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I have a 6 year old and was a single mum for 4 years. I raised him and disciplined him to the point where he is very very sociable and everybody thinks he is one of the most well behaved boys they have ever met.

I recently got married and my husband is following my way of disciplining him, however my son has stopped behaving the way he would and has gone out of control. He is very cheeky in his responses and he can be rude to people. My mother in law thinks it is OK and that he will learn as he gets older, her encouraging him is driving me crazy.

I am now pregnant with my second baby and my son's behaviour is getting tougher by the day. I have tried every avenue to try and pull him back to how he was when I disciplined him. I have tried talking to my mother in law and even got into a massive argument, but she still thinks it's OK and doesn't tell him off when he is being cheeky or rude. He doesn't listen to me anymore and instead goes to my mother in law for approval. He doesn't behave this way when his nana is not around. How do I discipline him and make him listen to me even when my mother in law is around? please please help.

Edit: I didn't change my way of disciplining him.. He gets to play his games and toys as long as he eats his breakfast lunch and dinner.. There are timings throughout the day for lessons and food and games.. Now he just doesn't listen when I say don't do that or eat your food.

For the past year she has been around at least 4 times a year and have stayed 2 weeks each time but this would be the longest since we are here for 2 months while waiting for the baby to be born

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I see some aspects that might warrant considering;

First, your son is six, that is an age where most children develop some rebellious tendencies, this is just part of getting older and comes with the "getting more independent" we parents encourage. Does this require action on your part? Not necessarily. Stay firm and consistent and you should be fine.

Then, he's had some major changes lately -there's a new dad in the house, this changes family dynamics quite a bit. Kudos to your husband for supporting your established style of parenting! The effects on your son may take a few months to show, because in the begining, everything is new and somewhat in motion.

Also, there is a new baby on the way. Wouldn't that make you insecure and jealous if you had been a single child for six years? Even if he's looking forward to the baby.

So what can you do?

  • Stick to your established way of parenting (as your method seems to work). Cut him some slack, where appropriate, if you sense he's had too much pressure with the recent changes, but overall, I think consistency is still important. Dumping rules without real reason is just another change...
  • Make clear that your decision trumps Granny. This is not much different than making clear how the "chain of command" works in every case.
    My kids know that once one parent says yes or no, that they need not ask the other, as none will overrule the other and they might find temselves in trouble if they attempt to overthrow a parental decision this way. Also, parents trump grandparents, if both are present. If the grandparents are babysitter, they get to decide - no use calling Mom at work to overrule them. You get the idea.
  • Have a heart-to-heart with your MIL, or even better, let your husband handle it. Even if she does not like it, she's had her shot at child-rearing when your husband was little. Explain that you have made a careful joint decision on the rules and values you will enforce in your house and for your children. Point out that you will be carefully considering all suggestions she might have, that you are greatful for her advice and wisdom and experience, that you are glad that your children have her in their life. (And who knows, she might have a point or two!) But also ask her to accept that you and your husband will set the final rules - and to do so for the sake of the children.
    Then deal with her meddling as well as you can, because it's a grandparents prerogative to spoil the grandchildren ;-)
  • A sensible overall approach. The only modification I would suggest is that partly because the questioner has already tried resolving the problem with the MIL with only negative results, and partly because the MIL already has an established relationship with her son (who I assume therefore has influence over her behaviour), if I was the OP I would place this assignment firmly in the hands of my husband. Problems with in-laws are often best dealt with by first agreeing on a plan of action with their offspring, and then leaving its execution in the hands of the latter. – Erik Kowal Feb 11 '15 at 9:32
  • True. That's why I wrote "... even better, let you husband handle it.". On the other hand, sometimes the mother - son relationship has never matured to a level where both parties talk on an adult-to-adult basis. Cultural aspects may play a role, too, with some cultures never reaching that level. Middle East and Asia come to mind. We are an international forum, after all. – Stephie Feb 11 '15 at 9:34
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I'm not a child psychologist, but it sounds like he might be acting out due to changes in the household. Sit down and talk to your son. Establish that you aren't going to discipline him based on his answers, but want to understand why he has been acting out lately. Tell him if there is a problem you want to fix it, but can't if he doesn't tell you what is wrong. Be prepared for an "I don't know" answer and be patient. Ask him if he doesn't think you are spending enough time with him or if he is worried about the new addition to the family or if he is having issues with nana. It could be he doesn't like her or feels uncomfortable around her. You might let him know you are disappointing in his behavior and that it hurts your feelings that he is acting out. But don't make it all about his bad behavior and instead about how it's a problem you want to fix. It will take time and you may get mad at his answers or lack of but no matter what establish it as an open door time where his words won't be used against him. Don't punish him for what he says during this time or you may never get a solid answer out of him again. Think about it if someone told you that they wouldn't punish you for your feelings and then did would you trust them?

If you can't get a good response with this then I would suggest starting with his doctor. Don't go with a "fix him" mentality or they will probably brush it off. If your Dr. doesn't have answers ask for a referral to a child psychologist. Even if they don't see your child, they may have coping suggestions for you. This is going to be a slightly stressful time for your child. There are changes that are occurring and sometimes, at times like this, we just need a little extra help with coping. Right now he just doesn't have those tools yet and probably just needs a little extra help.

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Personally, based solely upon what you've said, I think the mother-in-law is the problem. Maybe you should very gingerly find out how your husband feels about limiting her time with the child. She seems to have already caused disharmony in the household. That's COMPLETELY unethical on her part, in my opinion. If the mother-in-law is the cause, I think your husband has a mandate to go along with your idea. His allegiance is to you now, not his mother.

It seems your child's behavior was fantastic and lauded by others...until MOTHER-IN-LAW!!!! What a shame.

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