I do not know much about gentle discipline but I am hoping that you might provide me with some help.
My daughter is 3.5 years old and she has became very defiant recently. It is coincided with her moving into new preschool and immersing herself into English language environment three months ago. She will behave normally for some period time and then she will get this glazed look in her eyes and will start laughing and that is when hell breaks loose. She will storm through the house breaking things, climbing on furniture, pulling curtains down, breaking glass dishes on the table, hitting me, spitting at me and laughing and laughing and laughing.... I can never predict when she will do that; one minute she is fine and next she turns into a laughing monster.
Here are the things I tried to do to make stop:
1. Explaining to her why what she does is wrong and why she needs to stop
2. Redirecting her attention to something else.
3. Simply asking her to stop.
4. Yelling at her to stop.
5. Hitting her occasionaly which is very wrong but I get this rage built up, when I can hardly contain sometimes.
6. Telling her if she does not stop we will not do XYZ. And I ALWAYS follow through with that but that does not hep one bit.
7. Throwing her favorite toys away.
8. Bribing her with candy and etc, which only helps temporarily.
9. Trying to hold her and stroke her gently and asking her to stop.
10. Time - outs. Never done them but saw the Supernanny suggesting them on TV. Big disaster. I would put her in the corner, she will esacpe laughing. I would her back again, she escapes again, and again, and again, and again..... Today I spent 1 hour 10 minutes!!!! fighting her to make her stay or sit still in the corner. All the while she was just laughing and after that I got tired of putting her back into the corner and I just gave up. That Supernanny on TV would put a kid in a time out for like 5 minutes and then kid just quiets down and sits still. Does not work for me.
11. Dressing and going out. She will continue this behavior when she is out on the street.
12. Ignoring her.
Things that do work but come with heavy price tag.
1. Close her in her room for long stretches of time.
2. Putting myself in time out (retreating into the basement) for at least 30 minutes.
3. Hitting her (I get this rage I did hit her few times on her bottom ). She comes crying and then calmes down. I know that all these things are wrong but I just do not know what to do with her. Should I make appointment with psychologist? I have never done any traditional means of discipline like time-outs. She was always a "difficult" child, colicky, not sleeping, horrible tantrums, not sitting in one spot for more than 5 minutes. Did I spoil her? What do I do besides taking her to a doctor?
Forgot to add: she only eats healthy homemade food, sleeps well, spends fair amount of time outside, does not have any screen time (TV or games or computer) and is very healthy. Being sick only twice in her life. She was also EBF and is selectively vaccinated if that makes any difference.
You might want to be a 3 1/2 year old yourself. What I mean is put yourself in his shoes for a day. What do all kids love? Stories! You said he just doesn't get it when you try to explain things to him and that he keeps questioning you with why? Remember, Jesus ran into the same problem and he was dealing with adults! What did he have to do? Treat them like 4 year olds and tell them stories until they got the point. He taught them through parables or stories then backed it up with miracles or examples to prove the point. My 4 year old is just as bad and is the only boy out of five. He hates it! There are lots of great books out there that can really help give you quick, easy, free, NON-VIOLENT solutions that will improve things for life. One is "The Temperment God Gave Your Kids" by Art and Laraine Bennett. Anohter is "Parenting With Grace: Catholic Parent's Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids" by Gregory K. Popcak. They are written by people who deal with issues like this day in and day out, your situation is nothing new. Hope that helps.
I didn't reply because I never had that experience that you described with my dk. Although they have their moments when they're rambunctious and bouncing off the walls, they didn't break anything on purpose, or pull curtains down etc.
I agree with your no. 11, take her out as much as you can. Take her in the back yard or to a park, what can she destroy there?
Other suggestion: you might try playing her game, chasing her around and tickling her, laughing with her. This way, you can be close and intervene if she tries to break something. My dk love roughhousing, they can handle the rules better if they have an outlet for their energy.
Also, try to put everything breakable away.
3 1/2 is a really challenging age. I've only been through it twice (except when I was 3 1/2 year old) and am not an expert, but here's a few things I thought of:
The fact that she's fine sometimes, then gets a glazed look before running wild made me think food sensitivity. Her diet seems to be free of many of the common culprits (artificial colorings, etc...), but if she's allergic or sensitive to something, even homemade food with that ingredient will cause a reaction. Maybe keep a food diary or go for allergy testing to see if you can find a connection.
Have you tried a 'time in' instead of a time out? You could hold her tightly (basically hold her in a big bear hug, saying something like, 'I love you, but I cannot let you break things in the house. You will sit right here with me until you have calmed down.' She will probably hate it, but it protects your house, keeps her connected to you, and lets her know the behavior isn't acceptable (though won't necessarily help her control it in the future if there's an underlying cause beyond 3 year old rambunctiousness).
It's so tough to see our children act in perplexing ways. The toughest part is that this might be age appropriate and she'll out grow it, or it might be something that needs intervention. The way you describe it is sort of on the edge. On one hand, she's fine some of the time, but then she has these hyper/destructive moments. It's normal for kids that age to have little impulse control, but honestly, I don't know of other kids that age that break that many things. But again, I'm no expert. It might be worth a trip to her pediatrician to see what the pedi thinks. If it's just a phase she'll outgrow, it can be so reassuring to hear a doctor say she's acting within the normal range for her age. But if it does need some attention, then it is also good to find out sooner rather than later. Especially if there's a physical cause. No behavior plan will work if there's an underlying physical cause, so that's why the pedi is a good place to start.
Of the things that did work, I can understand why #3 is not a good idea, but what was not working for you both with numbers 1 and 2? (and how long was a long time keeping her in her room? ten minutes, half hour, three hours? etc)
Mama to DS (5) and DD (2)
Can you give a little more information about what precipitates this behavior? Is it only during certain times of the day, like when she is overtired, or possibly hungry? Is there any trigger at all you can identify?
I can relate to the sense of losing control as a parent. That age children have an uncanny way of bringing us to places that we do not normally go to. It is sometimes so hard to stay calm and patient, especially when they are running out of control. But, it is absolutely crucial that we do everything we can to try to maintain a cool head and not hit.
First, I would try to identify triggers, and if it is hunger, I would try to make sure to give snacks before those hunger pains arrive. If she is dropping a nap and over-tired, get her to bed earlier in the evening. These are the two most common triggers.
It seems like these struggles are based on power, you want her to stop, she wants to prove that she can do whatever she wants. You know you are in a power struggle when you are feeling angry at your child and thinking they should do what you want them to do. I wonder if the occasional hitting and your extreme frustration is somehow fueling it. The best thing you can do is to try as hard as you can to stay calm.
My suggestions based on what I have read are
1. Prevention: Focus as much as you can on positive behavior, give lots of positive feedback. Provide lots of opportunities for positive power, having her help you with as much as you can, even if you don't "need' the help. Get outside as much as you can. Find ways to get her to run around and expend energy. Try to make sure she's getting enough sleep as possible.
2. In the heat of the moment, do your best to keep your cool. Ask her to stop. If she does not, ask her one more time. If she does not, then hold her as the previous poster suggested -- in a way that will restrain her and keep you both (and your house) safe. Do not do it angrily (if you only ask her twice, you shouldn't be angry at that point yet, so this should not be too hard), but firmly, in control. After she calms down a little, try letting her go to see if she is ready. Sometimes just the fighting against the holding can get out enough of that negative energy. Then, try to connect. Describe what you see, that she looks angry, upset, etc. Express your empathy (after all, you love her, she needs to know that). Let her know you want to try to help her feel better. Later on, after she is calm, talk about what happened, how you each responded, what might be better next time, etc.
I think all parents and children will go through moments like these from time to time, but hopefully they will not become habit, and hopefully things can improve. I wish you the best!
DS1 (6) , DS2 (3) , DD is here!