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High-Energy Child Needs Limits: Sylvia Rimm On Raising Kids

SYLVIA RIMM ON RAISING KIDS

Q. Our 5-year-old son is very energetic. He thinks it's OK to roughhouse with any kids (two 3-year-old girl cousins, 11-month-old sister, and friends). He finds it funny to call them names, including swear words, and enjoys flipping people off, including strangers. I'm worried because no discipline works for him.


By Sylvia Rimm


Q. Our 5-year-old son is very energetic. He thinks it's OK to roughhouse with any kids (two 3-year-old girl cousins, 11-month-old sister, and friends). He finds it funny to call them names, including swear words, and enjoys flipping people off, including strangers. I'm worried because no discipline works for him. We've tried timeouts (sitting alone on a chair), standing in a corner and even spanking, but none of them work. We've tried positive reinforcement, focusing on positive behavior and ignoring the naughty, but that does NOT work. We've even tried the guilt trip: "Mommy (Daddy or whoever it may be) doesn't like how you're behaving. Could you please make Mommy happy and try to act a little better?" Nothing works.


My family is tired of the way he acts, and his two cousins aren't allowed to play with him unless their parents are right there. My parents are thinking about selling their house to move farther away so we don't visit them too often. My husband and I are always fighting (not in front of him) about what to try next. Our two kids are always asleep when we argue. My family's falling apart because of the way our son acts. I'm very afraid that our daughter will start acting like him, because right now she totally looks up to him. Do you have any suggestions for us on this matter? -- Feeling Helpless in Eau Claire.


A. Dear Feeling Helpless: Although you and your husband don't discuss your differences within your son's hearing, he senses that you're divided. He also understands that no one seems to know how to set limits for him.


Your son needs consistency, and you need to follow up with a timeout every time he uses bad language or hurts other children. That timeout should be away from everyone, preferably in his room. If he comes out, you'll have to close and lock the door. Don't hold it, but put a latch on it or tie a rope to the knob attached to another knob so he can't open it. Before you start using this timeout, explain to him that you'll use it whenever he misbehaves, that you'll expect him to stay in the room for 10 minutes of quiet, and you won't set the timer until he settles down. Also, assure him that you won't leave the house, but will wait for him to calm down. When he comes out of timeout, don't discuss the issue with him, and absolutely don't hug him. A hug will only feel like a reward for his misbehavior. If it happens again, repeat the timeout. Use the timeout only for the serious discipline problems, but use it regularly.


It's also important for your son not to hear you talking to other family members about his difficult behavior. Please don't say "I can't handle you" or "What's the matter with you?" because that will seem like no one can manage him, and he'll feel more insecure and act out more. Be sure that, when you discipline him, no one takes his side to protect him or makes excuses for him. When he's good, give him some one-on-one attention without his sister or cousins around. He probably desperately wants your love and attention, and is feeling rejected with all the attention the little girls are getting.


If these approaches don't work, I suggest you take him to a psychologist for an evaluation in case he has some problems that require further treatment.


Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting.
COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



Categories: Pre-Schoolers, Advice, Ideas & Stories, Children, Family, MomShare,

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