Oh Mamas, I need your help. I've lost my gentle discipline skills, my temper and my mind. I just don't know what to do.
A little back ground - I am Mama to four wonderful, smart children (ages 7, 6, 4, 2). My parenting philosophy tells me that children deserve respect and guidance. I have always tried my best to consider mistakes "teaching opportunities" and to allow natural consequences do most of the teaching. With my older two, this has always worked beautifully. My four year old is an entirely different creature all together from his older brother and sister, though. Every single day is a struggle for the both of us (hubby too).
I don't know where to start, and I'm so frustrated right now, I apologize in advance for the brain dump that is about to begin.
For starters, W is smart and sweet and so loving. He's the most likely to randomly walk up to tell me he loves me, he constantly complements people, and seriously gives the best hugs EVER.
But. He has more energy than I know what to do with. He has the shortest attention span ever, unless it's something (he knows) he's not supposed to do. It *feels* like he purposely disobeys just to piss me off (I know that probably is not the case. but OH MY GOD I TOLD YOU NO 70000000 TIMES!) He is capable of telling me what the rules are. He is frequently capable of telling me the reason for the rule and the consequences of breaking the rules. But he breaks them anyway. (I know, we all make mistakes on occasion, we all have bad days. The thing is, this is his default). I am blown away by his complete and total lack of remorse. He is terribly dishonest, as well - sometimes to protect himself, sometimes, seemingly, just for the sake of lying. Consequences dont' seem to help at all - he doesn't mind most natural consequences, seems not to care when he upsets, angers or hurts people. He gets upset when things don't go his way, but doesn't seem to care about what caused things to not go his way.
What we already do: We go for three to five walks per week (depending on husband's schedule), anywhere from 3-6km/walk. On the days that we don't go for a walk, the kids play outside or on the bouncy castle, we "work out" together, and we do circle time before homeschool (the 4 and 2 year old mostly have free-time during lessons). When the kids get a bit wily, as kids are wont to do, I have them do jumping jacks or laps or play tag or do flips and summersaults, or jump on the bouncy castle or springy mattress some more. There are PLENTY of opportunities for them to expend their energy.
If I try to direct or structure his play, he lasts about 2 minutes, MAX. If I allow him to play without direction, it often ends with him being destructive or getting into things he shouldn't. I try as much as possible for consequences to be natural - if you color on the wall, you have to wash it off, for example. I've tried time outs, time ins, discussing his behavior, praising good behavior... pretty much everything I can think of that isn't hitting him (and to be honest, I've come damn close to hitting him).
Our BIGGEST struggle at the moment (and pretty much since he was born) is rest time. Every day after lunch for 1-2 hours we have quiet time. The "rule" is everyone spends quiet time doing something quiet and restful, whether that's nap, read, or play with quiet toys. It has to be restful, and of course respectful of the rest of the family and their belongs. The other three have no trouble with this, never have (of course we all have days on occasion, but in general, rest time has never been an issue for anyone but him). He has always had a difficult time with naps - at age 3 I still had to strap him into the baby swing (he's very very VERY small for his age, and still wasn't even close to the weight limit) just to hold him still long enough to fall asleep. But now that he doesn't sleep during quiet time, he just canNOT contain himself. He talks, he wanders, he trhows things, breaks things, draws on the walls, etc. (to be clear, this is not angry distructive behavior. It's just something to do), he bothers people, puts glue on things he shouldn't, cuts with his scissors when he shouldn't etc. I've tried giving him something specific to do during this time - he usually only lasts 2 minutes. I've made a point of removing anything he can get into trouble with - he still manages (seriously, today he pulled down some of the room decorations and tore it apart). I make sure he jumps for a few minutes or runs laps or swings or does flips or *something* before naptime - for a short while, this worked WONDERS. Now it doesn't seem to make any difference one way or the other. We've talked about how his actions affect himself, how they affect other people, etc.
I would scrap rest time entirely, except 1) I NEED a break in the middle of the day. My husband works 24 hour shifts and deploys for 6 months every year and a half or so. (2) My other kids need a break in the middle of the day. My 2yo cannot make it if she doesn't get a good nap, and my 6 and 7 yo crave this alone time as much as I do. (3) on the occasions when he stays put, plays quietly and respectfully on his own, he comes out of quiet time relaxed and refreshed (well... comparitively). It is very important to me that he learn to entertain himself - he spends so much time surrounded by everyone else in the house - and to learn the value of time spent alone in quiet.
Observations: his energy is boundless. I once tried to do some calming pre-bedtime yoga. He flopped and folded into all the poses we tried with no problem - look, mama! I did it! - we closed the "session" with 30 seconds of corpse pose. Before I got to five, he was wiggling. I reminded him of the instructions and he told me "I can't do this one! it's too hard!!!!!" (he can do plough and child's pose and butterfly but cannot lay still for 5 seconds, LOL). When you ask him to stand still, he lasts about 3 seconds before he starts bouncing, wiggling, spinning, etc. Out of curiosity (mostly to prove to myself that I'm not crazy, this is NOT normal four year old behavior) I took one of those assess your child for possible ADHD quizes. You know the ones where you rank their behavior: "never, sometimes, often, very often." He had one never, one sometimes, 3 oftens and 13 very-oftens. (for the record, I didn't take it for a diagnosis, I don't intend to pursue diagnosis or medication, and as we are hoemschoolers i don't anticipate school issues)
He is extremely social, outgoing etc, and on track developmentally - just very very very energetic and impulsive.
The thing is I get so frustrated with him so very early in the day that we spend the rest of the day at odds with one another. I've turned into the mom I so don't want to be. I say things I wish I hadn't with a tone I know I shouldn't. I go to bed most nights feeling exhausted and guilty. Something has to give.
So tell me - how do I contain or direct his energy? How do I teach him right from wrong? I just don't know how much more I can take.