Power struggles with 4-year-old - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 10-16-2012, 09:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My daughter turned 4 last week, and a switch flipped or something. We have power struggles every night over the bath time/bedtime routine. I used to have strategies that worked like a charm (giving her multiple "heads up" announcements that a transition is coming, using a timer to signal that it was time to do something else, offering a "forced choice", using humor/silly songs, etc.). She has learned amazing new ways to annoy the crap out of me, most notably, she bites my shirt and won't let go.

 

I do not want to resort to punishments and I don't want to manhandle her. But I am losing my cool, and I do need to get through the nighttime routine and get her to bed.

 

What works with your 4-year-old?

 

And can anyone give me perspective on 4-year-olds? Is this normal? Am I supposed to give her more independence? What happened to my daughter???


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#2 of 10 Old 10-16-2012, 11:37 AM
 
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Counting down worked for my dd when she was four: "It's time to get undressed for your bath.  I'm going to help you get undressed in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1."  (This is after polite instructions, playful parenting approach, etc.)  Then help as gently as possible.  I guess if she's biting your shirt, this might still result in some manhandling.  I guess you could say I did some manhandling when dd was four, but I would prefer to say that I helped her do things as gently as possible. 

 

You could also try the "waiting for the bus" approach from How to Talk So Kids Will Listen.  Just detach and wait her out like you're waiting for the bus to come. 

 

Lastly, my dd has gone through a 3-6 week period at every half birthday when she made everything into a power struggle and was completely impossible.  Then one day, as you say, the switch flips and she's easygoing and compliant again.  Maybe it's a period of disequilibrium?


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#3 of 10 Old 10-16-2012, 12:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the suggestions & the perspective. As I think of it, around her 3rd birthday, we suddenly noticed a lot of power struggles. And then they subsided. Must be a cyclical thing.

 

I like the "waiting for the bus" idea. I'll give that a try tonight.


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#4 of 10 Old 10-24-2012, 10:07 AM
 
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I'm sure someone will bring up playful parenting in more detail, but the one thing that almost always works with my 4.5 year old is for him to beat the timer. So, "Do you think you can get all your clothes off and jump in the tub in 2 minutes? Let's set the timer!" Or, add even more fun into it, by having her do a turn after each step, or something else that is very silly. Rather than a power struggle, try to find a way to make it into a game.
 


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#5 of 10 Old 10-24-2012, 11:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the suggestions!

 

I use a timer, but I haven't tried the "beat the timer" approach. That's definitely worth a try.

 

Last night, the "waiting for the bus" approach got me through several challenging moments.

 

One dynamic between DD & I is that we have a very creative, energetic, kinetic relationship, but that means that I tend to "rev" her up at bedtime, when of course I am trying to do just the opposite. So I need to find a way to be playful, but calm...really calm. 


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#6 of 10 Old 10-26-2012, 11:58 PM
 
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Playful, yet calm...sounds like those yoga for kids cards!  I struggle with calmer play near bedtime, too...

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#7 of 10 Old 10-27-2012, 02:37 PM
 
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I think some of the ideas here are marvelous.  Personally, I get so tired myself at night that my patience is quite low.  My grand daughter lives with me, and sometimes what works best with her is if I tell her that I am tired and that I'm having a hard time being patient and that I need her to help me.  She is amazingly sympathetic to me, and I am surprised how well it can work.  Plus, it is true!  I am tired and having a hard time if she is driving me crazy!

 

Biting your clothes I think is a way for her to regulate if she is tired. I wonder if she is more tired at night than usual.  Sometimes growth spurts make them more tired than you might expect.  Just a guess.

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#8 of 10 Old 10-29-2012, 08:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We're discovering that giving her some "squeezes" when she gets into bed can be really helpful. She likes it when we squeeze her arms and her feet...basically, giving her a little massage. I think she needs some kind of physical cue to help her body calm down. Even when she's really, really tired, it's hard for her to settle.

 

She sometimes says that her brain is "wiggly." So we've started using a snow globe to demonstrate how minds can settle down. We shake up the snow globe and say, "this is your wiggly mind" and then watch the snow settle and say "this is how you calm down so that you can get to sleep." I'm not sure how effective that image is for her, but it at least gives us some language for talking about how to settle down.


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#9 of 10 Old 10-29-2012, 09:14 AM
 
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This is really timely for me as I am discovering that there are periods where empathy and playfulness do wonders in creating an harmonious family life, but there are also times - like now - when nothing helps for my 4 yr old.  Everything is fine; it's not triggered by me asking her for something, denying something she wants, or giving instructions.  It's not really power struggle related for us. I strive for consensual living. But there are sudden outbursts. Uncontrollable meltdowns that involve screaming and lashing out at everyone for no. apparent. reason.  My ds did not do this and I am struggling with coming to terms with the idea that there is nothing I can do to make it better.  We have to just ride it out.  What I do now is give her space for a bit, but let her know I'm available for support, and then suggest we try whatever we were doing again.

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#10 of 10 Old 10-29-2012, 03:29 PM
 
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Robbyn, I loved your post! Toddlers can be remarkably empathetic, and it's so important for them to see how we deal with being tired, cranky, frustrated, or angry.

 

Part of the problem with 4-yr-olds is that they are growing and changing and maturing so quickly, it's hard for us to keep up! We just get used to one new set of behaviors, and they throw another one at us! And those changes can be as scary and hard to deal with for the child as they are for us.

 

Are her needs being met? Is she tired, hungry, does she need more exercise, more down time, more structure, more independence? What worked last month doesn't work any more - how has she changed in that time? Sometimes going back to what worked a year ago might be the answer.


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