My 6 year-old-son is usually at his worst behavior when he is with my wife and I. He is an only child as seems to behave better with one of us rather than both at the same time. My wife and I discipline a little differently as I am usually more strict. Does this have anything to do with his behavior or is there another reason why he's so bad when we are all together?
When problem behaviors come up with a child in certain situations but not others, a parent should step back and try to determine what it is about those situations that causes the child to respond differently. Sometimes, you can actually simply ask the child and he can tell you, but frequently you will have to figure it out on your own. For example, if two parents have different parenting styles, sometimes a child will act differently when they are together because he does not know which parent’s rules to follow, or because he is trying to “divide and conquer” (that is, he has learned that when mom and dad are together and he acts out, someone eventually gives in and gives him what he wants). If either of these is the case, the parents would want to make sure that in advance they develop a well thought-out set of rules, expectations, and consequences, and that they as one unit consistently enforce and implement them.
And remember, sometimes you need to look past the “obvious” answer when trying to figure out why a child is acting out. For example, a child may respond differently when both parents are around not because they are both there, but rather because the times in which they are all together happen to be different from the ones in which they are not (perhaps mom and dad tend to be together at night, when he is tired, and it is his being tired that is what is affecting his behavior). If this is the case, parents would want to address the factor that is really causing the difficulties (so, in this example, a parent may want to let the child have some quiet relaxing time before everyone gets together).
Once a parent figures out what is behind the behavior, it is easier to decide what to do about it. If, for example, when the parents are together the child feels jealous because it means he gets less attention, or he doesn’t want to “share” a parent, or he feels that you don’t love him as much because you are showing affection to someone else, explain to him that no matter whom you are with, you will always love him with all of your heart, even when you are talking to someone else. Also, you can explain to him that afterwards you plan to spend special “alone time” with him, but if he acts up when you are all together, having to deal with that will make you too tired to able to do so (so you are also making it worth his while to act good). Then, right before each time you will all be together, remind him of this (and of the consequences of misbehaving), and as needed give him reminders as the time together continues.
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