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Discipline dilemma

(21 Posts)
Mishap Thu 19-Apr-12 10:13:51

I have been with my GC over Easter and continue to be concerned about the ongoing problem of my 9 year old GS's behaviour. His parents too are concerned and frequently express this to me, and I feel in a quandary about it - do I say what I think (which is that he does not get clear boundaries and they need to get their act together on this) or do I continue to try and bolster their confidence as parents and avoid anything that might be construed as criticism? I do not want to risk alienating them or causing any sort of rift, but on the other hand all the wider family are concerned - their concern is expressed between themselves rather than directly, as we all feel wary of direct comment. I am often in a difficult situation as my other children say how worried they are and I want to try and acknowledge that without being partisan behind my D's back.

One particularly worrying incident was an act of quite serious aggression towards my D (his mother) that went unpunished - a lot of shouting went on, but no clear consequence occurred.

I am sure there will be others who can identify with this scenario and would be interested to hear their experiences.

Carol Thu 19-Apr-12 10:41:53

Lots of compliments like 'I really admire you when you stand your ground and are consistent about boundaries' (in your own words, of course) - gives the message without it looking too much like interfering. Shouting at each other isn't on, but how can you discipline the child when mum is doing it?

I found that talking in a quiet but stern voice, like a broken record - 'we are not discussing this while there is shouting, let's take 10 minutes out' until they got the message, was helpful. If he shouts at mum and she is being appropriate, he could have privileges removed, be grounded etc, for a reasonable time that is achievable. Telling them 'no TV' when you're looking forward to relaxing for the evening in front of the TV is bound to fail.

I imagine she is frustrated with this, too. My daughter was tearing her hair out with her hyper 3.1/2 year old a couple of weeks ago - on Easter Sunday, they were sugared up to the hilt, had missed a lot of sleep whilst staying over with their dad, were really pushing the boundaries and running off when she wanted to speak quietly to them. Just talking it through and being prepared for when it would happen again did the trick - they knew she was ready to deal with them, and behaved like angels!

I hope your daughter can collaborate with you and any other adult that is present to see this behaviour, so they can all be consistent. But it's common behaviour for children - they just have to learn they won't get away with it.

My adult children now acknowledge that they knew when I meant it, and when they thought they'd get away with a bit more. It was the 'look' of determination and knowing I had the power to withdraw privileges.

Mamie Thu 19-Apr-12 11:05:02

I agree - I think phrasing advice as "some people would say that" and "I read somewhere the other day that if you..." can help get advice across without sounding like you are telling them how to do it.

Mishap Thu 19-Apr-12 11:07:14

Yes - all strategies that I used with my children - they had a firm clear message when they misbehaved and they knew what the consequences would be.
My problem is that My D uses shouting and I do not know how t(or whether) to tell her that. he behaves fine when he is with me - and with other members of the family who have no truck with his misbehaviour. The crux of the problem really is that my D deals with it in an inappropriate way - do we say anything or not? This has been going on a long time.

When these incidents occur on our presence ( and it happens a lot) we have to leave her to be the person in charge or risk undermining her authority with him; and believe me it is very very hard not to intervene.

She is unhappy about the situation and tells us so - but how honest can we be without risking alienation? - it is quite hard.

Mishap Thu 19-Apr-12 11:08:05

Good idea mamie - thanks for that.

Carol Thu 19-Apr-12 11:54:34

I wonder whether it would help to show you are upset in front of them when you see her shouting? I remember watching an NSPCC social worker doing a family session with a mum who engaged in shouting bouts with her children, and on the advice of the consultant watching through the one-way mirror (she had an ear-piece in) the worker looked upset and said 'I guess if I'm feeling so upset about this, maybe you feel even worse? What do you think we can do so you don't have to shout at each other?' This put the responsibility in their hands and the mum was enabled to see that it wasn't going to be solved for her, but that she could be helped to control herself and her children. Then they went home and were advised to practise this and come back the following week to say whether the shouting bouts had reduced. They had, and the children were noticing their own behaviour.

This was a very dysfunctional family where there had been abuse, so the work was long-term, but we did see progress.

nuttynorah Thu 19-Apr-12 12:32:27

Dear Mishap I do know how you feel!
I look after my toddler grandson on a regular basis. When he developed one or two "challenging" habits, I asked his mum if we could agree on a plan to deal with them, so that we had a consistent approach and were not giving him mixed messages. She had to decide on the plan but I had the opportunity to suggest one or two things gently, using Mamie's method. I also had a reason to give feedback on how the plan worked for me and what I tried instead, if it didn't.

Sorry if I'm barking up the wrong tree! It's just that agreeing a strategy gives you the chance to ask what the child's boundaries are and what you should do if they are crossed. That might prompt mum to realise there are no clear boundaries.

janthea Thu 19-Apr-12 13:24:10

My little grandaughter is 2 1/2 and her brother is 4mths old. Yesterday she was being a little minx. She started pushing the baby with her foot, not quite a kick. My daughter told her not to do it, but she continued, laughing. Then suddenly she aimed a kick at his head, but before it could connect, my daughter slapped her leg, without thinking - instinct! Needless to say, there were tears and my daughter felt incredibly guilty, saying how can she tell my GD not to hurt her brother when my DD slaps her. I told her that I was amazed at her patience. She never loses her temper and uses the method suggested by many Grans - quiet voice, keep calm and explain. It usually works. However, I think GD was overtired and is still feeling a little jealous of the new baby sad

Gmajen Thu 19-Apr-12 19:58:07

Children react so very differently to discipline. I had two children who were the usual mix of naughtiness and loveliness and I had no problems with them. I was indeed inclined to smugness - I had read all the books and listened to advice and it was all fine.
I then had another baby and the difference was amazing. She would never toe the line and had the most astonishing rages. As she grew it was impossible to subdue her with one of my 'looks' which always worked with the others. Grandmas were aghast at her tantrums'
All three children are now well over 40 and have adult children of their own and guess what, my youngest had a daughter just like her. This daughter has grown, like her mother, into a delightful young woman.
There are no hard and fast rules for dealing with children. We can only offer support when it is requested and leave the families to work out the best way for themselves. We may feel that 'Gma knows best' but we don't really

Humbertbear Thu 19-Apr-12 20:46:42

I think it's important that everyone, including the child, knows the rules and the agreed behaviours. This child is old enough to understand why the behaviour is not acceptable and to understand what the consequences will be. My GC are rewarded with cash ( only small sums) for good behaviour (linked to reward chart). Crosses mean they don't get the money in their pot. Is there something he would like to save up for? Tree is a very clearly defined set of rules in their house and all of us carers are required to stick to it. I don't remember needing this when my children were growing up but it works for them. Personally I perfected a 'look that could kill'

janthea Fri 20-Apr-12 11:42:28

My grandchildren know when I say 'no' I mean it. I just need to look at them or say the word!

vampirequeen Fri 20-Apr-12 16:41:05

Is your daughter well physically and mentally? Being physically run down or suffering from even minor depression can result in parents not thinking through how they handle situations. It can be very hard to stay calm when you're not feeling 100%.

If you know your daughter is worried about the situation why not ask her how you can help? What kind of support does she need from you? This would open the conversation up and allow you to make suggestions like time outs and discussing behaviour when the heat of the moment is over. Your GS needs to be talked to as well in a controlled way. Don't use the word 'Why'. Ask him what he was doing just before he hit his mum? How does he feel about hitting his mum? How does he think his mum feels? Who else is affected.....lead to you, cousins, other family members, friends? Has he ever considered the consequences of his actions? What could he do when he feels so like hitting his mum or angry....lead to time outs, counting, deep breaths, walking away etc?

Once you have all agreed what he will do to change his behaviour discuss rewards and consequences. What does he think they should be? Children can be remarkably candid about punishment. Try 1p coins in a jar. The jar starts on a Saturday with 100p in it. Each time he makes the wrong choice 1p is removed. Each time he makes the right choice 1p is added. The following Friday evening he gets whatever is in the jar. If he's done well it's more that £1 if not it's far less. The thing to remember is that it's his every Friday evening regardless and it's his to choose what to do with even if an adult would think it's wasted.

Mishap Fri 20-Apr-12 17:11:11

All good ideas - thanks vampirequeen.

In fact my D has been suffering from anxiety and depression and is on treatment which we thought had improved the situation. It has made her feel better and for a while she dealt with things better and GS's behaviour improved - but things seem to have slipped back now.

We do not see them very often as they live a long way away, so the opportunities to intervene positively are few and far between. We are having to tread carefully, but I do think that when she next complains about the situation, instead of just being placatory, I will ask her what she wants from us and how we might be able to help. Having said that, I know that she is very conscious of trying not to burden us as my OH has PD, and she is quite upset about this as she is a bit of a Daddy's girl.

Thank you all for your helpful suggestions.

vampirequeen Fri 20-Apr-12 17:26:54

I work with challenging children and it's remarkable how they can reason about their behaviour and choose to improve it. It's not easy and they do slip up but it's a drip effect...gradually it changes.

Does your daughter have mh support where she lives. The problem with depressives (and I'm one) is that we're very good at wearing a mask and hiding how we truly feel. We do this for a number of reasons.....not wanting to worry people, not feeling worthy of help, embarrassed by our 'weakness', not wanting to admit it to ourselves...the list is endless.

If she feels isolated (which a lot of us do...well tbh we isolate ourselves a lot of the time) there are online sites she could join for support and advice. I belong to a peer support group called She could get to know other people who feel similar things to her. Depressives often feel they can't say how they feel because it seems so bizarre compared to other people and they think they're the only on to feel that way. Joining a peer support group can help as they see they're not the only one to feel something and it's often a place where they can say anything without fear of criticism or judgement. Also we tend to spot the signs of illness appearing faster than non depressives and can start to suggest seeking professional help sooner rather than later.

granbunny Fri 20-Apr-12 19:54:35

get them to watch supernanny.
clear simple rules, definite punishments, lots of rewards and cuddles.
they will see an improvement very soon.
the whole family have to take part though, so plan it together first. and get the school in on it - tell them about the system so they can back you up.

dorsetpennt Sat 21-Apr-12 09:31:40

Granbunny is right about watching Supernanny and perhaps adopting some of her methods. Children really only require our time and get upset when for many reasons we can't give them as much as they'd like. One of Jo Frosts themes is consequences for good and bad behaviour . A new baby does require some understaanding by the parents as far as the older child is concerned - of course this all depends on the age of the older sibling. We have a 3 year old GD and a nearly 6 month old GD - the older one has been quite good. She will give her little sister the odd prod and will act up when MIL is breast feeding. I can remember really hating my little brother and apparently wasn't trusted to be on my own with him even for a little while. Of course I outgrew this and became his protector. Friends of my son and wife has four children, one of who is 3 years old and is known as 'the bolter' - her raison d'etre is to escape. She is destructive, nasty to her little sister etc etc. No amount of telling off nicely or crossly has any effect - just a glare from her then escape again to wreak havoc. She is coming to my MIL tomorrow for GD's 3rd birthday and the family are putting everything out of reach and the house/garden to be made secure. Watch this space

grandadR Sat 21-Apr-12 13:25:05

I have come into a family where the first reaction to being shouted at by a 3 year old is to shout back "Don't shout at me it's rude". I just don't get it, and just try diversion, with a gentle word like "please don't do that, it upsets people". Sometimes I then get shouted at for being un-supportive --- oh well, the mum is getting much better as time passes. There is a "naughty step", but to be honest, my first reaction is to go and sit next to her, which I believe defeats the purpose.


gillybob Thu 26-Apr-12 14:29:26

vampirequeen I love the idea of the pennies in a jar and am going to suggest this to my son and daughter in law. I will start them off with the jars and the pennies ! Thanks.

Mishap Thu 26-Apr-12 18:17:09

I think the basic problem is that WE know what needs to be done - but they are not doing it!! The dilemma is whether we say anything. The situation is very difficult sometimes and looking at it from the outside we can see that there is a need for clearer boundaries - but how can we say without risking offence

dahlia Sun 29-Apr-12 15:19:28

There was an interesting article in "The Times" yesterday about a book called "Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting: The Revolutionary Programme that Transforms Family Life" by Noel Janis-Norton (out here on 10th May). Don't have much truck with this kind of thing usually, especially when it comes from US as does this book, but some of the things in the article made good sense such as allowing each child quality time with one parent or suitable adult each day, set aside especially. Another one is recommending that, instead of calling up the stairs "Are you ready yet", you take the time to go up the stairs and face the child, to spell out your serious intention. The author worked with all kinds of families both here and in US, first as a teacher and then as a counsellor, using the good techniques she had learned from outstanding teachers in her working life. If you get the chance to read the article, you will, I'm sure, find it interesting.

kate1947 Sun 29-Jun-14 14:32:30

Hi I look after my two grandsons in their own home 1 day a week and 1 afternoon, I love them dearly, but I am wondering how to disipline them when out of control and saying NO with a stern face repeatedly doesn't work and they just think it's funny and carry on doing it. They are 4 and 2 any suggestions?
PS my son and daughter in law are not together and I find it difficult to bring it up with my DIL as I dont think she disciplines them at all. they sleep in her bed as she finds it easier than to keep putting them back in their own beds, which makes it difficult if I'm babysitting