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How can I get my one-year-old to behave, stop lying, and respect others?


​My ex-boyfriend and I have three children together. We've been split up for 10 years, but our one son, Jaxson, has ADD and struggles with listening and behaving appropriately. He has a real problem with being respectful and minding his elders and authority figures. He tells lies and is also very manipulative. To complicate matters, he seems to have little remorse for his wrongdoing. I'm out of ideas on how to get him to behave and to get him to respect others. I feel like I'm failing.​


Boys Town - Misbehaving

Thank you so much for reaching out. It sounds like you have your hands full with your son. Parenting is a challenge, but it is extra hard if you have a child testing you like Jaxson is. We do not know if his father is seeing similar behaviors. If so, it will be important to come together so your son sees you are now a team and are going to report to each other, work together to determine what a consequence might be, and even hold your son to the consequence no matter what household he is in.

If your son only behaves like this for you, having the support of your ex will be important, too, so that your son does not think he can get away with it if he is home with you. You mentioned you are out of ideas. A crisis counselor here can certainly talk to you to see what you have tried, what you might need to tweak a bit, or based on what you share, even see if there are some referrals in your area or the metropolitan area of Omaha that might be of help.

Lying/sneaking – you want to teach him to tell the truth. He needs to look at you, say exactly what happened when asked, answer any other questions you have, be sure to not leave out important facts, and admit to mistakes or errors if he made them. Let him know he will see an increase of negative consequences if he continues with his pattern of lying. If he does, call him out on it, give him a negative consequence that is age appropriate, but also work with him on this. Kids lie to over-exaggerate something, make themselves look good, to get something they want, or to avoid something they do not like. Each day, ask a dozen questions you already know the answer to. These questions can be obvious, like, what did you eat for breakfast? Or what color is my shirt? But it gets him in the practice of being honest.

Disrespect – you want to teach him to be respectful. He needs to look at you when talking, keep his voice at an inside voice level, listen to you without interrupting, give a calm explanation of why he might disagree, and accept your instruction. Even if he gets mad because he earned a negative consequence, remain calm. If he sees his parent lose their cool, he gains control of your emotions too, and you do not want your son having that edge. Just deliver the consequence like an officer giving a speeding ticket. “This is what the rule is. This is what you did. This is the consequence that you earned." 

You cannot afford to not give consequences once you put these clear expectations into play. The consequences have to be something that motivates him or is meaningful to him, and they have to be delivered calmly and consistently or they will not work. In fact, if you follow through nine times, and the tenth time you let it slide because he has been doing so well, he will push it again thinking “Maybe this will be the time mom gives up again." You might even be trying some of this now, but certainly give us a call at 1-800-448-3000, or you can even try the Nebraska Family Helpline at 1-888-866-8660, and a crisis counselor can talk through this a bit more to see if there is something you can tweak to spark a change in him.

We hope this is helpful and remember to keep the teaching and practicing brief and fun and occurring frequently.​