I feel as though I am wavering from GD....I need suggestions - 3YR Old daughter and discipline. - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-04-2009, 09:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi there.

We have followed the discipline model of GD since my daughter was born. Now that she is older, I am really struggling with solutions. In my mind at times I wonder if certain consequences are GD or not and her behavior has hit that 3 YR old milestone. It has been very trying. She is so sweet much of the time, but, when there is a problem, watch out!

Examples:
Won't eat dinner (or much of any meal)....thinking of taking away all extras until she starts eating real food. She gets a bit of juice in her water and sometimes a bit of chocolate in her milk. She does get sweet treats now and then....however, I feel like I need to restrict her diet until she will eat REAL food.

Going to bed....it takes her 45 min just to fall asleep. We have always parented her to bed. But I wonder if this makes things go on longer. However, I am not sure how to transition her to going to sleep on her own. She currently sleeps on a mattress on our floor in our room (which my husband is ready for her to be in her own bed, but we tried and she does not sleep thru the night). Our room is on the main level (small house).

Not listening is huge. It feels like a lack of respect for us as parents. As far as listening goes, not sure what the proper consequences are. We have been implementing time outs or loss of privileges.

Screaming....when she gets upset and cannot have something or has done something she shouldn't have and is upset with the consequence, she chooses to scream at the top of her lungs. I have told her that she can sit on my bed until she is ready to stop screaming so that Mommy can talk with her and cuddle her. The door is left cracked and she knows that she can come to me when she is ready to stop screaming.

These are just examples....

My husband feels it's a lack of respect and obedience. And is totally frustrated and feeling like we have missed the mark somewhere. I feel that it's just perseverance and we just need to be consistent and continue on through this phase of life. But he doubts that and feels that her behavior will get worse unless we figure out an alternative approach. Neither of us think spanking is the answer, but he feels that more serious consequences need to result with her behavior to teach her that her behavior is unacceptable.

Please help.
J.
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Old 05-04-2009, 09:51 AM
 
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She sounds just like my oldest dd (now 15 in July). I can tell you spanking didn't work for her (I was really young when I had her and didn't realize how harmful spanking was). My oldest dd needed constant, consistent boundaries at all times. She also needed gentle transitioning from one thing to the next (say the 5 minute warning). We did do a lot of time-outs (that is also working wonders with my now 3 yo). I can tell you that spanking just made my oldest really defiant. We do the 1-2-3 with my 3 yo (it still works w/the teenagers too). There is a book called 1-2-3 Magic. We do time-out based on the age (a minute per year), then when they're done we talk about why we don't want the behavior (ie yelling at mommy/daddy hurts our feelings and isn't nice). Then we hug and kiss and say I Love You's and she goes to play. I found that when we don't talk about the behavior after (esp. w/the teen), she is most often repeating. When we talk it reinforces why we don't want that behavior. Not really a new tactic but hopefully it will continue to maintain a peaceful house. Best of luck and stay strong.
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Old 05-04-2009, 01:10 PM
 
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It seems from your examples that you're not really operating out of a GD model - which emphasizes respect and compassion for your child and a combination of gentleness and consistent boundaries - but more of a traditional "I'm the parent, obey me" kind of philosophy. I'll give some specific feedback below, but in general I think you need to re-evaluate your approach and maybe open up to new ways of thinking of things.

Won't eat dinner (or much of any meal)....thinking of taking away all extras until she starts eating real food. She gets a bit of juice in her water and sometimes a bit of chocolate in her milk. She does get sweet treats now and then....however, I feel like I need to restrict her diet until she will eat REAL food. Including "extras" sets up a reward system connected to food. Yes, of course, eliminate all sugary foods (could be causing her behavior challenges anyway) and look at why you have these anyway. Do children really need food rewards for eating meals? Maybe she's just someone who only needs three meals a day. In the past year, my three year old has gone from six to four meals, just as an example. Take the juice out of her water and the chocolate out of her milk. If you need further confirmation, ask her dentist for his/her opinion. Even distinguishing between "real" food and "treats" is making her think that treats are preferable to "food".

Going to bed....it takes her 45 min just to fall asleep. We have always parented her to bed. But I wonder if this makes things go on longer. However, I am not sure how to transition her to going to sleep on her own. She currently sleeps on a mattress on our floor in our room (which my husband is ready for her to be in her own bed, but we tried and she does not sleep thru the night). Our room is on the main level (small house). I've BTDT with my oldest and it got really old and did, I feel, stop "working" and prolonged her bedtime. She's probably old enough to help come up with a new plan if you approach it by communicating that what you're doing isn't working for you any more and you're getting frustrated trying to get her to sleep. Do you think that would work? My three yo loves to help "solve problems".

Not listening is huge. It feels like a lack of respect for us as parents. As far as listening goes, not sure what the proper consequences are. We have been implementing time outs or loss of privileges. Make sure you are getting down at her level and speaking so she is really listening the first time. I also always check, when I feel that my kids are disrespecting me, if I'm respecting *them*. Often, I'm coming from a place of expecting their respect without being open to hearing their perspective.

Screaming....when she gets upset and cannot have something or has done something she shouldn't have and is upset with the consequence, she chooses to scream at the top of her lungs. I have told her that she can sit on my bed until she is ready to stop screaming so that Mommy can talk with her and cuddle her. The door is left cracked and she knows that she can come to me when she is ready to stop screaming. I think this is the right approach. Sure, she can scream, but she needs to do it in a place that doesn't disturb others. Just don't give her any power about it or show that you're annoyed. Giving it power will cause it to continue.
Best of luck!

Me : living with and loving papa and the kids: Dd1 8/97 , dd2 8/04 and my sweet baby ds 5/09 : :
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Old 05-04-2009, 02:34 PM
 
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A lot of the problems you described we are experiencing with DS aged 3.5. Here's how I attempt to deal with it...

Food: I just don't have unhealthy foods around or offer them. Occasionally at a party or somewhere else, he sees a plate of cookies and wants one and I say it's okay. But at home, what's available to eat, including snacks, is healthy. Some days he won't eat a single "meal" but he'll have some smoothie (milk, bananas, whey protein, berries), some crackers and peanut butter, a nectarine, some tamari roasted almonds, corn chips and cucumbers dipped in tahini-yogurt dip. All these I consider healthy (maybe not the corn chips) even though they're not real meals. I just don't expect him to sit down and eat, because if I do, I'll be disappointed. Eventually I imagine he'll want to eat real meals. Good food is something people really enjoy. He's not going to deprive himself of that experience forever. In the meantime, I just make sure what goes in his body has some nutritional value.

Sleep: my son takes a long time to fall asleep too. For example, last night he brushed teeth and used the potty at 7:00 and I didn't leave the bedroom until after 8:00. We read two books, listened to music, I drew animal pictures with my finger on his back, we snuggled. Finally, he went to sleep. I try not to draw too much attention to it. If he knows I want him to go to sleep right now so I can go do something else, he's going to stay awake. So I just relax and use it as a meditative time for myself. Luckily he likes music I like, so we listen to Niel Young at bedtime. Sometimes I try waking him up earlier if there's a prolonged period of time when he struggles at night with going to sleep. So I will sing him songs in the morning at 7:00 instead of letting him sleep until 8:00 as he might do on his own. Also, I try to make sure he gets plenty of activity during the day, and then after 5:00, we only do calm games, so he can start to wind down a bit.

Not listening: I ditto the last response. Often he hasn't even heard me. So I have to get down at his level and repeat myself. That works about 3/4 of the time. The rest of the time, he can be in a sort of wound-up place where he just can't listen. I'm not sure I have any answers for that. One thing I would try is, and it sometimes works, is getting involved in his play. Say, "I can see you're really involved in what you're doing. It's looks like fun. I'm going to play with you for a bit, then it will be time for you to listen to my idea." This might give the child a feeling of validation and connection to you, so that she can listen to you more easily. Also, I sometimes will distract him with something engaging to refocus his energy. "I have these beads here to make a necklace. I'm going to make one. Do you want to make one too?" I guess it depends on the circumstance. I often want him to calm down so he'll be in a better listening place. Sometimes I want to communicate a specific thing, like it's time to go. The former scenarios allow for more leeway.

Screaming: DS has been sort of intolerable lately. Really compatative and angry, screaming a lot too. This morning he screamed at me when I came into the bedroom to get him. He wanted papa to get him, but papa had already left for work. He continued to scream and complain at me for 5 or 10 minutes. I sort of ignored him and tried to be pleasant. "There's breakfast downstairs if you're hungry." Then finally, I squatted down to his level and said, "I'm not going to talk to you right now because you're screaming at me." (He had been trying to get my attention about something). He stopped screaming and within 2 minutes was eating breakfast and being totally pleasant. Sometimes I get stuck on the fact that, why do I tolerate this sort of behavior, it's so rude, I do so much for him, why does he treat me this way, but then I have to remind myself that he's just experimenting with feelings, making sure that I love him unconditionally, and while I don't have to be scared of his outbursts or tiptoe around him, I certainly want to give him space to express his feelings. This is on a good day. Sometimes I lose it and shout and slam doors. But that doesn't do any good. It just models a poor way of dealing with hard feelings.

I know what you're going through, and I know it's hard. I struggle with it all the time. My husband and I complain sometimes that we're in an abusive relationship: our son treats us like crap sometimes. But we're in it for the long-haul, right? So parenting techniques have to be aimed at creating trust, love, communication--not fear, blind compliance, and intimidation.
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Old 05-04-2009, 03:19 PM
 
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I can relate with my 5 year old so I'm anxious to see other suggestions!

Nicole, mom of 3. Mitochondrial Disease.: Epilepsy
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Old 05-04-2009, 03:49 PM
 
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I think you might really like the book Parent Effectiveness Training. I love "gentle discipline" books and thinking about/reading about/discussing GD philosophy, but sometimes what you need isn't more of that. PET (goofy title, I know ) is entirely compatible with a GD approach, but it's not *about* GD per se, and you don't have to "buy into" GD in order to get a lot out of it, which is why I think if you and your dh are in a skeptical phase, it might be a great match.

PET is all about problem-solving, basically, and building a relationship with our kids that is based on trust and love and the ability to deal with conflict -- a relationship that will be healthy, functional, and, well, effective as our kids grow from children into adolescents and adults. The talking and negotiating skills I learned from this book have helped me a lot in situations like those you are describing, and my dd, nearly 4, is a master problem-solver already as a result. It really helps to take power struggles and control out of the picture as much as possible.

I have sometimes fallen into the kind of thinking that your dh is having right now: obedience, respect, etc. and referring to this book reminds me every time that while it is entirely legitimate for me to find certain behaviors or situations unacceptable, it isn't actually about "obedience," and that kind of thinking doesn't solve the problem.

This book has been around forever so any library would have it. HTH, and good luck!

Meg, BFARing mama to two spirited daughters, born at home June 05 and April 08.
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Old 05-04-2009, 05:53 PM
 
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I only have a minute--
About food-- I would really discourage limiting/restricting, etc. REad some of Ellyn Satter's work.
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Old 05-05-2009, 12:25 PM
 
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I was feeling pretty frustrated with my three year-old last week and questioning GD (after being *so* thrilled with the results for the past three years, less a few "bad" phases when she was developing new skills). Thankfully, I reminded myself to look at things from her perspective. How much of her day was being spent in child-directed activities? How much autonomy was she feeling? How much connecting was I doing with her? Had I been stifling her feelings (I think it is really important for her to know that it is always safe to express her feelings with me - she'll eventually learn appropriate ways to express them)?

Lastly, were there any bad things that happened recently to cause her to need to do so much crying? I did some bad nighttime parenting about a month ago due to my pregnancy lack of sleep, and I heard her talking in her sleep recently pleading "I'll be quiet, Mama!!". I had apologized to her, but I hadn't yet made it clear that *I* made the mistake, and that it is OK for her to cry and express her needs.

So, I have been working on all of these things for almost a week. The first day was just as rough as the others, but once her 'cup began refilling", there was a world of difference in our relationship. Maybe some of this applies to your situation. Good luck!
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Old 05-05-2009, 04:54 PM
 
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Another vote for Parent Effectiveness Training! It's a way of being gentle without feeling like a doormat; you have a right to your feelings and expressing them.

About food: We say, "This is what's for dinner. You may eat this or leftovers, but we will not make you any new food." That's pretty successful, esp. when he was involved in planning the dinner menu ahead of time. We avoid having treats around, and what we do have are stored out of sight and we don't eat them in front of him except when we're willing to let him have some.

It's also important to realize that preschoolers sometimes eat very little for several days in a row. As long as your daughter isn't dangerously underweight, don't worry about it. She'll surprise you by totally chowing down on healthy foods another day!

About bedtime: Once I am done reading stories, I try to be as boring as possible. No conversation. EnviroKid can sleep with the light on, so he likes me to lie next to him and read; I like it, too, because I rarely get a good uninterrupted reading time otherwise! Still, I sometimes resent how much time it takes...and all I know to do about that is to remember that it won't be forever!

About not listening: I think it's important to tie the consequences to the situation as closely as possible. For example, when EnviroKid doesn't turn off the TV when I've repeatedly told him it's time to do so, and then I turn it off and he yells at me, I say, "You did not do it, so I did it. If you want to be the one to turn off the TV, you need to do it very soon after I tell you." If he continues to protest, I say, "When watching TV causes problems, I feel like not letting you watch TV again." Persistent whining, entitled behavior about the TV gets him a full day with no TV, during which we guide him toward alternate activities (this often involves spending some extra time with him; so be it) and when he asks for TV we remind him about the behavior that got him no TV and the proper behavior we expect to see next time.

I think the way you're handling the screaming sounds great.

Quote:
My husband feels it's a lack of respect and obedience. And is totally frustrated and feeling like we have missed the mark somewhere. I feel that it's just perseverance and we just need to be consistent and continue on through this phase of life.
I agree with you. It's hard, though! It might help to remind your husband that it takes a while to learn things and the same experience may have to be repeated several times for your daughter to learn how to handle it correctly.

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Old 05-06-2009, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It seems from your examples that you're not really operating out of a GD model
- ktmama

I find some offense to someone who doesn't know me, taking the liberty to tell me that I am not operating out of a GD model of parenting. Since my daughter was born, I have been nothing but loving, compassionate, supportive and close with her, offering compassion and boundaries and helping her to talk through her problems. Just because a person is going through a tough time with their child does not mean they do not use GD. No parent is perfect in what they choose to do with their child and everyone will drop the ball at some point...but to my best of abilities I have offered the best I have to give to my sweet girl.

Also, I wanted to be clear that I am not using food as a reward nor am I witholding food from her. I meant to say, that I am wondering if I should get rid of sweet foods in our home to point her toward more positive and beneficial foods.

Thanks for all of your wonderful advice. I do think that now that she is a bit older we don't spend as much one on one as we used to when she "needed" my attention "all" the time. So I am now making more of a conscience effort to be with her even when she doesn't seem to "need" me. Dishes and chores went undone, but the time spent was well worth it.

Thanks for all your guidance and support everyone.

I am pushing on.

J.
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Old 05-06-2009, 03:26 PM
 
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I know this isn't very helpful but I can empathize. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing the right thing, my 3 1/2 year old can be such a trial sometimes. She does the screaming too.. any time she doesn't get her way, blood curdling screams (when I won't let her in the bathroom while her daddy is taking a shower, when its time for bed, when I won't let her climb into the windows and sit) she has also started hitting when she screams.

She just seems so angry. Bed time is a major production for us every night. We do bath time, teeth brushing, drink of water, stories and then lights out, and then she screams, and hits and throws herself off the bed for an hour, sometimes two. It is worse if she doesn't get the parent of her choice to lay in there with her.

The hitting was getting really really bad so we did finally start using time outs for it. We sit with her in a quiet place (not touching, just nearby because she won't stay in time out otherwise) we tell her at the beginning of time out "we are doing a time out now because you were hitting, hitting hurts, it is not allowed" and then we sit there for 3 minutes, we talk about it again at the end of the time out. She is actually starting to exercise some self control on the hitting front now. The other day she was really mad at me and obviously wanted to hit me (she kept swinging at me) but she stopped every time before she did it.

I don't like time outs but I feel like I am doing her a disservice by not helping her find a way to control her impulse to hit, so I guess in that instance I think time out is ok. We don't use it for anything else though, so I am really not sure how to handle the other stuff. I do think that using time out for everything will make it ineffective anyway.
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Old 05-07-2009, 03:52 AM
 
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I found that bedtime with my three year old has gone better since I made the routine very short. pee, brush teeth, bedtime diaper, bed.

I also talked to him about how to fall asleep--lay still and close his eyes. That has helped. I also will rub his head (and face to make sure his eyes are closed). I stop when I'm tired of doing it and if he's not asleep yet, I explain that I have to stop because I'm tired.

Also, he goes to bed earlier and doesn't nap.

Lots of change at this time in life, isn't there!
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Old 05-07-2009, 06:58 AM
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I have a 3.5 year old DD and we have some similar situations, but we are seeing them differently. I feel most of my DD's unpleasant behavior is because of her temperament and age, so we've approached each situation supportively instead of punitively.

My DD sometimes doesn't want food at mealtimes. I only have foods around that I want her to eat so it doesn't matter to me if she has cold garbanzo beans and cherries at 5:30 and then picks at her broccoli and chicken at 7. Both sides of the family struggle with weight problems so we want our DD to self regulate when it comes to eating. We want her to continue to listen to her body's cues instead of eating out of habit or because everyone else is.

With sleep issues, if our DD has been up for about 12 to 13 hours she goes to sleep quickly and sleeps about 10 to 12 hours. If we try to get her to bed before she's tired she can't go to sleep. Playing outside at least a couple of hours help her sleep well. If she's had a nap, she's up a couple of extra hours. My DD loves water and baths wake her up, so we do an early one, sometimes before dinner. I still nurse her to sleep, so we brush teeth, DH reads a story, lights out and then milk. Tonight she was really tired and skipped her story, then nursed less than 10 minutes before going to sleep.

Not listening is a problem with a lot of 3 year olds because they don't have much impulse control and are very distractable. Some have huge problems with transitions and need warnings before you can expect them to change activities. It's a temperament and developmental thing rather than a discipline issue. Telling my DD what I need her to do works better than saying stop, don't, or no. Giving the reason, like "it's dangerous" or that's fragile", improves my DD's response too.

Now for all the screaming. My DD is a very intense little person, who is very loud when she's angry or happy. 3 year olds often have problems dealing with disappointment and frustration and scream. So we've had some loud screaming. A couple of things that work are to sympathize if you know why she's angry and if not to say "wow, you sound angry. Why are you angry". Lately my DD has been calming down after saying she's angry. Also just the last couple of months she screams then runs to her room and shuts the door, instead of doing the tantrum thing where she is. I go and knock on her door and ask if she ok. She usually opens it and wants a hug. The other night, she got frustrated and kinda growled loudly, then looked at me and said "I'm sorry mommy, I'm angry" . We haven't done anything punitive, our DD is just recently learning to deal better with her strong feelings. I think our staying calm has really helped.

I don't think punishments are going to help your DD learn to deal with her strong emotions or learn more impulse control. Both will get better on their own with time as she matures abit. If her behavior is because of her natural temperament it's not something she can just change, punishing her for it will just make your relationship feel less supportive to her. For example, I was very emotional during a few months of my pregnancy. If my husband hadn't been tolerant and calming when I was angry or upset it just would have hurt our relationship. I couldn't help my crazy hormonal moodiness.

One book that has really reinforced my parenting style has been "Raising your spirited child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It has some really useful information and techniques in it. Even if your DD turns out to not be "spirited", there are things in the book you will find useful.

Our goal isn't obedience, it's the ability to understand which choices are good ones and which are bad ones and to more often choose good ones (even when no ones looking). We're teaching politeness and respect by modeling it. I also think 3's a bit young for genuine disrespect. I think disdain is more a higher reasoning thing.
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Old 05-07-2009, 11:44 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ssh View Post
Our goal isn't obedience, it's the ability to understand which choices are good ones and which are bad ones and to more often choose good ones (even when no ones looking). We're teaching politeness and respect by modeling it. I also think 3's a bit young for genuine disrespect. I think disdain is more a higher reasoning thing.
Bolding mine. This is one of the huge differences I see in children raised with GD versus homes where parents expect blind respect and obedience.
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Old 05-07-2009, 12:51 PM
 
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i suggest the book unconditional parenting by alfie kohn.
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