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Firstly hello to all of you. I have two wonderful kids...one 3 YO DD and one 8 month old DS. I'm a baby wearing/organic feeding/selective delayed vax'ing AP and NP mama.
I need gentle parenting advice for my "threenager". She is highly intelligent (at 2.5 she met all her 5 yr milestones...her led feels her IQ is in the genius range) and she is very stubborn and headstrong. She doesn't listen at all to the point where I fear her hurting herself...running away from me in a crowd...hightailing it out the front door. I have tried everything...reasoning with her doesn't work...I can ask her nicely 20 times to do something...she doesn't listen unless I yell(I DONT want to yell). Timeouts don't work/naughty step doesn't work. She has been spanked on two occasions...once by my dad when he was babysitting her during an OB appt which I was NOT at all happy with him for and he hasn't been allowed to watch her since. The other my DH swatted her as a knee jerk reaction to coming out of the bathroom to find her pressing a large ball into her brothers face smothering him (he got an ear full for that as I know she was just trying to play) but those didn't work either other than they made her fearful of her grandpa and her daddy. I am at a loss. I keep trying to remember this too shall pass but I am at a loss.
Have you tried to offer two choices so she feels like she is in control? Like when you go outside you can either be held by mom or hold mommies hand. Those are the only two choices (for safety reasons) but she gets to decide?
I would frame everything as a choice for her and see if that helps. Like when we go outside, you can hold my hand or be held. If you do not do either, we go inside. Then you can say, you chose to go inside because you didn't want to hold my hand or let me hold you. Make the discipline that simple. Another example: Also I would say don't be afraid to include her in the choices. When we go to the doc app. grandpa is going to watch you. What kind of activity do you think you would like to do so you can sit quite? She might surprise you and say I want to bring my colors or whatever. You can say bring two activities.
Then when you get there remind her that she chose to either A or B until you are done. If she is naughty then maybe Grandpa needs to hold her or take her to the car where she just sits and doesn't get to use your activities. He can say, would you like to get down/go inside and play? You chose to be removed from playing because you didn't play with A or B. So make A or B the reward for sitting nicely and not bribe sit nicely. I know easier said than done sometimes.
We do this for church. My LO can bring a few quite toys to play with in the pew. If he gets loud and we have to remove him, we hold him in the back and he can't get down and run around or play with toys. We say if you want to play with toys or get down, you need to do that in the pew. You chose to not play with your toys by screaming and throwing books.....etc. Do you get the routine?
Also I have heard it helps to practice whatever you are needing help with. Like you can practice quite time at home for 15 minutes where they maybe just color or look at books. Tell them when you start and when they are done and tell them why and what you are practicing.
That's basically what I was going to say...choices and natural consequences. The Love & Logic books are a great resource for ideas about how to handle different situations and what the natural consequences might be.
I have a 3.5 year old stubborn, smart girl as well...they are great at testing boundaries at this age. It really helps my DD to feel like she has some control thru the choices. Hang in there, Mama!
I am going to echo the Love and Logic recommendation! I don't love everything about it, but on the whole it's the best and most manageable approach that I have discovered works in most situations. As my husband says, even in times when it doesn't change the child's behavior, it certainly helps to make the adult feel calmer and control his/her behavior better (thus avoiding situations like the knee-jerk spankings you mentioned). See if you can check out the books on tape from your local library -- they're quite entertaining and a great access point for understanding the approach.
I'll also just throw this out there that for my boys (who are both exceedingly headstrong and stubborn), I've noticed that their behavior is 1000% different on days when they get to spend a large amount of time outside than on days when they're cooped up inside. They just have a tremendous amount of energy that needs an outlet, and when they get to play outside for an extended stretch, they use that energy in healthful ways and then don't feel as compelled to unleash it destructively on one another. If they play outside for a couple of hours, when they come back in they'll eat better (high protein helps), Beau will nap better, they'll be in a better mood overall....it's really an astonishing difference. I do find that with most misbehavior, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and sunshine/exercise/healthy food have been my three most effective methods of prevention.
Hang in there! This phase is always hard (especially with the very bright kids -- they know how to give you a run for your money!) But as she grows older, this phase will pass. It always does.
Thank you to the SSMC makers for my beautiful siggies!
I am going to chime in here again with another book recommendation. It is called "Ain't Misbehavin': Tactics for Tantrums, Meltdowns, Bedtime Blues and Other Perfectly Normal Kid Behaviors" by Alyson Schafer. Ain't Misbehavin': Tactics for Tantrums, Meltdowns, Bedtime Blues and Other Perfectly Normal Kid Behaviors: Alyson Schafer: 9780470679098: Amazon.com: Books I am reading it right now, and I think that I like it even better than Love and Logic. What I like best about it is that it is very accessible and easy to use. The table of contents has an extensive list of common kid misbehaviors, and then for each there is a section that discusses (a) the probably reasons for the misbehavior, and, (b) several tactics for addressing them. All of the tactics come from a philosophy of 'democratic parenting' which involves addressing the cause of the misbehavior and working towards problem-solving rather than using punishments and rewards as a knee-jerk reaction. Each section is really short and easy to read, which is extremely helpful, since I'm often reading the sections in-between dealing with other kid-related issues. Also, I like that for each issue they list several different possible solutions, as in, "If this doesn't work, then try this...." Often I find that I need more than just one recommendation in order to problem solve effectively! I highly recommend you check this out from your library -- it's worth a try, anyway.