Gentle Disciple for a demanding/strong willed 3.5 year old. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 03:52 PM - Thread Starter
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I love my daughter. Isn't it funny how we always start by stating that whenever we're about to say not-so-positive things about our kids? My daughter, Sophia, is very bright, sometimes a little bit too much. She has a vivid imagination, a love for science and music. We love a lot of the same things, so it's easy for me to relate to her on an equal level. She's always been high needs, hated everything but being on my arms. Nursed constantly until almost 3. I had to spend a weekend away from home because I couldn't continue doing it anymore. She's still always touching my breasts and asking for her "super bites". That's one of the many things I'm trying to "work on". She started sleeping through the night at the same time we stopped nursing, she still cries a way lot and gets really mad sometimes. She seems to behave worse around me than anybody else. She's constantly climbing on me, punching me, pulling me, it's a very rough and physical interaction and it really stresses me out. I love being with her, but can't stand the 24/7 hands on mommy. As I type this she's currently climbing all over my back and hurting me. I sometimes snap, I'm only human and will yell "please stop climbing on me" and them I'll get a response of "FINE! DON'T BE MY FRIEND ANYMORE!!" or "you made my heart sad!". They both make me sad. I've tried to always have a very gentle approach to discipline and I want my daughter to respect me, not to fear me, but it seems like I can't get her to listen to any one things.


If we go out, holding hands is a problem while walking. When I pick her up to cross the street she fights the whole time. I was always babywearing her since she wanted to be held all the time, but now she's all about independence. I'm ok with independence, but also safety. It almost makes me don't want to go out with her.


I feel like I haven't made much progress in what comes to creating responsibility. 9 times out of 10 she will not clean up her toys or help with any chores, unless is her idea.


Getting into the bath, brushing her hair, her teeth, clipping her nails sometimes turns into a wrestling match.



She's constantly hitting me. I don't use physical punishment. I've been trying to work on this too, with absolutely no progress.


I can on, the problem right now is that she seems too stubborn for me to modify certain behaviors. I think part of it is my fault, I'm extremely laid back and for most things my method is "you go ahead, try and learn". I also suffer from depression and I'm always lacking energy to manage my full time job and the struggles with my daughter. I'm always tired and I never sleep, so she wins most fights, the thing is I don't want to be fighting at all.


I've tried the explaining the reason behind why we must do these things or not do others. I've tried explaining how certain things make me feel. Some methods that work sometimes is the counting in order to get her to do something, but it will work for 2 minutes. She seems to do well at her preschool. Her teacher says she's one of her best students, never hits anyone, loves doing puzzles, has a couple of friends she likes the most, her teacher says she's too passive and sometimes kids will hit her and she doesn't react to them, but comes and gets her instead. The only problems she's encountered is not sharing and for Sophia to use her words when upset. She sometimes will have really bad tantrums where she just says nooo and wants you with her, but then pushes you away and it goes on for awhile. It doesn't happen to frequently, thank God.  I think the last time was over a month ago. Her dad has noticed too how she behaves better when she's with him only.


I feel like I'm doing something wrong and I'm not sure what. Any advice?

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#2 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 04:43 PM
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You're not doing anything wrong, momma.  Just stay patient and loving and calm.  Don't give up on the gentle discipline.  She might be so successful at school because it's a structured, predictable environment.  She knows, 100% of the time, what is going to happen, so much so that she doesn't feel the need to retaliate against students who are aggressive towards her. 


It's fine to talk to her about your feelings and the consequences of her actions, but the most important thing is that she knows EXACTLY what you're going to do EVERY time she acts violently towards you.  Time out, loss of toy, failure to get a sticker on today's behavior chart, whatever.  It might not matter what you do, as long as you do it predictably, every single time, immediately responding to her actions.


Be patient with yourself and with her- a few months from now she'll move on to a new set of bad habits and behaviors that you'll have to sort your way through.  You sound like such a gentle, loving mother- it's stressful being three and a half, trying to navigate this new world; she knows that you'll always forgive her, so it's always easier for her to take her frustration out on you. 

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#3 of 7 Old 08-19-2012, 06:52 PM
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Is she trying to reconnect with you?  My son rarely hits but when he does act out physically (unless it's a melt down tantrum) it's almost always a signal that he needs more connection.  It sounds a bit like she realizing how independant from you she is and is testing where she/you end.  Ds is 3 and is def testing and practicing conflict and resolution with me.  How to be mad at someone you love, how to stand up for himself etc, I think alot of it s normal and some of it is healthy.  You aren't a bad mom.

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#4 of 7 Old 08-20-2012, 05:15 PM
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I would read everything you can about parenting without controls -- Nonviolent Communication, Taking Children Seriously, and unconditional parenting. According to Marshall Rosenberg, the creator of nonviolent communication, all behavior is an attempt to meet a need. It sounds like she has a high need for connection, physical contact, and interaction. She needs help meeting these needs, but as she gets older she will begin more and more to meet her own needs. Is she also quite intelligent? Parenting highly sensitive, highly gifted kids is a lot of work, but in the end it's about helping them meet their high needs. Have you heard of sensory processing disorder? I am not a doctor, nor qualified to diagnose anyone, but the activities that have been developed for kids with sensory processing disorder can be enjoyed by all kids, and can help with things like hitting and running off. The book, "The Out of Synch Child Has fun" has a lot of great activities. Does she have a sensory table (sand/water or dried beans)? Water play always calms both my kids.

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#5 of 7 Old 08-20-2012, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Auraji View Post


I feel like I'm doing something wrong and I'm not sure what. Any advice?

Could you post one, specific incident that we can help with?  When things get really bad for us it's very helpful for me to break issues WAY down and just deal with them one at a time. 

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#6 of 7 Old 08-21-2012, 12:01 AM
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Hey, check Playful Parenting. It may not work for all areas of discipline but it can help with many of the daily routines. Many little daily battles can be solved with a little playing/game and tricking the child into the fun of it.

I thought it may go with your personality, if you are not into power struggle neither you have a need to have your authority respected or anything like that. All you need is to have your daughter to comply with all that needs to happen..

Besides, if you say you feel tired and you suffer from depression, turning your everyday discipline into fun games will be really light on you.

I totally understand you, I work and go to school, also feel too tired for discipline and hate fight and struggele so I go to the laid back approach too.

Brushing teeth is always an act, a fun game ... Constantly being renewed. Only a very few times now, it comes down to holding him and brushing against his will.
Getting him to, for example, leave a store is a game of "let's go by ourselves and meet at the door", then I walk some safe distance behind him, looking distracted and get surprised when we meet at the door. The meeting game has seved us to meet at the bathroom to wash hands, meet at the front door to leave the house, bath... Anytime I need him to get somewhere. To get inside the building (home) there is a game of chase that will only start immediately after he crosses the front door. ( he must cross it, or I won't play) .

These are not any specific ideas I read in the book. They were all made up solutions I found at each of the struggles. I just felt more inspired to find a playful solution in face of a conflict or struggle. He doesnt really fall into the "playful trap", he is often conscious that he is complying but he does it with pleasure because he feels good in the interaction. I still doubt myself at times because I don't have authority over my kid. He doesn't go to pre-school yet, so I cant even do a check of his behavior. (hes **** 2.5) What if I'm creating a monster. LOL But hey, we go through our days as are a happy mama son unit.

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#7 of 7 Old 08-22-2012, 05:38 PM
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You are not a bad mama!!!! hug.gif

It sounds like she's trying to learn boundaries and you are a safe person for her to test this out with but also a very worn out mama with a lot on her plate, so you can't always hold the boundaries the way she needs you to. I get it, I'm there, I'm in such a similar situation (chronic physical illness plus a mental illness). And it's so physically & emotionally exhausting to hold a boundary. But DS's behavior toward me has improved quite a bit since I got serious about this. I gently but firmly state what my boundary is ("I don't want to be climbed on right now," or "I need you to ask me before jumping into my lap," or "I am not comfortable with you pulling me that way,") and then I have to enforce it somehow if he isn't able to stop. What worked best for me, and what finally got through to DS, is removing myself from the room, locking myself in the bathroom for a few moments. He does get really upset that I'm not RIGHT THERE BESIDE HIM but I explain to him that I have to keep myself safe and if he can't refrain from hurting me, I need to take some time away from him until I feel like he can be near me without hurting me. It worked really well after the first few times (like once he realized I'm serious!) and I feel like it's a very logical consequence and respectful of both of us. After that he started testing the boundaries with DH, hitting/biting him etc., and it was interesting for him to see that DH handles it very differently, but especially interesting for DH & I to have that "AH HA!" moment of clearly seeing it was indeed a boundary issue.

Holding hands -- I don't hold hands with DS for safety, only for comfort/bonding. I think it is possible to teach street safety without requiring her to hold your hand. Sometimes in really busy areas I will ask DS to "stick to me like glue" or "stick to me like a starfish on a rock." He LOVES this for some reason, sticks himself to my leg. smile.gif Most of the time though I just explain to him that he needs to stay close to me because I'm much taller than him & sometimes cars have trouble seeing little people. He has rarely fought me on this, and those times I just told him he'd need to stay close otherwise I'd have to pick him up (and made sure to follow through on that.) I don't know where you live though, and if you do feel like she MUST hold your hand to stay safe then just continue to enforce that rule (but realize too that holding her hand above her head for long periods of time is pretty uncomfortable, so maybe plan your outings to minimize hand-holding time!)

Hair, teeth, nails -- I tell DS a story or sing him a song. I also settle for "good enough"... 20 seconds of him calmly letting me brush his teeth is better to me than 5 minutes of him flailing while I brush, and I can add a few seconds on every few days. I try to create positive associations with these things, even if it means once in a while we skip it or he does it [less than adequately] all by himself.

Try not to think of it as a fight, but more of a lesson in boundaries. She is just learning where you end & she begins. Sometimes I like to make that a very literal thing for DS -- we play games where we push against each others' hands or feet, and other physically interactive games, somehow this helps him grasp the more abstract stuff he's trying to work through. She will need you to be more firm than it sounds like you have been... and that's so hard when you're so tired!! One thing that helps is for me to go through various scenarios and plan how I will respond to each one -- then I don't feel put on the spot when I'm in the moment, I can just go into autopilot. It also can help to communicate that plan directly to your child, so she understands what the rules are when she's with you and what the consequences will be. You can even make it a picture chart for her. Just make sure the consequences are things you are able & willing to follow through with. I'm sure we can help you think up some easier-to-enforce consequences if you want to throw out a couple of scenarios.

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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