Mothering Forum banner

can I handle this without creating a power struggle?

551 Views 10 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Piglet68
I have always tried to avoid all power struggles with DD. However, I have recently been faced with some new challenges with discipline. New behaviours and I'm struggling with finding a method or perspective from which to handle such situations consistently, yet effectively.

Yesterday in the tub, DD was playing with her "scooper" (a small tupperware container). She discovered that filling it up and dumping it over the side of the tub was a new game. I was not amused. I tried showing that lack of amusement quite clearly, but that didn't stop her. She did it again and giggled. Now normally I might just let her continue with no response from me until she decides it's boring and stops. But by that time the bathroom might have flooded....I told her that if she kept doing it I'd have to take the scooper away. So of course, within a couple of seconds she had done it again. I took it away and she cried.

I doubted myself. Does she really understand what I said? I have never used such an expression with her. Maybe I have treated her unfairly. If she doesn't understand what I've said, how fair is this? Well, I figured....I'd started it so I needed to be consistent, at least in that moment.

I gave it back to her after a minute, and said again not to dump water and if so I would have to take it away. Well, this scenario repeated itself and eventually I took it away for good and ended tub time. She was crying, but it didn't seem like an angry cry to me, it sounded very upset. Maybe I'm just a sucker, but I felt bad.

I felt like I let her down somehow. Like I did not handle this well. I told DH about it, but he just shrugged and said he thought what I did was fine. I said "it's a natural consequence, right?" but then realized that I still had to be the big one in order to take the scooper away, so I felt like I was just using my "power" without teachign DD something.

Is there some other way to deal with something like this? If DD were older and I knew she completely understood what I was saying, I might not have such a problem. But I'm nagged with doubts that she doesn't quite grasp language enough to get what I"m saying. DH thinks I'm underestimating her and feeling guilty.

I don't want to be a wimp. I want to teach my child. But I don't want to teach her the lesson that "people bigger than you can make you do things or take things away from you".
See less See more
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
It gets harder as they get older
If (or I should say when :LOL) I am faced with these scenarios I try to find a way for dc do do what they want (dump water on the floor) while getting what I want (no water on the floor). If it was my ds (when he was that age) I probably would have explained that water on the floor can make it slippery and dangerous then found him another container to place outside the tub to pour water into. He has fallen on wet slippery floors so he would have understood. When he was finished the bath I would have handed him a towel to help mop up the excess water. Not in a "punishment" kind of way, but just, "here ya go, lets clean up the water." matter of fact kind of way.

This approach almost always works. Keeping things fun and light-hearted makes such a difference. The challenge (for me) is having the energy and the right frame of mind to come up with creative solutions
See less See more
The first thing that popped into my head that you might have tried first is to show her where she *can* poor water and different ways to appropriately use the scooper. Get down at tub level and help her direct the water over the tub. Show her the wet floor and give her a brief description of how you feel about the wet floor.

You might introduce something new that she could scoop water into, like a small bucket or special cup.

I don't know your DD and it could very well be that she did know just what you were saying. If you feel she didn't you might find some of my suggestions would work. I'm sure you will get some other good advice as we have ALL been just where you are. I still am not always sure of what my 5.5 yr/old understands. Its a tough call sometimes.

See less See more
I would have suggested explaining about slippery floors and if water doesn't stay in the tub then we won't have enough to take our bath.

Then I would have moved right into distraction mode by showing her how to pour water from one cup into the other.

As she becomes more challenging in the tub, you will soon be marveling at your own creativity. You could stick your hand in front of her and ask her to pour water on your hand. Ask her to pour it on the rubber ducky. Show her how she can pour it really slowly, or really fast. You'll come up with a million distractions. I personally wouldn't let my DD dump water onto the floor but if it doesn't bother you and you want to show her about cleaning up, it could work. I just don't think it will discourage the behavior.
I'm right there with Lindsaylou. Emphasize the positive, tell her what she can do, show her how to do it acceptably. If you say don't pour it on the floor and she get's 6 of the 7 words right, she'll still pour it on the floor. That's what will be echoing in her head. If you keep repeating what you want her to do, it works so much better. I do think you need to say not on the floor, do it in the water, over here in the tub, watch it pour in the water... At least mention the part you want her to avoid, but then focus on what to do instead.

You're probably right that she didn't understand why you were taking her container away. My little guy doesn't understand that sort of reasoning yet. There are moments I have to assert my power and physical strength (that's why I'm bigger, so I can when it's necessary) but I try to find every way to avoid it.
Some good suggestions above...
Might I just add that it is Ok for her to be upset about not being able to do/have something she finds fun. And you can be sympathetic about her feelings without changing the "rule".
When I have to take something away from DD (dangerous, making more mess than I can handle (and I can handle a LOT of mess), etc.), and she gets upset and cries, I just give her a hug and a kiss and a cuddle, saying, "I know you're upset/frustrated/angry that I took X away. But we don't play with Y because it's dangerous/it makes a big mess/whatever. Go ahead and tell me how you feel. It's Ok to feel that. It's hard being little, isn't it? We can do Z instead if you want." in a sympathetic voice.
95% of the time, she's done before I reach the end of my speech.

I've also found that she reacts better if/when I don't let her "do it again right then"... If I give whatever back to her and then take it away again, she gets more upset than if I just keep it away (for a few hours). My DD's younger than yours so perhaps this doesn't apply anymore for you but my DD seems to understand and get over "take away" better if it isn't part of "take away, give back, take away,...".
See less See more
The first thing that popped into my head that you might have tried first is to show her where she *can* poor water and different ways to appropriately use the scooper. Get down at tub level and help her direct the water over the tub. Show her the wet floor and give her a brief description of how you feel about the wet floor.
Yes. That's what I was going to say. One of the main things I repeat to myself over and over throughout the day is "Tell him what he CAN do." It is amazing how easy it is to forget to do that when you are caught up in the stress of 'disciplining' your child. I know it is for me.

I have always explained 'why' to ds, even before he could understand. I just thought it was a good habit to get into. Then I would tell him where he could scoop - another bowl, over the faucet, etc. If that still didn't work, I would try to subsitute some other new and exciting item for the scooper - go grab a plastic toy, muffin tins, measuring spoons - whatever you think she might want to drop the scooper for. If all else failed, then I would taken the scooper away, but would try replace it with something she less problematic. (And then hide the scooper away so they don't immediately ask for it at the next bath.)

All that said, there are times when they are just going to be upset, and no redirection or positive explanation is going to change that. During those times I just empathize with ds - "I know you are having fun pouring water on the floor, but it's just too dangerous. I'm sorry you're upset. It's hard when you can't do what you want to do." And be there for her while she is upset. If it seems appropriate, totally change direction - suggest reading a book, getting a snack, etc.

A totally different way to go, which works for some people and in some situations, is to figure out how to let them do it. You could fold up a towel and put it on the floor for her to dump water onto. In that situation, it's not personally what I would choose, but I can see it being the right thing for some people/situations. For example, Dh sometimes argues with ds about splashing in the bath, and I finally heard him say the other night "Okay, you can splash the water, but only if we close the sliding glass door."

On a good note, while it does get more difficult as they get older, I have found that having taken this GD approach from the beginning has really made for much fewer power struggles. Don't get me wrong - I have a daily list of things I think about posting on here about, but overall I feel like I have a much easier time with ds by using this approach than I would if I had just tried to "lay down the law" all the time.
See less See more
You're probably right that she didn't understand why you were taking her container away. My little guy doesn't understand that sort of reasoning yet.
I think it depends on your child. My DD is 26 months and I know full well she understands me - her receptive language skills are quite high. I would have shown her where to pour the water as mentioned above, and then if she kept insisting to pour it over the edge that I would take it away.

We have only had to deal with once. She had a shovel and kept scooping sand into her friend's hair. I showed her where to pour sand, how sand in her freinds eyes would hurt etc. I told her if it happened again mama would have to take the shovel away. She did it again. I took the shovel away. She cried and got upset and I redirected her play and she was fine. But NOW when I explain something to her and warn her that it will be taken away, she listens because she knows I mean it.

I think it is very important to DO what you SAY you are going to do! My sister is terrible about this and as a result her kids do not listen to a thing she says because they know it's just an empty threat.

I think you handled it fine, unless you are not really sure your child understood why you took it. But they are a lot smarter than we think most of the time.
See less See more
My three year old has an obsession with dumping and pouring. Anything she gets her hands on is dumped and poured wherever she can. It is frustrating.
Anyway- the tub time can get kind of messy. We've worked for a long time showing her all the places she CAN dump and pour in teh tub. On the inner side wall, on teh duck (faucet cover), on the hanging wash cloth- likely I figured she just wanted to see hwo water rolled off of different surfaces so I tried to offer some alternatives to just pouring in the water.

However she still likes to dump over the side of the tub. I have explained that when she does that we'll have tog et out of the bath so we don't make to much of a mess. Then if she does it I remind her how we talked about that and give her a "warning" that if she continues bath time will be over. And if she does, I unstop the tub and let her decide when to come to the towel. I don't like to physically force her out of the tub or anything.

This has worked for us... now if I could find a way to prevent all the other things she dumps all over our carpet. LOL
See less See more
This thread is making me freel like a meany! I scrub them and wash their hair first thing. After that, if water goes on the floor, then bathtime is finished. Period.

However -- I don't think I was this strict when they were less than 2 yo.and clearly just "experiementing." Redirection seems better for that age.

However, I have no mercy with my 4 and 7 year olds. If water is poured on the floor intentionally, then they have to get out, clean it up, and go get dressed.
I want to thank all of you for the great replies!! So many of them, while was reading them, I was saying "DUH!!!"
Why didn't I think of that? That is so ME!!

Well, in reviewing the situation I've realized a few things:

First, I'm usually right there down on the floor with DD while she plays. She loves dumping water IN the tub, and she also likes to put the scooper on the edge of the tub, full. I am there to make sure it doesn't spill.

But guess what I was doing during this incident: standing at the bathroom mirror plucking my eyebrows!! I *should* have been there to prevent the action happening again, rather than basically setting her up for failure: what kid in her right mind wouldn't try the exact same thing?

It kills me how we can be so sure of our approach, and then when faced with a new situation, it all flies right out of my head.

These were all GREAT suggestions. LindseyLou, your posts and the others along those lines really spoke to me. THAT is the style of discipline I want to use. I was being lazy and expecting DD to suddenly rise above her level so I could stand and pluck my eyebrows...what was I thinking??

I so LOVE this forum. THANK YOU.
See less See more
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.