Please help me stop butting heads with my three-year-old! - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-26-2003, 02:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Please help me and my just-turned-three-year-old. We are butting heads, and I want so desperately to stop, but somehow I can't. The two biggest issues involve her 9 month old twin sisters, so I will start with these, but they represent a general antagonism that is running through our days.

Purposely waking up the babies: she does this all the time. From going into their room, to talking really loud, to insisting I get her something when I'm nursing both babies. I have talked a lot (too much?) about how much better it is if the babies sleep, that then she and I can have alone time together, that we'll do something fun, that when the babies get up they will be rested and happy and we'll all enjoy ourselves more. Tonight I feel HORRIBLE. I was nursing both the babies and she was talking, asking silly questions. I said about five time that as soon as the babies were asleep, we'd take a nice shower, read a couple of books and then snuggle up in bed together. But she kept talking and woke them up, so while they fussed I gave her a quick bath, put her jammies on and put her in her bed with no book. (Dad is working tonight.) Oh, my heart aches, so I know I did the wrong thing, but isn't that a natural consequence? And what am I supposed to do with the two unhappy babies she just woke up? I told her that I would come and check on her as soon as the babies were asleep, and I did, but she was already asleep.

Taking toys from the babies: This is getting ridiculous. When the babies were little, I talked about how that wasn't nice, how just because she is bigger than someone doesn't mean she can do whatever she wants to them. But now that they are bigger and she is really making them mad, I'm losing patience. I started this (STUPID) policy this morning of every time she took a toy from a baby, I was going to take one of her toys and put it away. By afternoon, her room was about cleared out. Clearly, not effective. So I said, "Caroline, I'm going to go in your room and put all your toys back, because it is not kind to take things from people," and I wanted her to promise me that she would try to be nicer to her sisters about this. She promised, and while I was in her room putting her toys back, she took toys from the babies and got them both screaming mad. What is the natural consequence in this situation, other than the fact that *I* have to deal with two mad babies?

Caroline has always been incredibly opinionated, intense and persistent. Things are just getting more complex. How do you break these power-struggle cycles? I'm so stretched to my limit and this is wasting even more of our time and energy.

I know this is long, so thank you if you had the time to read all of this. Please, please any help would be so appreciated. My heart is breaking.
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Old 05-26-2003, 02:41 AM
 
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Obviously this is such a hard time for a three year old. Not one but two little babies. I think you are mostly on the right track.

I would definitely go with the faster bedtime routine as a "natural consequence" I would make sure you let her know this. Something like "I'm sorry that we couldn't have more time to shower and read together." When you wake the babies, there is just not the time. Next time, if you are quiet, we will have time for these things."

As for the taking of the toys, I wouldn't even worry about any "consequence' other than to say "I don't like it when you take the babies toys. They are much smaller than you." But don't stress out over getting her to stop. The babies will eventually learn how to defend themselves.

Most importantly though I would (at some neutral time when she has not just done something wrong) acknowledge to her that you understand how hard it is for her. Maybe something like
"Wow, its hard to be the big sister sometimes, huh! You have to wait for mama to take care of the babies and it must feel really unfair." Try to praise any attempts at good behavior.
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Old 05-26-2003, 03:32 PM
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I can feel the frustration in your words and I feel for you! I know my ds (just turned 3, too) has gone through periods of doing things purposely to get me mad. It seems to escalate into this vicious cycle and I feel like you sound. The only thing that has worked for me is to not get mad. It is really hard because you are tired and annoyed and pulled in too many directions. Just bite your tongue and choose not to waste your limited energy on getting mad. Do do something but do it very matter factly and with no emotion. Gently take the toy from her and give it back to the baby and move on. Or the faster bedtime routine but do it without stomping around with steam coming out your ears. It takes allot of control but it saves energy and, at least, for me has stopped the behaviour.
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Old 05-26-2003, 04:27 PM
 
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I like your response Liz. I've done it both ways, the stomping and the matter-of-factly, and definitely the later is better. It does take control, but everyone is happier.

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Old 05-26-2003, 07:05 PM
 
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"Siblings Without Rivalry" is an EXCELLENT book that would offer additional helpful advice.

It helps to get right to the emotions behind a behavior rather than attacking the behavior itself. Gets right to the heart of the matter.

Sorry to cut this short...
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Old 05-27-2003, 02:51 AM
 
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When my youngest was a baby we went through the same thing with naptime/bedtime - a LOT. I eventually figured out a couple things that helped.

1) First, I always set the older one up with some sort of engaging activity or entertainment in another room. Sometimes a video. Sometimes some sort of fun art project, or playdough. Something to hold his attention that he could be left alone with.

2) I always told him, "I'm going to rock the baby now, and if he goes to sleep than afterwards I can do something with you." I had to say some specific thing though -- "I will read to you" or "I will paint with you." It couldn't be a vauge promise for time together, or else he wouldn't feel motivated.

Then I had to follow through. If he interupted and the baby did not go to sleep -- well, there was a natural consequence. Sad for us both -- but true.

3) I bought a wooden sign at the craft store designed to hang on the bedroom doorknob, and some acylic paints. I sat him down and asked him to paint one side of the sign in a creative way that says, "Its fine to come on in!" And the other side in a creative way that says, "Baby going to sleep! Stay out unless you have a BIG problem." So he painted one side light with clouds and a sun, and the other side dark with stars and a moon. And I always made sure it was on the dark side after I left him with his activity and his promise and went to rock the baby.

I will tell you what, this sign worked wonders! I would hear his little feet pad up to the door and stop suddenly when he saw the sign and remembered, and then I'd hear him padding back to his room again and waiting patiently! I think it had a lot to do with the fact that he played an active role in making the sign, and planning his response to it. He felt an element of control and some pride in his art work. And, the sign helped him to remember, because honestly -- sometimes a 3 year old just plain forgets!

4) I set a time-limit for myself with the baby. If baby was not asleep in 20 minutes, I gave up for a while and rejoined the older son. I figured it wasn't fair to expect him to occupy himself for longer than 20 minutes at that age. The baby would get tired, and I'd try again after a while.


Okay -- more about toy stealing in the next post...
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Old 05-27-2003, 02:59 AM
 
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I would follow Liz's advice and stay on top of her about it. I would try to be consistant about taking the toy back again and immediately returning it to the baby in question. Rudely taking a toy away should never be "successful" in her mind.

Really, she is too young to be around babies without supervision. It is reasonable to expect her to need a lot of coaching about how to play fairly with them -- she is still a little tiny girl herself. I guess I would lower my expectations a bit.

I would try to teach her how to offer "trades." I would teach her that if she wants something one of the babies has, she should find another toy and offer it... and then maybe the baby will offer her toy up. I would make it clear that it is still the baby's choice though.

If there are toys around that used to be just her own before the babies, I would give her the opportunity to decide which she is willing to share in common with the babies, and which she never wants them to hold. Then I would expect her to keep the "special" ones in her own room. I know with my son, there were a handful of baby toys that he felt inexplicitatly attached to -- even though he had outgrown them. If he was allowed to choose a few not to give up -- then he was more willing to share the rest. Eventually he developed some confidence in his ability to set boundries with his sibling, and he relaxed a whole lot about sharing things.
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Old 05-27-2003, 09:58 AM
 
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OH, I just love the sign idea!!!! That is so wonderful!

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