We are here, waiting for this baby, so I thought I’d do an Ask Auntie Leila, as there seems to be a veritable epidemic of boys out there who are misbehaving in a major way. It’s funny how the emails I get definitely go in waves. Right now we are apparently experiencing the result of some crazy alignment of stars or something, five years ago, because these boys are giving their moms a hard time.
The basic question is as follows (I’m going to compress them into one, as this topic does seem to be of general interest):
Dear Auntie Leila,
My oldest child, a boy, is turning five. (Alternately, “My third child and first boy is almost five.” Once in a while, “my daughter” but not usually.) My husband and I have been really frustrated with his behavior lately. I will try not to exaggerate, since he really is a sweet boy when he wants to be, but most of the time he is disobedient, disrespectful, untruthful, and lately getting into mischief that seemed he was beyond creating a long time ago. For example, lately I can’t trust him to go to the bathroom on his own without his getting into the toothpaste or unrolling all the toilet paper. The other day, left alone for 10 min., he got into my make-up and drenched himself in my perfume and used my eyeliner for war paint. These are the sorts of things he used to do, and what I would expect his two younger brothers to do when unsupervised, but I thought he was past that stage. He seems to be reverting.
When he misbehaves, we send him to his room or spank him.
The other day he bit his baby sister, then argued with me about it, then got a swat for the biting/arguing, then he threw a temper tantrum because he was mad he got a swat so was sent to his room, and then that kid had the nerve to sneak around the corner and throw little rocks at me because he was mad he had been punished for biting! Things will just keep escalating like this until he gets to a point where he’s a sobbing little mess who needs to be picked up and cuddled because he has reached the pit of despair. Then he gets the talk about why what he did was wrong, and about making good decision, etc. etc. He will sincerely apologize, and yet somehow, this never seems to deter him the next time. Next time means in five minutes!
I want to put him in front of the TV just to get a break. I am at my wits’ end. I am worried about the effect of all this misbehavior on my other children!
Concerned, Desperate, etc. etc.
Dear Concerned and Desperate,
Clearly you are not alone. Auntie Leila’s inbox is here to attest to that! Some little boys are naughty as a matter of course, and it all reaches a peak between the ages of four and five! As much as this is a developmental stage for the little blighter, it’s one for you as well. You are leaving the stage of your life where you basically move toddlers through their day (or, in the case of the older children being girls, have enjoyed a time of rather inward-directed energy) and into a somewhat frightening realm where the subjects are discovering that they are autonomous and they are going to make the most of it.
What worries you is that this child will be a delinquent reports of whom get shared on Facebook. You are sure you won’t be around to read them, having expired from the effort required to manage him. You are beat.
But don’t worry. Things will be all right! Your heedless five-year-old will be your strong and considerate seventeen-year-old. I realize it’s a long row to hoe, but hopefully it helps to know that things get better!