Son Won't Listen and Talks Back... Need Help!

Updated on May 10, 2007
E.M. asks from Lawton, OK
10 answers

My son Kalub is 20 months. He has just started to talk back and be mean. He will tell me to shup up and hit and bite me. I can put him into timeout but he will just scream and when he stops and sits there he will get up and hug me but then just does it again. He throws stuff during dinner and just getting mean to me. Anyone had this happen or have any way to help? I try not to get too mad but sometimes I have to give myself a time out to cool off. Thanks Ladies!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Well I have found that at that age, taking something away that they love to play with usually works. It really seems to work for my twins. They are 4 1/2. But I think it worked at that age too. Time out didn't seem to work for me at that age, cause they seemed to think it was a game. But if you show them that when they act up & are mean, then they will lose something that they enjoy, then it shows them that it is wrong. Good Luck!

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answers from Kansas City on

Check into how he's being treated while you're gone. He's learning it somewhere, either from other kids or adults he's around. The biting thing is normal, and the hitting. Mostly he's probably just frustrated and communicating it the best he knows how. If you catch yourself saying things you don't want him to say, try switching to less aggressive words. I had to break 'Shut up' when my son was young, along with some other choice words. I now use 'Hush please' and walk away. 'Fire-engine' comes in handy sometimes too.

For the hitting and biting, we used a combination of 'That hurts Mommy when you..' or 'Mommy will cry if you bite her' and 'What do nice hands do?' 'Nice hands hug (then hug)..or tickle (then tickle), etc.' So basically we just take things my son knows (biting hurts and makes people cry) and redirection (Nice hands are more fun!).

He's four now, and still has his moments (especially with other kids), but his preschool reinforces what we do at home and vice versa.

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answers from Kansas City on

I agree with everyone that has said that some of this is because of changes in his life. But part of those changes are simply that he's growing up. For a 20 month old to have the verbal skills to tell you to shut up, that tells me he's bright. That's a great thing. But I've seen for the last 20 years that the bright ones are also a bit more difficult, bull headed and determined to get their way. If you handle them right you can teach them to channel those leadership skills. But he isn't old enough to lead quite yet!

I have a little bit of a different approach to the shut up thing. I don't view it as a bad thing for an adult to say. If I want someone to shut up I'm going to say shut up. But that's because I know when to use it. I tell my kids that children don't speak that way to each other or to adults. I just don't believe that we can or should go through life sweet talking to kids all the time. Sometimes we just have to put our foot down. I don't want to swear at them and shut up is a strong thing to say when they are using tantrums or manipulation. It gets the point accross a lot more than being syrupy sweet to them.

I also highly disagree with telling a child that biting hurts mommy or mommy will cry. I say this because I've seen moms do this after a child punched them in the face or pulled a hand full of hair out of their head for no reason at all! It always comes up in that high pitch sqeaky voice that makes me want to scream. At this age they do not yet have a conscience so you can't appeal soley to something that is completely undeveloped. They still view us as not much more than their caretakers and the world revolves around them. Learning to even recognize others exist and actually caring about them comes in time and when we teach them to. I would firmly put them in a chair or in a crib or in another room and tell them that I don't like being around mean people and they are mean. I would make it very clear that it's wrong and bad to do. When a child is being physically agressive it is not the time to baby talk to them!

We are taught that when a child bites another child we should immediately give all of our attention to the hurt child. That way the child that did the biting will see that the hurt child is suddenly the center of attention. It will model the kind of caring that we want them to learn to have. But if they are hitting us who is going to show us this kind of concern? Only we can do that and I believe in doing it through a natural consequence. No one seeks out the company of someone that abuses them...well they shoudn't anyway. So if you give them the cold shoulder for awhile they will figure it out that treating mom or anyone else bad is going to make them rather lonely for awhile.

What happens on a playground when a child bullys others? They end up isolated because no one wants to play with them. It's all quite natural.

However, I have to say that if you are going to use these negative ways to deal with it, you have to shower them with TONS of affection when they are doing the right things.

I have raised 4 daughters, 2 are adults and one is almost an adult. The little one is the sweetest child ever and her sisters are all pretty sweet too. They have all moved into management on the jobs at very young ages. They have learned to be leaders and yet treat their employees well. My methods are rather old fashioned by todays standards.

I am NOT a fan of most of todays current "methods" for handling kids. Kids are often the sweetest, funnest, and most rewarding people to be around. But they can also be cruel. In years past people ignored this and had attitudes like "kids will be kids" That was wrong. I would NEVER allow any of my kids to be cruel to each other. I deal swift and sure with bad behavior and do my best to teach my kids how to treat each other. But, todays methods are just more of the same... The new ideas don't exactly condone the behavior. But it doesn't really teach that severe consequences exist.

I guess I'm rambling at this point. I'm tired and it's late. But mostly if you have read this far, I want you to know this is a normal age to start this behavior. 20 months can be one of the meanest ages for kids. Some kids are worse than others at this age, but they all do this stuff.


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answers from Oklahoma City on

We are not born knowing empathy, it is taught. When he hits you or bites you, it's time for an acting job. Really be in pain, fall to the ground, "you hurt mommy" and cry. Then make him apologise to you. When he says something mean, same thing, get really sad and tell him "you hurt my feelings". You will see a quick change.

I am not against spanking, pop his butt, you are showing him what it's like to hurt, after he is done crying, show him empathy.

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answers from Wichita on

Boy..You sure have your hands full and i really admire what your doing!! I've been there and it's not easy, but very rewarding.I am a married mom of 7[3grown..4 left at home] 6 girls and 1 3yr old boy.I am having the same problem with my 3 yr old since going back to work and leaving him in daycare for 3 weeks.I recently quit my job because he has gotten so bad i didn't know what to do.I called our pediatritian and talked to her about it and she said to NOT react to his tantrums..Even when he is hitting and throwing a fit, because he wants your attention any way he can get it and so even when i'm in wal-mart and he gets mean i pay for my stuff and walk out without rewarding him with anything and TRYING to ignore his outbursts because he will eventually stop when he sees that i am not reacting to him, he calms down and says that he's sorry and then i talk to him about how he is acting.I have had to take many time outs so please do not feel bad..It's normal..LOL But i have seena BIG difference in him and it's only been 2 weeks so i am going to keep trying this and hope that it works.I hope that this helps you.Good luck and God Bless..L.



answers from Kansas City on

You've got two things happening here.

1) If you're recently divorced he may just be acting out due to this life-changing event.
2) He's entering into the terrible twos stage. He's learning he can express himself, but it typically is the negative expression that they test out first. Remember that disipline should show him that you love him, but don't like his behavior. Chose the right words and use a good tone of voice yourself, and do the redirecting that was mentioned earlier, but also let him know that his time out doesn't START until the screaming starts.

My daughter would cry and scream when sent to time out, and I'd just say I don't want to hear it so go do timeout in your room. She typically didn't want to miss the action of whatever fun thing I was doing, so she'd settle down so she could do the timeout around me. Timeout for his age should be 1 1/2 to 2 minutes (equivilant to their age).

Good Luck.



answers from Kansas City on

Hi E.,
I've got a few suggestions... *
*If you have been recently divorced he is very well wondering when you will leave (in his mind anyway). You need to show him you love him very much but not when he is using bad behavior or talking to you in a bad way that would only encourage the behavior it should be discipline there.

*If and when you talk to his father you need to make sure your son is not present (he is asleep or at the sitters or wherever) and if you do speak to him while your son is present there is no "daddy bashing" while he is present. Might be where he is picking up the bad behavior and language. (Or speak to anyone else for that matter)(here is stress)

*You recently got divorced, no matter how recent that is it is very stressful for your son, his world has been completely turned upside down. One day mommy and daddy live together and the next they aren't (here is stress).

*On top of that you are gonna throw in potty training which is stressful on its own for you and him and he is only 20 months old. In my opinion is very young for a child (but every child is different). (here again stress)

*If you speak to him in anger he is only going to model that behavior in a 2 yr old form.

Now for my advice...
I would take a step back and relax on potty training (this can cause stress for a child and you already have stress present).

I would also address the behavior in another way such as when he gets mad (you can't react by getting mad that does nothing for either of you), I would say "I know you are mad because you want to do this but" (whatever you are not allowing him to do) we are going to do this right now. Also send him to a cool off spot his bed, a certain chair whatever you think is appropriate and when he calms down you talk about why he is angry.

If he is using bad language towards you then I would tell him "we don't use that kind of language" (but you can't use it in his presence either) and he gets a toy, movie or something taken away. Explain to him why he is getting it taken away and for how long. If he does it again take something else.
Kids have currency at every age, currency being his toys, games, books, a privledge, an earlier bedtime, no toys in the tub when he takes a bath, etc.

I'm not saying you are doing a horrible job or not trying your best but you have to understand your son is doing his best to understand what is going on around him. He is trying to understand an adult issue that he doesn't and won't understand for a long time. Also don't make the divorce his "issue", it's yours and needs to be handled as such with as little information as possible said in front of him.
I hope you get this resloved for the both of you goodluck, W. mom of 4



answers from Kansas City on

I wrote a parenting book because I am a single mom of a boy with Adhd. Those are the hardest years that you are dealing with right now. Kaleb needs ACTIONS that he can do to make a difference and you need actions that make a big difference with him in a small amount of time, right?

Consider my book for only $10 at My son, Brandon, and I created it together by finding what worked for both of us. He is now 12, a straight A student, happy, great manners, star of school play, great athlete, popular, etc. all by using these techniques. I know they will make both of your lives easier. I feel for you cause I've been there. It ill get better, I promise.

Good luck!!!



answers from Tulsa on

You have to step back and look at your situation. Life doesn't simply go on for children after divorce. You may have to wait on everything until he adjusts to it just being the two of you, then work on the behavior then work on potty training because he can't handle all 3 at once no matter how bright he is or how well you think he's handling the divorce.

I've been working with my boys on a different time out technique. We don't put the kids in time out for saying stuff they lose a favored toy the activity the are doing...stuff like that because being removed from you isn't going to change the attitude behind the bad words. You say "You are going to lose your television time now because you used a naughty word." I act as non emotional as possible to these words because they are intended to spark a reaction, get attention and the therapist says not feed that need for attention. I calmly say we use happy words and (you don't get to use those words either)

Time out is reserved for not following instructions. You wait 5 seconds between the instruction and issuing a warning about time out then another 5 seconds before actually acting on the warning. If you have to use time out he goes into an empty room or safe room for 1 minute. We use the bathroom for the older boy and the younger one's bedroom for the younger one. You stand there holding the door closed for that minute. When you know time is up you ask him "Are you ready to (follow my instruction by naming the instruction)? ~pick up the toy~ if he doesn't say yes you then shut the door and wait another minute. When he says yes take him right back to the scene of the crime and make him follow the instruction. If he doesn't then you put him right back into the room.

Okay this can be done in a chair too but it needs to be in a room where he can't watch you as you go about business, and it should be an adult sized chair and 3 minutes with 5 seconds of silence. But my boys are physically aggressive enough that hitting me on the way to the chair, throwing the adult sized chair and kicking anything near them across the room are the norm.



answers from Tulsa on

Sounds like you have a lot on your plate being a single mom with a son and 2 jobs...make that 3 jobs (mom and employee x 2) It may very well be that the only way Kalub feels he can get your attention is with bad behavior. If you arent sceduling Mom and Kalub is a good time to start. Also, you might try catching him with good behavior. If he says "can I please"..say " I like it when you use your nice words." If he cleans his room...dont just say "Your room looks nice"...try "wow! you put your cars in the box and your books on the shelf..I can see that you did a lot of hard work! Great Job!" This is all geared for Kalub to see that you are paying attention. Then maybe he wont feel the need to use his "mean words" If he throws something at dinner say "It makes me (angry,disappointed, sad)when you throw things" But if dinner time is a key bad behavior time...right away try to compliment him..."I like it when you come to the table right way. Good Job" or "You are doing a great job using your spoon! Awesome!" I hope this helps!! I know it may sound cheesy but it works for me when I am having trouble with my son.

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