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  1. #1

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    Children's Behavior and Discipline

    Hi all. I wanted to get your thoughts on this topic as its recently become a part of my daily life. I'm currently living with, and not for much longer, a friend of mine who has a 4 year old daughter. I've decided the poor behavior and lack of discipline in this child is too much for me to handle any longer, and although my efforts at first seemed to be helping, she has completely given up on time-outs and resorted to 100% negotiation and appeasement method. To my eyes, it is a vicious cycle of screaming, tantrum, soothing, calm moments, followed by another tirade later. She frequently runs off or creates scenes in public places that I find wildly embarrassing to be involved with. The mornings are usually a major battle with a bunch of screaming just to get her dressed and out the door. Evenings involve a lot of negotiation and talk of threats "you can have this later" or "you're going to bed if you keep this up." Basically exactly everything that Super Nanny and the books I've read said not to do. I even exposed the mother to these books and the show, and for a few days, she was trying out the methods, but seems to have completely given up on them now. I've had a few talks with her encouraging the time out method and that it would help to be more cut and dry about this, but I haven't told her how I really feel 100% because its a touchy subject and its not my kid or decision to make. My personal opinion is that she either 1) is afraid of her child not liking her if she disciplines her properly/too strongly, and/or 2) she's just too lazy to do proper timeouts, and/or 3) she is lacking excitement in her life and these dramatic outbursts provide something to add excitement to her day. Also, the child has been labeled as "obese" by her doctor and recently went off the chart. Although the mother can be witty and fun-loving at times, I frequently feel her disappearing into a fog of depression and extreme laziness, where she spends the day playing games on her phone or moping about while the kid watches tv and movies. She always asks the kid what she wants to eat for meals and generally goes with that, which is usually just a lot of carbs. The other day I'm pretty sure she just had noodles and Lucky Charms (sans milk) for dinner. On occasion some vegetables and healthy meals are involved, but its not consistent at all. It's all a lot worse than I envisioned before I moved in, and all the plans I've had of helping each other attack our problem areas together have gone completely down the drain as I see her making no effort in any areas- I want to help her gain confidence and get in shape which she expressed interest in, but every time I attempt to have her join me for the gym or a run, even when the kid is off for a weekend with the father (who the kid sees every other weekend, he's also a total douche, and every time she comes back from his house she's a complete wild animal even more than usual), she finds an excuse. I feel all of this is a recipe for disaster which is why I've decided I have to move out. Anyway, this is just all background info and stuff I'm getting off my chest here.

    My main question is- does the "relaxed" method of parenting ever work out ok? I see the mother shrugging off a lot of this as "normal 4 year old behavior" that we just have to get used to. I see the kid generally completely ignoring me- she doesn't ever answer anything I ask her, and only comes to me when she wants some kind of treat. I put her in time outs on occasion but her mom always manages to offer her other options after about 20 seconds, as soon as the kid pipes up. I really only have yelled at the kid if she is abusing the cat, at which point she suddenly realizes I mean business and stops (the semi-loud voice doesn't do a thing). I am worried that this behavior is only going to keep getting worse and I foresee this child having huge problems with behavior in school, weight, and emotional maturity. It scares the crap out of me that my roommate can't see any of this for herself, and has decided to go this route even after all the problems its caused, and despite the fact that nowhere is this a recommended style of parenting, that I've heard of anyway. Obviously, the best thing for me is to get away. But I am still concerned for my friend. Am I justified to be worried or might this all turn out ok and I'm just being a nervous nellie? I've seen my sister's daughter the same age recently, and she is MUCH better behaved and healthier, of course, because they are doing basically all the right things IMO. I am so thankful for that.

    Thanks in advances for your responses, my FSU friends.
    Last edited by haribobo; 10-17-2012 at 02:31 AM.

  2. #2
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    The child has the power in this house and if the mother doesn't stop trying to be a friend instead of a mother, she's in for a VERY long and difficult road ahead.

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    In my experience working with kids? No, the 'relaxed' method just results in spoiled brats someone else has to discipline. (Frequently spoiled brats who are actually craving a little disciple and structure because children need that and parents are supposed to provide it.) It's not that they need to be yelled at from day one, but they HAVE to have limits and rules that they MUST obey and they need to learn there are consequences (time-outs have never worked for me unless they're in isolation with nothing to look at or listen to. Taking away toys, privileges, etc. is more effective.) And it's more that they're EXPECTED to behave--kids want to know what's expected of them and they really don't want to torture you, unless there is something seriously wrong. (I did work with one boy who had some severe control problems, but they were biochemical in nature and I don't mean ADD/ADHD.)

    But honestly, this doesn't sound like she's doing 'relaxed' parenting, it sounds like she has an issue with her own depression--no willpower, giving up, not seeing a point, letting the child dictate because ultimately that's just easier, poor diet, no energy, receding from life...I'm not sure she's being a permissive parent on purpose but rather because she's too depressed to have the energy to care or fight. Is it also possible biodad is encouraging the acting out as some kind of gotcha thing against the mother? Or spoiling her to be the 'good' parent? Is there ANYONE else in her family you can talk to? If she's got a depressive episode going, I don't think parenting advice is going to solve her problems.

    YOU should definitely be firm with the kid, especially on the abusing the cat stuff. (That or if the cat will eventually lose patience, let him maul the kid. Tormenting pets I don't find amusing.)

  4. #4
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    Disclaimer: I am not a mother. But I certainly don't believe that a child's bratty behavior at 4 determines what they're going to be like as an adult. Kids do start to realize that the universe doesn't revolve around them, in time. (I actually remember that I was still pretty bratty until about the age of 10, when I realized that my parents worked pretty darned hard and that I should help out every once in a while! ) Some learn it sooner than others, but if the parent continues to spoil the child through the pre-teen years, IMO that's when they start to permanently internalize it. But trying to rationalize why eating healthy food is good is certainly beyond any 4-year-old's brain.

    If your friend has a troubled relationship with the father and lacks other fulfillment in her life, she could have depression, especially on top of the whole parenting a toddler thing. It's not easy. Parents who are tired obviously don't have the patience or willpower to discipline strictly. They're more easily cracked, which obviously doesn't help matters. And not having the practice of sticking by your rules when the kid is young does come back to bite you in the ass, when the kid becomes a pre-teen and the parents are still being lax.

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    I have six grandchildren, two in one family and four in another. The best thing I ever heard from a parent came from both my daughter and my daughter-in law: "Use your words." That meant to stop whining and crying and fussing and explain what you (the children) think is wrong. Works every time. Time outs do too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anita18 View Post
    Disclaimer: I am not a mother. But I certainly don't believe that a child's bratty behavior at 4 determines what they're going to be like as an adult. Kids do start to realize that the universe doesn't revolve around them, in time. (I actually remember that I was still pretty bratty until about the age of 10, when I realized that my parents worked pretty darned hard and that I should help out every once in a while! ) Some learn it sooner than others, but if the parent continues to spoil the child through the pre-teen years, IMO that's when they start to permanently internalize it. But trying to rationalize why eating healthy food is good is certainly beyond any 4-year-old's brain.

    If your friend has a troubled relationship with the father and lacks other fulfillment in her life, she could have depression, especially on top of the whole parenting a toddler thing. It's not easy. Parents who are tired obviously don't have the patience or willpower to discipline strictly. They're more easily cracked, which obviously doesn't help matters. And not having the practice of sticking by your rules when the kid is young does come back to bite you in the ass, when the kid becomes a pre-teen and the parents are still being lax.
    Well said! You totally put into words what I was thinking.
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    True principle: It's easier to parent children that are not actually yours.

    My advice? Continue your plan to move out. It's not your job and it's not your place to fix this. Wish her the best and move on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lacey View Post
    I have six grandchildren, two in one family and four in another. The best thing I ever heard from a parent came from both my daughter and my daughter-in law: "Use your words." That meant to stop whining and crying and fussing and explain what you (the children) think is wrong. Works every time. Time outs do too.
    I say that all the time to my kids!
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    I think every parent child relationship is different.

    I'm a mostly relaxed parent. I have expectations however and hold my kids to high standards.

    I believe in limited choices that I'M okay with. I am old school and do 4 food group meals (a protein, carb, veg and fruit) and have water with them. We eat at set times.

    We set aside time for homework. TV is limited. Very limited. My gf told me today that her granddaughter is a handful. She treats everyone like there is a laugh track and she is the main character. She attributes it to Nick and esp the Disney channel. We don't do Disney/Nick. There have been times when my daughter asked and I watched with her. We talked about the constant lying, treating people poorly, and commercialism. I sucked the "fun" out of it and she doesn't ask any more.

    We are on time for appointments, we call if something comes up and we meet our obligations.

    She still falls asleep next to me, I comb and do her hair because I love to, we read together. She has lots of friends with involved parents and we all get along very well.

    Four is a difficult age, but it also an incredibly fun age. Tv shouldn't be on, they should be going for walk, cooking together, reading etc. It sounds like the mom suffers from depression and it can be depressing having to share a home, work, have a child, and survive on your own. It isn't easy at all.

    I've never done time outs for my kids. But I have put myself in time out to prevent myself from saying something hurtful. I use my words. I am very angry, I am going to my room until I can decide what I am going to do about xyz. I suggest you make sure your things are picked up and your homework is done and that you have some ideas as well when I come out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Twizzler View Post
    The child has the power in this house and if the mother doesn't stop trying to be a friend instead of a mother, she's in for a VERY long and difficult road ahead.
    I agree, if she doesn't nip some of that bad behavior now in 10 years she is really going to have trouble on her hands; and she won't be able to handle it. The problem is she doesn't seem to have the tools or even understand their is a problem. Good luck to her....or society as a whole.

  11. #11
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    I had a very relaxed method of parenting. I had very few rules growing up and was rarely expected to clean, never given a curfew, never told to do my homework, etc. Despite this, I never stayed out late, never partied, never drank at all before I turned 21, never did any sort of drugs, never smoked, graduated 7th in my class, etc. It worked for me. I was self-motivated and self-disciplined. I always have been. A more stringent set of rules probably would have irritated my pride, because I knew I didn't need them and so did my parents. I've always heard that a relaxed method of parenting 'never' works, and I suppose there are exceptions to every rule, but it definitely worked for me.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by danceronice View Post
    But honestly, this doesn't sound like she's doing 'relaxed' parenting, it sounds like she has an issue with her own depression--no willpower, giving up, not seeing a point, letting the child dictate because ultimately that's just easier, poor diet, no energy, receding from life...I'm not sure she's being a permissive parent on purpose but rather because she's too depressed to have the energy to care or fight.
    ITA. This is not at all about parenting philosophy and I am just that people think it is. Really?

    The mother needs help, but the kind of help she needs isn't going to come from giving her advice on nutrition and discipline.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hannahclear View Post
    True principle: It's easier to parent children that are not actually yours.

    My advice? Continue your plan to move out. It's not your job and it's not your place to fix this. Wish her the best and move on.
    And ITA again. The only thing you can do is recommend that mother get some counseling. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot you can--or even should--do.
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.

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    If your friend is stuck and you can help that friend...do everything you can! That's what friendship is all about, right? That said, you have to take care of yourself first. If you are getting triggered over and over again about your friend, her child, and their relationship and you have no method to deal with being triggered repeatedly, then you're doing a good thing by moving out.

    Supporting your friend from a distance sounds like it's your best move. There are so many resources out there, more than ever before. I wish her great luck.

    haribobo, what is your own support system like? Maybe strengthening that would set a good example for her. Maybe you could find something you could attend together? I've did a counselling workshop with one of my closest friends once. Unfortunately she struggled with accepting help from outside sources ("I'll deal with things myself") so it didn't go as far as I would have liked. Wishing you luck!
    It's official. I am madly in love with Meryl Davis.

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    I don't have children myself nor a lot of experience with others who have kids. But I do have one friend who had her daughter at age 48 and the daughter is a strong-willed wild child, now 3 years old. The daughter will do things like command her mom to give her a glass of milk and throws some rather wild tantrums.

    My friend is older and therefore more tired - but when I observe her I find myself hesitant to judge.

    I agree that depression is an issue separate from parenting. And obesity in a young child is real cause for concern.

    An acquaintance who is the director of daycare and has two kids of her own once told me with regard to parenting that 'there are many ways to skin the cat'. I think that is wise, as all parents and kids have different characters and different needs. I doubt there is a one-size-fits-all prescription for parenting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hannahclear View Post
    True principle: It's easier to parent children that are not actually yours.

    My advice? Continue your plan to move out. It's not your job and it's not your place to fix this. Wish her the best and move on.
    This is the best advice in the whole thread.
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    I have 2 grandsons, 2 and 4. They wear me out every time I see them. I don't know HOW my daughter does it and manages to work part time and keep house and a very large dog as well. (OK-3 children...)

    I don't have a word of advice for anyone because I just barely hold on myself when I'm there. I adore them and love them more than anything, but it's about the hardest thing I have ever tried to do-take care of them for several days in a row.

    I will say this: I don't think one parenting style works for everyone across the board. Nobody has "the answer" although they might have pieces of it. Every child is so different and has different needs. My oldest Gson has sensory processing disorder and is very high strung, articulate, and doesn't miss anything. He doesn't sleep much and is constantly going. He seems extremely happy most of the time, but can turn on a dime and be upset at something. The younger is cuddly, low-key, and sweet. Although my daughter does stress nuitrition, responsibility, and common sense, things don't always go as planned. I doubt they do in any household.

    I think the one attribute a parent needs is simply patience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danceronice View Post
    Is it also possible biodad is encouraging the acting out as some kind of gotcha thing against the mother? Or spoiling her to be the 'good' parent? Is there ANYONE else in her family you can talk to?
    Definitely a huge possibility. Father is the definition of a manchild, a complete embarrassment to society, and I am forever unhappy for her that she has to continue associating with him. They only communicate by text because he refuses to talk on the phone....there was a restraining order following some abuse, he's grossly overweight, no fulltime job, it goes on and on. As for her family, none of them are living in the area, and I'm not in contact with any of them. I do know there is some mental illness in the family and she's probably one of the more together people amongst them, but its still not a level that I'm accustomed to. I feel terrible to leave because she has generally been a good friend to me and I know that isn't going to help the situation at all, and I know her situation is the furthest thing from easy. But its become more clear lately that my suggestions are not being heeded and thusly, I'm over it. I let her know calmly yesterday that it has become too much for me to handle and I am seeking another place to live.

    I think one of my greatest problems is that I'm such an optimist at times and tend to think things will have a way of working out if we just put a little bit of hard work in, but its become wholly evident that we have fundamental differences in lifestyles that will not be resolved. Unfortunately, her current job situation is such that she does not have benefits and cannot see a therapist, but I'm not even sure she thinks she would need that. I get a sense of "this is my hand I've been dealt, and now I just have to give up and accept it." I do feel really bad, but its too depressing an environment for me to be in on a daily basis.

    Thank you everyone for the advice and shared stories. I am aware that my current situation is essentially beyond my control, just wanted to get some of that off my chest and needed to have some intellectual dialogue about my situation and parenting in general. This helps a lot!
    Last edited by haribobo; 10-17-2012 at 02:51 PM.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anita18 View Post
    Disclaimer: I am not a mother. But I certainly don't believe that a child's bratty behavior at 4 determines what they're going to be like as an adult. Kids do start to realize that the universe doesn't revolve around them, in time. (I actually remember that I was still pretty bratty until about the age of 10, when I realized that my parents worked pretty darned hard and that I should help out every once in a while! ) Some learn it sooner than others, but if the parent continues to spoil the child through the pre-teen years, IMO that's when they start to permanently internalize it. But trying to rationalize why eating healthy food is good is certainly beyond any 4-year-old's brain....
    IMHO this is completely incorrect. I suggest that it is the early years, which vary a bit, but by the time is 4 or 5 years old, that set the stage for the relationship later on. This is not to say it can't be changed, just that I suspect is is A LOT harder to do. The thing is, most of us don't remember a lot about what happened before we were four, so we don't really know what our parents were doing. Oh, and you certainly can talk to a four year old about healthy food. Probably not this particular one, but in a healthy relationship, a four year old is perfectly capable of understanding the concept of a colourful plate, of the importance of drinking milk, of sometimes versus all the time food. Four year olds can also chop vegetables, set the table, help load the dishwasher, dry dishes, put cookies on a plate, fold laundry, make their bed .... need I go on?

    As to the OP's situation, I agree that the parenting part is really not the urgent issue. It sounds like the mother has her own mental health issues that need to be resolved.
    A good rant is cathartic. Ranting is what keeps me sane. They always come from a different place. Take the prime minister, for example. Sometimes when I rant about him, I am angry; other times, I am just severely annoyed - it's an important distinction. - Rick Mercer

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by mag View Post
    IMHO this is completely incorrect. I suggest that it is the early years, which vary a bit, but by the time is 4 or 5 years old, that set the stage for the relationship later on. This is not to say it can't be changed, just that I suspect is is A LOT harder to do. The thing is, most of us don't remember a lot about what happened before we were four, so we don't really know what our parents were doing. Oh, and you certainly can talk to a four year old about healthy food. Probably not this particular one, but in a healthy relationship, a four year old is perfectly capable of understanding the concept of a colourful plate, of the importance of drinking milk, of sometimes versus all the time food. Four year olds can also chop vegetables, set the table, help load the dishwasher, dry dishes, put cookies on a plate, fold laundry, make their bed .... need I go on?

    As to the OP's situation, I agree that the parenting part is really not the urgent issue. It sounds like the mother has her own mental health issues that need to be resolved.
    I don't remember what I was doing at around 4, but I know my parents certainly didn't trust me with chopping vegetables! I actually don't think I ever helped with food preparation, even in high school. (I was only expected to study!) I only know how to cook now because I'm willing to experiment and try new things, and I'm pretty resourceful.

    I guess my point is, if a young child doesn't have chores or isn't strictly disciplined, that doesn't mean that they're going to end up spoiled immature adults with no concept of consequences. That mostly pans out when the child is always bailed out of actual trouble or given whatever they want without any work, when the kid is older. They never get to experience real consequences or the hard work that usually precludes rewards when one is an adult, when they have the mental capability of processing such things. My sister knew kids in her HS class who were given cars or houses when they got into a good college. I don't have much hope for those kids in finding something fulfilling in their life that requires hard work.

    My sister and I weren't given regular chores to do, but we certainly understood the concept of consequences and reaping what we sow. I didn't ask for a reward when I got into a good college. My sister asked for an IHOP strawberry waffle.

    That all said, I do agree that it's easier for the parent to set the boundaries early on, when the kid is small and you're still capable of picking them up and putting them somewhere yourself if need be. It gets a lot harder when the child is older, smarter, bigger, and knows how to crack the parent if the parent hasn't had the practice.

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    I agree with mag--the Jesuits even had a saying, give me a child for five years when he is young (meaning like 5-7) and he is mine for life. What you establish early on is a lot more important than what you try to do with tweens and teens when patterns and expectations are already set.

    I definitely wouldn't trust a four-year-old with a knife, but if a parent establishes "This is your dinner, this is what you're eating, you must at least TRY everything on the plate twice", they can understand that. Also, kids can't demand cereal or sweets if there aren't any in the house and they're consistently told no if they ask for them. They can understand "Put your toys back in the toy box or they will be taken away for X amount of time [day, week, month, whatever. An hour isn't sufficient to register.]" A kid who's still small enough to carry in the laundry basket can't do laundry, but they can definitely learn to pick up dirty clothes and put them in the basket instead of leaving them on the floor. And they shouldn't be given rewards for doing that, but rather taught that's what's expected of them.

    I think it's actually easier to slack when the kid is little and cute and one can argue doesn't know any better. Problem is by the time they get to be a teen, you've now got a kid who isn't going to like being told "All right, now you have to do X." It's a lot like spoiling a puppy, who's cute and fluffy and doesn't know any better, and then wondering how the heck you wound up with a dog who's snappish and out of control. You've go a whole lot of undoing to do.

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