SS--backsliding---moms/SMs of boys, I need advice!

lovehadleyNovember 19, 2009

The last month or so SS has really been backsliding in his behavior/attitude. It is mostly with DH and not me. (I don't know for sure how he is with his mom, but apparently, BM complains to DH a lot that SS doesn't listen to her, is disrespectful, etc) For the most part, SS is generally pleasant and well-behaved with me. We are in a good routine of me picking him up 2-3 days a week, and then DH usuaally works half-days on Sat. and I do stuff with the kids.

The beginning of the school year went GREAT. He was doing well, and for the first time ever, enjoyed school! We were so happy!

The last 4 weeks or so have been not-so-great. I don't know how to say this other than to say it---SS just seems UNHAPPY. Quite frankly, he has always kind of been a "negative nelly." DH has even said at times that he worries that SS has either inherited this trait, or learned it, from his BM. BM is the kind of person who is just chronically unhappy, and she seems to try to make other people unhappy.

SS has been SO moody and emotional lately, worse than ever before. Every little thing is an argument or a fight. He HAS to have the last word with everything, he bristles at ANY kind of gentle correction, and everything he takes as a personal attack. He is also MEAN at times. He will get angry about something and lash out at DD or at DH---never me, ironically. DH has really been cracking down on his attitude---sends him to his room for backtalk, puts him to bed early, gave him a list of chores to do, etc.

It's really bad. DH says something and SS's response is "Oh my GOD Dad." Or he'll say "I HEARD you already, DAD. You don't have to act like I'm DEAF." Or "You don't have to be so stupid, DAD." "GEEZ, DAD. Leave me alone." "I HATE DD. I wish she weren't alive." "I hate you DAD. You are terrible."

Those are just examples I can recall off the top of my hea of things SS has said recently that shocked me.

Then, inevitably, DH gets angry, and lays down a consequence----ie, going to his room, doing an extra chore, loss of Wii time, etc. THEN SS bawls and carries on about how awful his life is, how terrible his dad is, how he hates him, etc.

It makes me think of a teenage girl, honestly. Is this NORMAL coming from a 7 yr old boy?

I don't have any comparison other than DD and, while she has her moody moments, it is nothing compared to this. She rarely backtalks, and on the occasions that she does, I nip it in the bud quickly. But agin--I cannot really compare the two b/c they are two different children with two different life experiences. DD has a stable home, she stays in one place, she doesn't have a parent who drinks, etc. SS has had a LOT of emotional turmoil in his life.

something is *off* lately and DH and I were talking last night and again this morning (after a big tantrum from SS) about what the deal is. My first thought is that something is going on at BM's house. BM herself has been really irritable with DH lately, trying to pick little fights about this or that, etc. DH has, thankfully, not engaged, but he's mentioned to me that she is just crabby lately.

WWYD? Talking to BM is pretty much worthless. And how much of this is typical for a 7 yr old boy?

I want to clarify, too, SS is NOT like this ALL the time. He has plenty of moments/days where he is happy-go-lucky and fine. But it seems like the other moments are becoming more frequent, like they used to be.

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I honestly think it is mostly the age. We went through something very similar with DS for almost 2 years. It has eased up the past year, but it's still there a little bit.

I attributed it to him testing his independence. It's like he was getting older and needed more responsibility, but wasn't old enough to really understand responsibility. He was testing out boundaries and, in response, I was testing his maturity and seeing what things he could start handling.

For instance, at 7, DS was already getting his own breakfast in the mornings (cereal) and making his bed. But he needed to more responsibility. So I started making him responsible for taking his vitamins. Up until this point, I would get them out for him and give them to him. So I talked to him and told him that I wasn't going to remind him any longer and that he needed to take his vitamins every day, but that it would be his responsibility to remember.

And we've gradually worked up his responsibility level. He's almost 11 now and there are a lot of things he's responsible for. Sometimes he slips and forgets or doesn't do as thorough a job as he should. But with a little correction, he gets back on track.

Maybe you could try giving him a little more room to make mistakes? We have to make mistakes and even get into trouble to learn not to make that mistake again. My DH was mortified when I started letting DS get his own breakfast. He was actually afraid of spilled milk. LOL! I told him that 1) he shouldn't cry over it (he, he, he) and 2) so what? If DS spills some milk, he will clean it up. DS will learn how to not spill the milk and how to clean it up correctly.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 11:26AM
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This is a good idea, Ashley. I am a big believer in kids will live up to what you expect of them. My DD attends an accelerated (but laidback & warm, at the same time) private school. They work a grade level ahead of the public school curriculum and my DD is advanced, even for that. In 2nd grade, she is able to read at the 4th/5th grade level. Her teacher this year is FABULOUS and sends the kids home with assignment notebooks, etc. She made a big deal at the beginning of the year about how the KIDS, not the parents, are responsible for keeping track of assignments, what test is when, etc. She checks each child's notebook at the end of the day to make sure it's correct, but THEY are responsible for looking on the board and seeing what is due when. She stressed to the parents at back-to-school night about how if a child forgets homework at school, PLEASE don't bring them back to get it. She said it is no big deal to have them just do it the next night, and that the consequence of having extra homework the next night will speak volumes. She is a caring, attentive teacher, but she does NOT coddle the kids and I like that! She will make them re-do assignments if it's not written neatly, etc. I know this might make her sound like a Nazi, but she's not----she just expects a lot out of the children and they certainly meet those expectations.

SS probably could use extra responsbility. He has always been a big complainer about anything we ask him to do, whether it's helping carry in groceries, sweeping in his bedroom or setting the table. I don't mean to speak negatively---it's not a character flaw or anything, it's just one of his quirks, he really doesn't like to "help." I think presenting those things to him like we KNOW he is a "big boy" and is capable of helping out more might make him feel better about himself. Maybe??? I don't know. Just getting him to take his plate in from the table is a battle most of the time. A LOT of this issue is from BM, I believe. Seriously---according to SS---she still FEEDS him bites of food at the table. He tells DH all the time that he would eat more veggies or eat more of this/that if DH would feed him the bites like his mom does. EEEEEK.

I think much of it also is that he is very sensitive. He takes so much as a "personal attack." It's like his feelings are genuinely hurt if a consequence is laid out for him. We had issues w/his lunchbox not too long ago. He packs at his mom's a lot, and when he brings the lunchbox home, it is filled with old food, trash, etc. He puts half-filled pudding containers back in, half-filled juice boxes, old sandwiches, etc. and it makes a terrible mess. DH kept reminding him to throw his trash away AT SCHOOL and finally--DH just said "that's it, LH and I are NOT cleaning your lunchbox out anymore, from now on, it's your responsibility." He had to wash it out at the sink and the few times he did, he sobbed and cried about how gross it was. That was our point---and we hoped it would encourage him to think twice at school about it. But in recent weeks, he just buys his lunch mostly now, so it's not come up again.

I don't know. A lot of it is tough b/c I try to keep a step back and let DH handle things.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 11:46AM
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lovehadley, I have a 7 year old boy. I don't think it's the age, while reading your post I was trying to remember your SS's age thinking he was a teen or a tween. I don't think any of what you described is "typical" at all at 7.

Calling Dad stupid? What the Who? That would earn a spanking (because my DS7 knows we'll spank we don't ever have to do it if you know what I mean, peace through strength), loss of privileges meaning not just Wii time but the taking away of the Wii and a time out on his bed alone. Pronto!! I feel this is a discipline issue and your DH is correct in coming down on SS. He could come down harder to my way of thinking.

I'm pretty old school on the issue of respect for adults. Whether BM is with the program or not, it sounds like a crackdown is in order. A little therapy couldn't hurt but mostly I think your SS has to be taught what will fly and what won't. Hope I didn't sound too tough but you asked "WWYD?" Put my foot in his little behind and watch the attitude fade away.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 12:18PM
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Also LH,

After all of the things I said above were done, my DS7 and your SS7 would and should be made to apologize. Think of it this way, if he is saying all of this at 7, what will he say at 17 if it's allowed to progress?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 12:23PM
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I definitely dont think I have the best ideas, but when something works for me, I'm gonna share it with everyone I know! :) Something I recently did with DS:

I want him to start helping DH with things around the house. I don't want him thinking that just because he is the SS that he can just expect DH to handle all home-related chores (lawn care, leaves, pool, garbage, etc.) So I told DS that we would start with helping DH gather the trash the night before trash pickup. I don't want DS doing it all by himself yet. So DS gathers the trash baskets from the bathrooms and dumps them into the main trash bag.

DH didn't know DS and I had talked about it, so he was really impressed and appreciative of DS's "initiative", which, in turn, made DS feel like he did something great.

Maybe you could start with something like that.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 12:24PM
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Also, I agree with Lamom about the disrespect thing. I was in NO WAY saying the disprespect should go un-checked. I was saying that the over-sensitivity and not wanting to help out and general back-talking are age-related issues.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 12:28PM
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"I was saying that the over-sensitivity and not wanting to help out and general back-talking are age-related issues."

I wonder if this is a boy vs girl thing then.

I say this because DD loves to help around the house! She loves to set up a foot-stool at the sink and do the dishes! HEEHEE. I take advantage while I can b/c I know it won't last forever! She also has a "sweeping fetish." I honestly think it's something about the immediate results---she loves to sweep her bedroom floor and empty the dust/etc into the trash. We have a big front porch and she will voluntarily go out and sweep that, it's funny, DH and I crack up about her "broom fetish!" LOL.

I don't know...maybe it's a girl vs boy issue, or maybe DD is unusual in this respect. I know it's common for little children, like preschoolers, to love to help, but DD still enjoys it. The one thing she groans about--I fold the laundry on the couch and then give the kids their pants/socks/underwear to put away, and she will sometimes grumble about that.

As far as backtalking, I don't disagree that it's normal to a certain extent. DD will get snippy/huffy with me at times. I actually think she's better than she used to be. I found she was more diva-ish/demanding at age 5-6.

LAmom, our kids are both 7.5 SS's bday is in April, DD's in May.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 12:41PM
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I did not have time to read your other posts, so sorry if this is a repeat of anything anyone else mentioned.

My 11 year old son has gone through phases similar to what you mentioned. What we have done is try to show him positive behaviors. The more negative he was the more positive and upbeat we would attempt to be. We really tried to watch our own complaining or negativity. Also if it got ridicuous with him just spewing out complaints I would tell him that we are done with complaints and all I will listen to is happy thoughts. If its not happy keep it to yourself!

Another thing we did and still do is if my son says something inappropriate to us like the things you mentioned we call him out on it. We say something like "what you just said is not acceptable. when you can think of an acceptable way to express your feelings come talk to me, until then we are done speaking." For my son he absolutely hates to be ignored so it does the trick!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 1:10PM
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My DS7 is a relatively new 7, his birthday is in late September. Chores are a good thing without question. BUT, kids need to know that disrespect will not be tolerated, at all, PERIOD.

LH, crackdown or encourage DH to crack down. Kids need discpline, it's no secret that they secretly crave it from someone they respect.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 1:14PM
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I do think it's partially a difference between boys and girls. My neices, when they lived with me, would always want to help out with dinner or whatever I needed help with. And the oldest one is the same age as DS. You really can't compare boys to girls at any age because they are just SOOOO different. My neices craved being around someone all the time. My son would rather be by himself most of the time. My son's have very short answers to most questions, while my neices would just talk and talk and talk for hours, if I let them.

He is testing the boundaries. And your DD will go through a stage similar to this at some point as well. Also, boys have a whole "rite of passage" thing they go through with their fathers until they are grown (maybe even after). So the arguing with DH is a lot of testing his "manliness", if you know what I mean.

When DS was about 8 or so (and maybe some moms with kids who are older will agree with me) he started trying out his scarcasm. His father is a very scarcastic person and so is his GF. They interact with eachother in scarcastic ways that sometimes come off as mean ("why would girls like you; you're ugly?" and things like that).

The problem with scarcasm is it's all about timing and delivery; not the actual words. At 8 DS was trying to develop his timing and delivery, but mostly just came off like a jerk. He went about trying to joke with people (adults and classmates), but would end up insulting them and not knowing why. We had so many arguments about it. I would say "that was rude" and he would say "I was just joking, mom".

Anyway, it took him a year or so to work through it (he's almost 11 now), and now he is SOOOO funny; cracking up everyone (even the adults). But it was a painful process for everyone as he was maturing into his own sense of humor. He had to learn what was off-limits and what okay to joke about.

I don't think most girls go through that stage. LOL!

I read this wonderful book called Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secrets of a Man's Soul by John Eldredge. It really gave me a lot of insight into the process of boys becoming men and that it starts from birth. And it helped me navigate through some pretty difficult times.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 2:49PM
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wel i do not have a boy but do know a lot of children. not doing chores, being lazy, nagging or being defensive is typical for any kids of any age, but calling parents stupid, saying i hate you, i wish you weren't here is not typical at all. in fact it is disturbing. does he have impulse control issue, ADD, or some other limitations? I think he has poor self-control. if he says these things at 7 what is going to be at 15?

on the other hand what is typical? DD hated helping around the house and I had to force her to do any chores, she never wanted to do anything on her own. she was happy reading 24/7. I don't remember her ever sweeping or doing anything around the house unless being forced.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 7:21PM
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One extra thought-- I read something recently written by a woman whose daughter started acting up. She found out later that the girl was being bullied at school. I guess the attitude at home was a spillover from the unhappiness at school. Could there be something going on there? Have you or your husband heard anything from his teacher lately? Or has your SS said anything about the other kids?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 8:31PM
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SS went through a spell like that when he was 8. It was BRUTAL.

He pitched huge screaming tantrums of "I HATE you! You're the worst dad in the WORLD! I wish I was DEAD!"
DH used to yell right back at him, but I convinced him to quietly say "I'm sorry you feel that way, A__, because I love you and am happy you're alive. You can go to another room until you are ready to apologize."

He'd go away for somewhere between 30 seconds and 90 minutes, and he'd come back ready to be nice and move on. Upon his return and apology, we'd reply "Thank you for apologizing. I accept your apology. Would you like to get on with what we were doing now?"

A__ seemed to feed off getting a response to his outbursts, like he was looking to get yelled at and punished. So when we quit responding that way, he quit looking for it.
He still gets p1ssy sometimes and we tell him it's OK to be mad or upset, but it's not OK to treat people poorly. That seems to click with him.

I didn't think it would work. But it did.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 8:50PM
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Ceph advice is good. I'd also suggest taking SS for a chat when he's not being mouthy and saying something like, "I've noticed lately you seem to be unhappy. You're not behaving like the boy who used to visit. Is something bothering you?" He'll probably say "nothing" at first so persist until you're sure it's nothing.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 8:57PM
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"A__ seemed to feed off getting a response to his outbursts, like he was looking to get yelled at and punished. So when we quit responding that way, he quit looking for it.
He still gets p1ssy sometimes and we tell him it's OK to be mad or upset, but it's not OK to treat people poorly. That seems to click with him. "

This reminds me so much of SS, Ceph. He has ADHD or ADD, right? I often feel like there is some underlying issue with SS....but it's not been brought up by his teacher at all this school year, so maybe it's just me.

I have this nagging feeling that BM is drinking again. I do believe she didn't drink from April through now. The last few weeks with HER, she's been crabby w/DH and, according to him, making snide comments about me, etc. This is how she was before---in April, she seemed to quit drinking, and from about July-now, she had been very quiet and pleasant to DH. Something seems *off* with her now. Little things are starting to add up. Tonight, for example, she didn't call SS at all. Ordinarily, she calls around 4-5 pm and then again at bedtime. DH gave SS the phone at 7 pm and told him to call BM and say goodnight. He left a vmail and it's 8:15 and she's not called back. I know that might not sound weird, but trust me, for BM that is STRANGE! That is how she would be when she was out drinking---she'd not take SS's calls, or she'd call drunk, or she'd forget bedtime and call once he was in bed. SS was very worried when she didn't answer, either. :( I think he picks up on vibes from her a lot more than we give him credit for.

I can't put my finger on it.....but SS was in such a happy moood most of the summer and fall---and now he's not...and BM is acting weird, too. Seems TOO coincidental to me.

The woman is about 3 months pregnant, too---so if I find out she is....I am going to FLIP my wig.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 9:17PM
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Yes, A__ has ADHD.
He's coming up on 11yo now, and he is MUCH better at coping with his ADHD and his emotions than he was at 8. I credit this to several key causes:
1) He is older and wiser.
2) We have worked on tooshies off with him to provide him with coping techniques.
3) Less time with GM and more time with BM (who has stepped up a lot in the last year - in part due to her fiance. I still disagree with many of her parenting choices, but she's 50-fold improved)

Even on days where ADHD isn't getting the better of A__, he still sometimes looks for negative attention. When that happens, we try to remove ALL attention until he is ready to receive positive attention.

And we frame it just like that to him:
"A__, you seem to be looking for attention right now; but I think you are looking for bad attention. Please come back when you are ready for good attention."
"A__, that was not a very nice thing to say. You can go to your room until you are ready to apologize and be nice. Then we will continue with ___what_we_were_doing__."
"A__, I realize that you are angry, and that's OK. But until you can deal with your anger in a nice way, I don't want to be around you. When you are ready to talk about what is bothering you, please come back and we can figure this out."

Do you think your DH would be able to switch to an approach like that?
Unless it is a "major offense," A__ doesn't usually get an additional consequence after we have started fresh. We've found that this is eliciting better behavior from him that when we tried stricter consequences for the same behaviors.

For example: A few weeks ago, A__ had a minor mouth-off to me when asked to put on his coat to play outside. He was informed that he could go out when he was ready to apologize for his smart-mouth and wear his coat. Five minutes later he came out of his sulk and said "Ceph, I'm sorry for being rude and I would like to play outside and I will wear my coat." So off he went and all was well.
But later that day, when we were headed to the hockey game and discovered he had shoved hunks of cinder blocks under the tires of the car, but shouted that he "didn't give a crap" when we said this was a problem... Well, we still had hockey tickets we had paid for, so we decided he wouldn't get to roam and wander at the game (he loves to roam the arena), no snacks or treats at the game, and straight to bed when we got home. He apologized partway through the game. We accepted his apology, and the next morning, we just started from scratch with a new day.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2009 at 1:03AM
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