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5-year-old bent on regressing

I'm going to try to make this as short as possible. In August I moved in with my boyfriend and his three kids. Actually, only the youngest is biologically his, but he has full costody of the older two. These kids have had a pretty chaotic life. Their mother was neglectful and a little abusive. My boyfriend was in the army when they were married, and he did his best to take good care of the kids whenever he was home. Unfortunately, he was sent out on missions regularly.

Then he was sent to Iraq for a year. Within a week his wife had moved another man into the house. Soon she had sent the kids to live with her mother in very poor conditions. Then her car broke down in the middle of nowhere, and the only people that could help her out were my boyfriend's parents. So, she signed over the custody of the kids in order to get her car fixed.

When the kids went to live with my boyfriend's parents things became a lot more stable, but not perfect. His youngest son William, then 2, was considered the "golden child" since he was the only biological grandchild. He was super spoiled. My boyfriend returned from Iraq when William was three and discovered that he was being spoonfed and had never been potty trained. He ended up moving in with his parents so that they could help with the kids while he went back to college. So the spoiling of William continued.

After moving in together we have had behavior problems with all of the kids. Nothing too bad, really, but still they can be very frustrating. William is having a lot of trouble learning not to be spoiled and to follow rules. He doesn't throw tantrums or anything (well, rarely), but he whines and cries. As far as following rules and directions goes...he just doesn't seem to connect behavior to consequences. He doesn't *think*, he just *acts*.

In December he really started regressing to a younger age. I know that this can be normal, and is often for attention...or maybe he is just trying to go to a time when he felt safer. The thing that triggered this behavior is his older brother moving out of their shared bedroom and getting his own room. Since then William has been pooping his pants, sometimes peeing his pants, and asking for things like his stroller and potty chair. It got so bad that we had to put him in pull-ups for awhile, just because he was ruining his clothing (and things he was sitting on!). He was thrilled with the pull-ups, where most kids would have been embarassed.

Things are getting better. His accidents are few and far between. Sometimes it seems like they are random, and sometimes it is pretty obvious that he is doing it on purpose. I sent him to his room for not following directions last night, and he wet his pants.

It seems like we have tried everything to get him to stop going to the bathroom in his pants. Lectures, yelling, not giving him any attention for it at all, grounding, taking his toys away (babies don't play with big boy toys), positive reinforcement for using the toilet, once even a spanking...

He is improving, but he is still having accidents (or on purposes). What in the world can we do to make him want to grow up and be a big boy?

Re: 5-year-old bent on regressing

I'm sorry to hear what you are going through and hopefully things will get better. He is probably just acting out to all the changes he is going through. My only suggestion is to let him sit in the wet or dirty pull-up, if you change him right away, then there is nothing to bother him about that. He has his cake and eating it, too, if you know what I mean. If he has to experience the dirtiness, maybe it will make him want to stop.

I hope it gets better for you.