My ability to help in this situation is limited because of the fact that the 5 year old I'm asking about is my fiancée's son. I have been with her now for 3 years and have been the male figure in this young man's life since he had just turned 3. I've always respected my fiancée and her ability to raise her son.

She has expressed to me her want for me to have more of a role helping her discipline him, because she is having a hard time always being the one to hand down punishment when he is bad. His father lives a state away and has him for 2 weekends a month. He is a good guy and for the short amount of time he has him he is a good father but is also limited to what he can do due to his limited exposure to him. Specifically the bad behavior I'm talking about includes

  • Swearing when he hurts himself or is really angry.
  • Yelling and talking back to his mother telling her NO constantly when she asks/demands he do or not do something.
  • Overly aggressive even mean to the cat after being told constantly how this is absolutely unacceptable and mean.
  • Lying and not just white lies he makes up things all the time he lies about doing or not doing things even when we tell him that if he's lying and we find out he will not be able to go somewhere fun that week or he will lose a game etc. He sticks to his lie after repeated attempts to give him a out.
  • He's aggressive towards other kids at school and on the playground not in a bully kind of way more like he has a problem understanding personal space and boundaries.
  • Doing things he knows he shouldn't be doing right in front of us without any regard to us being there almost in a taunting way blatantly expressing that he doesn't fear any potential backlash.
  • Lastly he is incredibly lazy and has no want to do much of anything especially chores or work (I understand that most 5 year olds have little or no desire to do chores or work but this is not only a lack of desire but has no willingness to even try to do anything like work or chores around the house.)

This is a small list of the things that happen on a daily basis. His mother is a great mom and given the resources she's had available to her these last 5 years has done a amazing job raising her son. I just think she's gotten overwhelmed by a consuming fear of being labeled a "bad mom" because of the actions of her son.

He is an only child and very spoiled though his mother has a loud bark it is followed with little or no bite. Her son has the ability to manipulate her and guilt trip her by crying and throwing outrageous tantrums whenever and kind of consequences come his way for his actions or he will just flat out refuse. E. g.

Mom: "Go to your room"

Son: "NO!! I will not go to my room!!"

And if she picks him up and outs him there he will either destroy his room scream and pound on the walls or just walk right out of the room. My fiancée is begging me to step up and have a bigger role in disciplining him and helping with his defiant behavior but my mentality screams leather belt dad or wooden spoon if it's mom few slaps of one of those followed by an hour of splitting wood outside doesn't work repeat till it does... however I've heard that times have changed and these options are no longer acceptable.

So please if anyone can shed some light here or give some guidance it would be greatly appreciated.


3 Answers 3


It's likely that the child is confused about what's happening and pushing his limits (possibly as a cry for help). Mom and her ex need to talk about differences between parenting styles. What does 'Dad' do or not do when their son stays with him (and visa versa)? If the two of them can provide consistancy for the boy regardless of who he's with, the unwanted behaviors may resolve themselves.

I'm not sure that it's fair for 'Mom' to dump this in your lap. I get that she is overwhelmed and needs help. And I don't mean that to sound like it's her fault. I do think that the child's parents need to figure this out. They need to be "on the same page" first. Then you will be able to understand what boundaries you should follow to assist them.

Good luck, it will be worth it in the end...

  • Thank you for your advice and I agree with you about it being a "mom and dad" issue. Maybe I explained why I felt obligated to help that lies more in my own desire to help, than in his mom's pressuring me to. I have a very strong relationship with the kid and he shares so many of the same characteristics I had while growing up. Which was a completely different time it was the beginning of the what pills will help my kid era. (If that cmment offends anyone I apologize I don't mean to.) Honestly I think that had my parents opted to get me on some sort of med. To help me focus I'd have done a lo
    – Donnie347
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 5:49

You are in a bit of a difficult situation with not being the actual parent, as in reality you have little authority to carry out any form of punishment on the young boy and certainly using any form of corporal punishment could have undesirable consequences if it is even still legal. But having said that I take my hat off to you for wanting to assist your fiance with the issues and the behavior you describe is totally unacceptable and will most likely escalate as he gets older. The first thing that needs to be discovered between mum and dad is do they have the same issues when the child is with each of them and if so how do they resolve them If they don't have them what is one doing that the other is not doing. It might be that they have different styles, but it is not uncommon for a parent that has a child for a limited period to want to make the most of it and give the child all they desire and let them have their own way and get away with things that they would not do if they were with them long term. Then he comes home and has different rules to live by. As far as time out goes just a thought when we did it when my daughter was younger, we used to use a neutral room where none of her things were rather than her own room as when he did use her room at first she would do something while doing the time out which was counter productive as a punishment goes. The second part was that she would have to apologize to all that were in the room etc for her bad behavior before being allowed back in.

However your fiance may have to seek professional advice with this as the one thing that bothers me is the mean and aggressive tendencies towards his mother, other children and the cat this needs to be sorted out at 5 he can be easily overpowered but in later years it could become a huge issue that could land him in very bad trouble in later years


I'm no expert and agree with the suggestion that getting some professional help would probably be a good idea: especially to do with the aggression towards people and animals.

This however really jumped out at me:

He is an only child and very spoiled though his mother has a loud bark it is followed with little or no bite. Her son has the ability to manipulate her and guilt trip her by crying and throwing outrageous tantrums whenever and kind of consequences come his way for his actions or he will just flat out refuse.

This is NOT okay. If a child is given punishment not only MUST it be carried out (or else they learn that there IS no consequence) and their protests about it should mean NOTHING. They won't like it (it is a consequence after all) and they can scream and holler all they like but it will change nothing.

And if she picks him up and outs him there he will either destroy his room scream and pound on the walls or just walk right out of the room.

So? Let him destroy the room (he will have to clean it up later after all). Or make the room less "destroyable". Perhaps a "naughty step" would be less prone to being destroyed than a room. The BIGGEST thing though is that he is allowed to leave (and presumably eventually not have to do the whole timeout). If he walks out, just pick him up and stick him right back in. It might take 30 times of replacing him the first few times but eventually he will understand that if he leaves the room his timeout starts over and that Mom/Dad/You mean what you say.

Having no bit behind the bark just teaches the child to ignore you. Threats with no follow through loose their meaning. Children are SMART. Children are manipulative and children are STUBBORN. You HAVE to just out-stubborn them.

Perhaps an easy way for you to start helping your Fiance with discipline is to first ask her how she feels about you enforcing her rules after the kid has worn her out. If she is okay with this, then help to be the enforcement behind them. Better yet, alternate with her. Say the kid runs out of his timeout room: She puts him back the first time (no kisses, hugs, talking, or other rewards: just an emotionless pick up and replace). Then you can put him back the next time, then her the next time, etc. Eventually it wont be necessary to keep putting him back but for now he needs to learn that timeouts are NOT optional. By alternating he learns that not only do you support her but that SHE is also a driving force instead of it just being you that enforces.

As for the swearing - I think it might be a more minor issue compared to some of the other things, but I did watch an episode of "House of Tiny Tearaways" on youtube recently that had a kid who would swear a lot. I think their solution was to tell him what he did wrong (as usual before a timeout) and then to just stick him in a timeout every. single. time. It started to work rather quickly due to the consistency. I don't remember which episode it was unfortunately but if you look for it, it was a kid with a head full of SUPER curly blonde hair.

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