My son is with me 4 or 5 nights per week; with his father the balance. But I see him every day after school regardless (I'm at home with my second baby). I have a good relationship with my ex, and with his partner - and sometimes the four of us with my partner, son and second baby son socialise together e.g. school picnic etc.

The problem is my son misbehaves at our house, but is an angel at his dad's. His dad says it's because we are too soft, fall for the tears, don't follow through. This is true - we are too soft. But even if we are hard and do follow through - no ipad for a week, cancel a play date etc - he is still naughty. He says a "switch goes off in his brain" when he comes to my place and although he tries to be good, he can't.

He isn't horrifically bad - just you know, whines for junk food even after I say no, takes me five times to instruct him before he does something, gets too rambunctuous and after several ignored warnings ends up hurting himself, or the baby or breaking something - that sort of thing. But at the end of a long day, I'm yelling, he's crying, everyone is hot and bothered - and it isn't pleasant at all. And bad role modelling for the baby.

He is quite a sensitive soul, but has loads of energy and often acts before he thinks.

He adores my partner and his little brother and we make sure he still has special alone time with mummy - - and the naughtiness at (solely) our house started about a year before baby came along.

What is the circuit breaker???? Any advice gratefully received!

  • 2
    Please read the similar questions in the Related sidebar to the right. This is pretty common.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 14:09
  • Did you plan the second baby? Maybe asked him what he thought of having a sibling around the time this behavior started? Even if he genuinely likes his baby brother, he might still unconsciously battle for your attention. And this could have started as soon as he realized the "only-child attention" with two pairs of parents (So much attention to have!) will not be like this forever.
    – skymningen
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 10:22
  • Yes, second baby was planned, and he was very very keen on having a sibling. I make sure he gets mummy only time, and also we have a long weekend alone together soon (continuing a tradition of going to a music festival together). But it is always something to be aware of, thank you
    – Emma Z
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


I think you misunderstand what being hard is means. No ipad for a week is a meaningless punishment if he gets it once a year. Everyone drives too fast if they know they won't get caught regardless if the ticket is 5 or 500 dollars. Consistency is the important part.

My kids don't get anything if they cry about it, and as soon as they start crying i stop any discussion about what fun things they can do instead (ok, if they've fallen from their bike i'll comfort them). Also as soon as they hurt anyone that means no screens for the rest of the day. It doens't matter if they started the fight, if they had a good reason or if the other sibling was doing it too. If someone gets kicked all screens go of in the house. There are a few 'negative' consequences like this but mostly it's the positive consequences that work the best.

Because i leave no option for discussion on that rule i don't need to yell. (it took me a while to get to that point to be honest). The same thing goes for doing chores. I'll say no dessert if you havn't cleaned up your room. I might remind them once more but after that i'll just leave it be. And then we'll find out if we're having dessert or not. (we have dessert about every other day).

This way I give a clear connection to behavior and consequences (both good and bad). And i try to leave the choice to my kid as much as possible. When i really needs something to happen i just tell them it is going to happen. But once i stated how things are going to be i never negotiate anymore. (and yes we do get into fights about that at first. However once they learned that negotiation never works they stopped). The advantage of doing this way is that i can make the rewards and punishment fairly small. (I don't need to cancel playdates and no tablet for a week happened once when they were on their tablet after i've taken it away for that day). You behave for an hour you get a cookie, you don't behave you don't get a cookie and can try again next hour for the next reward. But everything has to be earned with just doing very little steps. (first read a book then go on your tablet, first clean your room then get dessert, etc)

Also we stopped fighting and that improved the moot a lot. Because it's his choice if he wants to go on his tablet/eat a cookie/get dessert. I'll 'win' in the end anyways because if he didn't clean his room today he'll do it tomorrow and it saves me having to keep bugging him about it till we both get angry and he'll do half a job just to make a point.

  • Great adivce. From my experience, this works very efficiently.
    – Mafii
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 10:31
  • This is fantastic advice. Small steps, and consistency. Thank you.
    – Emma Z
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 19:45

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