I have a five-year-old son, and a two-and-a-half-month-old baby girl. My son has been the centre of attention for five years and we have tried to prepare him for having a baby in the house. He was excited to have a sibling. I had to stay in the hospital with her for over a week after the birth. Not having mom around was hard on him but we managed. We knew that there would be an adjustment and he had some attitude problems and not listening. It didn’t last long, and we figured that it would be the end of it. The last two weeks, it has been hell in our household. The attitude has gotten worse, he doesn’t listen at all. We tell him that he would loose his toys or the Wii if he didn’t smarten up, then he would say the same thing back to us, as if he can take our stuff away from us. The other day, I received a call from the school about him having spent the money for his milk on the juice vending machines at school. I was furious when I got this call, not only did he lie to the teacher, but he stole from me. I made it clear to him what he did was wrong. We ask him why, all of the sudden, the last two weeks have been hard. He said that we can’t help him. He said that he wanted a brother not a sister. He is acting out and we cannot discipline him, I keep thinking to myself what am I not doing? Why can’t I get him to see what he is doing is wrong. I feel like I failed at this point as a parent. But I am not going to give up, but doing the same thing over and over again for his discipline is not working at all. We have been trying a lot of one on one with him, he is happy. But then the next day the attitude and not listening is back again. What can we do to get him to smarten up? I don’t want this to continue as it is hard on the family, but I think as well, he will be one of those troubled kids as he gets older and we don’t want that. Please help.
Your son needs to feel he is an important, valued part of the family. There are two critical issues. First, it is important for you to have clear expectations of what is the right thing to do. It sounds that you have done this quite well. I would suggest you continue to be firm and tough on his misbehavior. Be calm but firm. Don’t get angry. Don’t tell him that he is bad. Just have clear firm expectations and consequences for his misbehavior. But this is not enough. You need to make him feel needed, useful and wanted. You have to rebuild your relationship with him. There are three things you can do:
- Spend special time with him. During this special time do things that he likes to do with you. During that time, he should be number one, the centre of attention. Do this two or three times a week for 30 to 60 minutes. It could be playing lego with him, going to the local library.
- Notice him when he is good. Pay attention to good behaviour. So if he is pleasant to you, tell him how much you enjoy him when he is like that. If he has a positive interaction with his sister, tell him what a good big brother he is.
- Make a fuss about him every once in a while. Surprise him. Maybe cook his favourite meal. Have a special treat for him. Tell him you are so pleased he is your son.
The positive aspect of this approach is critically important. Unless you build your relationship, he will continue to feel left out.