Originally Posted by makinganescape
We do not have any negative reinforcement here... girl who takes so much pleasure in making her sister cry, or ripping books apart, or ruining 30 hours worth of art work, or putting plastic bags over the cat's head because I said it would kill the cat...
I've been teaching pre-k in some capacity, on and off, for...OMG, so many years I can't count them.
Negative reinforcement would change your life!
I'm not talking spanking or anything a reasonable person could possibly construe as abusive. I mean calm, intentional negative consequences that will help your daughter learn there ARE expectations of her behavior; she CAN understand what they are; she CAN control herself (if not to make your
life easier, then at least to avoid the negative consequences); and that her life will be happier, she will get better responses from people and she will feel more confident and proud of herself
when she behaves properly.
Some of the sweetest, gentlest, nicest people I know enter parenthood with the aspiration of never punishing their children, never telling them no, always finding positive ways to guide them. You may not be quite to this extreme. But, when you felt that a PP was attacking you, you did feel it necessary to defend yourself by saying you don't use negative reinforcement. Well, every parent I've seen who's pledged no negative reinforcement - and stuck to it - wound up with preschoolers who had a harder time controlling their impulses than their peers and who were more demanding and less considerate of others. I'm not saying this to blame you, or add to your burdens!!!!
Again, it's a kind, sweet
parenting goal. It just isn't developmentally or psychologically appropriate for most preschoolers!
Your average 4-year-old is at a stage of life where they've gained mastery of some basic things (like toilet training) and are starting to feel confident, "big", bold and ready to take on life and test boundaries. Then the very next minute they feel overwhelmed by how big life is and how small they are and they worry about all the changes on the horizon and that gaining more independence will mean losing the comfort of Mommy. (Especially
when Mommy and Daddy have split up, there's a new baby, Mommy seems like she's at her wit's end, etc...) Preschoolers want to see whether they can demand and manipulate their way into being in charge
- of their family, their classroom, any environment they're in... but although they'll never admit this, they DON'T REALLY WANT TO SUCCEED. Let me emphasize this: THEY DON'T REALLY WANT YOU TO LET THEM CALL THE SHOTS. Because deep down they know they need the protection of bigger, older, more capable people... and if those people aren't strong enough to stand up to THEM, how can those people protect them
from monsters, or skinned knees, or scary dogs, or nightmares, or anything else they're not ready to tackle yet?
You need to use the simplest, clearest language to explain to your daughter - consistently and as many times as you must - what the boundaries are, at your house. When she violates those, give consistent negative consequences. (Even as an adult, what motivates you more? The thought that something good might not
happen, or the thought that something bad will
It may take a while to figure out what the best ones are. Every kid's different. Some kids will sit in Time Out if you tell them to, others will bounce out of the chair with their tongue stuck out and may need to be put in their room with the door shut. Some kids love the privacy of their room, but taking away a favorite toy - and putting it on top of the fridge or somewhere the child can see what they're missing - is a strong motivator.
It sounds like a key with this particular child will be finding some way of restraining her. I don't mean tying her down, of course!!!! But you can't have her jump up from Time Out and go destroy your painting from spite, because you walk away to change the baby's diaper. There needs to be a room (it'd be great if it weren't her bedroom, but it may have to be) where you remove anything she can destroy and where she can't get out until you say so. A 4-year-old can probably outsmart a baby gate, but a half-door with a lock or latch is a great way to enforce that a child may not come out without permission, but you can still see that she's safe
and let her see you (and not feel like she's locked in a cell).
You'll also need to experiment with how long consequences last. Taking away a favorite toy, for example, shouldn't go on longer than a day, or she will feel it's gone on so long it's hopeless that she'll ever get her toy back and she'll lose the connection between her behavior and the consequence. But for some kids, an hour will do the trick. Time Out or being sent to her room needs to last at least
several minutes. You don't want to enable her to throw on the cloak of good behavior the minute she's sent there, so she can exit immediately, then go right back to bad behavior as soon as she's released. But if she spends her 4 minutes of Time Out screaming and raging, there's no sense letting her out while she's still doing that. She needs to be calm enough to acknowledge why she was sent there.
Make sure you reinforce (again SIMPLY, briefly) WHY she's receiving the consequence - both before and after you give it to her. If she's receptive, also state briefly what the benefit would be, if she were behaving properly. "I was planning to play Chutes and Ladders with you. But now you've been mean to the baby, so I need to pay attention to her, instead. When you are nice again, I will pay attention to you
Especially at first, you will feel really mean disciplining her and it will seem like it's not working - it's just making her more hysterical. Yes, because she wants to be in control, but you're taking control! Try to be as consistent as possible and not let on if you feel guilty. She needs to know you can outlast her
. But if you find good consequences that motivate her, she will eventually learn to behave how she must, to avoid them most of the time. That's just human nature.