Lately, the rollercoaster days I’m experiencing with my 4-year-old have me tied up in knots.
One morning, for instance, she could wake with smiles, a positive attitude and kind words. And, within mere minutes, she might be flailing on the floor, whining, and refusing to follow any direction.
In the afternoon, I might ask her to put away her shoes. She might say “OK, mom” and follow the direction immediately or her response might resemble something from the thriller “Exorcism of Emily Rose.”
What causes these sudden shifts in behavior?
I have no idea; but the mood swings and unpredictability are about to get the best of me.
I hate to admit it, but on several occasions my paper thin patience couldn’t handle the stress of her preschool attitude.
Some days I think,” Wow, I just rocked that-textbook parenting.” And… 20 minutes later my self-talk reflects a different tone: “Well, I just did some damage she will need to undo in therapy 20 years from now.”
I have a master’s degree in child development. I’m a certified school counselor. Parents used to set up meetings with me, seeking guidance for problem behavior. I should be able to get a handle on my own child’s issues right?
I had this parenting thing down cold until Lily turned about 15 months old. That’s when she started exerting her very strong personality and expressing her disagreements (all, of course, developmentally appropriate.)
She turned 2.5 when her baby brother arrived. My husband and I were inundated with problem behavior and at the end of our rope. I knew it correlated with the arrival of her brother and our parental inconsistency.
I read every book, scanned every website, and interviewed every mother I knew. I still couldn’t figure out a solution. I finally read “Help! There’s a Toddler in the House” by Dr. Thomas M. Reimers, Ph.D., the director of Boys Town Behavioral Health Clinic, and started implementing some of his strategies.
One of these included cutting out the “don’ts” and replacing them with “do’s.” For example, “don’t hit” becomes “keep your hands and feet to yourself.”
I also scheduled several appointments with a therapist at the Boys Town clinic. She worked with us primarily on an effective time-out method.
1. Identify a specific location to serve the time-out.
2. Say, “timeout” and immediately take her to the location, ignoring all screams, protests, and antics.
3. She remains in the location completely ignored until quiet and calm. (this is not based on a specific amount of time)
4. She is released from time out with a short series of “follow the directions” to ensure she is settled and ready to return to activity. (“Touch your nose, Touch your toes. Ok, Timeout is over.”)
After six sessions, my husband and I were able to find common parenting ground and maintain consistency with discipline. We began to enjoy parenting again and experience some peace within our home.
It appears we need to revisit the book, dig up the strategies, and secure consistency once again.
I’ve pinned the recent challenging behavior to the mounting stress in our home. (ie: ailing grandmothers, possible career changes, and potential moves) After a few days of reflection, I am certain the stress is part of our problem but also realizing we’ve lost our consistency in boundary setting and discipline.
I offer this self-disclosure to you friend, as encouragement in your parenting journey.
We all need a few good strategies in our back pocket and maybe just a little readjustment from time to time. Sometimes we need to call in the professionals, and that’s OK too.
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We also found Dr. Reimers’ ”guided listening” method to be effective with Lily. Guided listening follows four steps.
Step 1: Make a brief and specific request or demand.
Step 2: Give your child up to ten seconds to comply. If she does, praise her.
Step 3: If she does not follow the direction, repeat the request ONE time and gesture to what you are asking. (ie: “Pick up your coat” while simultaneously pointing to the coat on the floor.)
Step 4: If she still defies, gently place your hands on your child’s shoulders or over her hands and guide her through the request. (Together, pick up the coat)
There is no verbal communication during Step 4 and certainly no praise upon its completion.
Jessica Brashear is married with two children. Read her blogs here on momaha.
What are some of the strategies or discipline methods you’ve used at home with your child?
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