend (age 18) were accused of stealing cash from a neighborhood girl’s purse. She and her father brought this to my attention that evening. At the same time, my daughter (age 13) discovered that cash was missing from her wallet.
My son denies that he took the money, but I don’t believe him. He has offered to reimburse my daughter and neighbor out of his lawn-mowing money. He says he is doing this not because he is guilty but because he wants to save the relationships. The neighborhood girl’s sister has been caught stealing before and had access to the purse and my daughter’s wallet, so maybe my son is innocent. I just don’t know.
He has been diagnosed with ADD and Narcissus Complex, and he has been seeing a psychiatrist for three years. I see little progress, if any. I don’t know what to do. I am a single mother with a full-time job. I can’t even enforce my own rules because I am never home. I am so disappointed and frustrated with my son.
Parenting is a difficult job, and you are doing it alone. Who do you have to support you emotionally? Of course you feel frustrated and disappointed. Your son could be a tremendous help to you and shoulder some of the responsibility, but he is doing just the opposite.
Have the police been made aware of his stealing and curfew violations? You will be held responsible if anything bad happens to him while he is out of your home beyond curfew or anytime he leaves without permission. Don’t risk being charged with neglect. Call the police and report that he is missing. You can indicate that he was supposed to be in by 10 p.m. – or whenever his curfew is – and he was not in by then. You need to have it on record that you called in to report him missing.
Every time he steals and does not suffer a consequence, his interpretation is that he is “slick.” The behavior will likely continue and possibly increase.
If he is scheduled to appear in court for his theft charges, perhaps he will be required to attend a diversion program to work through his problem. If not, there are programs available in our area that may be helpful.
One particular program is at the Tamarack Center. This center has a daytime treatment program for behaviorally disturbed youth.
Another option is Catholic Community Services, which has an Integrated Family Preservation program. The staff would come to your home and coach you on your parenting issues. They might also try to connect you with services in your community for support. The number to call is 800-566-9053. If you need support for yourself, we can help you find an experienced counselor.
My 12-year-old daughter is totally out of control! She is openly defiant, and she is putting herself in very scary situations. I just discovered that she is sexually active. She disappears for hours, sometimes even days at a time. She has even started making up extensive lies. Please help!
Keeping your daughter safe sounds like a difficult task and one that may require professional intervention.
Increase the monitoring of her whereabouts so that you can accurately report to the police when she leaves your home without permission. Ultimately, you are responsible for her and her safety no matter where she is. If you don't know where she is, then reporting that to the police is the responsible thing to do.
The other suggestion we have is to get your daughter into counseling. There is something going on with her, and unless she can be redirected to follow the right path, she will only get herself into greater trouble. Sometimes her school counselor can be helpful, and there are also numerous counselors available in nearly all communities. Many times these counselors charge according to the client's ability to pay.
If this behavior continues to the point where you feel she requires a higher level of care than you can provide in your home and family, a residential treatment program may be appropriate. But the program leaders will want to know that you have already tried other avenues. If you would like help in accessing services, counselors or out-of-home placements, let us know what city and state you are in and we can provide referrals.
I need help to stop yelling at my beautiful, precious, small children. Every morning I wake up and tell myself that today, I won't yell at them. But I have a busy life, little help from friends and family and my patience burns out quickly. I've tried counting, leaving the room, praying, reading books about parenting, and being open with family and friends about my struggles. But really, they just nod in agreement and don't have any help to offer. How can I stop?
It sounds like you love your children very much and that you already have a great deal of insight into your behavior. Many parents do not realize that they need to make changes. As you well know, children can be extremely trying at times, and you have been doing a great job trying to utilize self-control strategies such as prayer, counting and leaving the room. Remember that it’s normal and human to have moments when you lose your cool. However, yelling can make situations worse and teaches your children that it is okay to yell when they are upset. When you do yell, apologize to your children and tell them something like: "Mommy was frustrated, and I am sorry I yelled." Then, tell them what you're going to do differently next time. This models for your children what they should do when they make a mistake.
Develop a “Staying Calm Plan.” Identify what makes you feel like yelling. Write down what your children do that causes you to lose your temper. Be specific. Include when and where the behavior occurs. Identify what happens to you before you yell so that you learn to recognize your warning signs and take steps to calm down before you begin yelling. Write down what you will do differently such as taking a deep breath, leaving the situation for five minutes or using positive self-talk. Staying calm is not easy, and you have to work at it.
Make time to take care of yourself. Ask your husband or a family friend to watch your children for an hour every other day so that you can go for a walk or take a bath -- something that will help you relax and have a little time to yourself. Taking care of yourself helps you be the best mommy and wife you can be to your precious little ones and husband.
Read the book Common Sense Parenting of Toddlers and Preschoolers by Bridget A. Barnes and Steven M. York, M.H.D. Get involved in a support group for stay-at-home moms like MOPS International and the International Mom's Club. These groups provide friendship, community, resources and support for you as a woman and mother so you know you are not alone.