Monday, April 13, 2009

Who is this Teenager in my House?

… and what has he done with my baby?

Seriously, I thought we had some time to go before we saw some of the behaviour we are seeing with Ayaan these days. And by time, I mean years – not days or months.

To start with, he has become completely allergic to suggestion. The immediate answer to anything is a big, fat NO. Just the fact that we are asking him to do something must immediately put that activity into the undesirable zone. In the past few weeks, he has actually said no to some beloved stuff like going to the swimming pool, a playdate with his best pal and chocolate... just because we asked!

And then there is the rebellious behaviour. He will do stuff that he knows is absolutely off-limits. Like the other day, he showed all signs off wanting to desperately relieve his bladder. But he refused to admit that he wanted/ needed to go and refused my help when I offered to accompany him to the bathroom. Five minutes later, he went to the balcony, pulled down his pants and peed on the floor. As if it was the most normal thing in the world. And just in case you are tempted to label this as an accident, let me inform you that this child has been fully toilet-trained for over six months. And further evidence lies in the fact that he was saying ‘Sorry’ even before the maid (who saw the whole thing in action) could finish telling me about it. He KNEW it was wrong but he did it anyway!

I also thought I was light years away from either the silent treatment or the door-banging but that’s happening in full flow as well. Typical dialogues include:

“Main tumse talking nahin karoonga” (I’m not speaking with you)

“Main apne room mein ja raha hoon. Tum mat aao” (I’m going to my room. You don’t come) – this one is usually accompanied by a slamming door.

“Tum abhi office jao” (You go to office right now)

“Sut up” (Self-explanatory, I think)

I’m trying my best to counteract some of this, with mixed results. We have seen some improvement on the No-phenomenon. I have just started taking him at face value when he refuses to do something. If it is something yummy enough – like chocolates – he is sure to come back to me sooner rather than later, having changed his mind. But mean mother that I am, I don’t allow for it. I politely tell him that the offer went off the table when he said no and now, he’ll have to wait for the next time I ask him. This typically leads to a screaming meltdown but over the past few days, I have found him less eager to say the N-word in response to everything I say.

The bad behaviour is somewhat tougher to deal with and I am finding progress harder to come by. The time-outs no longer work. He no longer goes to his corner on command and has to be dragged there kicking and screaming. And he just sits there and bawls endlessly till we ask him to come out. The discipline tool that works somewhat better is giving his toys a time-out. After an episode of unforgivable behaviour, one of his favourite toys is put up on the cupboard, where he can see it but can’t reach it or play with it. This, and you might see a pattern here, usually results in a screaming meltdown but it soon passes and he is down to negotiating release dates for his incarcerated toys. I find that he is usually somewhat repentant after this punishment, unlike when he is put into a corner, shouted at or spanked. But overall, the bad behaviour still abounds and usually finds new expressions everyday. As I speak (literally – this happened ten minutes ago while I was writing this post), he took the box that holds Jai's screwdriver set and threw in five floors down off the balcony!!! (Thankfully, the husband's messiness came to the rescue and none of the screwdrivers were actually in the box and were floating around in various parts of the house, unable to do damage to the car that the empty box bounced harmlessly off).

On the silent treatment, I usually just go with the programme and stop talking to him. Like this morning, I woke him up for school and was informed that he never wants to talk to me again. So I didn’t talk to him while he drank his milk, or while I brushed his teeth, or when he sat on the pot or when I bathed and dressed him or during breakfast. Somewhere along the way, he cracked and was full of love, hugs and apologies but I strung him along for a bit and then ended the drama with a talk about how I was only doing what he wanted so next time he should be careful what he asks for…

Anyway, I am blundering my way through this, like with most other Ayaan-shaped problems that life throws at me. And hoping that this is just a phase and not an early and extended onset of the teenage years...

So, all you other parents out there, tell me something. Is this normal behaviour for an almost-four-year-old? And what are/ have been your method and disciplining strategies for dealing with such stuff?


  1. i being less experineced pbviously have nothing to say! i am the screaming banshee variety of mother and its already counter productive! :(

    i have just been with a friend and her son for past 3 days! the buddy's son was impeccably behaved most of the times, tried to make friends with Cubby and generally was as little a pain as possible!

    but my son REFUSED to share, cried when the otha kid tried to hold his hand and generally kept whining and bawling at the drop ofg the hat! am so so upset right now!

    errr.. sorry! this post was about ayaan! i think you have already found respectable solutions to most of the trouble.

    and the ultimate parenting mantra "its just a phase!" :p



  2. When he's an actual teen he will be a gentle, tractable soul. He's just getting the angst out of his system.


    Hugs to you while you deal with it!

  3. i have a plan.
    get the fathers to babysit.
    lets meet.
    bawl about our almost 4 year olds.
    order some wine.
    and get sloshed.

    you name the day.

  4. Anonymous7:37 pm

    i have no suggestions or advice considering my boy is only 1.5! But WOW to you on the way you're dealing with it. you have shown what the future holds and i have a lot to learn. And like Abha and everyone else says 'its only a phase'. i dont know if that line is true though :-)

  5. am waiting to read all the comments, bet it'll make a very good book for 'how to deal with ~4 year olds'!

    sending you a mail.

  6. Just play it by the ear ... there is no right way or wrong way. Hang on! If it helps he's just finding his identity and exercising his individuality

  7. Just play it by the ear ... there is no right way or wrong way. Hang on! If it helps he's just finding his identity and exercising his individuality

  8. Anonymous10:35 pm

    In our household, increased, persistent irritability from anyone, adult or child, usually means incipient illness or something bothering them at school/work/friends etc.

    Until the kids had the vocabulary to explain, I tried to check with their teachers/parents of friends etc. With the adults, chocolate and some alone time usually works :-)

    As for disciplining strategies - I'm a screamer too, and yes, it's entirely trying to control that - but removing privileges seems to work for now (TV time, playtime with friends, pizza at school etc.)


  9. Anonymous11:29 pm

    I am not there yet. However, I have seen many parents deal with these kind of tantrums by simply ignoring them. He can-see the toy-not reach it sounds a bit too harsh to me, again I say I am far from all this so I might not know.
    I would love to read what others have to say. It would be great if you could do a follow up post too :) And yes, I remember when he made you that card and present on your birthday and once decided to take it away if you didn’t listen to him or something, that’s both sweet and nasty of him!

  10. He's growing, testing his powers in the world. I think you're doing just fine. I'm sure this phase will disappear soon enough, as he realises that is isn't getting him anywhere great!

  11. I have only one thing to say, Ro. And that is...


    Good luck!

  12. because i'm not you right now, i find this funny in a very scary way. sorry. :D
    but i do like sue's suggestion. optimism like that i live for!

  13. [Abha] Oh well, it's good to know that I am not the only one. Screaming banshee is about right when it comes to my parenting style :(

    [Sue] So you keep saying... but I am starting to lose the faith :(

    [Sur] Excellent plan! Name the date and place :)

    [Akamonica] Well, the phases do eventually pass but only to be replaced by equally, if not more, challenging ones :(

    [Choxbox] Thanks for the mail :)

    [Ritu/ Dipali] Yeah but couldn't he find more suitable forms of expression???!!! Things that do not involve peeing on my balcony???!

    [M] Hmmm... you have a point. I think there are two possible root causes. One, that we have had a lot of family over in the last month and he has been indulged quite a bit and now it's back to rude reality. He has also moved to a new class recently - new teachers and new friends can't be easy to adjust to.

    [Preeti] You think it's harsh? I took inspiration from the 'withdrawal of privileges' school of thought but since he does not watch much TV in any case, the toys were the obvious option. It works though. These days, just the threat of confiscation is enough to stop him in his tracks...

    [Y] Er... ok. That was useful ;)

    [Mona] Laugh all you like and then come back and weep on my shoulder when this phase hits you :P

  14. Hey Rohini..

    This post is like deja vu for me.. i go through the same thing.. the silent treatment, the temper tantrums and the non co operation bit too.. my son is almost 5... was really wondering if only my son is like this.. even the bit about the peeing..

    is this just attention grabbing behaviour? i don't know.. its getting harder to deal with, though.. expressions of love seem to work, though.....

  15. forgot one more thing.. keeping him occupied with meaningful stuff, rather than unstructured play time also works!

  16. Have vacations started? and if so is this linked to that in any way?
    Here, we plan to shuttle him between grandparents and summercamp (my wonderful maid turned out to be a liar and so am back to being maidless!!!)and the indecision is telling on Sonny boy as well. He's not been throwing tantrums, but he tends to burst into tears at the drop of a hat.
    I tell you throwing tantrums is definitely better! At least you can scream your heart out, without feeling guilty to the core... :-( But yes, I do feel your pain.. Phew about those screw drivers! Mine would have had his bottom SPANKED for that, but phew! sure hope he grows out of this phase soon... something can't be very easy for him either, for him to suddenly turn so tantrummy...

  17. Love the 'Sut up' - although I'm guessing its cuer in recounting than the actual thing.

  18. i think u r doing well...and anyway it is just a phase

    have u tried asking him what he wants to do? and when he is calmer why he did what you found objectionable?

  19. I have found a pattern, Ro. Some kids go bonkers just before their birthdays! Ashu is absolutely a terror these days. Im sure if she were a boy, she would ve peed in the balcony by now!!! :D Hang in there. According to my theory, things get better after the birthday! Btw, you saved me a post. I could ve written this one word for word!

  20. How much will you hate me if I confess I just fell apart laughing?

  21. Oh boy!! that is something. My daughter who turned 3 yesterday actually has her defiance behaviour. Still struggling with potty training. But don't know all of a sudden today she has been good and been doing every time in the potty. So I am puzzled if this is just a phase.

    So probably Boo's theory is working. Hang in there.

    One more point, my brother was like this when we were little. But he is the most obedient child of our home and I turned out to be the rebellious one :)

    So there you go..there is hope!!

  22. Sadly, not much we can do except grin and bear it (with teeth clenched). I notice kids usually adopt the same reactions to things their parents do, so calmly sitting through tantrums and then talking things through later may be the safest option.

    That, and keeping a journal so we can really rub it in when they have kids of their own.

  23. [Raman] Thanks for dropping by and sharing your wisdom. I really am trying with the ‘expressions of love’ but it’s hard to keep it up in the heat of the moment when my dratted temper gets in the way. I am trying to do indifference (pretended) instead of anger these days when in the midst of an episode. The meaningful stuff is hard these days since he is so allergic to suggestion…

    [JLT] Vacations start next month. Now you are scaring me with thoughts of this getting worse then!!! And you are right; give me tantrums over tears, any day. Poor you!

    [30in2005] Er… yes, much less cute in real life!

    [Art] I try that. But he clams up and doesn’t want to discuss it :(

    [Boo] I like that pattern, Boo. It means that this will hopefully start to get better in a month :)

    [Deej] Enough to consider packing off the brat to you for his summer vacation. Let’s see you laugh then :D

    [Manchus] That’s what people keep telling me – that he going to grow up to be a gentle, well-mannered adult. That’s another optimistic theory I am clinging to with dear life!!!

    [Wordjunkie] Yup, calm-with-clenched-teeth is my general expression these days :)

  24. You're a good Mom, you're doing it right but you could be getting a backlash. Sounds to me like he's full of anger over something else & can't express. Is he trying to tell you something? Only a suggestion, dear....

  25. i wish i could help you here...even tho i have an 11 yrold an a 6 yrold...and they were not saints...

    take should subside soon...they like to test their boundaries every now and then and ofcourse test your patience too...

  26. We went through this with Chubbocks a while back. I guess we dealt with it by using different strategies for each thing, e.g. screaming tantrums were met by a cold ignore. Now all of a sudden he's turned the corner and is behaving beautifully again...this too shall pass :)

  27. Ro, here's what I did. When he says no, I just ignore. If it is lifethreatening, I physically remove him from the situation. The cold shoulder for around half an hour normally resolves the situation.

  28. the similarities are uncanny. posted something similar only off to read others' advice.

  29. Ro, just got here from Kodi's and am petrified to find that my daughter is a combo of both Ayaan and Kodi.
    She has been like this about from a month after she turned 3.
    I seem to have tried everything and have found that being very very patient is the only thing which works and I am really low on patience :(
    I really really hope that this phase passes soon.

  30. Anonymous9:36 pm

    hi Ro!this post needs too much of thinking I guess!
    I have a son who will be 4 in june and he sometimes does behave like this and what I do is immediately sit with him and talk. Most of the time I realised that it was due to some anger and that could be with his teacher, friends, sister, and there have been days when he saw his friend's mom getting angry on his friend and he didn't like that and the result was he didn't want to talk to me. What I feel, try to talk to Ayaan, he might have some reasons behind his action but don't try it when he is too reactive and try to ignore the situation then as we also have zero-patience at that time. sorry if I'm advising silly thing!
    I read a book when my daughter was 3 (she is 9 now) and i still read it in every 6 months to keep myself on track as I loose my patience by that time "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Hope it helps you as it did to me though enough patience is needed with it.
    I'm sure things will change by the time he is five or six if it's taken care in a right way and that's sure you are trying to do.

  31. Ro Ro Ro. Hugs. Your post, kodi's mom post. I am in the same boat. Nothing is working. Talking nicely, raesoning, time outs, nothing. door slamming, back talking all the time. I am at my wits end :(

  32. Ro, i have always liked your approach with Ayaan. I yell at my 22-month-old child and have even spanked/slapped her. At the spur of the moment, I just lose all control. Now, I have started the time-out approach and she instantly apologies, only to repeat the behaviour before you bat an eyelid.
    I guess this is just a phase and yes he is missing the attention that he got while the family was here.

  33. Commenting on a few posts together...since i haven't come here in a long time.

    They say the terrible twos (or terrible threes for some kids) is like the teen years. Karan did go through that phase...but now seems to have gotten over it (alteast for now), although temper tantrums still come once in a while. Unfortunately, cant really give you any useful advice - except just hang in there and dont give in!

    btw i noticed from your previous post that you're an arien (is that how you spell it?). That's so cool - my hubby and dad are ariens and i get along famously with ariens. another cool thing that i noticed was that you're a taboo player - that's one of my favourite board games! and hey, its so cool that ayaan can already write something. karan can identify most of the alphabet letters, but still cant write.

    about the toddler in the gym room, hey i think i would have done it if Karan was like that kid! (i'm not sure about the loud music though)

  34. hey ro, i can see my bible being recommended by another commentor!

    it really works.

  35. Ro, I can't comment on other behavior, but the susu thing yow mentioned is a common thing. For quite a while, after 7 or 8 months of toilet training, the brat'd refuse to go to the loo when we asked him to. He'd scream / shout / cry / throw a tantrum, but not go. He'd eventually at the nick of the moment, that there have been instances when he'd trail through the bathroom. Same case with his cousin. Now the baby is getting ready for the phase. Don't worry, they'll grow out of it.

  36. Dear Rohini, I came across your blog through the Mad Momma.

    Girl, I feel for you. Its a shitty and tough phase. Might I suggest an amazing book called the Incredible Years? It did wonders for us in relation to our cantankerous (at the time) four year old.

    We've never spanked, but timed out. And if they're kicking and screaming all the way to time-out, its not much of a time-out.But grab this book, and trust me, you'll find the zen to turn it around.

    Keep writing:-)

    p.s. The Faber Mazlish book is also lovely, BTW.

  37. Ro...Ayaan is 4yrs and doing all these...whereas mine is just 2.5 and already doing these (talking back, locking himself in the loo, trying to fall down the stairs and what nots). I am just a screaming banshee these days. Nothing seems to be working here too...not even the spanking. At this age, there is no remote chance of even trying to reason with him and try to explain things. What do I do? Just ride it out?? Don't know.

    As for are some hugs and then some more.

  38. [Gaelikaa/ Suma] Thanks for the encouraging words. I am hoping these are teething issues as he is settling into a new class with a new teacher...

    [BEV] Lovely. Will watch for that corner avidly! :)

    [Kiran] The cold shoulder I got from one of your posts. It works well - fifteen minutes of that and he crawling over me with hugs, kisses and apologies :)

    [Kodi's Mom] Even my comment on your post is uncanny in its similarity :D

    [CoS] This phase would test the patience of a saint so I am right there with you in the low patience category :|

    [Explorekids/ Choxbox] I am definitely getting that book...

    [Dottie] The more the merrier I say. If so many of them are behaving this way, it can't be our fault, right?

    [Sscribbles] Try the favourite toy timeout. I find it works better than the regular timeout

    [Lawyeramma] Wow at all the coincidences. I love Taboo too! And as for Ayaan writing alphabets, I actually got pulled up for it at his school. Seems they haven't taught him (too early to write and all that) and they assumed that I had been either teaching him at home or sending his for classes, neither of which is true. It's a complete mystery...

    [Subhashree] That is reassuring to hear...

    [MGM] Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Will check out the book..,

  39. [Shobana] Let's hold hands and pray that it is only a phase...

  40. Faber Mazlish ! All the way. Ever since T recommended it, I bought it and it works wonders. I have to re-read it very often though. What it does for me is give me the patience to deal with it, because when I read it, I remember that my child is just a child who has misbehaved. She is NOT a horrible person.

    My Poppin went through something like that and still does from time to time. Except in her case it's crying sometimes and tantrums sometimes. And oh yes, whacking the living daylights out of her sister!

    We're all in the throes of the terrible threes.

    Also, here's a funny line that I use with Poppin when she's acting out. I say "Oh poor you, you've gotten tired of being good? Want to be bad?" And she smiles and agrees and then we add more words to it "Want to be evil?" "Want to be angry?" "Want to be horrible?" and so on. I egg her on pleasantly. Eventually she decides that she does not want to be any of those things and calms down.

    It doesnt work 100% of the time, nothing does. You have to continue trying. Also, remember that being irritating/angry is harder on them than it is on us. All children crave the approval of their parents, whether they're 4 or 40!

    If he's doing things that he knows you wont approve of, he's either upset about something or he's testing his limits.

  41. am a long time lurker and first time commenter ...

    i didn't know about these books.
    thanks for the heads-up

  42. Hey Ro,
    You're really doing well. The cold shoulder, the not giving in, the time-outs and an occasional rap on the bumsie is the way to deal with it. Later on though, during calm and affectionate moments, or during story-time, bring up the incident and see if you can draw him out into saying what ticked him off in the first place...conversationally, in the third person -- that usually works.

    Also, do find out if there's something or someone upsetting him in school. Or at home while you're away. Rebellious behaviour is often set off by something. Maybe there's a class bully or a change in routine that he's not able to cope with.

    Good luck, Ro and hugs. You're doing great. Motherhood and all that jazz never was all apple pie...


  43. A bit bizarre that two mommy bloggers whom I follow regularly have not been tagged to roam around the world in 80 clicks!
    I have been coming here regularly to check what you have to say about why you enjoy motherhood -and no post from you.

    Please consider yourself tagged by moi- the rules are here

    And if you have already been tagged- write that post soon! waiting to hear about the journey you have been on with ayaan.

  44. we need a boot camp or'l a's been doing a lot of the same things too..i am at my wits end on many occasions..let's see what the other moms have to say!

  45. [Poppins] Thanks for your detailed comment and even more detailed mail :)

    [Maidinmalaysia] Thanks for delurking :)

    [Mamma Mia] Thanks for the encouraging words :)

    [Sur] I was tagged by Artnavy but have been lazy about taking it up

    [Orchard] You too? The more, the merrier!

  46. yay for F&B!

    (and no, they're not giving me any kind of commission)

  47. I'm newly married and reading this post makes me laugh as well as keeps me's a mixed reaction! Dealing with kids seems challenging! I was quite notorious and annoying in many ways as a child, and reading your post makes me respect my mother for transforming me into (atleast) a less annoying person :p

    Somehow reading your blog makes me feel more confident...I wish to be a mom like you whenever I enter that phase - the one who deals with these issues in a modern/educated way. My granny had just one solution for all kid-issues, and that was "Jhaapad". Unfortunately her theory cannot work with today's kids. They're the ones who can jhapad back, perhaps :p

  48. Very normal. And my response is usually along the same line as yours. Sometimes they are being intentionally hurtful, but don't expect to be hurt in return. They learn, so long as you keep teaching them like you are. Keep it up, Ro.

  49. the 'how to talk to your kids so they listen' books, aka the faber mazlish books, are the best. get the whole series, worth every rupee! and you seem to be doing fine :) hugs. this too will pass.

  50. the 'how to talk to your kids so they listen' books, aka the faber mazlish books, are the best. get the whole series, worth every rupee! and you seem to be doing fine :) hugs. this too will pass.

  51. Ah, finally managed to pry the computer from hubby's hands.

    So, Faber and Mazlish (did I spell that right?) and the Incredible Years? No harm in me giving it a try. (Dr Sears + AP sets up a standard for me that seems near impossible to reach.)

    And, are you over this 'phase' with Ayaan, or has it persisted?