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Why won't my son listen to me?
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Why won't my son listen to me?

I am a mother of two, a four year old and a one year old. My four year old seems to have a big problem listening to me, but he will immediately obeys his dad. Up until May I worked outside the home but now I am home all day with his younger sister. My husband is in the military and spends a lot of time away from home. My problems started after my husband returned from a six month deployment, which happened to be around Joshua's second birthday. At first my husband was reluctant to discipline, until I pointed out that it didn't matter that he hadn't been around but since he was home now Joshua would have to get used to listening to him also. Any time I would put Josh in time out he would come behind me and add to whatever I had already done. I didn't think much about it at first until Joshua stopped listening to me. My husband's intentions were good but he seemed to do more harm than good by sending the message that my word alone wasn't good enough. We have had our ups and downs, but it has been mostly downhill since little sister came along. My husband was in school and would only be home on weekends, Joshua would misbehave all week and on the weekends he was an angel. I'm sure a lot of his misbehavior was for my attention, and I would go out of my way to read stories or do puzzles with Joshua in the evening when his sister was asleep. When he wouldn't get dressed in the mornings I didn't have time for time out so I would reward him if he got dressed quickly, sometimes it helped but not always. He has become a lot better about listening during the day, I have read some books and have changed my style in a few ways. My biggest problem now is that he gets up in the night and eats sweets, even if he ate all his dinner and had dessert earlier. When I ask him why he will say he was hungry, he knows that he is supposed to ask for food if he is hungry. Even though I know it isn't just about hunger I have tried giving him milk and a piece of bread right before bed. I know it isn't about hunger because he will pass by bread or some other healthy food to climb to cookies or whatever else he really wants. What do you with a child who waits until you are asleep to go foraging for food in the night? I have also tried not keeping these kinds of foods in the house, he doesn't go into the kitchen but he will play in other areas of the house occasionally. Besides not being good for him it robs me of sleep because I am always on the alert for the slightest sound in the night. It is no small coincidence that he has NEVER done anything like this when his dad was home. Thank you for any suggestions you might have to offer.
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Dear Charmaine,

Your letter indicates that you have some idea why your son behaves the way he does. He clearly has the capacity to do better - you've seen it yourself. However, he does not consistently respond to your efforts, undoubtedly due to strains between you and your husband, to which you make reference.

Your son's behavior warrants professional intervention. The degree to which such intervention succeeds will depend mostly on the amount of progress you and your husband can make in forming a cohesive parental unit, wherein you work together and support each other's efforts and jurisdiction with your son. This situation will not improve spontaneously.
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