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I am step father to a seven-year-old boy (let's call him H). H's father is very much involved in his life. He sees him every night for a couple of hours and they (Mother and Father) alternate weekends.

For a long time now, probably 3 to 4 years, H makes very loud and daft noises. As a baby this was looked upon as "he's just a baby", however as he starts to mature we (the Mother and I) were wondering if there was anything we could do to help him reduce these outburst of random noises and acts of silliness.

To try and give an example, we would all be sat watching TV or busy in the kitchen making dinner and randomly H would make daft noises like "boop, beep, ba, bottom" to himself and in no way related to what was happening at that time. It's not like he is mimicking something on TV or trying to get our attention. He also has a tendency to slap his own bottom (his Father did this whilst play fighting when he was younger and sometimes still does). It's not a problem in that context but he has what I would call an obsession to do it to himself and it can be quite embarrassing when we are out in public and we are having to tell him to stop it.

On top of this my girlfriend and I have recently had a baby (he is now around 11 weeks old) and what we don't want is for our newborn to mimic this kind of behaviour as they grow up.

It does sound like I'm quite strict and I don't want it to come along like we are trying to stop our child from being a child. The noises are all the time. Personally I feel it is stopping him from focusing on tasks at hand and his ability to concentrate.

How can I look at stopping our son from making random, silly noises and generally acting daft?

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    (though I love the word 'daft'!) It does read better. – WRX Feb 16 '17 at 16:36
  • Does he do this when he is alone (i.e. perceives himself to be unobserved)? Does he do this at school, and have you received any complaints? – anongoodnurse Feb 16 '17 at 17:10
  • @anongoodnurse no complaints from school however general feedback (from parents evening) is a lack of concentration unless it's something he wants to do. Often we observe that he is easily distracted and in this case it doesn't matter if he's doing something he enjoys. Alone he will narrate what he's doing. He's a big fan of Lego DC so Batman, Joker and the likes. He often plays with these and will narrate what's going on however no silly noises unless of course emphasising an explosion. He's always been good in this area, right from being able to talk. – Bugs Feb 16 '17 at 17:15
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I always try talking it out, first. Just sit down, perhaps with the child's other dad/parents and discuss it as a team -- if that is possible. Explain, using non-inflammatory language, why this particular behaviour is of concern. Try to avoid "You always" and other sweeping statements. I would try to avoid saying you are embarrassed or that he looks like a jackass.

Be honest. Mostly, it just bugs you and his mum and probably his dad. Tell him about your concerns for his baby brother. (Please do not qualify 'brother' -- they are brothers.) This could backfire if his reason for the noises is to bug you. Try to include him as a team member for your infant son, as he is old enough to provide some care.

Once you've been straight with him, you may have to help him break the habit. You could just say, "H, what are you trying to say, Buddy?" Or, redirect. This means you give him something else to do right way. It is not a punishment, it simply changes the subject.

If you were watching TV, you simply turn it off and suggest everyone helps tidy up, or go for a walk, or do jumping jacks -- anything that isn't punitive, but also not a favourite thing that H loves to do.

The other great way to help him is to notice when he's being good. Set your phone to vibrate and if H has just been fine, just talk to him. "H, what are you working on? That's a hard puzzle, you're doing great." "Are you liking this movie?" "Would you like to go to the park later?" "Would you like to help bathe your brother before bed"?" Just pick something positive that reminds him that you care about him.

LINK: Here is some info on breaking habits. You may not find the exact problem, but the ideas can be modified to help you. Best of luck!

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    Thank you for your answer Willow. That link has some really good ideas which I'm going to take away and discuss with my girlfriend. I think part of the problem is that his dad doesn't seem to notice or care quite the same. Possible because he doesn't have H for very long for it to become annoying or a problem. We have sat and discussed with H but it seems to go in one ear and out the other. I like the idea of redirecting and maybe that's what we will have to try and do. I think as well maybe we don't focus on the good and that's what we as parents should be doing. Again thanks :) – Bugs Feb 16 '17 at 15:09
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    I would like to add that I was somewhat similar to that kid when I was young. Normally those "strange noises" were just fruit of one of my "imagination-induced trips", when you kinda zone off to somewhere else and just stop paying attention to the world. If that's the case, the kid is probably doing this in a unconscious manner. Just give him some legos and watch him play - if you notice some context to the sounds he does, he probably is just playing with himself on his imagination. – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Feb 16 '17 at 16:20
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    @TSar it does sound like an unconscious thing. He definitely isn't doing it to annoy as that's not his behaviour and so this seems very likely. I bought him a bunch of Lego for his birthday and he loves it. Thanks for your input. – Bugs Feb 16 '17 at 16:32
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Have you considered he might have Gilles de la Tourettes Syndrome? (And even he doesn't, this answer might help someone else who finds this question.)

I do - let me explain what it is:

A person has Tourettes if they do have 2 or more of the following types of involuntary actions:

  1. Somatic ticks (any kind of larger movement like jumpung, turning the head, arms flailing etc).
  2. Verbal ticks (making sounds that are just sounds or words that have no meaning in the context)
  3. Involuntary swearing or other disruptive speaking (what is usually depicted in popular culture but less than 10% of Tourette sufferers have this)

One may also have any number of the following:

  • Simple ticks (ticks that aren't complex movements, like eye fluttering)
  • Thought ticks (not the same as compulsive thoughts, just invasive thoughts, but they are disruptive and annoying)
  • Executive function problems (will in a child this age manifest as low concentration threshold and a low ability to follow complex orders).

How to figure out if it is Tourette:

The main thing about Tourette is that it is involuntary. It is very affected by the mental and physical state of the person, such as stress, hunger, exitement, being tired, needing to pee etc.

Ask the child why he does this. If he is afraid of things that could/will happen if he doesn't - it's OCD (or at least not Tourette). If the child doesn't know, but can't control it, it could be Tourette. If the child doesn't even know he is doing it (even if only sometimes), it is likely Tourette. Things to listen for when the child explains:

  • I just have to
  • I can't help it
  • I don't even know I do it
  • Sometimes it just happens
  • It sort of itches
  • I don't know why
  • It just happens

Try asking if he does it because he wants to of if he just has to. If it is more the latter I'd say it'd be good to see a neurologist with the suspicion of Tourette.

A person with Tourette can not not do the tick, but might be able to change the tick to something else, this is however something that must be learned and takes a lot of practice.

It's perfectly possible to live with Tourette - sometimes it just gets a bit weird or annoying. And luckily for your boy, if he indeed has Tourette, most boys that have it pre puberty grow out of it during puberty.

From your description I'd have him checked out if it doesn't get better with your current changes. If he is indeed diagnosed with Tourette you are welcome to email me and ask about how I live with it and my general experience with the syndrome - that in fact goes for anyone who has Tourette or are close to someone with Tourette. (I'm kitalda everywhere, including gmail).

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    I do like this answer and it does have a lot of insight. It's made us have a think and we don't think it is Tourette. Instead we think it's a mild form of ADHD. Something we have asked our school to keep an eye on so that we can understand it a little more. As a young child we thought OCD but he's grown out of some of the things that would point to that (lining up his shoes in a very neat and certain order was one) but now he doesn't have any interest in anything like that. Thanks for your answer, very interesting. – Bugs Mar 5 '17 at 14:55
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    @Bugs I'm glad you've thought about it. No matter what it is, it's just better to find out what it is. Best wishes for you and your children :) – Kitalda Mar 6 '17 at 12:29
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I can definitely understand your concern for so many reasons. Besides feeling embarrassed in public and worrying that your newborn may grow up emulating the same behaviors, I'm sure the lingering question is, "Will he eventually grow out of this?" I have some follow-up questions for you: How do you feel when H is making these noises? Is it frustrated? Annoyed? Worried? If so, he might be showing these behaviors as a way to gain attention.

What is your response right after the noises? And then what's his response? If yours is something like you constantly reminding him to stop and he stops for a short time and then starts again, he's most likely trying to get you to notice him in any way he can. Redirection and involving him in something can be a great tool. If you're in the kitchen making dinner, you can say something like, "H, I need some help cooking dinner and I would love for you to help. Would you like to stir the pasta or chop the vegetables?" Giving choices is always an excellent way of giving him power in the situation and yet the choices you choose allow you some control, too.

You mention that he makes these noises "all the time" and yet it sounds like there are times you've experienced him not making these noises (as I can imagine he can't make them 24/7). Take notice of those times when he's cooperative and engaged, share how you feel with him then (ex. peaceful, closer together, excited to being doing an activity) for him to feel a sense of belonging and happiness, as opposed to the likely usual tension he feels as a result of his constant noises.

Lastly, I would say to make sure to talk with your girlfriend about being on board with whatever parenting changes you're making to help him so he feels the consistency in the actions in your household. It's tough being a step-father and it could feel like you have little control, yet please know that your relationship with him is powerful and one he will always remember.

With all this said, if he's not responsive to your different strategies and has a desire to be closer to your family emotionally, it sounds like he might be on the spectrum of the Asperger's Syndrome. Here's some information to learn more about it. If he seems to fit the symptoms, it would be important to see if there's a behavioral specialist that could meet with him, too.

Hope this helps.

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    Hi. I've edited your post a bit. Feel free to use your name and list your credentials in your profile. Also, you didn't link to anything about Asperger's. I added one, but if you'd prefer, please replace. Finally, there's an autism spectrum, but I have not heard of a spectrum of Asberger's. Would you be kind enough to educate me by providing a link? Thanks. +1 btw. – anongoodnurse Feb 23 '17 at 6:50
  • Thanks for the answer. At times it does feel like it could be attention. Definitely when he's acting silly. His noises are often just random. We usually just tell him to stop which is attention. I'm guessing any attention is good attention. That being said we have been doing a little redirection and it has helped. He isn't make as many noises and I'm being positive on every good thing he's doing whilst I ignore anything silly. Thanks again. – Bugs Feb 23 '17 at 7:42
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    Thank you for the correction anongoodnurse. Apologies, I meant to note Autism Spectrum. Bugs - Yes, any attention is what he is looking for. This is where you have choice in giving positive or negative reinforcement (positive for when he shows behaviors that you want more of versus negative reinforcement for the "silly" and noisy ones). Glad to hear things have gotten better - I would suggest giving him encouragement for the respectful interactions he has been showing. – Motivational Parenting Mar 2 '17 at 5:04
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Just to share my experience ...

I have family members ( young males ) who were quite similar at around that same age. The random noises and talking to themselves was linked to a mild form of ADHD we believe. We found it helpful to talk to them honestly about it and why we think it’s a habit they should try and break. Without putting them down or making them feel bad, instead explaining that we are trying to help. But at the same time letting them be themselves.

We explained reasons such as

  • it doesn’t help them make friends as talking to yourself in a way others don’t understand often stops others from talking to you ( it shouldn’t be this way necessarily but it often is the case sadly)

    • it can be louder than they realise and at times when we are concentrating on doing other things together and they should be quieter or join in with us in conversation
  • it can get annoying

  • And sometimes when the time was right we were straight up with them and said it’s not a good idea because it’s just odd and socially inappropriate

We found that with these conversations, and with age and maturity this type of behaviour lessened considerably. That was the main thing we found that helped.

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