My five-year-old son is out of control when he doesn’t get his way.

I have three kids so I do my best to keep everybody happy and under control, I spend all my time with my kids and give them everything they want. My husband works construction from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. so I have to be the mom and the dad at the same time, I take them everywhere.  I have a hard time time with my five-year-old son, he said he wanted a Nintendo DS so I got him one. But now he spends all of his time playing it, if I take it away he starts screaming, crying and saying I’m stupid and he won’t talk to me anymore. He makes a mess all over the house when he gets mad. I need help, I don’t know what to do with him, I just want to cry. Why is he doing this to me?

You have a challenging job.  But it sounds you are managing quite well most of the time. Some of the time you have problems.  One problem is that you cannot make everyone happy. Sometimes your children will be unhappy. That is OK.  You have to be willing to have your children unhappy some of the time, if they are to grow up well.  If you cannot stand your son’s unhappiness, then you will not be able to help him.

Your son really likes his Nintendo DS. He thinks it is the best thing in the world. Hundreds of millions of these have been sold. Lots of other kids like their DS too. You have to get control of the DS use.  There are several steps to this process:

  1. Give him attention and praise when he is not playing the DS. Tell him how much you love him, how smart he is, how good he is BUT only when he is not playing his DS.  Do this for five days before you go to Step Two.
  2. Only after doing Step One, lock up his DS or hide it where he cannot get it when he is asleep. Make sure he cannot get it.
  3. Tell him there is a new family rule. He can play DS after supper but only if there is good behaviour.
  4. He may yell and scream and tell you that you are bad. Ignore him. Don’t argue. Don’t give in. You don’t need to punish him any more. You will reward his good behaviour with him playing the DS.
  5. Make sure the baby, your son and you are safe.  Think of what he might do, and make it safe.
  6. When he stops misbehaving, yelling and screaming, pay attention to him. Tell him you are proud he is behaving.  If he behaves for at least one hour and during supper, let him have his DS after supper. If not, do not let him play.

You may have two-three days of him being very badly behaved. Stick it out. He has to learn that you are in charge and that if he wants to have his DS, he has to behave. Keep the same rule. Don’t give in. If he argues that it is not fair or that you are mean, say once “This is the family rule.” Ignore the rest.

Continue to pay lots of attention to him when he is good. You will feel much better if you can teach him to behave. You also need to get some support. Can you get someone to mind the kids once a week for three hours?  Can you talk to someone about how you feel? A close friend or minister/priest if you have one. Maybe there is a women’s and children’s drop in centre near you. Maybe there is a parenting class you can take to learn more ideas.

Keep on trying. You are a really committed mom.

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