4.5 yo not listening, becoming serious safety issue! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 12:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Lately my 4.5 year old has started ignoring the things my husband and I request of her to the point where it has becoming a serious safety issue. Today my husband put the (heavy wood) kitchen chairs up on top of the table to prepare for our carpet cleaning, and asked her to please not touch the chairs as they could fall off the table and hurt her. While I was leaving a message for someone on the phone she went over to the table and pulled a chair off, which smashed her head into the table and landed on her back - she was pinned on her stomach on the carpet. It was absolutely horrifying to watch but she was somehow fine. The way her back bent under the chair, she could have seriously been injured. Then, this afternoon we were at the pool and she was with her older brother in 2 ft deep water. They had been splashing and playing happily and their baby brother was crying to nurse. So I asked them to stay in the same area and showed her that I would be sitting at the nearby table watching them. I showed her how the water got deeper to her right, and shallower to her left, and told her she needed to stay on this side of the lifeguard stand, otherwise her feet wouldn't be able to touch the bottom. She is a good swimmer (for 4.5, has had 3 series of swim lessons this summer) and was wearing a life jacket as an extra precaution. Because she is unpredictable. Sigh. So I had just gotten the baby latched on and heard the lifeguard's whistle...she had simply lifted the rope and gone into the deeper area at the foot of the slides, where no one except the people coming down the slides can go. Then she got sucked into the current from the slides and was carried into the deeper water. I could not freaking believe it. So here are two great examples in one single day. My son said he had told her to come with him toward the shallow water (both of them knew the area below the slides was off limits) and said she thought it was funny to run away from him.

 

Ignoring me when I ask her to brush her teeth is one thing but this is an entirely different realm. And I don't feel like the seriousness of it is getting through at all. If she was running toward a street and I told her to stop, I have very little confidence that she would do it.

 

Just a bit of background, she is the middle child of three and has been difficult since she was about 3 years old, which is before her baby brother was even conceived. :) My husband and I have a very solid marriage and we have a very positive, happy, stable home environment. I don't work, I spend all of my days with the kids and they get a lot of love, attention and nurturing. For discipline, we use a combination of consequences and time outs (which are more decompressing time for her as she has a temper like a volcano). We understand the importance of consistency and we don't let bad behavior slide by. Yet, she is one of those people who always has to have the last word. If we ask her not to do something, she *always* seems to have to do it one last time before complying. Has to always push the boundaries. It gets tiring...we can live with that but we cannot live with her disobeying us to degree she has lately. I'm starting to get seriously scared that she's this hard to handle and not even 5 yrs old. Her older brother is nearly 7 and has never been like this at all. This is my solace when I think I am failing as a parent. :)  I am quite desperate for suggestions.

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#2 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 11:49 AM
 
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Do you think she learned from both of those instances?

 

I think that you can expect some level of obedience at her age.  It's not that she's too young.  It sounds like she's purposely being obstinate.  

 

I would worry much more if she's not learning the hard way.  (some kids only learn the hard way) If she's still willing to do the same thing after she's been hurt or scared, then i'd stop taking her to the pool for sure.  At least for a while. 

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#3 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 01:36 PM
 
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I highly recommend you read Raising Your Spirited Child. It sounds like her curiosity and enthusiasm and spirit are outweighing her ability to control herself. That's not a bad thing! Frustrating for you, absolutely, but once she gets older and you give her the tools to control her impulses, all of those characteristics that make a difficult child make for a wonderful adult smile.gif



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#4 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 02:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so much for your suggestions. That is so funny that you mention "Raising Your Spirited Child" as I saw it at Goodwill last week and bought it. I wasn't looking for it but was hoping it would give me some good suggestions for dealing with her, as I am out of ideas. I am really, really hoping that this book can help me out.

 

I agree that she is old enough to obey, I don't think I'm expecting too much of her. I think that she is mature for her age; she always gravitates to kids that are a few years older than she is. She has always been a very good communicator, too, and pretty in touch with her feelings. And yes, definitely spirited. I always describe her as living outside the box. She is very creative and imaginative, always thinking of her own way to do things. I can see this as being a great trait to have later in life. ;) So yes, very much a free spirit and also exceptionally strong willed and stubborn. She is all about pushing the boundaries. She has this great spark and energy that is wonderful to have around but on the other edge of it is all of the issues I have described above. I talk to her about consequences / cause & effect til I am blue in the face and it just doesn't seem to click. I can't say for sure if her lessons from yesterday hit home or not, I will be paying attention to see if she actually learns from these things - needs to learn things the hard way. That is a very interesting thought. I have to say it makes me nervous though thinking ahead to her teen years, know what I mean? Thank you again!

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#5 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 03:19 PM
 
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My best suggestion is that if you've found you can't trust her to keep herself safe, don't trust her and do what you need to do based on that. You need to get out of the pool to nurse, she has to get out of the water too. You have to leave the room where the chairs are up, she has to leave the room and stay in your sight. I don't know if there's a way to MAKE them do what you say, so it becomes simply a case of keeping them safe, if they've shown they aren't mature enough to keep themselves safe, whether they should at their age or not.
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#6 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 03:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree totally, I felt horrible that I didn't make her get out of the pool in the first place. Her safety has to come first, and it's possible that this might get through to her when she realizes she has lost her freedom/our trust.
 

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#7 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 03:43 PM
 
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I have two pretty "out there" suggestions because it sounds like most of the more obvious ones are ones that you have already tried. My first thought (even before I read that "blue in the face" line) is that maybe she's being talked to too much. I know this sounds pretty crazy because we think of talking to our kids as such a respectful, effective thing to do but I think it can sometimes backfire and we end up sounding like the teacher on the Peanuts. Ok..and along those same lines and even more far-out...

 

I would try having positive expectations of her. First, let me say that the first time I got this advice I just shook my head. But, I find it works. When I could (like it wasn't life or death) I would put myself in a position where my child could see that I expected the to do the right thing. Maybe that means, putting the chairs on the table and telling your child you're going upstairs. If she pulls them down -- come running in "shock" that she touched them. Or in the park, just walk back to the car, fully expecting your DC to come. Or something along those lines. 

 

What do you think? Too crazy? 


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#8 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 04:23 PM
 
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My best suggestion is that if you've found you can't trust her to keep herself safe, don't trust her and do what you need to do based on that. You need to get out of the pool to nurse, she has to get out of the water too. You have to leave the room where the chairs are up, she has to leave the room and stay in your sight. I don't know if there's a way to MAKE them do what you say, so it becomes simply a case of keeping them safe, if they've shown they aren't mature enough to keep themselves safe, whether they should at their age or not.

 

I agree, if she has proven time and again that she cannot be trusted to obey in situations where safety is a concern then she cannot be put in those situations. One of our kids is like that, he's not as old as your child so I'm a bit more understanding with it but it does mean that we can't do certain things. We do not go swimming unless one adult can be right there in the water with him 100% of the time (in our family, because I'm a lifeguard and water safety instructor children who can't swim are never left in the water alone, lifejacket/lifeguard or not). We can only go places where we can bring a stroller and he has to be belted in when walking through parking lots because he won't stop when I'm yelling for him to stop. If we're in a store and he runs off he gets strapped in.

 

The chairs are a different thing. It depends on the chairs but your post says that one fell on her and she was ok - that's a lesson learned, she's learning that she shouldn't pull heavy things down and that when you say she can get hurt you might be correct. Our kids have always been fascinated with the stove and no matter how many times we say not to touch it or how closely we watch they've each managed to touch it and slightly burn their fingers. They lost their fascination with the stove. I think that sometimes if the danger is discomfort then it's ok to let them learn their own lesson and save being stressed out for times when something is truly dangerous. 

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#9 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 07:05 PM
 
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My 4.5 year old is the same way and I am really frustrated, too.  A lot of why she does it is curiosity or trying to exert her independence, but it scares me that she could get hurt.  Like she will run away from us and not stop when we yell stop.  That and just the general obstinance is driving me crazy.  The one thing I've found that does help with her is to explain my expectations ahead of time.  For example, we recently went hiking and wading in the river.  There were lots of little slippery stones and could be dangerous.  Before we went in the water, we told her that we expected her to stay with us, hold our hand, and follow all of our directions because of safety.  We explained why we had this rule and if she didn't follow directions, we would get out of the water immediately.  It worked well and she did what we asked.  If we are going to the store, I tell her the expectations of behavior or going to bed, i tell her what we are going to do and when.  It really helps her to know what she is supposed ot do and why.  The problem is I can't do it for every situation.


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#10 of 13 Old 08-09-2012, 07:16 PM
 
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I have two pretty "out there" suggestions because it sounds like most of the more obvious ones are ones that you have already tried. My first thought (even before I read that "blue in the face" line) is that maybe she's being talked to too much. I know this sounds pretty crazy because we think of talking to our kids as such a respectful, effective thing to do but I think it can sometimes backfire and we end up sounding like the teacher on the Peanuts. Ok..and along those same lines and even more far-out...

 

I would try having positive expectations of her. First, let me say that the first time I got this advice I just shook my head. But, I find it works. When I could (like it wasn't life or death) I would put myself in a position where my child could see that I expected the to do the right thing. Maybe that means, putting the chairs on the table and telling your child you're going upstairs. If she pulls them down -- come running in "shock" that she touched them. Or in the park, just walk back to the car, fully expecting your DC to come. Or something along those lines. 

 

What do you think? Too crazy? 

I like this a lot!  I definitely think that kids will tend to live up (or down) to our expectations of them.  Sometimes I think our warnings carry an unintended message - "I fully expect you to get into trouble, so I'm telling you now not to."  Like...(speaking generally, not specifically to OP) if kiddo is in the other room and you call out, "You aren't getting into any trouble, are you?" or, "Don't be disrespectful while you're at so-and-so's house" or, "You better come home on time" all seem to assume that it's in the child's nature to be "bad," so you have to be preemptive.  But if you start out under the assumption that they're going to be well-behaved (whatever that means), and act very surprised (but understanding) when they mess up, then they will think of themselves as naturally "good."  Same goes for teenagers!  I remember friends' parents giving out warnings so sternly that you'd think they'd already done something wrong.  "Don't you DARE miss curfew!"

 

Even with my 20 month old I try to convey trust as much as I can...I remember being at the store a while back, DS was about 16 or 17 months, and a mom was refusing to let her MUCH older child (3 or 4) hold the glass bottle of Dr Pepper, afraid he would drop and break it.  At the time I was regularly letting DS hold glass bottles (I have a mild addiction to sparkling mineral water) and drink from them, with just my hand underneath ready to catch, but not touching.  Now, I know she was in public so she was more concerned about spillage/breakage, but isn't the child getting the sense that he can't be trusted with something fragile?  Whether or not that's the case, at some point he won't be untrustworthy, but the undermined confidence may linger.  

 

Anyhow, I totally went on a tangent there.  It sounds like OP gave a good, explanatory warnings and is very trusting!  Have you tried asking her why she touched the chairs or went under the rope?  Obviously I don't mean in a "why did you do that after I told you not to" way, but out of sheer curiosity?  Maybe she saw something in that section of the pool that she wanted to get...maybe she thought she was strong enough to lift the chair...




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#11 of 13 Old 08-10-2012, 11:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your continued thoughts, this is helping me so much. I have also started to read "Raising Your Spirited Child" and although I'm not to the section yet where actual advice is offered, I can certainly relate to some of the descriptions of spirited children. She can be so WONDERFUL or so CHALLENGING depending not just on the day, but the minute of the day. :) Yesterday overall she did have a really great day though.

 

I am certainly willing to change my approach to convey more positive expectations, talk less, etc. In hindsight the fault was entirely MINE in the swimming pool situation as I can tell even from what I told her beforehand that I knew there was a possibility she wouldn't obey. The baby was screaming to nurse and I was nervous to nurse in public at a pool so that distracted me from making an absolutely sound decision where she is concerned. We decided that she will not be going swimming for the rest of the summer unless my husband goes along with us - or stays home with the baby!  That was a situation that could totally have been avoided and I feel horrible about it. :( I did ask her about the chairs and she said she was pulling on the chair because she was trying to get herself up onto the table. She wanted to get up on top of the table like the chairs. Hmmmmmmm.

 

Anyway, I didn't mean to go on about all of that. I will focus on the positive expectations and not overtalking. I already had that sense, that my older son is the type who absorbs words and takes them to heart, and she is not like that. If I can ever give her specific examples of what happened to some specific person then it seems to get through. :)  If she runs away from me in a grocery store or parking lot, we're getting to the point where I cannot physically restrain her - she is 45 lbs and as tall as a 6 yr old. Doesn't fit in any of our strollers or the shopping cart. We will take baby steps here and see if we can't make some progress toward keeping her safe! Thank you again and keep any thoughts coming if you have others. I appreciate it so much.
 

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#12 of 13 Old 08-10-2012, 11:28 AM
 
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It sounds like you're doing everything just right! Maybe it helps to remind yourself that this too shall pass. praying.gif  wink1.gif

 

I also wanted to mention that my daughter is one that did best with less talking. I just think she felt like I was wasting her time...or something. Sheepish.gif  What worked wonders for her when she was just a little older was to talk when she was in the mood. When she was very young (probably even younger than your DC) we did nice evening chats before bed. We would recap the day - talk about the fun things we did, talk about what could have been done better and brainstomed ways to fix problems. 

 

Now that she's older we still have our chats -- only now we talk very, very well in the car. I think there's something about the lack of eye contact (and probably lack of something better to do!) that makes the car the most magical place to talk. 

 

Good luck, mama!! 


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#13 of 13 Old 08-10-2012, 11:30 AM
 
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Oh, and I had an idea on how to "use" the logical consequence of not being able to go to the pool unless her dad can come too. I think it's too harsh to say, "We can't go to the pool without dad anymore because of xyz." But, I think you CAN say, "DC, guess what? Dad can join us a the pool today so we can go because he can help watch you and your brother while I take care of the baby." I think that's a nice gentle way to help her understand some of the limitations that come with not being able to help keep herself safe. 


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