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Need Help Disciplining Fearful 4 Y.O.

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
So I have always used a time-out-like approach with my very active son, who often needs to unwind a bit from being overstimulated. I use "time-outs" as a teaching tool (I usually talk through it with him) and it has always worked because he usually needs a little break and then can resume appropriate behavior. When ds2 came along, the rules needed to change because ds1 figured out he could get one-on-one time with me whenever he wanted it by musbehaving. So his "thinking time" went solo. This was effective, as he never wanted to miss out on what was going on and so learned other ways to unwind while still in the same room. All of this was great until recently. A rash of rough behavior has coincided with an INTENSE fear of the dark and of being alone in a room. My instinct is that he needs to be removed from the situation when he is acting hurtfully, but it scares him too much and I don't think it's healthy at all. He really freaks out and I don't think it's right to push it, however, I have NO way to channel his actions and get him to unwind without this tool. Any thoughts??
post #2 of 9
Thread Starter 
Just adding that sometimes I encourage a thoughtful time out in my son and other times I take one for myself when I'm about to blow. Either way I can't do it now because of his fear. This means that when I am mistreated I cannot retreat. In thinking about it more, that's the real problem. Sorry--
post #3 of 9
When you say "rowdy behavior" do you mean normal restless, rough stuff? Or do you mean throwing punches calling names rude stuff?

If it is just rowdiness -- it is not cause to treat him as though he has acted badly. I would redirect him -- try to think of an activity that will engage him and channel his energy appropriately.

If he is being aggressive -- that is different. That is a time to work on teaching him to communicate hard feelings with words. It may be a time to separate him from people around him who he might hurt. Being frightened to be alone is awful and hard, and in your shoes I would make every effort to make it comfortable. Being with him when I could. Maybe playing music for him or something, and using the "thinking time" as an absolute last resort and only when other people are in danger.

Finally, it is appropriate and realistic for you to retreat when you are hurt. It is not a punishment. He is old enough to think this through and be reasonable -- if he does not want to be alone, then he needs to be extra careful to respect the people he is around.

It sounds like a very tough situation -- in your shoes, I would start by looking at my expecations and analyzing his "rowdy behavior."
post #4 of 9
When you need to remove him from a situation, you could just have him sit somewhere in the same room as you or in the same general area, but just go ahead and not pay attention to him while he is in his time out and then offer lots of love and support as soon as time out is over, etc. And I don't know how you handle time outs, but I have found that the very best way is to be very nice and even keel about it...not giving stern looks and not being overly fim in my tone of voice just because I am frustrated, etc. I highly recomned the book Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood.
Has he been able to vocalize at all why is he is suddenly scared to be alone and scared of the dark? Did he happen to see something on tv/video that could've enfluenced him? Or even a picture in one of his books? Some things look very benign but can really affect a child since they percieve things so differently than adults. I came into my room the other day to find my sweet 4 1/2 year old son on my bed quietly trying to hold back huge tears. When I asked him what was wrong the tears started to fall and he showed me some pictures in a story book of the ugly duckling. He was so sad becasue the little duckling looked so sad and the pictures indicated how everyone was treating him meanly, etc. So now my son has a super soft spot in his heart for Swans. Their minds just work differently than ours.
post #5 of 9
I'M not sure how I'd deal with this although I'm stone cold certain that you are right not to push him into fearfull situations.

"Off to the kitchen with you young man, and into the high-chair while ds2 and I prepare coockies *. You watch." might be enough.

*or apple slices or strawberries.

a
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your thoughts.

Just to clarify a couple of things:

Not talking regular rowdiness. Sadly, I was referring to hurtful and hands-down-inappropriate behavior. When I choose to leave the room to show that this kind of behavior drives people away, he frantically rushes after me, shaking and sobbing, "Sorry, Mama, Sorry...," but I don't think he's actually learning anything other than what it looks like to panic. And I don't think it's an act, either. Some have suggested he's just manipulating my "weakness," but I strongly disagree. He is also old enough (and big/strong enough!) that I don't rely on restraining him; there isn't a way to confine him in one part of the room or in a high chair, etc.

I guess I am just tired. His behavior has really been getting to me lately because I have really been mourning my "lost" me/career time and I keep thinking, "I gave all that up to raise THIS?!" The idea was that he was supposed to be perfect after all this work. Sometimes I am nursing ds2 or actually getting to do something that turns my brain on and I don't feel like redirecting or doing all the work to get him to introspect and communicate (this is no small task itself, but that's another post!). I just want him to behave. He needs to know that at some point, I am going to snap, but there's no safe way to do that right now.

Thanks for all of your support! I love this community!
post #7 of 9
Have you asked him?

How can I keep everyone safe when you are out of control?

Or when I need a break and some space what can we do?

Maybe if he agreed to it, whatever you decide will be okay.


Some of my ideas-For him: he stays on the couch until he is calm, he turns up the music and dances it out, you all lay down and do some kind of relaxation, breathing whatever, if you had a baby gate that he could still see out of but be in his room would that help? For you: you can go in your room while he holds on to the other end of a belt, or scarf that you are holding (so he still feels connected to you) but you get a little time alone (and I would start very short-like 10 sec the first few times, get out of there before he is scared), you can put on headphones and he can give you some space/quiet until they are off in 5 minutes (or less to begin).

Whatever you decide (and probably his ideas should have the greatest weight if they are feasible at all), give him ownership of this problem.
post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally posted by Ackermama
Thanks for your thoughts.

Just to clarify a couple of things:

Not talking regular rowdiness. Sadly, I was referring to hurtful and hands-down-inappropriate behavior.
Hmm. In the long term, he's not going to be afraid to go to his room. Then you'll have the problem without him feeling sorry.

That's one problem. The other is that you short of time.

He needs to see that what he does is no good because it is no good, not because he might get punished.

For this you need one of the traditional fairy tails, like Goldilocks (don't go out on your own) or The Boy That Cried Wolf (don't tell lies) that have been handed down for generations in order to put the child into the position of the victim.

I can't for the life of ne think of an appropriate one at the moment, so I'd make one up. Think about it and get it straight B4 there is a problem. Tell him the story B4 he does something wrong. Then there is less likelyhood of him resisting the story and it's close association with him when you tell it.


a
post #9 of 9
There must be something about being 4 yrs. old. We had similar issues.

We focused hard on helping him to verbally express a range of feelings INSTEAD of acting out. If he hit, we would hold him tight and talk about what he might say instead of hitting when he feels that way. We "gave him permission" to say bad things if he felt bad things -- trying to help him realize that is okay and more constructive than hitting.

We also tried to work on listening to him better -- really listening and showing we understood when he had things to say. Change was gradual, but steady -- so long as we were consistant in our reactions.



Quote:
I guess I am just tired. His behavior has really been getting to me lately because I have really been mourning my "lost" me/career time and I keep thinking, "I gave all that up to raise THIS?!"
All of your feelings are SO incredibly legitimate -- and I can so much identify. At the same time -- it is important to remember it is *entirely* separate from him and how he should be behaving. He can't be responsible for so much. Part of the reason you are home, is so that you can be there for him through the rough spots in growing up. This is one of those rough spots!

It sounds as if you need (and deserve!) some time and space to get your own feelings in order. Is there a way to schedule that in?
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