Selective Impulse Control? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 09-12-2012, 03:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've posted a couple of threads over the past few months about my 4yo and his behavior. Mostly the responses have supported that it's a developmental thing that he'll likely outgrow in a couple of years, that it's frustrating but normal for a 4yo.

 

I have posted about his seeming lack of ability to learn from natural and logical consequences. I have posted about how timeouts don't work. NOTHING works. The only good news is that basically he's a very good kid so there's not a ton of problems. But it bothers me....

 

He loves to play outside. We have very few rules about outside (no throwing toys into the pool/onto the roof/over the fence/into the thorny bushes where no one can get to the them, no throwing rocks/dirt, no ripping up the plants). He CANNOT be outside for more than minutes (and often far less) without breaking one of these rules and needing to come inside, where he's done for the day. You would think this consequence would make an impact, but it has not. He has not played outside in weeks b/c I can't have him out there unattended and I'm not willing to go out and sit in the heat and get eaten by mosquitoes just so he can throw rocks into the pool that I have to fish out later. The other day, he was out there with DH and came back in in less than 5 minutes for throwing a football into the pool while DH was standing there, telling him NOT to do it. (Yes, I use positive phrasing -- DH not so much.)

 

This is only one example. But he goes to preschool 3 days a week, so I talked to the teachers about it. They looked at me like I was nuts. He's a perfect kid. He helps the new kids find their way, shares the toys, shows compassion, and gets along with everyone. He is one big ball of positive energy and is really bright and helpful. No issues sharing (we have sharing/boundary violation problems at home with siblings), no issues with throwing things at inappropriate times, no issues with not listening to teachers' requests. Nothing.

 

So it can't be impulse control, b/c he controls himself quite well at school. Why does he think that consequences won't happen at home, and why doesn't it matter that they do? (And FTR, the home consequences are far, far worse than anything they'd do to him at school!)

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#2 of 17 Old 09-12-2012, 05:04 PM
 
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I have a daycare, and my daycare kids are pretty much perfect all day.  But, their parents say they are "difficult" at home.  Some of the behaviors I hear shock me.  I can't even picture it.

 

But, i'm not delusional, it's not because I am so good at this, it's just because kids CAN and do behave for the most part, until they get home.

 

I agree that at the age of four, he should certainly be able to handle those rules.  Rock throwing of any kind would be a deal breaker here too.  I'd find a time to go to some lake (we don't have any lakes though) and let him throw rocks there.  But, I wouldn't allow rock throwing in most settings.    He'd be inside so fast.

 

I, personally think he is purposely pushing your buttons.  I don't think it's a matter of self control or impulse control.  I think he has the impulse control, but he wants to do it anyway.... it drives you crazy, and that is a very powerful thing.    Sometimes, the consequence is not as bad as the Payout is good.   

 

Maybe he can be the one picking the rocks up instead of coming inside.  Say "You can't come inside until you get the rocks out of those bushes".  I bet he won't enjoy that as much as he enjoys driving you crazy.

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#3 of 17 Old 09-12-2012, 06:02 PM
 
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You know, I wonder this about my DD sometimes.  She can get stuck in a behavior some times, despite the consequences.

 

If your son keeps doing something over and over, perhaps the problem is not that the consequence is too small or that he doesn't believe it, but that his drive to fill the need is stronger than his aversion to the consequences.  He doesn't push buttons at school because he doesn't need whatever he needs from them... he needs it from you.

 

Finding the need and meeting it... easier said than done though.  (Dp and I are having this conversation about DD right now, lol.)  Can someone else take him outside to burn off energy, or take him somewhere where he can't throw rocks in the pool?  Can you put a cover on the pool?  Can he go some place where it is safe for him to throw rocks and dirt and do it to his heart's content?


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#4 of 17 Old 09-13-2012, 10:49 PM
 
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He's four. All of the things he's doing outside sound like normal boys-playing-outside behavior. Kids throw dirt; they throw rocks too, and it's great that he's not throwing them near people.

 

Does the pool have a cover? I would definitely recommend that to avoid getting stuff in it that you'll want to fish out later.

 

"I, personally think he is purposely pushing your buttons"

 

I completely disagree. Four year olds are well, four. They do annoying things and they're not doing them to annoy people.


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#5 of 17 Old 09-14-2012, 05:27 AM
 
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he needs a place to 'vent'. a place to shake the willies out of him. he needs more physical activity. honestly a backyard is pretty boring for a kid playing alone. get him a basketball hoop if you dont already have one. get him a kiddie pool and one day fill it with water. you know the larger wading pool. another time fill it with air filled balls. 

 

at that age i saw this in my dd quite a bit. after she came back from her dad's house where she was the perfect child she needed to be terrible at my house. so i gave her the space to be terrible and then she perked up. 

 

if there are too many mosquitoes how about the play structure in a mall. i've done that in the heat. 


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#6 of 17 Old 09-14-2012, 05:45 AM
 
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Hmm maybe he needs to be more focused on what he CAN do outside instead of what is off limits. It sounds like he gets outside and all he can think of is the stuff he shouldn't be doing. Maybe try phrasing in the positive, like instead of "don't throw rocks" you could try "play in the sandbox" or something.

I do think though that anything he does that doesn't negatively affect anyone else (ie throwing rocks if not at anybody) could be let go. Or at least get him a game that involves throwing stuff. Maybe a board with holes cut out of it and beanbags? It sounds like he likes to throw so finding an OK way for him to honor that impulse might help too.
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#7 of 17 Old 09-14-2012, 06:25 AM
 
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I, personally think he is purposely pushing your buttons.  I don't think it's a matter of self control or impulse control.  I think he has the impulse control, but he wants to do it anyway.... it drives you crazy, and that is a very powerful thing.   

I agree with this.

 

My ds wasn't able to be outside by himself at 4. My dd can't do it at 3. If they have a friend over, they can stay outside for hours, but if they have no one to play with they want me there with them.

If the consequence of not following the rules is that he has to come inside, it's more a punishment for you. Do you have a front yard? Is there a park within walking distance? Maybe you could take him somewhere where he can release his energy without worrying about the pool.


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#8 of 17 Old 09-14-2012, 07:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree with a lot of what y'all are saying. The thing is, this is not structured "Outside Time" that I'm talking about which could be substituted with some other activity (well, playing INSIDE would work...). This is the  half-hour before dinner, time to get it all out after dinner while I'm doing dishes, time in the morning while I'm showering and getting dressed, etc. Not times that I can supervise, structure, monitor or take them someplace else.

 

I do like the idea of something like a beanbag toss. Maybe that would help? He has TWO basketball hoops. One was torn down and destroyed, the other was dismantled and I put it back together. Two basketballs: One thrown into a huge cactus and popped. He just doesn't play with his stuff the way it was meant to be used.
 

Throwing rocks: Fine, except they are part of the landscaping AND he's throwing them over the wall (where neighbors or school kids and their parents may be walking if it's the right time of day/there's an event) or into the pool (which does not and cannot have a cover -- it's a odd shape and a cover would be expensive enough that DH is not willing to consider it). So that's destroying our landscaping, putting others in danger, and making a mess of both our yard and the walkways/sidewalks. He has already suffered the logical consequence of having to get into the pool (naked, since he wasn't in a swim suit at the time) to retrieve whatever he'd thrown in. He likes to dive so when it's hot out it's fun. When it's not so hot, he's miserable, but that doesn't keep him from doing it again, despite knowing that I'll send him right back into the pool no matter what the temp is. (We haven't had to address this in the winter yet...)

 

And that's just rocks. Nevermind toys, nevermind stuff he throws onto the roof that DH has to retrieve.

 

And this is just the issue of outside play. Then there's inside play -- throwing toys, hitting his foster brother, not listening when people request he do something/stop doing something, not respecting himself, his toys or his family members.....

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#9 of 17 Old 09-14-2012, 09:12 AM
 
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Are you sure your child and mine are not the same kid? I could have written this post! My DS is almost 4.5  and I have the EXACT SAME ISSUES!!! I can totally relate and am totally frustrated as well! You are not alone!!


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#10 of 17 Old 09-14-2012, 09:33 AM
 
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Maybe he wants more attention from you and your husband. Getting yelled at while being brought back in may be better than having to be all alone, or ignored, in the backyard.
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#11 of 17 Old 09-14-2012, 12:49 PM
 
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Maybe he wants more attention from you and your husband. Getting yelled at while being brought back in may be better than having to be all alone, or ignored, in the backyard.

He's not being ignored in the backyard.  He's old enough to play out there alone if he wants...if he doesn't want to be out there, he can simply walk inside I am assuming the OP isn't locking him out of the  house, then dragging him back in while screaming at him.  You guys make it sound like she's just sending him out at breakfast and forcing him to sit alone.

 

Seriously...he's FOUR.  He's not 14 months.  He probably could use the right thing out there to play with.... I have no idea what that right thing is...but, rock throwing would not be OK here either.  Our yards are small, landscaped, and not appropriate for rock throwing.  Rocks don't just grow in the backyards here, they are put there by landscapers and they need to stay in their area.  The pool cover wouldn't really work either because the OP still has to get the rocks out.

 

In my area, we don't have a good place to throw rocks...except maybe going out in the desert somewhere, which has it's own dangers...what if he picks up a rock with a scorpion hanging on to it?  And, who wants to drive out to the desert just to let your kid throw rocks?

 

Neighbors don't appreciate  having rocks thrown over the wall, so that is not OK...especially with a child old enough to control this behavior.  LOVING something, and having a need to do something does not override the need of everybody else in the world.

 

I still think if he cleans up his mess every. single. time. will slow this down right away...if you get mad at him, but go clean it up anyway, he's winning.  He sounds like he's pretty clever, but active.  

 

What about a tether ball out there?  It's like hitting and throwing all rolled into one cool toy that can't be thrown into a cactus.  

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#12 of 17 Old 09-14-2012, 01:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you. He is NOT out there, being ignored. He has a partner in crime out there, and they play together, but he instigates the "Hey, look at this!" throwing stunts while partner stands by watching, sometimes participating. They are not sent outside to play. They choose to go outside or stay in and play inside while I'm busy. Their choice. (Well, not anymore, they haven't been allowed outside in weeks.) He gets plenty of attention, believe me. We read books at bedtime and then he gets one-on-one time with both DH and me in bed before sleep. He gets one-on-one time with me in the morning before everyone else wakes up; he usually just wants to watch TV. We eat our meals together, and we talk then, and in the car on our way to whatever we're doing. He is not ignored, although I can't swear he's not attention-seeking either. It just seems like he shouldn't NEED any more than he's already getting!

 

Today we went to the farmers' market, and then I was going to take them to a play gym to get their energy out. It was such a nice day that I decided to give them a choice: play gym or playground (market is in the parking lot of a park). They chose playground. And they played, for awhile, and then started the rock throwing. Since no one else was around, I said it was okay, just to not throw at the houses nearby. They started getting too close, I told them to back up. One didn't. He was trying to get the rocks over the back fence of the house that was there. I told him if I had to repeat myself, we'd have to leave. Then they found sticks. And the water fountain. I had already told them to leave the fountain alone, that it's not play equipment. Suddenly there is water spraying everywhere and sticks are lodged in the fountain. We left. Really??? I was sitting right there. I was interacting with them a little, and for the most part just letting them do their thing. It's not like we went over to the playground and I plunked down on a bench and buried my nose in my phone or a book. I pushed them on the swings, stayed close while they climbed and slid, guided them away from the lone kid with sharp sticks and a penchant for playing "warrior...." How much more attention do they need? I'm not interested in being a helicopter parent, and I'm trying to get AWAY from being a control freak, not in becoming more of one.
 

 

ETA: And we have tons of stuff outside -- bikes, train set, balls, buckets and shovels... It's not like there's nothing to do out there!

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#13 of 17 Old 09-14-2012, 03:14 PM
 
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You know, maybe it isn't a need that he needs from you, but one that there is space for him to try and meet when he is with you?  If he is that compulsive and unresponsive to the consequences, including picking up the rocks, then perhaps throwing the rocks is meeting some sort of sensory need (and I don't think there necessarily has to be an issue with sensory integration for there to be a sensory need).    I think generally, kids/people do things to meet needs and sometimes those things they do are adaptive and sometimes they are maladaptive.  Or, do you think there could be some sort of issue with executive function skills?  I mean, it would be an issue with executive function, but whether that issue is developmental or abnormal would depend on other factors, since development of executive function is just part of growing up.  I thought of that just now as I came back to the thread because of your title (selective impulse control) and because I have been participating in a thread elsewhere on MDC about ADHD, so it's on my mind right now.  I guess all I mean is he probably isn't doing this out of pure cussedness, or "bad parenting," kwim? I also don't think that means you have to let him mess up the yard if any of those things is the case, or become a helicopter parent, but that it's possible that your very logical consequences (certainly it makes sense to me that if you can't play nicely outside you have to come inside) might be counterproductive (because the excess energy isn't being burned off ....or whatever the reason is he/they act this way).


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#14 of 17 Old 09-15-2012, 05:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Cyclamen, THANK YOU. I think you may be onto something. In reading the recs in that article, I am already doing everything it suggests, except reducing/removing distractions. I think I would go crazy if I actually only gave him one toy at a time to play with, and made him ask for another each time he wanted to switch activities, but it would certainly help keep things neater around here!

 

And the only time it seems to be a problem is during unstructured play time at home. At school, they have no problem redirecting him or getting him to cooperate with cleanup or other group activities. Maybe b/c the toys are new/different than at home, maybe b/c it's a new environment for him (new teacher/class/friends), maybe b/c it's a more structured setting where here at home it's looser, but not free. The rest of the day yesterday was pretty good, and I wonder how much of that had to do with him getting lots of outside time in the morning, especially time to throw rocks at the park. (Evening activity was throwing paper airplanes, but thanks to DH that is allowed in the house. Wish he'd thought of that sooner...)

 

I just feel so bad for him b/c I get frustrated with him easily, I can't allow violence toward the other child(ren) in house just b/c he is feeling antsy and needing more stimulation or having too much stimulation, DH is short on patience and doesn't see why he doesn't "get it" the first time and be done with the issue altogether. So he gets in trouble a lot, and I just don't want that to become his comfort zone.
 

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#15 of 17 Old 09-15-2012, 09:08 AM
 
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Thank you. He is NOT out there, being ignored. He has a partner in crime out there, and they play together, but he instigates the "Hey, look at this!" throwing stunts while partner stands by watching, sometimes participating. They are not sent outside to play. They choose to go outside or stay in and play inside while I'm busy. Their choice. (Well, not anymore, they haven't been allowed outside in weeks.) He gets plenty of attention, believe me. We read books at bedtime and then he gets one-on-one time with both DH and me in bed before sleep. He gets one-on-one time with me in the morning before everyone else wakes up; he usually just wants to watch TV. We eat our meals together, and we talk then, and in the car on our way to whatever we're doing. He is not ignored, although I can't swear he's not attention-seeking either. It just seems like he shouldn't NEED any more than he's already getting!

Today we went to the farmers' market, and then I was going to take them to a play gym to get their energy out. It was such a nice day that I decided to give them a choice: play gym or playground (market is in the parking lot of a park). They chose playground. And they played, for awhile, and then started the rock throwing. Since no one else was around, I said it was okay, just to not throw at the houses nearby. They started getting too close, I told them to back up. One didn't. He was trying to get the rocks over the back fence of the house that was there. I told him if I had to repeat myself, we'd have to leave. Then they found sticks. And the water fountain. I had already told them to leave the fountain alone, that it's not play equipment. Suddenly there is water spraying everywhere and sticks are lodged in the fountain. We left. Really??? I was sitting right there. I was interacting with them a little, and for the most part just letting them do their thing. It's not like we went over to the playground and I plunked down on a bench and buried my nose in my phone or a book. I pushed them on the swings, stayed close while they climbed and slid, guided them away from the lone kid with sharp sticks and a penchant for playing "warrior...." How much more attention do they need? I'm not interested in being a helicopter parent, and I'm trying to get AWAY from being a control freak, not in becoming more of one.

 

ETA: And we have tons of stuff outside -- bikes, train set, balls, buckets and shovels... It's not like there's nothing to do out there!


Now there is mention of a 'partner in crime'. Who is this person? A sibling?
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#16 of 17 Old 09-15-2012, 09:38 AM
 
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I just feel so bad for him b/c I get frustrated with him easily, I can't allow violence toward the other child(ren) in house just b/c he is feeling antsy and needing more stimulation or having too much stimulation, DH is short on patience and doesn't see why he doesn't "get it" the first time and be done with the issue altogether. So he gets in trouble a lot, and I just don't want that to become his comfort zone.

 

 

Aw, I just want to give you both a hug.  It must be really frustrating for all of you for him to be "in trouble" so much.  Personally, I think you are on the right track with not wanting that to become his comfort zone.

 

Sounds like you already have several ideas to give him more sensory stimulation.  I don't know much about sensory stuff, but maybe someone else who has been there can weigh in.  I know that several of my friends IRL were able to teach their sensory-seeking kids to engage in alternate but benign activities when they started feeling like they needed to push or knock things over.  I think the real trick is to find just the right activity.... Another thought I had is he sounds like he might be the kind of kid who is totally cut out for team sports (good in groups, lots of energy!).  :)

 

DP and I play "stop and go" games with DD a lot.  We play a game called "race" which is just me calling out instructions ("run to the tree and touch it, now jump three times, okay run back!") and she really enjoys it, and I think it probably helps develop her impulse control and listening skills.    And here is another article I found that includes a few play ideas that might be helpful.

 

I like this book about executive function.  IIRC, it's geared at slightly older kids, but the focus is on intervention and learning skills rather than punishment, so you might find some of the concepts helpful.  My library had it.  

 

Also, it sounds like you think that maybe the structure of school activities is helping him know what to do with himself?  Another thing I thought of is that it's very often the case that it is easier to get kids to do anything "en masse" than it is one at a time.  Having so many other kids in the room all doing the same thing might help provide him with some sense of structure as well.  I don't know what that translates to at home, but maybe you can do something with it.

 

edit:

 

One thing that helps me and DP alot when we are short on patience is remembering that kids do well when they can, and when they don't do well it's usually because they don't have the skills to do it yet.  That helps me slow down and see that the issue is not cussedness (easy for me to do, believe me)  but just a matter of needing to learn.  And sometimes it is me who needs to learn.  ;)   This thread has really been helpful for me to reflect on some issues we are currently dealing with DD, and I was definitely leaning towards the cussedness theory until I came to post here.  Sometimes others are the best mirror....


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#17 of 17 Old 09-15-2012, 04:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Now there is mention of a 'partner in crime'. Who is this person? A sibling?


Sometimes it's a friend, in the past few months we've had a house guest (3 year old boy who is very easy-going and mellow). This whole thing has been an issue forever, so whether he's an only child, with a friend/playmate, or now with a sibling of sorts (full time friend, however you want to look at it), nothing's changed. It started out being more of an issue with certain friends and then morphed into anyone, anytime.

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