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My son is being a little shit, and I don't know what to do

Don't Mainpage, please. TW kids, behavioral problems, medication

I feel a need (probably unnecessary) to preface this by saying that I love my children and that no matter how frustrated I get, I will never stop loving them, and I never intentionally do anything that could possibly do them harm, physical or psychological.

I just need to vent. It's really stressful for me to be a part of this and not let it off my chest. And I feel horrible for admitting to being stressed out by my kids, who I consider to be the greatest blessing ever to come into my life. Am I a bad dad for getting so pissed off and frustrated at my kids? Am I asking for advice? Not really. I promise I won't throw it back in my face if you give me unsolicited advice, but I won't necessarily agree with it or take it, and I may not respond either way.


So here it goes: Lately, my oldest kid — Gradling 1 — has had frequent outbursts of aggression, defiance, tantrums, and all around meanness. In other words, my sweet little angel has turned — at least temporarily, and he often changes right back — into a little shit.Gradling 1 is clever, to say the least. He has a highly developed vocabulary, a knack for saying hilarious things, often things he'd heard us say, translated into his own language. He invents new words like "amn't" and "tomorning." And he torments his little brother mercilessly.

I love all of my children. I try to love them equally (which is really meaningless, because how would you quantify and abstraction like "love"?), but it's true that I've loved Gradling 1 the longest. That's just a matter of timing: he was here first and his birth taught me what it means to fall in love with your child. He was a good baby: he slept more and cried less than the stories I'd heard about other babies. Once he got bigger, he got into mischief, but it was out of curiosity not maliciousness.

Then Gradling 2 came into the picture.

Gradling 1 was about 2 years old at the time, and he cried the first time he saw the new baby (he got over that quick once he realized it was a photo op. Both of my boys are suckers for the camera lens). Over the next few months, he sort of ignored Gradling 1, who was at that time an occasionally noisy and annoying doll that he couldn't really play with. We had to watch him closely: he wouldn't be mean to the baby, but he was high energy and didn't really know his own strength.


2 became 3, in two ways: Gradling 1 turned three years old, and a few months after that, we gained another child. Since then — I can't say for certain when it really started getting bad, but it's recent — he's gotten more and more aggressive toward his brother and more willful and defiant to us. In the past few weeks, it's gotten almost intolerable. He's always been willful, but he's become actively defiant now. He says "no" immediately when asked to do something. He has screaming, howling meltdowns when anything even slightly deviates from how he believes it should be. And he tackles, hits, and kicks his brother. It doesn't always seem particularly mean. If I were of a different mindset, I'd just say "ah, it's just horseplay. It'll toughen them both up. Boys will be boys" and then ask my wife to get me a beer when she's finished changing the baby. But that's not me, and I don't know I want Gradling 2 toughened up. He's such a sweet boy, and he doesn't deserve to get tackled to the floor just because he has a toy Gradling 1 wants. I should add that Gradling 1 is perfectly sweet with the baby. He always speaks softly to her, pats her gently, coos her name, sings the ABC song to calm her when she's fussy, just like he did when his brother was a baby. But what will happen when she stops being a wonderful doll and starts being a mobile hair-puller?

I don't know if the aggressiveness and general being-a-little-shit to everyone is something he'll grow out of or a sign of something wrong. He has mental illness genes from both sides of the tree, and even barring that, who knows what kind of brain-altering toxins are in our environment now? If it is something wrong, what could be done? I believe that mental illness in children, while over-diagnosed and exaggerated by parents a little too eager to drug their kids into conformity and compliance, are a very real problem and that sometimes medication needs to be part of the intervention. Hell, I'm on a whole pharmacy of drugs right now. But I am not comfortable with giving psychotropic meds to a kid whose brain is developing so rapidly, particularly one who is as bright as him. I know one strategy would be to change his diet to see if there is something in that that triggers him. That's a good thought, but I don't see how I could remove any of the few things that he will actually eat from him without triggering the very meltdowns I'm trying to avoid. If this is a phase, and I just have to be patient while he matures a bit, what exactly can I do to ameliorate its effects. Gradling 2 already copies his big brother, and he sometimes copies his aggressions as well. My wife and I are both really stressed out by this, and both of us already have fragile moods to begin with. He can turn from sweet little angel, to precocious accidental comedian, to mean little shit to howling with sorrow within a few minutes. I'd say I'm at my wits' end, but I gotta be honest: I've been way past that point for years now. And I'll be honest: I'd be a little disappointed if my kids didn't end up a little bit defiant and resistant to compliance. Just... not yet. And not to me. I keep reminding myself that I love him, and assuring myself that it will get better someday, somehow, but in the moment, it's getting hard to feel anything other than pissed, frustrated, and angry at him, and pissed, frustrated, and angry at myself for feeling all this.


I honestly don't know whether or not it's a good idea to publish this. I don't know what kind of response I'll get, but I trust you guys to be kind and discreet (and also discrete. Each of you is a different one, or maybe all of us are sock puppets for Dan Simmons). Just... I don't know, could anyone share similar experience, positive or negative?

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