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Discussion Starter #1
My son is almost four. He is very bright and verbal. He only needs to hear a word used once in a sentence, and he is able to use the word correctly in his speech after that. One of his favourite movies is 'Cars'. From this movie, he learned the word 'idiot'. From other sources he has learned 'shut up', and 'stupid' and 'hate'. Put it all together and you have: Shut up Mommy you stupid idiot<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"> . I would like to stress that we DO NOT speak to each other this way in our home at all. We are a loving, gentle family, we speak respectfully to each other, we are very blessed in many ways. But, whenever my DS is upset with me, he becomes quite verbally abusive to me, and it has been going on for months now despite our families concerted efforts to ignor the behaviour while it is happening, and to discuss it with him later. I try not to let the words have power but the fact of the matter is they do have power as I am feeling very discouraged and frustrated about this issue.<br><br>
For example, today I stopped him from injuring his sister who was breaking his work. He was feeling angry at his sister, and me for stopping him. So he screamed at me "You're stupid mommy! I hate you! You idiot!' To which he began trying to hit me. I held his hands to keep him from hitting me, then I picked him up and moved him away from the other children. (I care for 3 baby girls also). This kind of scenario plays itself out about once a day, sometimes twice. Afterwards I feel really down. Later on, when he has cooled down I tell him how haring those words makes me feel. I give him alternative things to say. While he is screaming at me I empathise with him about why he is angry. I get down on his level. I don't lose my temper, but now he is starting to scream these things at my sweet mom<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/gloomy.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Gloomy">: . I am so sick of it and I don't know how to get him to stop. Everyone I talk to says I am doing all the right things, and to just keep trying. I am really at my wit's end and I am scared the other children are going to start repeating the words he is saying. Arg. I am feeling really embarrassed and defeated over this issue.
 

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Oh wow. This is exactly why I'm terrified to let my DS ever watch TV. I'd get rid of them all if it wasn't for DH and his silly video games.<br><br>
Anyway, I really hope you can get some good advice. I can't really tell you much beyond what you are doing, but wanted to offer some hugs anyway.
 

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Don't feel embarrassed. <i>All</i> kids pick up words they are not supposed to say- you should hear some of the things my boys have picked up, from me, mostly <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/redface.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Embarrassment"> , though other kids are a great source for this as well. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol"> Hopefully your mom, having had a child, will understand this, though I know it is hard when they act up in front of mom!<br>
Honestly, it sounds like you are handling it well. Does he use these actions when he is frustrated? My oldest does this, and I have found it helpful to tell him, "you sound frrustrated/angry/etc. You need some time to calm down." Then I will put him in his room, or in a chair, separate from where I am, and tell him that when he is calm and able to use better words/no hitting, then he can come back. That is totally up to him (though I do reserve the right to put him back in his room if he is still unable to control himself when he comes out).<br>
I have even told him that if he is so very frustrated, he can throw one of his pillows at the wall (better than hitting, imo).<br>
I know it is hurtful to you, but, really, don't take his words personally. He is at an age where he is testing out diffferent things to see what gets a reaction. Strong reactions, good or bad, make him want to test it again. He is not trying to hurt you, and does not mean what he is saying (if he even knows fully what it means). He is just seeing what he can do to get mommy to act.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks so much for your comments, I am just worried that he will still be saying these things to me when he is 12, 16.....it feels like we are making no progress here.
 

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Well, I will add this even though it doesn't meet everyone's definition of gentle. I absolutely refuse to allow either of my children (now 7 and 4) to hit or be verbally abusive. Once they were beyond about age 3, that triggers "You are not able to be pleasant to people, please go take a break in your room until you are calm and in control." They are allowed to rejoin the group as soon as they are calm but I will not allow them to remain near me or each other at such a time. Since you care for other children who's parents would be justifiably upset if he lashed out at them, I think you have a double responsibility to remove him from them until he is calm. When DS was younger (and weighted less!) I physically carried him up to his room a few times when things were particularly bad. Now they will move to their rooms as requested. Once they are in their rooms I don't care how much or what they scream, I just ignore it.<br><br>
This will, of course, seem like punishment to some, logical consequences for others. It works for us, it keeps me from wanting to hit them, it keeps everyone safe, and it teaches that socially unacceptable behaviour is just that. Note that I am talking about preschool age or older kids and I'm not enforcing a time limit.
 

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We do not have television access like cable or otherwise, but we do use the tv for movies. Our children have a handful of movies to choose from that includes Finding Nemo, Bob the Builder, Croc Files, and Microcosmos. None of these contain questionable language, but all of our children are as you describe your son regarding hearing a word once and then using it. We never use curse words, and they've used them, which ended because there wasn't any reinforcement from our behaviour. They've used othe unpleasant words that they also heard in passing from outside the grocery store where drunken people often congregate and speak to one another in a less than salutary way. They only have to hear a word or phrase once, and they'll try it, and even use it for a while.<br><br>
With our almost four yr old son, if he is becoming unreasonable (I always try to reason with him first) and/or violent, I do as pp does. (This behaviour is all new to me too. He tries to hurt his brothers, not just hit them, but he actually wants them to be <i>hurt</i>.) <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"> I tell him that he is having a difficult time calming himself and he is disturbing the rest of us, and that he can go to his room for as long as he needs to calm and be ready to rejoin us in being respectful toward one another.<br><br>
It usually (99%) works out that the time alone was what he needed, and his lashing out was rooted in his need for space, which his brothers do not give him, and he is naturally introverted. I try to encourage him to have this time each day before he becomes overwhelmed, but lately he doesn't want to go until he can't contain himself any longer. So for now, I have to just continue to encourage him to meet his needs and when he doesn't, help him to do so in the moment.<br><br>
Could it be that your son needs to have some space, especially given that you also care for others' babes?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Oh I WISH he would go to his designated spaces! I have the livingroom and the upstairs gated off just for him. BUT he wants to be near me! He tries to play near me and the babies wreck his work. I do physically remove him if he is being dangerous, but it escalates his behaviour. He won't stay in his room, he will come running out throwing things. I have to hold the door closed, meanwhile the babies are crawling all over the stairs. Or, I could put him in the livingroom, but I would really like to avoid holding him down. It's really not o.k. to me to be holding down my four year old. Of course, if he is trying to injure me I hold him but I want to de-escalate his behaviour, and removing him escalates it.
 

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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug"> Natalie, I can tell from your OP that you are an extremely loving, patient, calm & respectful mother! That's glaringly obvious. And the way you're dealing with him is perfectly appropriate. You may just NOT be able to get him to stop saying these things for a while, it may have to run it's course. I wouldn't give it much attention. TV is powerful, yes, BUT I think the way you are living your lives in front of him is more powerful. Your mom is a mom, surely she must realize she shouldn't take a 4 YO's verbal outburst to heart. Just keep doing what you're doing. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you Marie<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/redface.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Embarrassment"> I totally needed that<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"> .<br><br>
Natalie
 

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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">Well, I will add this even though it doesn't meet everyone's definition of gentle. I absolutely refuse to allow either of my children (now 7 and 4) to hit or be verbally abusive. Once they were beyond about age 3, that triggers "You are not able to be pleasant to people, please go take a break in your room until you are calm and in control." They are allowed to rejoin the group as soon as they are calm but I will not allow them to remain near me or each other at such a time.</td>
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Yes, that is basically true here too.<br><br>
I never yelled or spanked, but past the toddler stage I had zero tolerance for violent behavior and hateful screaming language. If he didn't stop himself I put him in his room and refused to engage until he stopped. The key is to remain centered and just breath out any anger--you want to "be the example" of what you expect. If you want your child to have control over their strongest impulsive behavior, you have to do the same. It's all intertwined somehow. If I could stay focused, he tended to calm down faster.<br><br>
I didn't hold the door shut, or hold him down, or anything like that. I did pick him up and return him to his room repeatedly until he calmed down. Yes, he often ran right out after me. I put him right back in "You are still screaming and hitting. I will put you back in here every time you come out until you tell me you are ready to stop hitting and screaming. Then we can talk".<br><br>
The thing is--I never had to return him nearly as many times as I imagined I would. I thought "God, this is going to go on all day". It never did. At *most*, 20-30 minutes of picking him up and putting him back down and repeating the above--not with anger, but with absolute eye contact calm certainty--and he eventually wore himself out.<br><br>
Maybe that seems like a long time. But it was a bit like the pacifists judo--when someone is coming at you with an explosion of aggression, you don't absorb it. You move in just enough to point the trajectory in another direction, and do this again and again until they are exhausted. And that means *you can be there for that person when they have calmed down and can accept help*. I don't believe ds needed me to absorb his attacks in order to trust I would help him. And in fact that was how it worked out. I wonder if people give kids enough credit. Ds seemed to intuitively understand the logic in what I said. He was not allowed to be near me when hitting and screaming. Made sense to him. I never remember any hint from him after he calmed down that he felt I was unfair in removing him from my space when he was hurtful. He knew he was being hurtful "on purpose" and somehow, he honestly seemed relieved to know I would not let myself be hurt "on purpose". In fact from his point of view, I was being extremely nice by comparison (I wasn't hitting or yelling back).<br><br>
And when his fit was over it was always completely over. So it was worth spending half an hour repeatedly carrying him back to his room and repeating my expectation, because he got over it when he was completely exhausted with himself. All that explosive angry feeling was let out without him actually hurting anyone, or being allowed to hurt me. So when it was over I didn't feel angry with him, or resentful. And he never seemed to feel angry with me at all. It always ended with him, perhaps tearfully, running out and saying "I'm done!" and wanting a cuddle, and being extremely clear eyed, and amazingly expressive with language, almost laughing with a kind of relieved happiness--it was to me so obvious that he needed the boundary to be clear, that it helped him organize his own thoughts and feelings. Often we had our best days after the worst mornings together!<br><br>
This really worked well for us--we got through the explosive preschool years and actually enjoyed each other. I think that is really the point. Probably, I could have handled this differently and he still would have outgrown the screaming phase (maybe not? Who knows!). But I don't think I would have liked him had I gone around feeling doubtful and afraid to just say "There it is. That's the edge, and I'm not going to let either of us fall over the side, no matter what".
 

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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug">
 

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Another thought. Outbursts of this type in our house almost always come from a lack of sleep or wierd schedule changes. Have you taken a look at the basics of the house lately? Has bedtime slipped or is there a nap transition going on? Change in food, routine, any of that? Sometimes things change gradually and we don't notice, but the kids do. I realized the other day that my 4 YO's bedtime had slipped by almost an hour over the last month or so, which explained a lot of why she was behaving the way she was.
 

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I think it's interesting that he wants to be near you and the babies are getting at his work. I think the root of some of his anger might be that he has to share his time with you. Do you think you could have special time with him when the other kids are sleeping or after they go home? That might lessen the trigger.<br><br>
He loves you. That's clear. So I think you can tell him how it makes you feel to hear those words. When he starts saying them, I'd say, "No, Baby. Don't use those words with me. I love you too much to hear that kind of talk coming from you. Those words are really mean and they hurt me. I know that you love me, too, so please speak kind words to me. I will listen." I can imagine that just hearing you say the truth will make him see the impact of his meaningless words and he will respond to your true feelings.
 

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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/love.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="love"> Wow. Such excellent advice! I am very, very thankful. Today I tried putting him in his room, whenever he started his shouting or hitting. It took 2-3 times of him coming out of his room, when he finally actually stayed there until he was calm. The final time, he shouted down to me: "I'm calm now Mom!" and he began to play. It felt so much more effective than what I had been doing in the past. When I was a child, my parents would send me to my room, but it was usually after a spanking, so it felt very punative to me. But today didn't feel punative at all, and I think our dignity has remained in tact. Thank you again, for your suggestions, hugs and support<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/love.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="love">
 

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Yay! Good to hear. I was about to ditto Heartmama's entire post before I saw your last addition.<br><br>
My dd has lots of times when she needs to go be alon to work out her anger. Almost always she needs me to come in and be with her before she is totally done (after she decides not to hit/scream/yell/be mean to me etc) I about passed out the other day when she stormed off to her room (she is almost btw) and slammed the door, and yelled, (which we have been working on "the door will break if you continue to slam it, then you will have to help us buy a new door" etc) The baby I care for was asleep so I called to her "Please do not slam the door, or yell, or you will wake up P, you may stay in there and be as angry as you need to, for as long as you need to, but please do not wake the baby" and she stopped just like that. She was in there for another 10 minutes or so, came out all dressed and happy and said "I got rid of my additude, Mama!"<br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/winky.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink"> It works. Not always, but this is way more common now than at 4 or so. That she will understand that she needs to calm herself down if she wants to be around others.
 

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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/thumb.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="thumbs up"> Glad to hear things are looking up!
 

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Wonderful news!!<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">It took 2-3 times of him coming out of his room, when he finally actually stayed there until he was calm. The final time, he shouted down to me: "I'm calm now Mom!" and he began to play. It felt so much more effective than what I had been doing in the past. When I was a child, my parents would send me to my room, but it was usually after a spanking, so it felt very punative to me. But today didn't feel punative at all, and I think our dignity has remained in tact. Thank you again, for your suggestions, hugs and support</td>
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Okay that worked even better than *I* expected *LOL*<br><br>
The amazing part was that it never took as long as I *thought* it would take. What I forgot was that he was the one burning up energy crying and hitting and exuding all of his emotions. He couldn't keep it up as long as I imagined he could.<br><br>
I was AMAZED when I realized I could keep control over my space without actually using anger or hurtfulness to do that. As a parent I wanted to talk everything out with ds. But when he was small, words only went so far in communicating what he needed to do. Physically showing him "You stay here until you stop hitting." and the repetitive returning to that spot until he stopped made it very clear what I meant. The reason I think closing a door (or holding it closed) is a very bad idea, is because it changes the entire relationship in the moment. The boundary should be the exchange between you and your child. Put a door between you, and now it's about the door. It may be easier for you to hide behind the door, but there is no way to interact if you do that, and I honestly think a lot of the effectiveness was the fact that ds COULD run out and hit me again, and had to stop on his own, which helped him understand what was expected. Yes I carried him back to his room, but the actual decision to stop running out again and hitting had to be his. Which seemed to have the result that he "got it" much faster than had I forced him to remain in his room. Again, I think parents underestimate children.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Very true about the door. Shutting the door just becomes a huge and unwanted power struggle, so we are fighting over keeping the door shut instead of focusing on what is important.
 
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