Billy Bad Ass

*Deeeeeep Sigh*

I am having serious issues. My precious, darling, cutest baby boy in the world has morphed into a Creature of Badness. No, we’re not supposed to talk about our kids like that, but hey, I’m amongst family, right?

Right. So let the venting begin.

Maybe I need to back up a minute and state, for the record, that I truly believe behavior is learned, either by mimicking the behavior of those in one’s immediate society, by direct behavior modifcation efforts from authority figures, or by indirectly picking up things along the way from more external sources, like media, for example. I believe that children absorb everything around them and it influences how they think, the choices the make, and, consequently, their behavior.

With that said, there are certain ages where children just begin to lose their ever-loving minds!!! This is one of those times I’m guessing.  My son went from being sweet-faced, obedient, always wanting to please to being angry, rude, disrespectful, disobedient, and just all around bad.

And it is driving me up the wall!

I spend weekends with him and he is with his father during the week. Its only about 3 days (from Friday evening to Monday morning) but it comes out to being more hours than his father spends with him during the week. It’s usually just he and I, one-on-one, mano a mano. I’d say maybe 15-20% of that time is pleasantly spent laughing, playing, reading, doing fun things.  The rest of the time is spent fussing, fighting, yelling, disciplining, dragging, popping, and all other types of foolish defiance-induced struggling.

I had to step back the past couple of weeks and think of what might be contributing to this behavior. I thought about his being 3 year old and how every article I’ve read says that its the 3s that are the real trouble, not the 2s. Ok, I’ll give him that. I thought about how rapidly he is developing physically, mentally, and emotionally, and how difficult it must be to try and navigate all of these internal changes being only 3 years old. Poor guy, right? I thought about the separation, and how it might be causing issues for him as he tries to adjust to his family being separated and his going back and forth between two homes. That’s a lot to deal with at 3. I thought about how, in his new child care setting, he is allowed a lot more freedom and provided with a lot less discipline than he once was. His father’s step-mother is his primary caregiver, and let’s be honest, she spoils him rotten (like she did her own sons).

My son has become a demanding little beast who does not take “No” for an answer. Everything is a negotiation. He  went from always saying, “Mommy can I have some juice please?” to “Mommy. Juice.” I spent an entire weekend retraining him to ask politely for the things he wants. And then, when he does ask and I say “No”, his response is “But Mommmmmmmy, you can’t say ‘No’!” or he comes and hits me, scowls his face, and follows up with “You don’t tell me ‘No’!” or somehing to that effect. Or, he comes back 5 seconds later, “How about now?”

Wait… what? Where did he learn that mess?? Who is jumping at every demand that he puts forth that he ever got it into his mind that 1. it’s ok to make demands 2.  it’s ok to hit me and 3. it’s ok to yell at me and tell me what to do??

As the young folks say, “Where they do that at?”

I feel like I spend the majority of our time in disciplinary mode and it is wearing me out! It is making it very difficult for me to enjoy my time with my son and thus making it hard for me to connect with him the way I want to. Since connecting with him has been an issue since he was born, for other reasons, this concerns me a great deal. I feel like I’m playing Good Cop, Bad Cop, and guess which one I am?

Occasionally, I feel a sense of dread when I have to pick him up, especially if I know he hasn’t taken a nap that day (which happens often because his caregivers aren’t making him nap). I prepare for the inevitable evening meltdown that will ruin any plans I had for that time and I prepare myself for battle. When I drop him off on Mondays, sometimes I breathe a sigh of relief.  Then, I feel sad for ever feeling this way.

I’m doing my best to remain consistent in my disciplinary tactics, but little is working short of popping him with the “Bad Boy Stick” which is a wooden spoon. Even then, he stares at me like “So? That’s all you got?” and I feel horrible for having spanked him (I’m already against spanking). When I see how ineffective it is, it makes me feel like it’s not worth it. Someone recently said, “Hit him harder”, but is that the answer? Really?

He has always had an indepedent streak. I try to support it. He wants to do things on his own, so I allow him the space to do that. But with that comes often bad behavior that I have to correct, when I feel no one else is. The other day, I had reached a breaking point and I was in near tears asking him, “Why are you so mean to Mommy? Why do you behave like a bad boy so much? Why can’t we have fun and smile and laugh and play?”

He started crying and said “I’m so sorry Mommy!!” and threw his arms around me wimpering. He then said, “Because I want Daddy here”. I don’t want to believe that he understood what I was asking well enough to answer that way, but at the end of the day, I think I have my answer.

7 thoughts on “Billy Bad Ass

  1. aww, mommy, I can soooo feel where you are coming from. I’m dealing with a two year old who is giving the business, and he doesn’t have the same things to cope with, so part of me wants to say its a phase, but then, when your little sun gives you an answer that is so clear, how can I ignore that the shifting events in his life may be at the source of his conflicts.

    I’m sure you’ll ride this out, and you’ll be able to get to the source of what it is that is creating these issues with his behavior. until then, pray! *smile*

    ….back in the day, when we were growing up on L.I., mom and dad would throw us in the back yard and let us “play the devil out”. by the time we came back in, we would be so worn out, there wasn’t any fight left. do you have any outlets where he can just play it out?

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    1. Well. I take him to gym class on Sundays, but even his coaches noticed a difference. He had to be removed from class for the first time ever for misbehaving. Then a coach came up to me later on and was like “What’s going on with Garvey?” I was so embarassed and sad at the same time. I spoke with one of the directors the other day and even HE noticed it.

      I feel like we’re failing him somehow.

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  2. I disagree that children learn bad behavior. I think that if I could get what I wanted by saying two words (Mommy. juice.) rather than 7 (Mommy, can I have some juice, please?) I would. NOOOOO! is more verbally pleasing than Yes. I think we do have to teach polite behavior – children are naturally self-absorbed and care only about themselves. We have to teach them to care about others.

    I think you need to talk to his other caregivers and come up with a joint plan. At three, I’m not sure that he quite understands that different homes have different rules. Certain things are not to be tolerated – he must be polite to everyone, not hit, etc. That is not too much to ask his other caregivers to adhere to.

    As far as the fact that he is going through changes – yes he is. But I don’t think I necessarily buy that his behavior is due to the changes in his life. He is well loved by everyone around him. Your divorce has been amicable and his situation is wonderful. I honestly think he is simply spoiled and for the majority of the time, he does not have rules and consequences.

    My children continue to demand things and I have to remind them daily, sometime each time they ask for something, to ask politely, and they are not going through a divorce. My 2, almost three year old yells at me and hits me, but she has consequences, such as long time-outs or things taken away from her, or occasionally the spoon. And she’s not going through a divorce. My 4-year-old tells me, “Don’t ever do that again!” like he’s MY daddy, and he’s not going through a divorce. But he gets consequences, and our time spent with this kind of behavior is like 15%. There is a consequence each and every time. I don’t care if they are sick, or whatever. There is no excuse for nasty behavior.

    G is old enough for consequences now. Take away the TV, toys, trips you were going to take. Put him in time out, letting him know that he wouldn’t be there if he acted right. He can’t go to gym classes if he doesn’t know how to act. You can use positive reinforcement, too. I use stickers for good behavior, like cleaning up the toys, and eating food nicely. You can use it for talking nicely to mommy, or you can give a treat for good behavior at gym class. I ask my babysitter if A gets a good report at the end of the day. If he does, then he gets a treat. If not, then there is a consequence.

    You are NOT failing your son. He is acting like a normal three year old who does not have consistent discipline. He is also acting like a normal three year old who is going through a disobedient phase. But don’t give up. All parents go through this time of just wanting to give their kids back when it seems like they are acting up all the time. You are going through yours.

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  3. My little Dood is 4. He’s rambunctious, quite the negotiator, and gets in trouble for pushing at least 2x a month at preschool. At his age the only thing that keeps him straight is taking away privileges which include his current fav (30 mins on my DS). Taking away his game time is a kin to starving him of air. It’s that serious. The other day he told me that we’re no longer best friends b/c he lost his game time for the day being rude. Most of the time he’s my awesome lil’ Dood.

    It gets better! 2 years ago I stopped going out to eat b/c of his behavior. I have suffered entire weekends on involuntary lock down avoiding a public meltdown from him. What I finally noticed was that his behavior issues escalated after back to back rainy days (less out door play) or when Daddy worked long days (less Daddy time). Daddy has learned to adjust his schedule for more Dood time & we’ve found new indoor adventures to tire his lil a$$ out! LOL! Again, it gets better & you are far from alone.

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  4. My son is 2 3/4 so I feel your pain.

    I have two pieces of advice:
    1. Read the book “playful parenting.” It helps deal with children’s fears etc. AND interrupts the endless back-and-forth and escalation. Whenever I feel like I’m going to lose my mind, I sit down with this book. It helps.

    2. Try verbalizing your son’s feelings for him. Like, if he hits you, you could say “you’re feeling really angry at me right now, aren’t you, because I didn’t give you x”. Or, if he’s more verbal, help him to work through it: like, “what’s going on with you that made you hit me?” There’s this saying among foster parents–“parent the need, not the behavior”–which I find really useful at moments like the ones you’re describing. I find, with my son, if I just start to show him that I understand what he’s feeling, I get way less resistance and attitude, and much more cooperation.

    3. Okay, I lied. I have 3 pieces of advice. Put the spoon away. It’s not helping and it’s making you feel bad. I would tell him that you’re done with that method of discipline, and say something like “both of us are going to stop hitting.”

    Good luck. It’s hard. Don’t beat yourself up.

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    1. Thank you!

      I do talk to him. He is fully capable of saying “I’m mad!!” or “I’m sad Mommy”. He’s reached the point fo verbalizing his emotions. I do get down on his level, look him in the face, and we talk.

      The last couple of weeks, he has been SO much better. I think doing a stint with me for a few days and going to his old sitter for a few days got him back in line. Plus, he was in a newer gym class and we switched him back to gymnastics. He did SO well. I think being in environments that were more familiar to him helped him settle down a bit. Even going back with his dad, they say he is behaving better, listening more, being more helpful and polite.

      I’ve pinpointed the problems/issues. But hopefully when he starts pre-school in a few weeks, we can mitigate that.

      And I havent used the stick since writin this 🙂

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      1. So glad to hear that it’s going better! It’s amazing, isn’t it, how it can get so bad so fast and then also get so much better so much more quickly than you ever expect. I guess that’s why it’s often called a roller-coaster. 🙂

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