Ask Joanne - My Ten Year Old Is Regressing

14/12/2009 12:06 | Updated 22 May 2015

What's your biggest challenge when it comes to life as a parent? Our experienced life coach Joanne Mallon is here to help with an objective viewpoint and practical solutions. Send your questions using this form and say if you'd like your name changed.

Kim writes:

My son is ten years old and has a brother who just turned two. I have discovered that my older child's behaviour has changed for the worst after a year of his brother's arrival. He plays with his poo in the toilet, leaves marks on the floor, walls etc, does not clean up after himself in the bath, won't make his bed, leaves his clothes all over the floor and the most painful of all, will not do his homework without a fight and talks back to us all the time.

Recently, he said that he did not want to wear his dry nights, and so hoping to try to stop him wetting the bed, we encouraged him. We asked him to tell us if he had any accidents, but he never reported any. He said that things were going well, but when I was doing a spring cleaning, his mattress was soaking wet! He had been wetting the bed but not saying so, and covering it with blankets, The mattress had to be thrown out! My husband and I are at our wit's end because we do not know what to do to get this child out of what seems like a trance! He is a bright child but I can see him going to the back of the class. How can we save our relationship with him?

Here's life coach Joanne's reply:

Dear Kim

How unhappy your son sounds. I know it's frustrating, but try to keep your anger under control because he is signalling very clearly that he needs your attention right now. It's very, very common for children to regress a bit when a younger sibling comes along. Your son was the baby boy of the house for eight years, so you can understand how his world was rocked when that changed.

Have you spoken to your GP or Health Visitor about the wet nights? Generally, it is considered within the normal range up to around seven for children to become dry at night. Beyond that, it's advisable to speak to a health care professional. You can see some tips and further resources on stopping bedwetting in our special feature here.

With the issue of homework, as your son is within a year or so of starting secondary school, it's a good time for him to start taking more responsibility for his own homework. Gently remind him, but don't nag him. He may need to miss a few homeworks, get told off by his teacher and earn a few detentions before he starts to realise that he has the power to change things. What do his teachers say about his behaviour in school?

And when it comes to taking responsibility, if he makes a deliberate mess in the loo, then he is old enough to be able to clear that up. The making of the bed and leaving clothes on the floor, I wouldn't worry about so much for now - his bedroom, his choice. Try to tackle one aspect of his behaviour at a time, rather than fixing the whole picture. Subtly emphasise all the advantages he has because he's ten - staying up a bit later, special activities etc. If there's something he particularly enjoys then this could become a reward for improved behaviour. Spend as much one-to-one time with him as you can so that he has the space to express his feelings verbally, rather than by his actions, as he's doing now.

Hope this helps. very best wishes to you all


More practical parenting advice here in our Ask Joanne section

Send your questions in to Joanne at this confidential address

Suggest a correction