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#1 of 10 Old 03-15-2011, 04:38 PM - Thread Starter
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I need a little advice mamas, I'm noticing the bad habits are creeping up.


DD1 is 4 and testing boundaries, I suppose.


Mostly it comes down to me saying 'do NOT [insert action] because [legitimate reason]' and she is looking at me and does it anyway.  Or only stops if I get up and advance for her to carry her away from whatever. 


I have two younger DDs, 2 and 9 months.  Sometimes I need her to follow because there is a safety thing.  Most of the time I ignore the disobedience because she is too young to really understand or it isn't worth it. Or tell her that it isn't nice ugh and I'm wincing just typing that out. We talk about it all the time, and from what she says she understands what I mean but in the moment it doesn't work out.


As I was trying to figure out the examples, I realized they tend to be minuscule things, in the great big view of things.  Not going to the bathroom on time, slamming doors and starting door games with the 2 year old, jumping off furniture (siblings tend to wander into the landing area), throwing toys hard (wooden blocks hurt!), dropping used tissues on the floor where the baby will find them and eat... 


So tell me wise mamas, I'm kind of new at dealing with preschoolers, what can I do?  What approach am I missing?  I though the reason was going to be enough but it obviously isn't!

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#2 of 10 Old 03-15-2011, 05:27 PM
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I've got one too. I'll be watching this thread intensely, as I'm at a loss for what to do about a lot of the fourisms myself.


On the tissue thing, I watch my daughter and if I see her dropping things (trash) on the floor I just ask her if that is where it goes. She says no, usually, and then I ask her where it goes or tell her to go put it in the trash can. That one seems to work for us, but it is something I have to do pretty consistently.


As for throwing toys, hitting, or any behavior that physically hurts someone I try to relate it to an experience she's had of being hurt by her peers. "Does it hurt when your friends, throw toys at//kick/hit you? Does it make you sad?" And tell her it hurts me too and it makes me sad too. Relating what she feels when it happens to her to my feelings when it happens to me is usually enough to demonstrate why the behavior is inappropriate. And then I ask her what we should do. She'll usually respond "not throw/hit/kick." And I'll continue the conversation by telling her we can use our words to express our frustration, or we can play with the toys in a different (more appropriate) way (depending on why the behavior is happening). I also reserve the option of putting things away if she's not using them appropriately after she chooses not to stop the inappropriate behavior.


I feel that some behaviors are very appropriate to counter with consequences at this age. Not responding to me when she's watching tv means the tv is turned off. Not finishing one snack she's asked for means she doesn't get the next thing she wants (this is within a single snack time period; she's a food hopper even with very small portions.) Not allowing her to be on the couch if she's standing up on it (we don't treat furniture this way in my house). Coloring on herself/not on her paper means the markers/crayons get put away. Dawdling while getting ready for bed means we can only do one book OR one song before it's time to go to sleep, or neither if she's really been dragging her feet.


I try to make the consequences as natural as possible, but sometimes I get flustered and make them more general. If she's had a hard time listening and complying with my requests all day (you know, so we can actually do anything) then we don't can't have "treat" foods or we don't watch any tv. Because those things really worsen the behavior. With this last one I _try_ not to bribe/reward her (sometimes I do, but nobody's perfect). If she's asking for one of these things and her behavior has been pretty poor all day I'll tell her that we can't do it since she's having a hard time listening today and these things usually make it harder for her, but we can talk about it again later today or tomorrow.


Some of these consequences induce tantrums and if all else fails I ask her to go to her room until she is ready to listen. Sometimes she just needs to regroup and having me around escalates the behavior instead of allowing her to calm down and let go.


ETA: On the hurting issue, it's especially effective if I can relate it directly to an experience she's recently relayed to me of a friend hurting her. More effective than the general "when your friends do X" approach, but the general approach still works when I need it.

Working mama treehugger.gif to K energy.gif (2/2007) and A diaper.gif (6/2013). Expecting stork-suprise.gif EDD 10/7/2014.
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#3 of 10 Old 03-15-2011, 06:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your reply mama! It softens my heart that there are others with this issue. :)


DH took the big girls to watch a bit of something and i had time to pray and put the baby to sleep, and thus calm down. 


I realize now that she listens to me fairly well, probably cause I try to follow the whole "don't give orders that won't be listened to" philosophy.  If I can tell she isn't going to do it, I usually don't ask.  It's just those bad days when I'm overtired and burned out by 2pm.  The fact is that even on those bad days if I can get myself together to sit at the dining room table and do crafts or whatever (what i secretly call art therapy) and let everything else go, she still listens.  It comes down to maintaining that connection which I have a hard time doing some days.


We have Friday Celebrations each week, and she loves to make decorations.  I'm thinking, when I'm having one of those days we just need to make a garland or something.  Remove us from that crazy competing mindset. :/

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#4 of 10 Old 03-17-2011, 06:38 AM
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Some of the ideas given above are great. I would add optimistically that 4 has been the most difficult early childhood age for me but most of the contrary behavior has gotten much better at 5. 

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#5 of 10 Old 03-17-2011, 12:08 PM
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I have learned with my current 4 year old to pick my battles...because there WILL be battles. LOL I let a lot of things go, because, frankly, they just don't matter right now. Ask yourself "Will this matter in 5 minutes? Will it matter in 5 years?" I use a lot of ideas from "How to Talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk" & my favorite is to describe what you see. "I see a tissue on the floor where the baby can get it!" This gives your 4 year old the info so she can choose how to act on the problem. This works well for my DS because he hates to be told what to do (he has 2 parents & 2 older siblings, so he is bossed around a lot) so about 90% of the time, when I give him the information, he will act on it. If not, I can say "Let's see if you can run that tissue to the trash before I count to 10!" He is all about challenges & LOVES to "win." If, on the rare occasion, the tissue is still on the ground after those tries, I will pick it up myself, but grumble about it. "I do NOT like to pick up messes I did NOT make!"


I have also learned to not ask a question that both my child & I know the answer to. This only sets us up for a battle...they know what answer I want to hear, so my current 4 year old will usually answer contrary, just because he's feeling backed into a corner & he at least has control over his words. I will remind him of how he feels when someone hurts him, so he can try to have a little empathy/sympathy. It's coming...they are just 4, which is still on the cusp of babyhood, IMHO. My 10 year old DD is a great kid who is very responsible & empathetic, and my 7 year old DS is becoming more so, although he is emotionally immature still (but he is a boy, so that's normal). I know that age 5 will bring about more changes, so I'm just hanging on through the wild 4's (and my youngest DD is 2, so it's a really WILD time here!) until then!


Good luck, mommas!



Mom to 4

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#6 of 10 Old 11-15-2012, 10:39 PM
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Thanks Mamas! I am suffering the contrary 4 year-old at the moment. So great to know that I'm not the only one because that means she is "normal"! Thank God for Mamas who tell it like it is :-) My DD loves to be contrary about way too many things and it's driving us nuts. We recently bought unlimited-entry theme park tickets as a special family treat. Do you think Miss Contrary wants to go? OMG! Of all the things to be contrary over! "How about we go to Sea World tomorrow? We could watch the sea lion show and play in the water park." DD's reply - "Nooo, I don't like Sea World. I don't wanna go...". It's so frustrating. This afternoon I'm trying to get us out of the house and down to the beach for a play. "Nooo, I don't want to go to the beach. I don't want to go anywhere...". This happened yesterday when I wanted to take the kids (4yrs and 14months) to the fantastic play ground down the street from where we are living temporarily. She didn't want to go, even though I told  her all the perks. She then dragged her feet the whole way and complained that her legs ached and it was too far. It's driving me nuts! I can understand being contrary over the things some of you mentioned above - yes, she does that too but we'[rekind of on top of those - like the example of the tissues on the floor - we'll say "Wait a minute! There's a tissue on the floor. Uh oh! Where should it be?" and she'll gladly run in and put it in the bin. It's the every day stuff that's really getting to me and I don't know why she does it or what to do. Now to get out of this house and enjoy the glorious sunshine... God help me!

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#7 of 10 Old 11-16-2012, 11:00 AM
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I only have one so this may be out of left field, but I notice that several of your examples might not be a problem if they didn't impact your babies' safety.  I wonder if she's feeling like her younger siblings are cramping her style?  Maybe it would help to make a big deal out of her being the big sister, getting to do more, helping with the babies, etc. 

-Marisa, ecstatic mommy to amazing DD Sidonie, 2/07 :
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#8 of 10 Old 11-17-2012, 07:45 AM
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I've always found my kids listen/respond better when I tell them what TO do instead of "don't.....".  So something like, "Don't play with the doors, someone's fingers could get pinched"  it becomes, "Doors stay open please!"  "Don't throw the blocks, they might hurt someone" becomes, "Blocks go in hands or on the floor to build."  "Don't jump off the furniture" becomes, "Let's go jump off the <insert acceptable place for jumping> instead!"


My kids are loophole finders, creative, bright, and energetic.  My "don'ts" and explanations why are met, in their minds (and sometimes verbally) with reasons why they disagree with me and what I said won't happen.  lol.  Sooo, if I tell them what TO do, what I DO expect, there's really not as much opportunity to argue about that (or test it out as much).  


Good luck!

Heather, WAHM to DS (01/04)DD (06/06). Wed to DH(09/97)
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#9 of 10 Old 11-19-2012, 05:53 PM
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OMG Mama B-Positive you completely described my 3 year old! He's driving me INSANE! Heaven forbid I take you to the zoo and buy you pizza! What was I thinking trying to get out of the house?!

I'll be following this thread closely because I could use any advice given! The only thing I can contribute is that DS responds much better when I put him in the position of power. ie he won't brush his teeth "oh ok Jamie doesn't want his teeth brushed, can Jamie brush mama's teeth?" I try to playfully let him be the "parent" whenever possible and so far it's working out.

Love my 3 boys! joy.gif
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#10 of 10 Old 11-20-2012, 04:38 PM
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This is exactly what I was coming to post about!! I definitely agree w/ the PP who said to tell them what they should do instead of what they shouldn't. Also, anytime I can make things a little more silly, my DD responds much better.

She will be five in a few days, but she has just started doing this the past few weeks. The past couple days have been the worst. Last night DH told DD several times not to talk/laugh while she had food in her mouth (this is a major thing for him). She kept laughing and he said "do it one more time and-" so of course she laughed before he even finished his sentence (for the record, he did realize as he was saying it that that was poor phrasing). He told her to leave her food on the table and go straight to bed. Tonight she was jumping across the couch (like from one side to the other) I had some chairs stacked behind the couch from when I'd been cleaning the kitchen, so he told her to wait on the jumping until we got the chairs moved, and she climbed right back up, I thought "surely she's not actually going to jump," (hoping she was going for a forward roll or something), but nope, jumped again. DH sent her to her room until dinner was ready (maybe 10 min) and then told her that her punishment was that no one would sit with her as she was going to bed tonight. This is the first time she's been punished. Neither of us want to do that, but in the moment, he didn't know what else to do.

Now that I've typed it all out, though, it seems so obvious. She's been telling me for weeks (not constantly, but on and off) that I don't give her enough attention anymore (we had a baby over the summer). Clearly I need to work harder to get more one on one time with her. Also, just be conscious of the fact that she's going through this right now, and try to be more on top of her, like this evening when she climbed back up on the couch, I could have distracted her by having her help me get the dinner plates/utensils out or something. I think I will set aside one of DD2's nap times to be just time for connecting with DD1, and see if that helps.

So, thank you ladies for giving me a space to type that out! I'll keep an eye on the thread for other ideas, and post anything we come up with.
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