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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
DS is 4 and gifted and is playing us like violins. The real area of concern and frustration with this is in discipline. We're not ones for harsh discipline (obviously!) but sometimes, there is a line. Right now, we're having issues with "no means no" (no donuts every time we go to the store, no presents until Hanukkah, etc.). He's testing us and limits. That in itself is a pretty normal 4 year old thing, but the problem is- we're getting talked in circles. Now, DH and I aren't too slow ourselves (DH has 2 doctorates, we are both academics), but we are well aware that in terms of raw brains, DS is smarter than us. And now, we're getting taken. DS will often propose deals that make sense, but after we've accepted, we realise that we somehow got talked out of our authority in the situation. DS will threaten us (though he doesn't really know he is doing that- it's like calmly "If you don't get a donut at the store, I won't help set the table at dinner." Ummm... ?). And then, when push comes to shove and some consequences are in order, we have trouble getting them to work. He won't stay in his room and we won't lock it or hold him down or anything, so he just walks out. If we take something away, he'll either plot to get it back or retaliate by refusing or taking away something of his own (mostly his cooperation for anything). If finally something does come down, he'll either make a very logical and calm plea of pardon and innocence or he will find another way to get what he wants. Eventually, all of it starts to sound like squabbling between kids- "If you don't _____, then I won't ______." "Well, if you do that, then I won't _____!".

I've tried talking to him about things logically instead of the "stick and carrot stuff" and he's just too young to put it all together all the time ("Donuts are not healthy and we are not getting one every time we go to the store because too many and you will get sick." "Well, you said I could spend my dollar on anything I wanted because it is mine and I want a donut." "Um... I did say that. OK, I guess, then this one time..." Note to self: Exclude food from 'what he can spend his dollar on', but that will have to be next time... But this scenario plays out way too often. If its not a donut, it's something else...). But each time, I'm getting suckered, not because I'm weak or spoiling or disorganized or whatever, but because I'm somehow getting talked out of it- logically and honestly by a 4 year old. I swear, he will find every loophole, remember every promise or suggestion, push to the absolute limit. And I tell you, it is an absolute b*tch to hear your own words come back directly at you- "You know, Mommy, sometimes you need to be patient and I will get my shoes on as soon as I can..."
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Really, he's not a "bad kid". He's sweet and sensitive and thoughtful and has a passion for life. It's just I am feeling totally played. I'm kind of frustrated at how frequently I am standing there, looking down at him, realising this kid totally has the situation in the palm of his hand and knows it and has no compunction about using it to get what he wants at the moment and somehow, despite my well thought-out rules and statements, my logical and constructive consequences, I've gotten taken. He's smarter than I am, remembers more, knows just what to say, and I feel like in trying to make discipline and parenting and relationships make sense, I'm getting talked out of it all.

What do I do?
 

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I really empathize. My 4yo is very much like this (I can just imagine her making the donut argument) and yes, she remembers everything.

I also often feel like DD just doesn't get that she is still a kid. It's hard. One thing we try to do is give her more responsibilities. We also ask her to do things because it "helps the family team." For instance, we might say, "What could you do here that would help the family team?" when the living room is a mess and people are coming over (rather than "DD, pick up the living room"). I am trying to find ways to get around the power struggles because it seems like no one wins.
 

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Heh heh. Yup, DS can outthink me and definitely outtalk me.

Our overall strategy is that if I've said no, that's it. Wheedling doesn't work. I try to say no thoughtfully and not knee-jerk it.

Dr Sears had a good strategy: Convince me. b/c you might say no too quickly, and there might be a compelling argument (and it's a good skill to learn to present your case). After they try to convince you, though, you could still say no.
 

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Oh my gosh I can so relate! We have an extremely bright 4 year old who can completely talk us in circles!


To tell you the truth we have found "authoritarian" style parenting does not work for him *at all*. He looks at us like, "What are you stupid?" and like you said- we are not going to hold him down or force him into anything, yk?

I try to really focus on and appreciate how amazing he is and use him as a tool to keep me sharp! Sometimes he wins-like your donut/allowance example. When he is able to do that I usually throw my hands up in the air and laugh and say, "Your right." Because he is-if I said something I want to stay true to my word. What i find is that consensual parenting works best with this type of kid. He is smart beyond his years so I do explain things to him and I swear more often than not he "gets it" and then sometimes we have to bite the bullet.

I personally don't believe there is black and white in the world so I don't get into that "I'm the parent" thing and if he can convince me of something than all the power to him. He is also learning that to be part of a family means cooperation and compromise and the more we respect and honor what he wants I find the more he is willing to bend when I need something from him.

As far as the donuts- we go to the neighborhood coffee shop almost daily and he always wants a cookie. A lot of the time I buy him one. Sometimes if he's already had sweets or its encroaching dinner time I tell him that and remind him of a sweet he has at home for after dinner. I also talk to him about how I am always open to him having a sweet and right now is just not the best time. I also pick my battles.


Good luck!
 

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This won't win with the CC crowd, but I had to establish heirarchy in my house. Parents are the child's guide and leader. Where they can safely have authority, we give it to them. Sometimes, we have differing opinions about when they're ready for more authority. When they can rationally convince us that they're ready - not an onerous process, in fact I used to provide a time limit or DD would argue the point forever - we give them more authority.

IMO, I have no problem saying "yes, I said you could spend your money on whatever you like, but that agreement did not replace my previous rule that you will not have donuts everyday." This would garner argument, but I would just explain that the need to make healthy food choices had primacy over a literal interpretation of the word "anything." No, it was never this simple. I accept that what they want and what they can have may not always be in alignment, that they will react emotionally to this disharmony, and that sometimes things will not go smoothly. But it's not a legal proceeding and I do have a broader perspective of what they need. My role is to provide gentle guidance, support to them emotionally and intellectually, and a consistent rule structure.

My DD is a "give her an inch she'll take a mile" kind of kid To me, this is also about self-discipline, considered conduct and pro-social skills.
 

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I try working with rather than against. I'm not always successful, but I do problem solving a fair bit when I'm at the end of my rope. I explain the problem as best I can, i.e: "You want to spend your dollar on a donut, but I'm worried that too many sweets will make your tummy hurt/you'll get looney from all the sugar/you won't be hungry for the next meal." And then I invite the kids to solve the problem with me so we're on the same team instead of adversaries: "What kind of mutually agreeable solutions can you think of?" Of course, you get "buy it anyway," and "you said I could spend my dollar on anything", etc, but you just keep encouraging more brainstorming. Sometimes I write it down if it's a really big deal as that signifies that you're really taking the child's concerns seriously, but often we just do it by talking together. You might come up with the idea to buy the donut and wait until after the next meal to eat it. Harness that amazing brain power and focus it on coming up with MUTUALLY AGREEABLE solutions!

Some good books are:

"The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene
http://thinkkids.org/ and http://www.explosivechild.com/
deals with kids with more behavioral problems than you're describing, but great techniques for dealing with any child

and of course the old standby, "How To Talk So Children Will Listen and Listen So Children Will Talk" by Farber and Mazslich (sp?)

and "Kids Parents and Power Struggles" by Kurcinka. Love this one!

hth

ETA: I wanted to add that I do often just say "Enough!" or whatever when I just cannot deal with the negotiations any longer. I'm _really_ at the end of my rope then, which happens more often that I like. I don't want anybody getting any wrong impressions about me being all GD all the time. Do check out those books, though, and really the Explosive Child one is great for specific tools and techniques.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by beanma View Post
I try working with rather than against. I'm not always successful, but I do problem solving a fair bit when I'm at the end of my rope. I explain the problem as best I can, i.e: "You want to spend your dollar on a donut, but I'm worried that too many sweets will make your tummy hurt/you'll get looney from all the sugar/you won't be hungry for the next meal." And then I invite the kids to solve the problem with me so we're on the same team instead of adversaries: "What kind of mutually agreeable solutions can you think of." Of course, you get "buy it anyway," and "you said I could spend my dollar on anything", etc, but you just keep encouraging more brainstorming. Sometimes I write it down if it's a really big deal, but often we just do it by talking together. You might come up with the idea to buy the donut and wait until after the next meal to eat it. Harness that amazing brain power and focus it on coming up with MUTUALLY AGREEABLE solutions!

Some good books are:

"The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene
http://thinkkids.org/ and http://www.explosivechild.com/
deals with kids with more behavioral problems than you're describing, but great techniques for dealing with any child

and of course the old standby, "How To Talk So Children Will Listen and Listen So Children Will Talk" by Farber and Mazslich (sp?)

and "Kids Parents and Power Struggles" by Kurcinka. Love this one!

hth
Ditto the books. I'm actually re-reading Kids, Parents and Power Struggles now.

My post above over-emphasized my bottom line approach. DD seems to cycle through periods of being extraordinarily hard-headed when nothing but authoritarian works. When we get to this point, I try to look at what other stressors are happening in her life that are making her so controlling and argumentative.

When we're not in that cycle, I tend to use problem solving together and talk it through. I would still feel comfortable, though, holding to a standard that you can't have donuts every time we're at the store
. In fact, I NEVER buy anything from the checkout shelves, those quarter candy machines, or those ride-ons at the mall - if my kids had it once, they'd pester me to death to get it again, because ONCE I'd broken the standard...

Another option with the donut story, if you're willing to parse meaning in every statement you ever make (can you tell my children are PERSISTENT)would be "OK, I didn't state that explicitely. Next time, you should assume it's part of the deal, because the rule is no donuts every day and you had one yesterday" OR, "OK, I didn't state that explicitely, and you can have the donut if that's your choice. I'm concerned that you're eating too many donuts which are not at all healthy, so we won't be having donuts after today for a while. (or state finite time period if that's his thing). After you pick your donut, why don't we see if they have any strawberries for a treat tomorrow?"

However, I resist the notion that because they're smart the rules are different. I think this has the potential to do a disservice to a child who will have to interact with the rest of the world at some point (ie when/if they start public kindie). Their parent may have the patience to wrangle through the details with them, but I think learning how to be flexible and generally cooperative in groups is a good life skill.

(feel a compelling need to add the qualifier that I actually encourage independent thinking in my children, but also a feeling of being a member of a community)
 

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Just as a point of clarification...

Is the problem that

1. You have trouble sticking to the rule - you end up giving in and getting the donut.
2. You stick with the rule and refuse the donut but it leads to an irritating conversation and lots of back and forth that goes on for too long?
3. Sometimes 1 happens and some times 2.
 

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I've heard similar things come out of DS' mouth.

Whenever I hear something along the lines of "if I don't get what I want, I won't do my chores/homework" I tell him that he is NOT allowed to talk to me that way. It's very disrespectful and rude and it hurts my feelings. I usually look him right in the eyes with an "angry" look in my face when I say this. I'm not always actually angry, but controlled and letting him know that his tone of voice and choice of words can anger people.

I view the whole "DC is trying to play me" as a separate situation from enforcing rules about how many sweets we eat. Some days we get more treats, some days less. That's a very flexible rule. But if he speaks disrespectfully or pulls the "I won't do what I'm supposed to do unless you buy this for me" then he's most likely NOT going to get what he wants. I might say something along the lines of "I was thinking about getting you a donut, but now I won't because you were so rude to me. If you're polite about it next time, I'll consider it."

I also don't hesitate to firmly say "I said no! Now stop asking!" after I've calmly given my answer once or twice. I won't get into a long debate about my reasons when the child is trying to get me to change my mind. When things are calm, and we're not in the middle of a power struggle, we'll discuss the general rule, he can present arguments about whether I'm being too strict, and sometimes I do reconsider or change the general rules.
 

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I don't quite see why things like "You know, Mommy, sometimes you need to be patient and I will get my shoes on as soon as I can..." are a problem. Couldn't you just do what you'd do with an adult? "Okay, just keep in mind that we need to leave in 5 minutes..."

And what's the point of him having his own money if he can't spend it as he pleases? Other than he's using it to get your goat about the donut debate? In fact, I'd bet that's why he decided to buy the donut. If you'd just said "yep, you do have a choice to buy a donut for yourself" he might've gone for something he wanted more.

Might be time for a discussion of the spirit verses the letter of the law.
 

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And what's the point of him having his own money if he can't spend it as he pleases? QUOTE]

And, I've really never understood why the child having their "own" money outweighs family rules. When we started allowance we talked about how he may choose to spend money in ways we wouldn't and that's part of the purpose of allowance but that it needs to still be within the bounds of the family rules.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post

And what's the point of him having his own money if he can't spend it as he pleases? QUOTE]

And, I've really never understood why the child having their "own" money outweighs family rules. When we started allowance we talked about how he may choose to spend money in ways we wouldn't and that's part of the purpose of allowance but that it needs to still be within the bounds of the family rules.
Good point. But in this case the OP was discussing creating a new rule "no buying food with your money" instead of enforcing an existing rule about how frequently he could have donuts. He can buy as many donuts as he wants without having to break the family rule about how often one can eat a donut.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by loraxc View Post
I also often feel like DD just doesn't get that she is still a kid. It's hard.

This is really the crux of it. Its like everything is up for debate and discussion and the same rules and standards apply to us all, but he can't really understand all the details and he does not have the self control to make healthy choices. and, in the same pot is that he cannot always accuratel gage needs, so he feels that my "Hurry up! Your brother is crying and needs to nurse and I need to turn off the stove!" is the same as his "Hurry up, mommy! I want my toy opened NOW!". It's just not the same, but since he does not seem to see my being an adult as having superior understanding, he feels frustrated and will see these things as an opportunity for a powerplay.

and, sometimes he's just right about things and then i have to back-track.

*sigh*
 

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Consistency is important. My ds has certain things he always wants to buy, and he always asks. I admit that I am inconsistent, but usually I do give in. We don't eat donuts in our household (gluten intolerance, no hydrogenated oils), but ds has a similar thing with a chocolate covered marshmallow at the local health food store (it's "healthy" because it has no artificial ingredients, I guess). He would never even think of asking for a donut, simply because he's never had one. But he does pester me about other sweets, and also Hot Wheels cars. And I try to say yes when it's reasonable, but if he hasn't eat a meal recently, it's usually a no.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post
Good point. But in this case the OP was discussing creating a new rule "no buying food with your money" instead of enforcing an existing rule about how frequently he could have donuts. He can buy as many donuts as he wants without having to break the family rule about how often one can eat a donut.
Sorry you've lost me. Are you saying that he should buy the donuts but not eat them? I don't think that is what he was asking to do.

I will advocate again that it is a good idea to have a rule that things that are against the rules are against the rules whether it is my money or your money.

To the original poster, he may need to have the lived experience right now that if you originally set the limit you intend to stick with it.
 

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I'd like to point out that you don't need to make a decision about anything in the moment when you feel like you're being talked in circles. You can easily, politely, calmly say, "You know what? I need to think about this before I give you my answer" and then tell them I'll let you know when I have my answer or I'll give you my answer in 5 minutes or when we get to the end of this aisle or whatever works for you.
I bow to you all being willing to work with, not against the crazy smartness these kids have!
Good Luck!
 

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It's interesting that your 4yo simply wants to use his money to buy something he wants -- and you see that as him "playing" you. As adults, it's a way-of-life for us to decide on the best way to spend our money, and to expect to be allowed to do it. We don't see ourselves as "manipulative" when we know what we want and go after it.

I really like beanma's ideas for working with your son -- explaining your concerns about the donut, and brainstorming about a solution together. As a mother, I certainly do feel a need to provide guidance and information as my children make choices about how to spend their time and their money ...

But, seriously, when I get too wrapped up in wanting them to choose what "I" want for them -- well, um, there's a risk of me becoming manipulative.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by alexsam View Post
DS will threaten us (though he doesn't really know he is doing that- it's like calmly "If you don't get a donut at the store, I won't help set the table at dinner." Ummm... ?).
Are you certain he doesn't know he's threatening you? My kids both at 3 understood that concept (though they are both very empathetic) and by 4 would say to peers "Your trying to manipulate me, I will still be your friend but I won't let you knock down my castle" or whatever. I tend to think if the DC is doing it, and it is working they have some sense as to why. I would sit down and discuss with him how threatening/manipulative talk/communication is not acceptable. We don't fight with out bodies, nor our words. If he wants something I am more then willing to discuss it but I will not be threatened into anything. My kids both learned pretty quick that threatening language was an immediate no.

Now logical discussion is another issue. I get backed into the corner on that one. Especially when you add literalism into the mix.
When called out I will stick to my word, but I am not hesitant to express my opinion.

Is the dollar from an allowance? We nipped the "I want" in stores in the bud by giving our kinds an allowance, but they don't take the money to the store with them unless they know what they are going to buy. We will take them to the store to get something specific but if we happen to be there and they see something then they remember how much it was and go home to see if they have enough. Our eldest (7) keeps all her money in a bank account. I keep the ATM card but she is not an impulse shopper. She's the kid who will save up, go to the store and decide not to buy anything because she wants to be 100% sure. We started an allowance with her when she was 4 though, so she's had some time to make those purchasing mistakes and learned lessons from it. The key though is giving them enough money so that they can actually achieve a goal in a reasonable amount of time. I've noticed if all they have is a dollar then their choices are really limited and you'll end up with donuts and gum. DD2 started getting an allowance when she was 4 and already she's made some wise decisions (lego set, webkin) which she had to save up for quite some time. We do help them work through possible purchases: "Are you sure you want to get X? I know you were saving up for Y. Are you certain you now want X more then Y?".
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
It's interesting that your 4yo simply wants to use his money to buy something he wants -- and you see that as him "playing" you. As adults, it's a way-of-life for us to decide on the best way to spend our money, and to expect to be allowed to do it. We don't see ourselves as "manipulative" when we know what we want and go after it.

Four year olds aren't adults and shouldn't be expected to have the reasoning power or maturity of an adult.

Further, I don't think all adult choices are neutral either. I see it as quite possible in a family to have concerns if a family member was spending their money on something that was unhealthy or dangerous.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by supervee View Post
Heh heh. Yup, DS can outthink me and definitely outtalk me.

Our overall strategy is that if I've said no, that's it. Wheedling doesn't work. I try to say no thoughtfully and not knee-jerk it.

Dr Sears had a good strategy: Convince me. b/c you might say no too quickly, and there might be a compelling argument (and it's a good skill to learn to present your case). After they try to convince you, though, you could still say no.
This usually works well for us, because sometimes I do say no, and when I consider my son's reasons, I do change my mind. But often, like the donuts, it is no and that is the end of the conversation. And being consistent with things once they've been established-- like we don't get donuts at this store. I hope that that doesn't seem inconsistent.

And four can be hard for boys, my oldest son was very confrontational and argumentative at that age. We're going through it with my second son, in a different style. He has a will and knows it. He's even said stuff like he won't go to bed at bedtime because he knows that no one can make him. And he is right.

What works for me is saying, "V, I am going to give you a clear message. Here is my clear message:" and then I deliver "we are not getting donuts at the store now." When I start talking about clear messages, he knows I won't go back. It is like my sign that I mean what I say. HTH If he argues, I repeat it. And then I stop. If he keeps at it, I'll leave the store with him, and we'll go back when he isn't hungry/tired/grumpy.
 
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