Very hard to discipline 4 year old... ADVICE NEEDED - Mothering Forums

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Old 10-12-2006, 04:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My son Jayden just turned 4. He had always been a strong willed strubbon little boy. He is VERY hard to discipline. We do time-outs. He get a warning and if he doesn't stop he goes and sits in a chair in the guest room until the timer goes off. I add extra time if he fights me, yells, or kicks. THING IS he doesn't care and does all of the above every time. He gets warned to stop getting into something or hitting ext but he still does it. He thinks it's a game and will laugh at me and ask how long he has to stay in there and then say he's just going to come right back out.

ALSO... We do a reward chart for the boys. Every day if they were good overall the get a sticker on their chart for that day and if they wern't they dont. They have to get 7 stickers that week for a treat (candy, ice cream, coloring books, books, a special toy, trip to the zoo ext) he still has yet do do any of this because he gets in so much trouble all week long.

ANY ADVICE for me please!!!!
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Old 10-12-2006, 04:49 PM
 
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Well, time-outs don't seem to be working well for you at this stage, so i would definitely give up on those! I think kids come with their own personalities and there's nothing that works for all of them.

I would also ramp back on the sticker chart, because either you're setting a goal he's not really capable of meeting right now, which must be frustrating or discouraging for him, or else he just doesn't care. "Good all day" is a pretty vague concept to a kid, really, and therefore a hard goal to meet. It also leads to labeling kids as "good" or "bad," which I'm pretty much against, myself --especially if his brother is having an easier time, and so usually gets the sticker, while he doesn't.

It sounds very frustrating! Especially when you have a new baby and are exhausted, I'm sure. Here are some things you might try, any of which may or may not help:

* Really ramp down on your expectations right now, and focus on just one area where you want him to improve, with lots of attention, discussion, and positive feedback. especially with a new baby sister, I'm sure this is a hard time for him, and that could explain a lot of acting out.

* Avoid situations where you know he will have trouble as much as you possibly can (easier said than done, I know), and create opportunities where you are pretty sure he can do well, and recognize him for the good behavior. If he gets into things on a regular basis, make sure those things aren't available to tempt him.

* Does talking beforehand about expectations and consequences before occasions where he's like to have trouble help with him at all? Also, stepping up attention at times when he ISN'T misbehaving can sometimes help.

* I'm a believer in logical consequences -- if you can't behave at the store, you don't get to go. Kids who DO get to go help pick out breakfast cereal and fruit that they want that week, or snacks, or whatever. Kids who stay home with the other parent while you shop don't get that choice. If you break crayons, you don't get to play with the crayons because we don't want them ruined, that sort of thing. Kids who hit might not get a "time out" per se, but they have to leave the room because no one wants to stay with them and get hit. This usually appeals more to kids who are motivated by a sense of fairness; it seems less arbitrary than sitting in a chair, you know? (Although my particular kid responds really well to time-outs, so we do use them on occasion.)

I hope some of this is helpful!
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Old 10-12-2006, 05:10 PM
 
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My advice would be to stop doing time-outs. They are only working to make him angry and resentful. FWIW, we used to do timeouts and after stopping them, our almost 4 year old is a totally different person.

And I would stop the reward chart as well. Being good all day is difficult for anyone and is a very high expectation of a child. Plus, if he has never gotten the reward, then he already feels that is just about impossible to achieve so why should he "behave" at all.

I would increase the affection and the validation of his feelings. "i know you want to ...... " "it's fun to ....... "

When he is hitting or hurting you, try holding him and saying "I know you are angry. Do you want to talk about it or do you want me just to hold you?"
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Old 10-12-2006, 07:33 PM
 
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have you read mary sheedy kurcinka's books? "kids, parents, and power struggles" really resonated with me. i think you might find a lot of good ideas there.

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Old 10-12-2006, 07:52 PM
 
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ALSO... We do a reward chart for the boys. Every day if they were good overall the get a sticker on their chart for that day and if they wern't they dont. They have to get 7 stickers that week for a treat (candy, ice cream, coloring books, books, a special toy, trip to the zoo ext) he still has yet do do any of this because he gets in so much trouble all week long.

ANY ADVICE for me please!!!!
What is he getting in trouble for?

I agree with the pps, I would abandon the sticker chart and just give the kids those things because they're your kids. It kind of sounds like you're setting him up for failure, that can't be helping. I see he's your oldest, can you try recruiting him to help you more? Give him some special jobs that only four year olds can do? If he felt more confident, and more connected to you, some of that resentment and troublesome behavior might go away.

Good luck!

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Old 10-13-2006, 06:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well he get's in trouble for things like being mean to his brother. He pushes him over, hits him, and he threw a glass at him and cut his nose open. We had to bring him to the hospital and have 3 stiches put in. He love his little sister but says he hates Austin. He acts out a lot. We brought Kaitlyn for her 2 month check up and the whole time there he would roll on the ,throw toys on the floor, pick his nose, turn the lights off and on, and talk real loud when I was talking to the doc. He just doesn't ever want to listen. We will tell him to eat a few bites of peas so we can go to the zoo and he'll push them away and say no. It just seems like he doesn't care if he's going to be in trouble.
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Old 10-13-2006, 06:45 PM
 
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Well he get's in trouble for things like being mean to his brother. He pushes him over, hits him, and he threw a glass at him and cut his nose open. We had to bring him to the hospital and have 3 stiches put in. He love his little sister but says he hates Austin. He acts out a lot. We brought Kaitlyn for her 2 month check up and the whole time there he would roll on the ,throw toys on the floor, pick his nose, turn the lights off and on, and talk real loud when I was talking to the doc. He just doesn't ever want to listen. We will tell him to eat a few bites of peas so we can go to the zoo and he'll push them away and say no. It just seems like he doesn't care if he's going to be in trouble.
Maybe he doesn't. It kind of sounds like he's so used to being "in trouble" he doesn't know how else to act. It sounds like he's got some real resentment toward your other son, and maybe a little bit toward the baby, too? Maybe that's why he was acting up at her doctor's visit?

It's my opinion that you absolutely, positively cannot punish a child into behaving, unless you're willing to really physically hurt him, which I can tell obviously you're not. If I were you, I'd work on getting a closer connection to him, on giving him more responsibility for his actions, and on helping him learn acceptable ways to express his hatred and anger of his siblings.

Have you read "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish? You might find some good ideas in there. Another one I like is "The Secret of Parenting" by Anthony Wolf.

As far as food goes, I'd try to avoid power struggles. I've heard people say, it's your job to provide healthy food, it's your child's job to eat it. I like that, I try to remember that when it seems like my dd will eat nothing but yogurt or carbs for three days straight. And then, the next three days will be nothing but fruit. I think it all rounds out, and as long as I don't have junk in the house, she ends up eating a pretty well-balanced diet over the course of the week. And I like not having to worry about what she's eating and try to enforce any rules during mealtime...much less stress for everyone!

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Old 10-13-2006, 07:25 PM
 
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Okay, I would separate things into two categories here: Not Acceptable and No Big Deal. The peas -- no big deal, so he doesn't eat some peas. Striking or injuring his sibling, Not Acceptable. Let the No Big Deals go completely by the wayside for right now and then work like crazy on the Not Acceptables. All the standard tricks; positive attention when he's NOT acting out, role-playing things he could do that don't involve hitting, giving him a pillow to hit instead.

I would also give him as much one-on-one time with you and his father as possible, doing things that are fun for him and too "grown-up" for his little siblings -- trip to the hands-on science center if there's one nearby, big-boy story or maze or puzzle time, or playing with Legos and other stuff the little kids can't have yet. I know that might seem like rewarding him with attention for being "bad," but you're not doing it because he's "bad" -- you're doing it because it's good for your kid whom you love so much, and because it breaks the pattern where you mostly interact to punish him. Negative attention is better than no attention at all!

And avoid situations that are occasions for misbehavior. You probably didn't have another adult handy at the doctor's office, huh? That definitely puts you in a bind -- maybe for similar set-ups in the future, bring some highly intersting and desirable toy or activity that he only gets when out and about, so he has something to do while you are (boringly) talking to the adults and can't interact with him.
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Old 10-13-2006, 07:25 PM
 
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Could you cut out all punishments and rewards for a little while and see how that goes? I personally don't think punishments or rewards are neccesary or effective. Just try loving them up for awhile and let them be "right" about everything. Don't let them get "in trouble" for a while, say a couple of weeks; just let everything they do be right and okay.
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Well he get's in trouble for things like being mean to his brother. He pushes him over, hits him, and he threw a glass at him and cut his nose open. We had to bring him to the hospital and have 3 stiches put in. He love his little sister but says he hates Austin. He acts out a lot. We brought Kaitlyn for her 2 month check up and the whole time there he would roll on the ,throw toys on the floor, pick his nose, turn the lights off and on, and talk real loud when I was talking to the doc. He just doesn't ever want to listen. We will tell him to eat a few bites of peas so we can go to the zoo and he'll push them away and say no. It just seems like he doesn't care if he's going to be in trouble.
If he says he hates his younger brother, you need to RESPECT that. That is what he is feeling, whether you like it or not. Instead of punishing him, you could try giving him alternatives. If he is angry or frustrated with his brother, does he have somewhere he can go to get away from him? Is he getting enough alone time with you?

As for the situation at the doctor's office, that sounds normal to me. Sounds like he was bored and frustrated and looking for attention. There are certain things I won't do with ds because I know he'll be antsy. I avoid those things, or find someone else to watch him. If those aren't possible and I must take him, I EXPECT him to be difficult. It is much more frustrating when you are expecting them to behave.

Why do you care if he eats peas? That is a battle not wrth fighting IMO.
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Old 10-13-2006, 08:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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the peas was not that big of a deal. jayden is VERY picky and doesn't eat many things. we try and get him to at least take a few bites of his veggies when he eats though.
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Old 10-13-2006, 08:28 PM
 
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I would totally stop micromanaging his food. Offer good healthy stuff, and whether he eats it is up to him.

About the relationship with his little brother -- has it always been like this? Is it just since the baby came? Is his brother into his stuff? Two-year-olds can be hard for an older sibling to live with -- does he have a place where he can get away from his little brother when he's getting frustrated and mad? Or do you think he's hurting his brother to get a reaction from you?
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Old 10-13-2006, 09:12 PM
 
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I can't believe no one has brought up Alfie. Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. Read it!
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Old 10-13-2006, 11:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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he was never mean to his brother until austin hit about 1 1/2. austin is in jaydens stuff a lot and he wants to be just like him and and do everything he does and it drives jayden nuts. were working on buying a new house and were in an apartment right now. the kids share a room so it's been tuff on them. we have the new baby so i dont get to bring them out much since we don't have a backyard at the moment and austin runs off. jayden was VERY close to me before austin. i nursed him until he was 2 when i had to wean him because of the pregnancy with austin and he started to not be with me as much since i had to be with austin a lot (him being an infant and all). he's wonderful with kaitlyn though so i really dont know what it is.
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Old 10-14-2006, 01:06 AM
 
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mama - you've gotten a lot of good advice from the PPs. I just wanted to add that I also have a very difficult to discipline 4-year-old, and I've learned a lot from this forum - things are going better. I recently have stopped using time-outs because they are just not working for my son - it quickly escalates into a huge power stuggle. I am finding that the more I avoid struggling with him, the better things go. Giving him the freedom to express his personality within the (wide) bounds of acceptable behavior is working. And when his behavior is not OK, I'm finding that putting my arms around him, sitting down, and talking, works better than I ever could have imagined. Unless he's tired, or hungry . We've never used rewards, but I definately give him lots of positive reinforcement for treating other people (esp. his twin brother) well. . . and he just drinks it is. I guess that is a reward in its own way?

Best wishes ..
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Old 10-14-2006, 02:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks so much. your response really made me feel a lot better. we did no time-outs today and i just talked to him about about the way he was acting and it worked great. it's 11 at night and im not ready to pull my hair out yay!
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Old 10-14-2006, 12:16 PM
 
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thanks so much. your response really made me feel a lot better. we did no time-outs today and i just talked to him about about the way he was acting and it worked great. it's 11 at night and im not ready to pull my hair out yay!
That's great that you had a better day!
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Old 10-14-2006, 12:36 PM
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I can't believe no one has brought up Alfie. Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. Read it!
Yes, this is a great book. Another good one is The Minds of Boys

I have a 4 yo. boy--he sounds just like your boy! I put my son in karate to give him an outlet for all of that energy and need to kick!!

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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Old 10-14-2006, 11:53 PM
 
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OK, I know this might sound harsh but one thing my husband and I do and it works is this- if our daughter does something really bad one of her toys gets the trash. And it seems to have worked, we rarely implement this punishment but she now seems to know that for every bad action their is a consequence.

Or if you do not want to get really extreme like that, then take away one of his favorite toys for a couple of days. Alot of times, timeouts do not work because most of the time kids get sent to their room and what is waiting for them there? Toys, TV, Video Games, etc. It kind of works against the punishment.

I know alot of ppl might not agree with me but as said above every kid is different and needs a different approach.
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Old 10-15-2006, 12:00 AM
 
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OK, I know this might sound harsh but one thing my husband and I do and it works is this- if our daughter does something really bad one of her toys gets the trash.
Yikes!!
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Old 10-15-2006, 03:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, this is a great book. Another good one is The Minds of Boys

I have a 4 yo. boy--he sounds just like your boy! I put my son in karate to give him an outlet for all of that energy and need to kick!!
were really wanting to get him into something like this!
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Old 10-15-2006, 04:05 AM
 
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I have found that a lot of kids *need* something when they act out. It could be many things but a basic checklist might include: attention, food, drink, sleep, hugs, removal from a bad situation. I think time-outs work great, if you can spend the time out with him focusing on what he needs and help him understand how he's feeling. Since you have a baby and a toddler besides your 4 yo, maybe when he starts to act out you could have him sit next to you and tell you a story or give you a massage, you know something more enjoyable!

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Old 10-15-2006, 11:24 AM
 
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Wow, you've gotten some really great advice here!

I agree with the other posters that you needs a whole new approach. Or rather, you need to approach him from a whole new angle. He has decided that nothing you can do to punish him is going to be severe enough to "win" the battle. He has a high level of pride and a strong will, and he's not interested in being controlled by other people. This is a GREAT attribute. He's an amazing little person, and he'd going to grow up to a be a strong and self-assured adult who lives on his own terms.

I agree with Thailia that the sticker chart is doing more harm than good the way that you have it set up. "Good" and "bad" are vauge labels, and they set a child up for failure. If you really feel the need to have a sticker chart (I never have) then you need to list very specific behaviors on it. "Jayden did not hit anyone today!" "Jayden cleaned up toys today."

When you give verbal correction, be very specific as well. "We do not hit in our family." "You need to get off the floor and sit still." "Please stop kicking the wall." These statements are not judging his character, not shaming, and not stressful. They are simple instructions. You can follow through on direct correction like this by "helping" him to move his body. But at all costs, avoid saying things like, "Settle down" or "calm down" or "be good" or "get it together" or "be nice." The reason is, these comments communicate that you are unhappy with him, but don't tell him how to fix the problem. His sense of shame will build up over the day, and he will be increasingly angry and frustrated. And probably anxious. A strong willed child who is angry, frustrated and anxious tends to behave very badly. And then you are in a vicious cycle.

Drop the food issues. It is NOT worth it. Your job is to provide healthy foods. His job is to eat them, or not eat them, or eat a little of them -- or whatever he chooses. But as a general rule, avoid controling anything to do with his bodily functions. You just can't win, and its not worth it.

The doctor's office scenerio is totally normal!!! My kids are much older, and I still cannot take them both when one of them has an apt. They can't stand the attention the other child is getting. This is a situation in which I ask a neighbor, a friend, or a relative for help. Or I ask DH to take the day off. I also babysit for friends in this situation, becuase I understand how bad it can get!

I agree with Thalia that its a good idea to prioritize the problems, and let the little things go. Make a list from most to least serious problems. Take them one at a time. Start with the sibling relationship, and be very creative and put your energy into solving this problem. ONE success will make your life easier, will give him confidence, and the other issues will be easier to deal with later on. Heck, he'll probably outgrow a lot of it on his own!
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Old 10-15-2006, 12:07 PM
 
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OK, I know this might sound harsh but one thing my husband and I do and it works is this- if our daughter does something really bad one of her toys gets the trash. And it seems to have worked, we rarely implement this punishment but she now seems to know that for every bad action their is a consequence.

Or if you do not want to get really extreme like that, then take away one of his favorite toys for a couple of days. Alot of times, timeouts do not work because most of the time kids get sent to their room and what is waiting for them there? Toys, TV, Video Games, etc. It kind of works against the punishment.

I know alot of ppl might not agree with me but as said above every kid is different and needs a different approach.
cant wait till she discovers this can go both ways and whenever you do something random to upset her, you find YOUR missing a few things, lol...and the wacky thing is you would probably severly punish her for it, so when does it stop over there? :

and most kids I know DONT have a tv, video games, etc in their rooms. mine certainly dont. but of course, we all share a room. they have books and a few soft, quiet toys that help her calm down and relax...and not hurt herself throwing them (again, my very gently parented 4 year old dd is quite fiesty, lol..and usually has to go in there to calm down and have 'alone time' once or twice a day)

for some, even the 'alone time' thing seems a bit controlling and harsh on my part...especially as i am carrying her in there kicking and screaming....but i need to protect all of us. I am getting better at seeing that she needs chill time before it gets so bad. she just recently stopped napping during the day, so we have all needed to find a creative approach to handling the 'second wind' time frame when the slightest injustice causes a bit of a flip out sesssion.

overall, she is such a wonderful, creative, dynamic kid. I would never want to stifle or 'break' her, to avoid the tantrums/difficult periods, so I try to guide her through them. teach her control EVEN WHEN or IN SPITE OF being tired, hungry, bored, overstimulated, etc.....she changes daily so my approach has to as well.

this is why I stated that I use a mix of a more firm approach with GD. I think GD works easily with a more relaxed child....but it can still really help a more challenging child who can really react poorly to arbitrary punishments and the harshness of typical, conventional methods (time outs, removing 'treats', toys, sticker charts, and even swatting/hitting, and excessive yelling-I say excessive since most of us have yelled, or do yell, as we are only human and sometimes it just comes out, lol )

and a PP linked to the 'cpntinuum concept', and i am a big fan...while my babies are young and especially as they grow. Exactly why all the attention and focus should not be placed on an already spoiled child, everyone needs to be a part of a community/family, not control people and situations to the point of alienating themselves. IMO.
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Old 10-15-2006, 03:42 PM
 
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we have the new baby so i dont get to bring them out much since we don't have a backyard at the moment and austin runs off.

I think this is a big part of it. I'm sorry, but a 4 year old needs to get out and get some exercise. Every day. I'd be acting like him too if I was cooped up in an apartment with a family of 5! There must be a park in your area that's suitable for little kids... Most of the ones around here have pretty good fences. Do you have friends who could come with you and help? It must be hard to manage three little ones, but still, I think this is really important. Playdates? A playgroup?

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Old 10-16-2006, 03:44 PM
 
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Yeah, I think the combination of not getting outside much plus having his brother constantly getting into his stuff/in his face explains a lot here! No wonder he's not feeling very loving toward his brother at the moment.

Is there a place you can set up for him that's off-limits to his brother, where he can put big-boy toys and stuff and use them unmolested? I know it's hard in a small apartment ... maybe baby-gate off a corner somewhere and give him a toy bin and table and chair there where he can have his own space? And just keep reminding him that he CANNOT hit or harm Austin in any way, but you understand this his hard for him and that he doesn't have to tolerate being pestered either -- he can always go to his own space. That plus daily outside time might make everything tons easier.

And hugs to you; three kids that young together in an apartment all day must be tough!
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