The kid who don’t care

2 Aug


I just spent a frantic hour that should have been nice and family like but instead involved a lot of running, stomping, heaving, getting angry and sweating. (Not necessarily in that order)

Vivian, as most of us are aware, is 9 days away from turning 4. (Four? Four? Where the frick did 2 and 3 go?). And apparently, she’s entering a new developmental stage as well. I’ve begged for answers to this question in the past.

I’ll be frank. I don’t know how to discipline my kid. Or rather, I do, but it doesn’t seem to work.

I know it’s the age where she’s going to ignore me and be willful. Is giving her options and a little autonomy really going to help? or will she be the devious little rat I suspect she will be and decide to see just how far she can push until Mommy snaps? Aside from that smack the other day, I do NOT intend to make physical punishment part of our regimen, because I know that shock value wears off, and all it really does in many cases is relieve my own stress and anger. Should we try time outs? Time in’s? Ignoring her? (I so can’t do this, not the the extent that might be necessary)

The problem is that this child is extremely willful (I think some people call it “spirited”) she doesn’t understand mellow-crap, the only time she’s mellow is in front of the TV (which has been taken away for the entire weekend). I think she’s watching entirely too much of it, and intend to shut that down for at least a few days. I don’t remember watching 2+ hours of TV a day when I was a kid, andΒ my mother didn’t take any shit from me.

Something has to give. She screamed for an hour straight for poor Mogo when she was punished for something earlier today. I know part of it is that we have difficulty picking our battles, and that when you ride transit, you can’t just toss the kid in the car-the “we’re going home NOW!” threat doesn’t work as well. But I still want them to learn how to behave in public.

On the other hand, before they lost interest in their meal, the waitress commented on how good they were being as they ate, so I don’t know if I’m expecting too much from them or what. I see other kids who are good and quiet. But then, they look like they’ve had life beaten out of them

Sigh. Little help here?

20 Responses to “The kid who don’t care”

  1. radicalmama August 2, 2007 at 6:32 pm #

    Strong-willed kids are so hard. A is that way. At this point, closing my eyes & hoping things turn out okay feels like the only choice. Sorry I can’t help more. 😦

  2. thordora August 2, 2007 at 6:35 pm #

    I’ve been doing that mostly. Sit in your room and scream bloody murder. You’ll stop eventually.

    I hate feeling like I’m abandoning her, but I know I need to draw the line.

    My mother would have beat me senseless if I would have acted as she’s been lately! Crazy, the difference 30 years makes…

  3. mamaloo, the doula August 2, 2007 at 7:08 pm #

    I get the feeling from Kieran, who is similar (not devious or willful so much as so fantastically full of energy that he can’t be contained, with a side of “hits when frustrated”) would benefit from more outdoor unstructured play. Could Viv also benefit in this way? And, she’s going to JK in September, right? That will have a big affect on her behaviour, I think, and the teacher will likely have some helpful strategies for you.

    When you figure out a good discipline strategy, let me know.

  4. thordora August 2, 2007 at 7:54 pm #

    Sadly, we’re another year out from kindergarten. Sigh.

    And I think that’s a lot of it. TONS and TONS of energy. I was a more subdued kid, so I don’t get it. She then drags Rosalyn into it, so I have TWO whirling dervishes heading for the glassware section n the Bay.


  5. Netter August 2, 2007 at 8:39 pm #

    I agree that something to take the energy out would be good. B is doing so much better with listening and cooperating now that it’s summer and they’re going to the park and pool four days a week. Heck, even the tantrums are shorter. I do think options and some autonomy could help. It does help if it’s either or, otherwise you spend the morning going over every shirt the kid owns.

  6. Mogo August 2, 2007 at 9:49 pm #

    having found and reconnected our old Super Nintendo on the weekend, trust me when I say that convincing them to play outside is difficult now. all they want to do is “go inside and play Justice League!”… *sigh* … even the pool seems to have lost it’s allure to Ros and you can’t really take one in without the other… they don’t seem to WANT to play outside!!! which is even more frustrating…

    the best part of her sidewalk tantrum today was having to tell a bunch of kids who were making fun of her to shut up b/c it was getting her more worked up… oh, and cracking a tooth from clenching my teeth so hard to keep from making her a PART of the sidewalk… that was fun too… *le sigh*

  7. aikaterine August 2, 2007 at 10:05 pm #

    I hope that I am not intruding, but I have been in a similar situation and sought the advice of a child therapist. So, I can pass on that advice, which worked for me, for whatever it is worth.

    First, we had to ignore the tantrums. You mentioned that you thought you might not be able to do that. But that was key. I would walk into whatever room she was going nuts in and say something that acknowledged that I heard her (so that she did not think I was ignoring her, or could not hear her) and then I would tell her that when she felt like calming down she could come and talk to me. I would do this every 15 – 20 minutes, those tantrums can last for hours. And expect it to get worse before it gets better, that was a beautiful lesson we learned. When extinguishing behaviors, they always get worse before they get better.

    All the advice to get rid of energy was good.

    And, after she finishes her tantrum and comes up to you the right way, reward her. Sometimes with a kind word, maybe with what she wanted if she controls her tantrum extra well. Our therapist was a big believer in choice and autonomy in the little things – always, and in some bigger things – if our daughter behaved well. And we changed the definition of behaving well as she was better able to regulate her tantrums. So we were always setting the bar low enough that she could succeed, and then raising it a little higher.

    Eventually, she figured it out. Hope that this helps.

  8. landismom August 2, 2007 at 10:10 pm #

    My son is also 9 days from turning four–I’m not sure I realized before this that they share a birthday!

    I have to say that while he is strong-willed, he’s either not as strong-willed as his sister, or I’ve become adept at dealing with it better. It still can be frustrating as hell, but I don’t feel like I’m totally losing my mind, the way I did with her.

  9. nell August 3, 2007 at 8:21 am #

    I struggle with this issue as well, and while I am really the last person to give advice, I’m going to anyway. πŸ™‚

    I totally approve of taking away the television, but with my younger daughter I have found that ingoring her is the only thing that works. It was really hard in the beginning – putting her in her bed or on the couch and walking away while she was freaking out. But once I had stuck with it a few times it felt easier, because I knew it worked. I try reasoning with her and it only escalates the problem, which was a hard lesson to learn because my older daughter could always be reasoned with. So while I know how hard it is and how cold it feels to turn your back on a screaming child and say something like, “we can talk once you’ve calmed down,” without crying, I still wholeheartedly recommend it.

    Of course, every child is different. But keep experimenting until you find the right method for you and Vivian. Just make sure you don’t give up too quickly, cause really, with the ignoring, it took a few times before I got the hang of it. Good luck.

  10. thordora August 3, 2007 at 8:57 am #

    Thank you everyone for you advice. It’s helping me not feel like such a bad mommy. πŸ™‚

    Today she’s being allowed to listen to music or watch the “baby” channel while I work, since I need her to be distra cted. But there will be no “TV” (as in stuff that gets marketed to them) all weekend. Nothing even remotely violent. None of it. It isn’t helping. She can watch Baby Einstein til the cows come home, and maybe a little Animal Planet with me later.

    Today she’s been very good so far, but plans are to disengage if she starts, and hope she can’t wait me out. We went to shoppers and she was excellent, and was “rewarded” with a new book (as is the habit on paydays anyway). thus far, we’re doing good.

    What’s really hard on us is that Rosalyn ends up “punished” as well in some cases-park trips get preempted, she doesn’t get to watch “yardigans” πŸ™‚ Has anyone dealt with that? I’m of the mind of “deal with it-life ain’t fair” but Mogo seems a bit more sensative to it than me.

    We’ll see how this weekend goes. WE have a lot of changes to make, not just the kids. Hopefully we can hitch up our pants and run.

  11. aikaterine August 3, 2007 at 9:11 am #

    that is a hard one. Our daughter is an only child. I can ask the therapist for you, if you would like.

  12. Marcy August 3, 2007 at 9:31 am #

    I too wonder what it would be like to deal with multiple children — it seems you need to deal with each one as she needs to be dealt with, without it affecting the other, but to what extent is that possible? aikaterine, I look forward to hearing what the therapist says about this one.

  13. aikaterine August 3, 2007 at 9:37 am #

    I’ll call her, she happens to be a good friend.

  14. charlotteotter August 3, 2007 at 9:38 am #

    I have one child who acts up and I feel bad for the other two, who behave well and get to listen to her screaming and me lecturing. I feel sorry for them having their meals or walks hijacked by their screaming, tantruming sister. I talked it through with my daughter’s therapist (she’s there for her fear of dogs), who said we need know what her trigger situations are and then warn her in advance what the consequences will be if she misbehaves. Her triggers are clear (leaving home for kindergarten, eating, bathing, bed – all the transitions). Now I quietly tell her in advance what the consequences will be if she doesn’t act the way she is expected to act, and if she crosses the line I respond swiftly. It seems to be working.

    If it’s any comfort, five is SO MUCH better than four. There is more logic and she can understand why if she does something it is horrible for others.

  15. thordora August 3, 2007 at 9:45 am #

    Transition is a HUGE thing for Viv, and sometimes we forget that. She’s so well spoken that it’s hard to remember she’s only 4(ish)

    aikaterine-you rule. Simply. πŸ™‚

    Waiting for 5 with baited breath.

  16. aikaterine August 3, 2007 at 11:38 am #

    Thordora – Thank you for the compliment. My friend (the child therapist) said, you will love this, verbatim:

    “ew, that is always tough”

    Not exactly an action statement. But we did talk more about it and her take on the multiple kids dilemma is that you might want to find a way to redirect the other kids attention without making it appear to your tantrumy daughter that they are being rewarded when she is throwing a fit. She said something about that creating tension between the kids, but I forget her exact words. I asked her how her clients have gone about doing that successfully in the past.

    Think about things that each of your kids loves to do and make sure that they are varied so that if the punishment for the tantrumy one is no tv, you can – after doing the whole “I hear you, talk to me when you calm down” – you can go into your “toolbox” (her word) and pull out something for the other kids that does not involve tv. Same with video games. Basically think of the things that you take away from the one daughter most often and find alternatives that the other kids enjoy. Don’t make a big production of it when you redirect them to the new activity. Just nonchalantly pull it out, like that is what you were going to do all along. That sounded great to me, but then I thought “what if the kids complain, or don’t want to do this other thing” and her response was:

    “believe me, if this woman has multiple children she has already learned to handle that one”

    Not sure what that means, but I am hoping you understand it.

    I also asked her about the public tantrums and the public transit angle. Her advice:


    after a good laugh she said that kids are tougher than we think, as long as we try never to belittle or humiliate them, then we are doing our best.

    Oh, and waht charlotteotter said, we had to do that with our daughter as well. Totally forgot about that one. I hope this helps.

  17. thordora August 3, 2007 at 1:35 pm #

    I mentioned the “peer pressure” angle to my husband-which will work more and more as my youngest gets older. It’s like in school when you screw it up for everyone-no one wants to be that kid.

    And much of this we DO just suck up and survive. You have to, right? We’re not the only parents to take the bus places-it’s just our ‘we’re going home” spiel” is more like “we’re going home SOON”

    thank you so much for asking, and thank her for me. I very much appreciate it.

  18. Meredith August 5, 2007 at 7:43 pm #

    You weren’t kidding to make me feel better, were you?

    Four sucks. S.U.C.K.S…sucks. The worst part for me is that there seems to be no button. Her stubbornness and willfulness are more than I can handle. Her point of giving up must be buried deep within her in a place I can’t fathom.

    Yesterday, I couldn’t find a place to hide. I tried the bathroom, under my covers, behind my son’s recliner, but nothing was small enough to ball myself up in the fetal position and just quietly weep.

    No one tells you this in advance, you know. I wouldn’t have believed it if they did. I do question my ability to parent even though I know in my heart that she is just testing my limits. Dammit.

  19. thordora August 5, 2007 at 7:57 pm #

    I do question my ability to parent even though I know in my heart that she is just testing my limits.

    THAT is exactly what’s killing me. I know I’m doing stuff right, but I feel so lost with it all!

    I’d almost prefer a colicy newborn. Almost.

  20. Frusterated step-mom September 16, 2008 at 1:15 am #

    I have an 11-year old step son with a mouth like a trucker and some serious underlying “Mommy issues”. We’ve tried everything under the sun for him… even the “put him into a sport to burn off the energy” route… nothing has worked. We’ve had him in martial arts, hockey, put up a punching bag in our basement (twice has been used) spoken to his mother, taken away everything in his room including toys and his door (he was warned about slamming it) We roll with the punches day-by-day and hope that one day, he’ll tell his mom to piss off or she’ll stop being such a dead beat parent…..

    Seriously though, the kids that are that strong willed just need some serious boundaries and to know that in a battle to “test limits”, they’re going to loose. What we have found works the best for the stubborn kid that we deal with is simply handing him his shoes and coat, putting him in the back yard and telling him that his behaviour is not appreciated or acceptable in our home and to knock on the door when he can behave and treat people with the respect that they deserve. Once he realized that he wasn’t getting the attention and that we were not going to tolerate his outbursts, be stopped right away, had a few extra minutes outside and then came back in. 5 or 6 times of this, all we have to do now is say “You need to speak to people like they’re people and not trash on the street or you need to go outside and cool off….. now if we could only get him to do his homework, get rid of the mouth and attitude, stop lying and stealing we’ll be sailing. πŸ™‚

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