Posted by: Kate | 2008/08/29

4 year old - aggression and rudeness

I have 2 sons. My eldest is 4 and a half and adopted by my husband and I at 3 weeks of age. He knows he is adopted and we treat the situation with honesty and kindness. My youngest son is 13 months younger. They are treated exactly the same, if one gets something, so does the other (including hugs and kisses, praise etc etc).

My eldest son has thrown tantrums since he was very small. I am very strict and he does get smacked and sent to the naughty corner for bad behaviour. I am the main disciplinarian in our house and yet he seems to be the most badly behaved and rude towards me. I don'  t speak horribly to them but he does imitate me picking him out. "  You are so rude to me Mommy!!" 

He keeps threatening to break things if I tell him to behave or stop doing something naughty (and especially dangerous). He doesn'  t ever threaten to hurt me or anyone else but does hit out at me when being put in the naughty corner. He also hits my nanny who is wonderful to him and who he loves.

He can be so negative and last night told me that he will kill himself. I really don'  t think he knows what it means and said it with a smile on his face but it was so distressing for me. He is losing friends quick and fast as he tells me he is rude to them and they don'  t like him anymore.

He can be the sweetest and most helpful child but within minutes of being in a '  good place'  can lash out and do something horrid. Bedtime is 8pm but he is awake until 10:30am.

My other son is so easy going, so well-behaved and doesn'  t give a moments trouble (nothing in comparison to his brother).

I feel like I am failing my son and as his adoptive mother want even more to do good by him, to give him the best childhood and family possible. I work from home in the morning and am at home with him so much, I am not an absent parent and very involved.

Some say it is age appropriate behaviour for some children and others look at us like we have a monster child. I don'  t want to lose the special connection I have with my son - he is just so difficult and I am so tired of it.

Please help me (I will be taking him to play therapy, is this a good idea?) What do you make of this behaviour?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Hi Kate,
You're not failing anyone. Kids differ in personalitym, and the tactics they choose to use. I wonder--- you mention that they each get what the other gets, as regards hugs and praise --- I hope that doesn't mean that that A gets prasie when B has done somnething good, but that the praise is earned, and there's equal opportunity to earn it. Otherwise praise, good though it is, may not get associated with behaving well. Does he somehow fel that because the well-behaved child gets praise by no criticism ( obviously ) --- he is somehow feeling picked on for receiving criticism, overlooking the fact that he earned it, too.
The comment about killing himself is chilling --- even if he didn't fully understand it ( at that age some kids don't recognize death as being permanent ) and one both wonders where he got the idea of this as a useful threat, and whether it doesn't point to him perhaps having a low self-esteem and feeling unwanted, despite your best efforts ?
It is age-appropriate, and part of it may be that many kids ( not all ) discovering their POWER to disturb the worlld by saying NO, by acting negatively, by being oppositional. If we can be ingenious and find ways to challenge them to feel powerful by saying YES, by being helpful, that can help harness this otherwise negative energy.
By the way, I notice that in September the new BBC Knowldge channel ( I think that's the right one of the 4 new BBC channels ) will be broadcasting some of the excellent child-behaviour / discipline series they do so well --- check out DISH magazine for details.
Curious makes an important point --- for whatever reasons, only very partly understood, we ARE wired differently from birth, and as it were have a different repertoire of inclinations.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Kate | 2008/08/31

Thank-you to CS and Curious for taking the time to reply. I doubt CS has the time to come back to each thread but just to answer a few points.

Praise is only given when due but often activities are done as a group and one will be praised for his efforts and the other for his own efforts, I do think my eldest feels picked on at times as there are days where he does get moan a lot and of course at more than his brother. I do moan at my younger son when he occassionally does something naughty but it is so infrequent.

We had a good day today, such amazing behaviour with only one incident of yelling at me and stomping off. Otherwise so great and a lot of cuddling and taling was done. I feel like I have mad some steps forward to day. I don' t know what tomorrow holds.

We discussed the use of the word ' kill'  as both boys have said it in play now. I told them that kill is a very serious word and one that should not be used by children. I have since heard that a lot of children are saying " I will kill you"  at school. The teachers are addressing it.

I will certainly look at the Dish mag. Thanks for that tip.

I think seeing a play therapist will be a positive step forward. I would rather pin-point what the issues may be now and try my hardest to prevent problems later in life. I am so fearful of what may lie ahead, if we can figure out why he feels and acts the way he does then hopefully he can live a great life with a bit of understanding and assistance if need be.

Thanks again.

Reply to Kate
Posted by: Curious | 2008/08/30

My youngest was just like this. I never did find a solution. He is such a sweet caring person but also the most horrid and nasty. I tried everything to discipline him, time out, grounding, taking away privileges even smacking but absolutely nothing worked.

He is now 30 and I am afraid not improved much. He has been in trouble with the law and used drugs. He always seems to get involved with the wrong crowd. But before I make him sound like some kind of monster, he can be the sweetest most caring person I know.

He was like this from birth and my eldest, who was brought up the same way, has given me no problems at all. Did well at school and has turned into a responsible adult.

I just don' t know if it is some " connection"  wrong in the brain, somehow getting the worst of my genes and my husbands genes or something I did. I had a very hard time emotionally when I was pregnant with him and it has been suggested to me that this has something to do with it, but I really find that hard to believe.

I will be very interested in CS reply.

Reply to Curious

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