My two boys are 4-years-old and 11 months; they will be 5 and 1 next month.
My oldest is exceedingly stubborn, and he's displaying strong leadership traits. When he has his mind set on something, his single focus is achieving it. He is determined to be accepted and treated as an adult, and he often lands in trouble for trying to be the parent in a given situation. He's also very smart and mischievously sneaky at times. He's a good kid, but I've struggled with bad behavior, repeatedly going against what he's told, and now mistreating his little brother by hitting and biting.
My first approach when he misbehaved was to consistently sit him in a time out. I devised a three step time out, where he had to "climb" the stairs to exit time out. First, he would explain why he was in time out. Second, he would brainstorm ways to avoid said behavior in the future. Third, he would sit quietly in time out for 10 minutes to think about our talk. This worked for a few months. Then, he started ignoring me and the time outs.
My next approach was to take something away when he ignored time out. This went on for three months, until I had effectively confiscated everything from favorite toys to his coveted game time on PBS. He still acted out and began melting down instead of communicating, to which I helped him learn how to breathe deeply, calm down, and then talk. He stopped doing this a month or so later.
My next, and most unpleasant, approach was to talk through his behavior, ensuring he understood why what he did was wrong and why be was being punished before being smacked on the butt twice. This seemed to work, and we had a few weeks of calm before it all began again.
I have a terrible time getting him to nap and eat well. Thinking this was a contributing factor, I began focusing on sleeping and eating habits, trying to improve them. He said he didn't want to sleep because of "ghosts in [his] room" before saying he was making it up so he could stay up. I was so proud of him for telling me this, especially since we've been talking about the importance of not lying or making things up. Then, he said there were monsters in his room. He seemed to firmly believe there was a monster that came out when he went to bed. So, he and I "chased" the monster out and set up a "protective barrier" to keep it and all others out. A week later, he was back to tantrum throwing at every nap and bed time because he didn't want to go to bed.
He's not a picky eater, but he refuses to eat a good meal. His reasoning ranges from not being hungry to wanting to do other things first. He's starting school in the fall, and I'm trying to help him understand he needs to eat and sleep when it's time to eat and sleep. I've tried everything from a reward system to taking things away for doing or not doing as instructed.
He's never had an issue with his little brother. And he's usually a phenomenal big brother. He was excited to have his little brother move into his room. He acts very good outside of the house, and he only acts out when he's comfortable in a place that isn't home (like Grandma's or a close friend's).
But he's constantly doing things he shouldn't and now hitting and biting his little brother. He's also suddenly having a lot of accidents in his clothes and bed, sometimes several times in one day. I'm trying so hard to stay consistent, but when it seems like nothing is working and he's constantly misbehaving, throwing tantrums, and melting down, I'm not sure what to keep doing and what to change.
His physical is in June and I intend to speak to his pediatrician about all of this. But in the meantime, is there anything I'm missing? Is there something else I can try?
I've tried digging deeper to see if there is a deeper problem or issue to address, but his answers and conversations are sporadic at best. It's very hard to tell if he's being truthful or spinning a story. And I'm worried he'll be behind in school because he doesn't apply himself. He can read, but he acts like he can't. He is super smart, but he continually downplays his abilities, and I don't know why when he's always been encouraged.
Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, from one burnt out, frazzled, and worried mum!