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Our 3.5-year-old son just keep reacting: asking mom about all things. He doesn’t care if I am calling. if he is crying I am trying to console him. He would fight me to go to mother and I keep repeating his name but he wouldn’t listen. It has become very frustrating for me. It is like talking to a wall or a mean person. I know he is my son but I feel like I don’t have any respect like my words doesn’t matter. He do listen to a strict voice of his mom, when I get strict voice he would run for his mom and we end up having argument that I am not understanding him (TBH I give him my best) but she has a upper hand being strict even scaring him that he get spanked with shoes (Asian standard of locking in dark room).

Background: I work full time, my wife works part time. He is with his grandma. He got 4 uncles all under 30. I think they lack etiquette. There is yelling, loud laughter. My son got constipation and making him do potty is a HUGE issue which is all crying and screaming. He wants to see TV all day and want mobile while going to bed and wake up to ask mobile (the reason is my wife wake up late and he wake early so to make him busy she gives mobile) and lately we had a fight because he kept asking mobile. At night and I kept saying no mobile in night, but he was constantly ignoring me and kept repeating to his mother during which I lost my cool.

Even in grandma's house it’s mobile or TV because she cannot take her out, her boys are either on TV, mobile or PS4.

I do not know what is contributing to my son's behaviour of totally ignoring me (sometimes he just cries and wants to get X thing and my wife gives it, once telling me I scold him more because of you? Again blame game). But I really want to take the things out which is making him so ignorant towards me.

Why is he becoming like this? Should I take away internet from home and cut off my wife mobile? Am I thinking too extreme? What can I do?

  • How old is your son? And how do you spend your time with him before/after you go to work or at the weekends? – Arsak Mar 3 at 9:08
  • He is 3 1/2. Generally he is mostly at his grandma house when I come home and my wife bring him back when she is coming. While setting up dining table I try to play with him and ask him to help him but he prefer watching tv. We have food while again he is on mobile, then we go to bed around 10. So I think i mix and match of 1 hour. Even on my holiday her grandma picks him up which I object coz I want to spend time with my son and she objects that she feel alone. I feel like my desires get violated in way of black mailing, even sometimes his uncle pick him and say he didn’t get memo. – Nofel Mar 3 at 9:14
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This is a tricky problem that is common when Dads work long hours and the children are at home with another person. They form very strong bonds with the primary care giver, and sometimes Dad can seem like an interloper, particularly if he comes in with rules and demands for respect.

I think you need to work closely with mum and ensure that you set and keep appropriate boundaries. For example, no mobiles at the dinner table, and a 10pm bedtime is too late for a 3.5 year old. Set boundaries and keep to them, and reward adherence to these boundaries. You said that he ignores you with his mobile at night, well you are the parent, take it off him. He needs to know that you are in charge and that you are both on the same page. It takes a while, but firm and consistent discipline with rewards and consequences (not punishments) really works.

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I want to say my main feeling is "this can be overcome". This seems pretty typical of a lot of situations and frankly an easy trap to fall into. But it wont be easy.

In my opinion your son is acting pretty typically for a three year old in the scenarios you describe.

I get the feeling there has been a breakdown in team work between yourself and your wife which in turn happens with the rest of the family.

Re-Establish Team Work

This will need to start with a deep and honest conversation with your wife. Find/make time for it (e.g. book a day off work). Approach it calmly and not from a place of anger / hurt. It's important you get across your feelings without blaming her (this can be tricky and you may even want to consider a mediator / councillor if its not going well, which it sounds like it might not be).

Tell her you feel left out of the parenting decisions (again re-enforce you dont blame her), mention things (phone etc) that you would like to try changing and see if you can find easier ways to transition (see below). Then take some time to listen to your wife, find out why she feels the need to do the things you don't agree with (e.g. phone) understand them and again suggests ways you can work with her (e.g. she might have felt really overwhelmed before she started giving him the phone etc). Then get onto the subject of family and work out together how they can be politely asked to keep you in the loop better and give you more quality time with your son (perhaps this can again be transitioned by spending together with grandma and your son, go for a gentle walk / to the park together).

Thats going to be the first major hurdle, once you have established the teamwork you can start addressing things that will be affecting your sons behaviour

Addressing the behaviour

(warning there is no point in trying to address these without your wife on board, it will only make you the bad guy and continue this problem warning)

Even after getting your wife on board, she is going to be tentative at first, get some books that you can both read before attempting anything (I really recommend 1,2,3 magic, its a really simple approach that when you stick to it, works really well, and I think as a parent its useful to have that structure/framework for yourself and partner to consistently fall back on)

  • Shared, Consistent discipline. We use a mixture of 1,2,3 magic and a green and red token system (green tokens when they display good behaviour, red when we get to 3) But figure out what will work for the both of you

  • Reduce screen time. We saw a massive change in behaviour when we dramatically cut back screen time and I think most people would agree with you that he is having too much (again its important you don't tell your wife 'you are doing it wrong', phrase it as 'i think we should try'. In our relationship I was the one resistant to cutting back screen time but we came up with a plan together that we both liked. We agreed to have no screen time at all apart from on "Movie night" which we have every friday, we sold it to our kids as this big exciting thing, movie night will have pop corn and be fun etc, but it means no more screen time in the week. Personally I think its the best thing we have ever done. The point is, figure out some kind of "swap", because kids are not going to understand it stopping abruptly, get it across as a 'fair trade'

  • Earlier bed time, in my opinion aim for about 7.00/7.30. this important for him (he needs the sleep) and you as a couple (you need adult time together) emphasis the last point when talking to your wife, you want to spend more time with her.

  • Address why you leave everyday, again with your wife, take the time to explain why you leave, explain that going to work is how the family can buy food and nice things (like treats) and that you wish you could spend more time with them but it has to be done. This is a really subtle thing that is easy to miss, but kids just see you leaving and assume its because you want to.

Again you can't make progress on this on your own, things wont get better overnight and sadly as the secondary care-giver you are always going to have this problem in one form or another. But speaking from experience, now that my son is older we actually have the opposite problem, he sees mum all the time and he misses me so now he acts up for mum and is well behaved for me :O.

Things shift and change over time, the thing that needs to remain constant is you and your wife tackling things as a team, try very, very hard (because it is hard) to not hold resentment for each other. Its easily done, one resenting the other for getting more 'adult time' and the other for more 'kid time' but you need to push past it and work together

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    Completely agree, and if I wasn't such a bad typist that's what my response would have said. You need to talk to your wife and become a team. – MikeH Mar 6 at 7:57
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Change his diet. If he's constipated then he needs to be eating foods with more fiber. You should spend quality time with your child and go have some fun just you 2 when you have time so he can't go to his mother. And stay calm never yell or threaten. A sign of a strong authority that commands respect is to not lose your temper. If you tell then your child will yell. And tell your wife to take him to the park or something instead of playing on the phone. Or maybe get a physical interactive game like Xbox Kinect so he exercises.

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I can understand your situation. According to me, try being soft on him for around two weeks, I mean completely soft and somewhat less caring. If things change, nothing like it but if it still persists, you must become firm and somewhat aggressive. Otherwise, your impression may be compromised and in the long run, your presence at home may hardly make any difference. Good luck!

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    Hi Henry, welcome! I'm not convinced by this answer, I think it runs the risk of giving mixed messages to a child. One week dad is being fun and jovial and not showing too much discipline, and then it changes to aggressive and firm control. I think a child would find this confusing and the result would be more challenging behaviour. – MikeH Mar 5 at 8:48
  • Hi Henry, I am also not convinced with this answer, I agree with MikeH. – chrispepper1989 Mar 5 at 15:58
  • Being soft has already made his existence almost negligible for his child. Probably being firm bring some positive change. And that's why I mentioned for 2 weeks, to try, not just for 2 days. – Henry Apr 15 at 6:58

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