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Using arguments as de-stressing device - long

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Hi all! I have been noticing a pattern I would like to share and get feedback on. Leah turned 4 several months ago. For about six months now, it is almost a nightly ritual to have a HUGE argument over getting bathed and/or brushing teeth. Not every night, but perhaps 4 nights out of seven. It goes something like this...

Me: time to get your bath....
Leah: Not yet!
Me: Okay, when....
Leah: 5 minutes
Me: Okay....(five minutes pass...) Time to get your bath...
Leah: Not yet!
Repeat several times until tears come or I physically put her in and then tears come some more....

BUT - once she is in or the crying (read - tantrum) subsides, she is cheerful and quite enjoys herself....

It is as if she uses the situation to get out all of the stress of the day...then goes on. She actively pursues setting up the situation as well. You can plan with her ahead of time when bath time will occur, she will say its okay when you tell her you are getting bath ready...THEN...NOT YET!!!!!!!!!!!!

Has anyone else noticed this? She is definitely under stress the last several months too - we moved, she is starting a new school in two weeks, etc....

Sorry for the long post...

Deni
post #2 of 10
Well, we go through this with our three year old. I chalk it up to a new awareness. Like, she realizes that she might be able to push the boundaries, explore what she can do. She wants to assert her independence, and find out how her parents will react. When she bumps up against the boundary, she knows what will and will not be acceptable in the family dynamic. She seems comforted by finding this out.

It sounds like your daughter is normal (and smart!). I would just let her explore, while being firm about what's important to you as a family.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
I agree with you. But what I am noticing over top of all that, is that she seems to be deliberately using these situations as a way to get out all the angst of the day. I just found it interesting that children this young can come up with quite complex strategies for de-stressing themselves. Does this make sense? I've been having one of those weeks where I don't seem to be able to communicate with anyone except the cat .....

Deni
post #4 of 10
Deni, I can't tell whether you are finding this pattern unpleasant and want to get out of it (but without stressing Leah) or you're just finding it interesting. If you want to change it, I have a couple of ideas:

First, be firm about bath time being at the time agreed. If this argument is inevitable, you may as well get it over with...but what may actually be happening is that, because she knows she can delay it, she's milking that for all it's worth. One of the best bits of advice I ever got from my grandma is to never ask an open-ended question when trying to get a child to do something; for instance, "Not yet!" "Okay, when?" puts the child in total control of when. Instead, start with a closed-ended question: "Do you want to take your bath at 7:30 or 7:45?" or "7:30 is time to get ready for bed. Do you want to take your bath first or brush your teeth first?" and then be firm about the schedule she's chosen and remind her that she agreed to it. Maybe the fact that she quickly gets happy again after you force her into the bath means that what she really wants is for you to take control of the situation--sometimes kids find it frightening to be in control. (I don't mean that in an Ezzo-like, "You must exert complete control over every aspect of your child's life," kind of way! I just mean that every child has some areas in which she would prefer feeling cared-for to feeling in-charge, and they're not always the areas you'd expect.)

Second, look for a way to relieve her stress that doesn't require interpersonal conflict. Maybe you could introduce a time before bath when you sit together and talk about the worst and the best things that happened today and how they made you feel. Do the worst things first, and come up with some way to get that negative energy out, like making angry faces, roaring ("You were so mad at him, I bet you wished you could turn into a lion and eat him up!"), stomping feet, setting the bad feelings on the ground and running away from them.... Listen and empathize, and also tell her about something that made YOU feel bad so she knows she's not the only one. Then talk about the good feelings of the day to balance things out.

Good luck!
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Actually, I find it both frustrating and interesting...go figure. However, you are correct that I have been using the open-ended questions. Thanks for the ideas...will put them into practice tonight!

THanks to both of you for sharing.....

MDC never fails me!!!!

Deni
post #6 of 10
Deni- My oldest dd is so like this! She is 8 now and I believe she uses arguing to de-stress as well, whether it is conscious or not. My personal thought on that is that at home with me or her sister or her dad she feels secure enough that she can argue and lose her temper and release some of her tension on us, but she will still be loved and accepted no matter what. (We are having major issues with this right now though, but that I will post another thread on.
But, I totally agree with EnviroBecca about the no open-ended questions thing-we figured this one out when dd #1 was about 3 and it did help quite a bit.
One other thing though since you mention the argument is over bath time and teeth brushing.. With both my girls, we had issues about baths around 3-4 y.o. Not sure why, but they both went through periods where they did NOT want to get in that bath no matter what. What I did to alleviate the problem was to be slightly more flexible.
Now, the tooth brushing I am not flexible on-teeth get brushed and that is that but you can find more interesting ways to do it. For example, we would sometimes brush eachothers teeth-I would get to brush hers(=cleaner teeth ) and SHE would get to brush MINE.
The bath though, I found I could be a little flexible on-I know some people just can't/won't let baths be skipped, but it works for me some days. My kids bathe at night, so if it's Friday and we are planning a whole lotta nothin for Saturday and they don't want to bathe, well the world won't end and it is one less battle for me. When they were 3-4 though, they loved to take "bird baths" which was a compromise I came up with to reduce the number of bath-time battles.
The bird bath consisted of the child sitting on the edge of the sink on a towel (so it's not so slippery) and together we washed hands, feet, and whatever else we could get under the faucet or rinse with a wash cloth.It was fun, quick, and reasonably effective, and they love asking for a "bird bath" instead-my 5 y.o. still asks for a bird bath sometimes.
Obviously, it is not something that can be done every day, but if it takes away one bath time battle a week, it was worth it for me. I am a big believer in choosing my battles! I didn't mean for this post to get so long-sorry! Just some things that worked in those areas for me!
Good luck!
post #7 of 10
Love the bird bath idea! My mom came up with a similar tactic called "car wash" that requires the kind of showerhead attached to a hose: Stand kid in tub, get wet w/showerhead, turn off water, rub kid briskly w/brush or washcloth squirted w/Dr. Bronner's or other liquid soap, then rinse. Appropriate sound effects add to the fun! The best thing about this strategy (we found when caring for several younger cousins) is that you can line up as many as 3 kids in the tub at once and have them all clean in 10 minutes!!!
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Sound advice ladies. We got one of those wooden monthly calendars with tokens for holidays and such. We made 7 bath tokens - she chose the following: 2 bubble bath (California baby stuff -great for the environment, hers and the planet, if you get what I mean, 2 Aveeno baths (that's an oatmeal bath - gets her clean, but also moisturizes, 1 plain (can have tub tints) and 2 skips. She decides each week which ones on which days.

The weird thing is, she doesn't complain about the type of bath, its just that sometimes it appears to be the trigger for a fight. I do think its because they feel safe with us - we will love them anyhow! But, boy how frustrating! Doesn't happen every night, but when it does....whew!

Thanks for letting me know that others see this too. I do like the birdbath and car wash ideas! Will give those a try!

Deni
post #9 of 10
You know, I suspect my DD (now 6) of doing this ... She is the most even-keeled, expressive kid, but will pick little wierd fights with me for seemingly no reason and cry and cry and cry and cry : She has admitted during a calm time that sometimes when she cries for no reason, it's really because she misses her Daddy. I think other times it's other issues (crazy mommy, needy little brother, new town, missing friends, etc.) Will your DD talk about this outside of the *time* it normally triggers? Would it help to have mommy time during the bath to talk about the day? a cool kind of tradition to begin
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
You have it exactly. After the crying session, she is fine and actually enjoyes her bath...though now baths are fine most of the time. Its having her nails cut now that is the horror. Suddenly its the most painful thing in the world....go figure...

Deni
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