Dad's Defiant Son Needs Discipline

I'm a parent seeking advice from all the professional nannies on this blog. Our nanny just quit, after about 7 months. She was not happy, and the reason she cited was our eldest son, now 7. She says she just can't click with him - he is defiant towards her, rude, argumentative, doesn't obey when she sets limits (eg screen time), doesn't stay in time-outs if it escalates to that - he just ignores time-outs. Taking away privileges seems to have limited effect. Reinforcement like praising him when he is polite seems to help when I am there, as he doesn't act like this around me - but then we get this behavior going on when I am not there. She said, someone has to do something about him because she just can't get him under control. I feel awful. I feel like I've been a poor parent to hear my son is behaving this way. Frankly I am embarrassed. Maybe I have been too uninvolved in the specific minutiae of his day. I've been working my tail off, and it seems that I have neglected my parental duties. He appears to need stronger discipline. But I am at a loss as to what to do. So I am asking for parenting advice.

We interviewed new nannies, and found someone who seems like a good fit. I really want to set her up for success and make sure she has the resources and support she needs. I don't want a repeat of what happened (I told her what happened so that she was well aware before taking the job). What should I be doing to ensure that she is understood to be the authority when my son is under her supervision? How can I encourage her or help her to assert authority? I want him to enjoy time with her, but I also want him to respect her. How should I approach discipline? I have never used spanking, but I am not philosophically opposed to it if handled calmly and sanely - should I introduce that if he defiantly refuses to stay in a time-out? What's the best way to balance my work demands (economy so hard right now) with my need for a nanny to effectively be a proxy parent for the hours she is supervising him? How should I support a new nanny and what directions should I give her? Any helpful words and approaches appreciated. - DadSeekingHelp


MissMannah said...

Dad, I don't know the whole story because I didn't hear the ex-nanny's side, but what this situation looks like to me is the nanny was ill-prepared for dealing with a defiant child. I believe you when you say your son doesn't act like this for you, because he respects you. He didn't respect the nanny, nor did she demand it of him, so he quickly learned he could walk all over her.

As for discipline techniques, do NOT introduce spanking--it has been proven time and again that it does not work. In my opinion (and I am somewhat alone in this), time-out does not work either. Your son obviously doesn't care for it, so why bother using it anymore? Try taking away privileges and adding chores, if his behavior escalates to the point that punishment is necessary. Hopefully you have hired a new nanny who has experience with these sort of challenges and will be better equipped to handle your son.

The most important part you can do is back the nanny up. If she wants to implement some sort of discipline strategy, be behind her and enforce it when she's not there.

Lyn said...

I like the idea of adding chores on days when your son misbehaves. I also think you should encourage your Nanny to tell you about "bad days" and how she corrected them, in front of your child at the transition time at the end of the day and then support her methods in front of the child vocally and after she leaves sit your son down and discuss the days situations with him, what you expect of him, and then introduce the extra chores as "punishment" to be completed right away.

Hopefully your next Nanny will be more aware of different techniques to gain children's respect early on so that you can all have the great days you deserve!

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RBTC said...

you are a great dad to be thinking of ways to back up the nanny and help your child learn what's right. Give us any updates

melissa said...

I agree that time outs don't work- especially for older children. I think adding chores is a great idea, but if he is defiant, it will be difficult to enforce those. I think taking away privileges is always a good teaching tool. A seven year old is old enough to be making choices and dealing with the consequences. A behavior chart might not be a bad idea either, particularly if he is involved in creating it and choosing what the reward might be. Good luck!

Nay The Nanny said...

I agree with Melissa completely. Behavior chart, he needs to understand that there are consequences for his behavior, both good and bad. If he behaves well according to the chart (which you and nanny both have access to) he will be rewarded, if not, he will be punished (discuss what the rewards and punishments will be beforehand.) I give you a lot of credit for asking for help, the economy is putting a strain on many parents who are struggling to pay the bills and also spend time with their kids. Make time however you can, have a Dad/Son time, even if its 2 hours on Sunday to throw a ball around. You sound like a good dad. Good luck.

oh well said...

Yes to what caring mom said. Your son behaves when you are around so it means that he understands and accepts authority. Also, no child misbehaves without a reason. Could it be that your son misses you and wants to spend more time with you (hence the bad behavior with the nanny)? Could there be a reason why he would not get along with the nanny (adults are not perfect, maybe she favored the younger ones who were not as strong-willed)? I think the best thing you can do to help your new nanny is to talk to your son, to let you know how you feel about working long hours (you want to spend time with him, but you have to work) and to find out how he feels about things. If your nanny had such a hard time with him, it can't have been much pleasant for him either. I find it interesting that your ex-nanny blames it all on a seven-year-old.
I would not be surprised if things rapidly improved with the new nanny if she is any good.

christine said...

How about a talk with your son? He's seven... not too young to understand that you have to work and in your absence there will be a nanny to care for him. Let him know how important it is to you that he and the nanny get along and that she is an adult and must be treated with the same respect he gives to you. Make sure he is on board and then listen to the nanny when she explains bad behavior- in front of your son. Work it all out together and make him part of the solution.

Fandango said...

Personally, I believe that with certain children, a single swat can be an effective tool to have in your toolkit of discipline (along with other methods, depending on the scenario).

However, I doubt you will find any professional nanny who would agree to ever swat her charge, much less administer a spanking.

The other suggestions above are good. Best of luck, and update us!

Bridge The Gap said...

Teach him self-discipline. Not to rely on outside sources to scare him into behaving the way you want him to. Its not working. And its not teaching him anything aside from to rely on someone else to dictate how he behaves. Read Parenting With Love & Logic.

EastBay Nanny said...

I have several thoughts. One is that I get the impression that you are a single parent. If divorce or separation is recent, this may be a factor that weighs in as much as anything else in how your child is behaving. Resentment/ anger/ lack of trust are givens for children who are working through related emotions. In my experience the effect of divorce is underestimated by many but can be a major factor in a child's changed behavior.

Assuming this is not the case for your family, I think it's crucial that you tell your prospective new nannies about this very specific challenge. Any professional will appreciate your open attitude about any issues you're facing- and they will respond supportively. If they do not, consider this a warning sign.

Also what strikes me is that it may be that your former nanny was hitting your child. I'm curious about whose idea this was- your nanny's or yours? It sounds to me like you are still deciding what your discipline philosophy is? If so, the sooner you're able to be clear, the more successful your nanny can be. Being on the same page is definitely crucial to maintain the consistency your child needs in order to meet expectations.

It is very common for adults to get caught in a never ending cycle of power struggle. Children will seek negative attention if it's the only attention they receive. I really wonder if this is what was happening for your ex- nanny and your son. I agree that POSITIVE discipline is in order. Some excellent books to start with are Jane Nelson's books, one of which is a classic: "Positive Discipline". I suggest you decide with your parent partner what will be "mountains" and what will be considered "mole hills" as far as what will require consequences. Much of parenting is choosing your battles. What is most important to you and what not so much? Be sure your nanny understands the difference.

My impression is that your son has had more punishment than is necessary and perhaps not enough positive exchange. If you find your nanny routinely "telling on" your son, there is a problem. And the problem is more your nanny. I feel very strongly about this point.

Finally, a new nanny will need to be in close touch with you in the first few weeks and months. Be proactive- check on her during the day. Ask if she has any questions. Ask her about the day's challenges. Keep communication wide open. Support her decisions and speak up immediately if you aren't sure. It's totally ok to say" I'm not sure how I feel about that idea- let me think about it." and then YOU decide.

Positivity. Compassion. Patience. Respect. These are what your child needs most.

If/ when "punishments" are felt to be in order- 7 years old is a perfect age to begin involving your son in deciding what punishment will look like. Having discussions about it with his input gives him some "buy in" and consequences are more likely to be respected. Kids often know and will be honest about what will make this most impact. Something along the lines of: "So I understand that you refused to finish your homework several times this week. I would like us to discuss this and come up with some new rules and consequences for breaking those rules. You are the kid who will be experiencing these consequences, an so I thought you might be a good person to consult about what you think a fair consequence can be...". Believe it or not- this works very well for many kids.

One last comment- taking things away that mean everything to a child will produce much larger issues than you intend. As a friend of mine relayed to me about his experience: the only thing that kept him attending High School was Band class. When his parents decided to refuse him practice of his instrument - the last tie he had to school vanished. He promptly dropped out of school and carries a chip on his shoulder to this day. I always suggest that parents are very careful about which behaviors will have which consequences!

Caring Nanny All Day said...

ITA East Bay Nanny. I even own "Positive Discipline" the book. I coudve written most of your post.

This is getting spoooooky! :p

PS: I owe you an apology. I said someone was you "attention whoring" because when they were accusing me of being you, I honestly(and I'm so sorry) thought it was you. My opinion of you has sense changed. You've handled yourself much better than I would have.

Melanie Raye Castor said...

I personally don't use spanking, and very very rarely use time outs.
I try to keep it positive as often as possible.

Caring Mom All Day said...

ITA Melanie Raye Castor.

From when its appropriate until the time my kids are too old for time outs, they've been on about six time outs. Isolating & ignoring a child does not address the behavior. When you remove the immediate threat of a time out (or a spanking) the behavior will return. The goal should be to teach the child to want to behave better, because it feels better. Because the natural consequences of poor behavior are uncomfortable and make people around them & themself uncomfortable and unhappy. If you don't get the childs internal dialouge going in a postive and self-corrective direction, you've accomplished nothing. A time out or a spanking is just a bandaid. What happens to bandaids after a while? They're ineffective. Lol

caring mom all day said...

I forgot to say that sometimes I think isolating and ignoring aka time outs are an effective tool. Depending on the particular situation. Sometimes a child just needs to calm themselves down. And in some situations a child probably would benefit from a time out-just in the way an adult would. We all have times where we need a minute to collect ourselves. Nothing wrong with that. I just don't think time outs should be punative. They just arent a long term solution to teach a child how to want to behave, that's all.

MissMannah said...

I couldn't agree more, re: time-outs. I only use them when the child obviously needs some alone time to gather his or her emotions and thoughts together. And then I don't call it "time-out" I call it calm down time. If we as adults need to remove ourselves from negative situations and calm down, why not children?

NannyTastic said...

You sound like a good dad who is honest and open with the new nanny. It is possible that your son didn't respect the old nanny. I know from experience, that children treat different people differently. I personally have your exact opposite problem. A nine year old respects me but not his mom. He is aggressive and even violent with his mom. I think the young lady who mentioned divorce and separation has good thoughts.

DadSeekingHelp said...

OP here. Thank you all so very much for your thoughts. Yes, I am a single parent. But so are many people and I will not let that be an excuse to allow my son to grow up to be an entitled brat who treats caregivers badly.
I think I am part of the problem – specifically, my relative lack of consistency. When I get home exhausted and he’s acted up, and the nanny is at her wits end, what needs to happen is for me to address his behavior– but it doesn’t happen. I haven’t seen him all day, so I cuddle up and read him a story and that’s it, we both fall asleep. I think also he may need a visual way of feedback for him to see how he is meeting expectations, as well as very bite-sized, measurable goals for behavior that he can meet and “check off”. For example, making his bed, or picking up after himself, etc. I think he needs some sort of check box on a chart that we can say each day, well done for that specific task. To date his positive goals have been more general (“I need you to be polite”), and his negative feedback has been more specific (“You may not shout that word at your nanny”). I think he needs to see visually that he IS able to meet behavioral expectations, simple and specific though they may be, and that will maybe help him to tackle the harder ones like temper control.
Consistency, always following through on what I say I will do, and an explicit, well defined structure of expectations with associated rewards and consequences. Those seem the absolute root of all effective behavior management. And I haven’t done them. There has been inconsistency between our nanny and me simply because I think we didn’t communicate the specifics of behavior on any given day nor a defined structure for discipline. So I guess that will be step one with new nanny: creating a system. Making it detailed enough so that both she and I can be as consistent as possible.
Another thing is immediacy. There has been too much of a time lag between a behavior and its resulting consequence – good or bad. My fault. Unavoidable though it may be due to work, I can’t make excuses, he’s my son. So I am NOT going to take away his most precious resource (screen time) because he only experiences that result that on the weekends. (I don’t allow him to play video games during the week, it’s over-stimulating and then impossible to get him into bed). I will however award extra screen time in the form of points or stars or something on a chart that he can see immediately.
One comment suggested introducing extra chores as a punishment. I am loathe to do that because I want him to see work as something good, something to make his environment better. I thought that it was a very good idea to involve HIM in the discussion of rewards and consequences. I know what his chosen reward will be: extra screen time! As for his consequences, hmm, not sure what he would come up with. My requirement will be that it needs to be immediate. Time outs don’t work. Taking away toys or privileges is too delayed.
This does still raise the question of “what happens when this framework & structure simply don’t work”. Notwithstanding some comments here, and I do respect where they are coming from, I AM going to tell him that he will earn a spanking if he refuses to adhere to the very disciplinary system that he helps to create (with both positive and negative aspects). Time outs don’t work with him, and I do believe there needs to be some “reset button”, something clear and immediate. I doubt I would ever need to use it if his nanny and I are consistent enough. The understanding that it’s there should he not adhere to his own disciplinary system is what I am after. And if I do spank him, it will need to be calm, with no yelling, yet meaningful enough, with a focused purpose to point him back to that system. I can’t very well ask our new nanny to spank him, but I will certainly tell her the program so she knows to remind him if it gets to that. Again though, if I tell him that it’s there and I don’t follow through with it, it loses all effectiveness.

Comments appreciated!

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Lyn said...

While I don't agree withh all that you've said in your update OP, I think it's wonderful that you've both recognized the problem and have come up with solutions for you and your son to get past this. :) Good luck with your new Nanny! I hope she is wonderful!

EastBay Nanny said...

OP- I really appreciate how open you've been here and your sincerity to do right by your son. I agree that a visual chore chart can work very very well for some kids. And I applaud you for thinking through the idea of assigning more chores as a punishment.

Now that you're clear about what methods of punishment you will use I caution you on this: please avoid placing your nanny in the position of reporting to you with the expectation that what your nanny says may result in a spanking. This will absolutely destroy all trust your son needs to establish with your new caregiver. She should never be expected to hold a spanking over your son's head. Big mistake.

DadSeekingHelp said...

Very good points, thank you.
@EastBayNanny: Excellent point regarding preserving and establishing trust between nanny and child. If the disciplinary plan he helps devise is clear and explicit, and contains twice the amount of positive behaviors and rewards compared to negative behaviors and consequences, and is consistently applied by both me and his nanny, I’d expect there should not be a dichotomy.

@CaringMomAllDay: You are right I need to hold myself accountable for consistency. As well as detailed involvement. It sounds horrible but I think I had been “delegating” the details of day to day parenting to his nanny, and that’s just not reasonable. It’s a trap I fell into because I thought, by hiring a professional nanny, I can concentrate on my work without guilt while my son is being taken care of. Thinking through it, that’s preposterous.
Regarding spanking as the sanction if he refuses to hold to his OWN discipline system. I don’t want to spank him – however I will if other methods fail. But I truly don’t see it as violence. Yelling, emotional manipulation, and emotional neglect are more violent to a child’s psyche long term. I think current studies have confused abuse with spanking, and there is not enough understanding and granularity around the whole spectrum of parental actions that can harm children. Any disciplinary action that primarily quenches some rage in the parent, whether expressed physically or verbally, is abusive and should be outlawed.
I would however be interested to ask whether you or anyone has ideas for a strong, immediate, clear disciplinary action I could use as an alternative if nothing works and if he won’t hold to his own disciplinary system. (I am hoping that by his devising his OWN system he will see it as fair and reasonable.) Time outs don’t work with him.

EastBay Nanny said...

Look into "logical consequences"- they're not the same every time because each instance can be different with different motivations/ causes. A consequence that logically pertains to the behavior makes good sense to kids and so can be effective. Many times kids can't make a connection between their wrong behavior and how to correct it or even what an alternative should look like. Kids need to be walked through these things. So.. If kiddo calls your nanny names, a very simple and important consequence is that he is required to listen to how this made nanny feel. At some point after he calms down, he needs to be accountable to the way his behavior Affects Others . He needs to be required to Listen. Consistently.

Erica said...

Hi Dad,
I must say I have a hard time imagining as articulate as you are that you have any problems with your son at all! (that was a compliment :)

Anyway, I think number one is consistency. I have a son about your child's age and for over a year he was more than a handful. Rude, obnoxious, never listened. I think a lot of it had to do with my leaving his father. Now being a single parent I had let him get away with too much because I felt guilty. Is this how your problem started? Trust me, you can get your son back.

I know this isn't something you want to do but as much as your child values screen time (same as mine) I used that as a form of punishment. I also started him out on some very basic chores, mainly to build some responsibility, and began giving him a weekly allowance (which he coveted so he could buy new games)

I also used a behavior chart. If he made it through the day without misbehaving and did his chores, he got a star that night before bed. I had him help me make the chart, let him pick out the stickers, etc. He loved being involved.

When Saturday came, he would get his allowance. Funny thing is, he became very good at saving, a responsibility I was happy to see.

I implemented the 3-strike rule. If he acted up, he got 3 strikes and was out, he would lose his star for the day (If he lost 3 stars for the week, he would lose his allowance, etc). Any small infraction would bring a strike: rolling eyes, talking back, raising voice... I made him accountable for every action. I was very surprised that I rarely had to go beyond 2 strikes.

Trying this would give your nanny some power. He needs to respect her. Try and get close with your son... talk often. Ask him how he's feeling, how was school, etc. He needs positive attention.

I can't believe the amazing child I have now. I stayed consistent, out-lined the rules for him (VERY important!) and he followed them. He does well in school now and is on the Honor Roll. Yes, it took a lot of work, but it was so worth it.

Have a sit-down with your son and nanny. Have this talk together. And stay connected.

Please keep us updated and let us know how you, your son, and nanny are doing! Good luck, you seem like a great dad!

EastBay Nanny said...

OP- also to touch on the divorce factor again. Your child acting out is not an indication of your lacking parenting skills. I understand that you don't want to make excuses for your sin's behavior, but honestly if there's any good excuse, emotional grief is about as valid an excuse there is. Your son will need to work through these feelings, or if not, he will routinely be mowed over by them. Very scary for kids to feel like they're out of control. But it's even worse when they're blamed for feeling what they feel. I urge you to separate for your son what emotions are overwhelming him and his behaviors that result. In other words, make it clear that it's OK to be angry and sad and resentful. That you aren't shaming him for the feelings that are 100% valid for him. State the names of these feelings for him every time. "Wow! You're obviously very mad right now. That's ok, but hitting me is not ok.". So so important for your son. I realize that men struggle with the "emotion thing" perhaps more than women (generalization). But please don't use that idea as an excuse to ignore your son's emotions. Yes, there are many single parents out there. No, it's not their "fault" that their children have behavior issues. But it's reality. The way to change this is to DEAL with these feelings. Therapy can be awesome! (Again, IMO not an "excuse" or sign of weakness- quite the opposite). Just wanted to be sure you didn't gloss over the grief thing. Please look at it. Acknowledge it for your son.

DadSeekingHelp said...

OP here.
@Erica: that's a really nicely laid out system you devised, thank you! I like its simplicity, that would help in maintaining consistency. I've read the book 123 Magic - just to clarify, you had a system where "3" was the loss of a star, and "2" was just one step closer to it, nothing different than "1"? In the 123 book they speak about the wisdom of having a single warning.
When I previously tried to implement a points system that he could trade for extra weekend screen time, it resulted in him asking me throughout the day whether each small action had earned him points. It became a nuisance. I wanted it to he an overall points score for the day's behavior. That has to be balanced against the need for immediate feedback. How did you balance those competing needs? If he did something "star worthy", did you say well done and that it would be considered in your discretion toward the end of day star? Or was there some form of immediately visual thing that you could do?
As mentioned in an earlier post, I want to have some way to show him intraday that he is achieving his goal. I want feedback on specific goals we have agreed on (eg making his bed), so that he can see that self control and responsibility equals accumulation of stickers, points, etc. Now what I am not sure of is how to achieve that without it becoming like that annoying Verizon commercial (Can you score me now? Can you score me now?)
@EastBayNanny: yes, the grief of separation is real and it occurred to me that he may have seen his previous nanny as trying to assume the maternal role, the only woman in charge in the house, which would likely cause resentment. If that is indeed the case, I wonder how to prevent that with our new nanny. Unfortunately I can't afford therapy right now. (I need to be in Canada or Australia where they have an actual public health care system!)

EastBay Nanny said...

OP- I so understand the cost factor and share your sentiment about health care. Yes, I believe you're onto something with the female caregiver connection to mom.

Reward systems do tend to have children focused more on the reward than desired behavior. Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivators are really important to think about. We want kids to want to behave for the right reasons (eg because it's the "right" thing to do). Not because of the ice cream on the other side. So it's a balance of factors, and hopefully with your visual system in place you will shape his behavior so that you can ease back the rewards as new behaviors become automatic.

EastBay Nanny said...

OP- I so understand the cost factor and share your sentiment about health care. Yes, I believe you're onto something with the female caregiver connection to mom.

Reward systems do tend to have children focused more on the reward than desired behavior. Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivators are really important to think about. We want kids to want to behave for the right reasons (eg because it's the "right" thing to do). Not because of the ice cream on the other side. So it's a balance of factors, and hopefully with your visual system in place you will shape his behavior so that you can ease back the rewards as new behaviors become automatic.

MissMannah said...

EastBay, I couldn't agree more. I don't believe in reward systems, I am more about progress. Back when I had a 4-year-old charge, he always had a hard time getting ready for school in the mornings and I found myself nagging him. So I started a sticker calendar and on days he got dressed with no problem, he got a sticker to put on the calendar and on days he fussed, he didn't get one. At the end of every month, we tracked his progress and I praised him for doing so well. I didn't hold over his head "You better get dressed so you get your sticker." He just knew what to do.

Dad, I have one concern about your updates. You said that you don't like taking away screen time because it more or less doesn't connect to the behavior. There's too much time that has passed to make it logical--I completely agree with that. However, isn't spanking setting up the same problem? If he misbehaves for nanny, she can't spank him, so you have to do it when you come home from work (when you're exhausted) and by then he may have forgotten all about the misbehaving.

DadSeekingHelp said...

OP here again.
@MissMannah: While that might seem to be a contradiction, I think it's important to note that I would never have spanking for a day to day behavior management tool. That would be only if he refused to use the framework for rewards & consequences he helps to create. As such, it would be reserved for if the whole "system" breaks down. I am thinking that is quite unlikely. I have never spanked him before in fact.

EastBay Nanny said...

OP- just know that he WILL test you. You will be choosing to spank him in order to follow through with your parameters. It will be your choice. Not his. He will test until he understands all bounds. Not because he willfully wants to make your night a nightmare. But because he really actually wants to please you, and before he knows how to do that, he needs to do some research and know the true bounds of the rules. In this case, you are preparing to hit him now, knowing that he WILL go there. And what if he goes there again and again? It's possible. Do you want to "win"? What are you willing to do to "win"? I have concluded it's not worth it.

DadSeekingHelp said...

That's a good point. And I don't want him to go there. You make a convinving argument.
How would you then suggest that I establish and maintain his continued compliance with a system of goals that he helps to devise? Because given that he will test the boundaries, it seems inevitable then that he will want to know what happens when he just disregards the "system" and blows right past it.

EastBay Nanny said...

OP- That's a very big question and I don't have a clear enough idea of what goals you have set for him. If there are specific questions about your "system" or the chores or behaviors that you expect, I might have better response for you regarding specific strategies, aside from corporeal punishment.

But it sounds like the idea that your son will choose to break the rules at all gives you a great amount of anxiety. Those of us who work with kids for a living know that it's a given. Kids will break the rules, or try. Not always and not all kids. But understanding this is a feature of their development helps to frame the problem solving.

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DadSeekingHelp said...

@CaringMomAllDay and @EastBayNanny:
Thank you. You're both very insightful and have indeed identified that I have an anxiety that if I ask him to create his own reward & consequence system, he won't stick to it. Now I really am revealing my innermost issues, that as a single parent, I won't be able to "manage". That my son will turn out to be compromised in some way because of my inadvertent choices, be those indifference, inattention, "busy"ness, divorce, or ignorance.
I'd very much appreciate any specific books you regard well about parenting boys. Especially wilful boys. I wonder if there is a book for single parents of boys.

EastBay Nanny said...

A book to start with: 10 Days to a less defiant child- helps parents tremendously in UnDERSTANDING their kids- crucial to real success :) Author is a PhD - Jeffrey Bernstein

Try not to overwhelm yourself- one read at a time :) there are many many resources

OP- your fears are totally normal. As a parent I relate even more to the worry that my child might turn out to be a horror. You will probably worry about this all your life. It means that you are a very engaged and caring dad :)

So, first step perhaps is realizing that your child is not the only kid in the block who is defiant. But defiance that continues as kids get older gets more dangerous and worrisome. You want to be sure that his defiance remains with in the bounds of healthy. If you can buy that some level of defiance actually marks different developmental milestones, you will be one step closer to understanding. That said, as I don't know the specifics of what his acting out looks like it's tough to give very specific suggestions. If he turns into Chucky every night I might have some different things to say, but I don't get that this is the case... Yet. ;))

EastBay Nanny said...

And please, please (please) read this: http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Cain-Protecting-Emotional-Life/dp/0345434854

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Tashina said...

Okay, first of all, you seem like an amazing parent!! I admire your passion and yearning to do what it takes to change things, and you seem very willing to take responsibility for the situation. You also seem like an awesome person to work for! That said, DON'T beat yourself up. Look, we ALL fall short and make mistakes. Guess what? We're human!

I have found that giving children DIRECT consequences only when they have been verbally or physically abusive to myself, others, or property, has been the best choice. For all other instances I allow the natural consequence to do it's job. I would say that in the case of your son being disrespectful, a direct consequence may be a good idea. Instead of grounding children or taking privileges away for a specified amount of time, I instead would choose an item, activity, or toy that is VERY special to your son and that he is ONLY allowed to have during the evenings when he is home with YOU. Then, you can speak with your son and let him know what you expect of him while he is spending time with his nanny, and that each day he goes a full day with great behavior, he is awarded time during the evenings with his toy/activity. But remember, the KEY here is CONSISTENCY. You must follow through each and EVERY time, even if at first your son even increases his defiant behavior. Now, if your son does not make respectful choices throughout a particular day, I would have him go to bed a half hour early that night.

So, you can say something like this, "Each day that you choose to have a great day with your nanny, you may play a video game for 30 minutes when I arrive home from work in the evenings (or anything that your son loves). If you decide to make poor choices, your bedtime, unfortunately, will be 7:30 rather than 8:00."

I would say good luck, but you don't need it! Parenting is all about being there for our children by helping them become wonderful, competent, independent people; and sometimes it's just trial and error, and always a lot of work. (: But you will do GREAT!! Please keep us posted!!

DadSeekingHelp said...

OP here. Thanks again to everyone who responded with such helpful words and references. I did a bunch of reading this weekend. The whole area of pedagogy is so much more complicated and rich than I thought.

It occurs to me that my son may have ADHD. He displays many of the described symptoms. I'm going to need to figure out how to deal with this without spending money on therapists.

I also resolved to not spank him. I have never done so, and I don't want to start now. While I don't believe it's as harmful as some say, I figure it would be a shock to him if I started now - and he seems to be troubled enough by change in his life as it is. I want to be a constant for him through thick and thin.

EastBay Nanny said...

OP- WONDERFUL :)Your willingness to be so open about your process is going to serve you and your son so well! ADHD is a diagnosis from your doctor. Getting a diagnosis would probably be the first best step. Also, your school district is LEGALLY obligated to assess your son within 30 days of a written request. PERIOD. No matter what you are told, you and your son have legal rights (thanks to the American Disabilities Act - ADA) to get services immediately. Don't let them put you off. Don't let them lose you in the shuffle! Insist. If your son is determined to need intervention education services, this diagnoses may be key to his survival in the school system. Have any of his teachers brought concern to your attention?