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My seriously stubborn child

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  • 1 Post By shen7

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March 21st, 2013, 06:54 AM
momneedscoffee13's Avatar SAHM to Pirate & Princess
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Location: Jacksonville, FL
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Obviously takes after his Mama!! I'm at a loss and it's getting harder to not yell and stoop to his level! lol He says "NO!" WAY too much for my liking, and he just plain doesn't listen. We've been struggling lately at nap time the most, but when I tell him to do something, he will do the opposite or just flat out say no. He laughs and thinks it's funny, or he will just repeat things that I've said. For example, if he's misbehaving, I will tell him that he can't watch Cars (his favorite movie!) that afternoon, which is almost an after nap ritual these days. But when I take it (or something else that he does every day and enjoys) away, he just says, "Oh, I can't watch Cars? Ok".....it doesn't even phase him!!! Nothing does!

Yesterday it was so bad, I told him he couldn't play with his toys that afternoon. I put all of his toys in his toybox. Did that matter?? NO! Because his imagination is so great, he was playing and running around the living room making up stories in his head without the need for props! lol I couldn't be mad of course, using his imagination for play is great and we've always encouraged it. But FRUSTRATING beyond belief!!

I'm in desperate need of discipline ideas, he's becoming so VERY frustrating lately!!

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March 21st, 2013, 07:45 AM
alittlelost's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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Strong willed/determined kids can be hard. I will tell you know though that even though this is hard as far as discipline goes, there ARE benefits to this personality. but that doesn't change needing discipline solutions that work!

First, whatever you do, don't get in a power struggle with him, or he will keep acting this way. As much as possible, just carry out the consequence calmly. Try to have no facial expression. In other words, don't let HIM phase YOU, or at least make sure he doesn't think you are phased!

I've worked with many behavioral therapists over the years, and one thing they will say is sometimes you have to stick with a consequence that doesn't seem to bother them. At first, they might just think, oh, no big deal, but with time usually they will be like "wait, actually, this quite sucks". A strong-willed kid by nature will not want you to know something bothers them, but that doesn't mean they like the consequence. They are resilient.

Also, you can give him less room to say no by giving him options. IE: would you like to take a nap in your bed or my bed? Or if that's not an option you are okay with say, "We're taking a nap after snack time. Would you like an apply with peanut butter first, or a banana with orange slices?" If it's something that needs to happen, just ignore when he says no. Do NOT give a verbal response. Just keep going about what has to happen. But also, be willing to reevaluate some things. How old is he? does he NEED a nap? could he choose between a nap or a quiet activity? If he needs a nap, why? Can that need be met another way. Sometimes kids out grow things. At a separate time, you can also say to him, "You don't like naps anymore. If you want to talk to me about why, I will listen." and after he tells you, you can say, "I understand how frustrated/upset/bored that makes you." (or whatever) "I wish you didn't need a nap. You need a nap because _____________, but we can try to make nap time better for you. What would make nap time better for you?" (pause between things you say so he has time to respond or absorb what you said). If he says he doesn't know, or stubbornly says nothing, you can say, "I'll give you some ideas. We could do something special before nap or something special after nap. Or we can get you a special nap time blanket." (give ideas). If he stubbornly says no to all those ideas, say "None of these ideas sound good to you right now, but you will still have to take a nap next time it's nap time. If you think of something before then that will make nap time better, or if you change your mind on one of these ideas, let me know."

With stubborn kids, it's all about giving support, problem solving, and boundaries, and just not getting into a power struggle. you show a willingness to make what upsets them a better situation (as opposed to just threatening to make it a worse situation if they don't do what they want) and then you leave it at that. It is then up to them if they want to make the best of the situation or not. My daughter is stubborn and will her, she will often completely resist any ideas I give her, but if I don't get engaged in her emotions (but still validate them and set clear boundaries), eventually SHE will come to ME and want to try my ideas. It can take more time with them, but when you see progress, that same stubborn determination shifts.

You can also do a reward chart. Every day he takes a nap without giving you a hassle, he gets a sticker. When he gets 10 stickers, he gets ______________ (a trip to the ice cream shop, a trip to them movies, a small toy from the dollar shop, lunch at their favorite restaurant, extra time watching TV or you can make your house a no TV house and make TV a reward. Instead of "If you don't listen I'm taking away TV" it then becomes, "If you listen, you get TV time!" Stubborn kids respond better when you show them reward for good behavior versus consequence for bad behavior. Really, you do need both IMO, but the more you can shift the angle of focus from negative to positive, the more you will see compliance. Why? Because the child is stubborn and therefore determined! They can either stubbornly not care about being in trouble (negative), or they can be determined to reach a goal for a desired reward (positive). Sometimes this is more about meeting a challenge than the reward itself.

My daughter (my stubborn one, who is actually quite a good kid) can get really stubborn when she's in trouble or put in a negative situation, so it's more about preventing her from getting in trouble by setting her up for success. Keeping her busy with a positive goal that will have a positive outcome. This shifts her from stubbornly wanting to "save face" to being determined to reach goals and please her parents.

The problem with her is when we hit the avoidable downfall, because you can't prevent all negative, and then they need coping skills. But in my experience, the key is to not go head to head with her, but to calmly give a consequence, clearly set a boundary, and set her up for success the next time. NOTE: she will not be receptive during this time. It's up to me to calmly carry out that consequence and let her know what when she is ready, to come to me and we'll talk about how to react to that situation in the future. (and it doesn't fix it right away. sometimes she needs to experience things a dozen times before she is able to deal with it, but part of that is emotional maturity and has nothing to do with her stubbornness).

Basically, what you want to do is not "out-stubborn" your child. What you want to do is motivate your child to turn that stubbornness into determination to be used for something you DO want them to do.

I think it's normal for parents that when a consequence doesn't seem to be working, we think we need a harsher or different consequence, when what we might need to do is a have a paradigm shift or just calmly continue with what we are doing and give it TIME. Usually, IMO, it's a combination of both. Yes, we need to do something different, but it's not necessarily a different consequence. It's more about setting up less need for consequence by motivating positive determination PLUS continuing with the consequences you have and not letting him see you get phased when he doesn't SEEM To care. (stubborn kids can be great at not caring when they do. My stubborn girl isn't like that, but my youngest boy has a stubborn streak that includes seeming like he doesn't care. trust me, it doesn't mean your consequences aren't good enough. I've had multiple behavioral therapists tell me to just keep doing it, don't get emotionally involved, don't power struggle, and give it time to start working).

You're doing great and I guarantee in a few months you will be like "Oh, that's not as much of a problem as it used to be" . . . and then a few weeks after that, something new will pop up because that's what kids do and that's parenting and it doesn't mean your kid is bad and it doesn't mean you are failing. It's a journey and a process and a learning experience and we all better ourselves along the way, hopefully not just from birth to adulthood, but hopefully beyond that as well.

I hope this helps. I'm happy to discuss more with you and brainstorm more.

Good luck and keep us posted!
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March 21st, 2013, 08:55 AM
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^^ lost has great advice!! But personally, I have a not-overly-verbal toddler... not sure how old your LO is... but she is not old enough to do much problem solving with me. I give her choices between A and B pretty often. But at this age they are experimenting with how different behavior invokes different reactions from you, you have to not take it personally. Do not see it as "disrespect"/"disobedience" but just them doing experiments to see how their choices and behavior can affect what happens. This is where I ditto what Lost says about CONSISTENCY... and I will also add, it is VERY important to remain calm and boring as you enforce the consequences. Make it less interesting to do the undesired behavior and more fun/interesting to do the desired behavior, just through your reactions. Also, at this age, I give choices when I can (these pants or these, etc...) but for serious things, there is no choice. I try to say what to do ("hold my hand, we're in a parking lot") but I don't wait to see if she will obey, I just immediately grab her hand as I say it. Does that make sense?

I have my bad days too. I try really hard to take care of myself so I am not overtired, frazzled, low blood sugar, etc so that I have the mental energy to be boring and calm instead of yell and get angry (my DD is like your son, 99% of the time she thinks it's funny when I do yell so it just backfires and makes me even more frustrated ). Good luck and remember this too shall pass
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March 21st, 2013, 10:14 AM
momneedscoffee13's Avatar SAHM to Pirate & Princess
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Thanks, ladies! Great advice! He isn't quite to the age of problem solving just yet. He will be 3 in May, but he is very verbal and can understand a lot. I will keep to the consistency of things, even if it doesn't seem to be working lol. Everything you all said makes total sense!

Unfortunately, my situation lately has not been ideal. My husband and I are relocating to FL and are in the process of building a house. It won't be ready until June/July, so until then I've been living with my parents in NC and he's been living with his parents in FL. Luckily, this is the last weekend of living at my parents house, we are all moving in with the in laws this weekend! While I can't say it's the best scenario, I think it will be a better living environment for Connor in the short term.

My parents and the ILs are two total opposite ends of the earth in EVERYTHING they do. Unfortunately, with my parents there is very little to no discipline (from them) and they have no problem with watching TV 24/7 and letting Connor play and do with anything he wants. When I try to be the parent, it's more like Connor has 3 parents because they interfere so much. When I say "no don't do this", they say "why not? it's not that big of a deal". VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY FRUSTRATING!!!

However, it will be a lot better at the in laws. Almost to a point of being too strict, but Connor definitely needs it for a short while to counteract the horrible habits he's gotten from living with my parents. They barely have the tv on, so it is definitely more of a reward than a discipline, we all always eat meals together at the dinner table, there's more respect and better manners at their home, it's just better for raising a child, IMO.

So anyway, thanks for letting me go totally off topic and get that off my chest! ha ha Hopefully once we are all a happy little family living in our own home again, things will be easier and better (at least I hope!) but then we will be introducing a sibling to the mix! Although, so far, Connor is very excited to be a big brother and have a baby sister, so I'm hoping it won't be a hard transition!

Back on topic: I do the same as far as when a situation NEEDS it, like holding a hand while walking in a parking lot, because he sure enough says no and tries to pull away. I do try to let him make his own choices for the most part, but I do need to get better at offering more than one choice, instead of leaving it open ended, if that makes sense! Lately, it has been EVERYTHING that he challenges, from the smallest things that I KNOW he wants and likes to do, to the things like nap time.

As for nap time, he definitely still needs it. A couple of days this week I gave up fighting with him over it (we don't have many options at my parents house, since we're sleeping in the same bed/room, so no where else to nap or even have quiet time), so we usually lay in bed together while he falls asleep and then sometimes I may leave the room, and other times I just sit there on my computer and enjoy the quiet LOL.

The 2 worst days this week, he rolled around, made noises, played around, etc....for an HOUR the first day, the 2nd day I only lasted about 20 minutes before I said I'm done. Well, the first day he crawled up into my lap asking me a question, and 30 seconds later he was fast asleep....at 5pm!! The 2nd day, I made sure he didn't get a chance to fall asleep that late in the day, and boy was he a crabby, cranky, mean, crying little boy until we went to bed a hour earlier than usual. He was out in 5 minutes!

I've tried everything from "if you take a nap we can do something special when you wake up" to "let's just lay here with our eyes closed and rest, you don't need to nap" type of thing......this should probably be a whole other post on naps! LOL

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March 21st, 2013, 12:12 PM
alittlelost's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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I'm in Florida, too! I'm sure you already know this, but the move and your husband being out of the house right now can really create behavioral problems or delay improvement in existing problems. This is not a criticism, FYI, because it's totally something everyone needs to do at some point. I'm just telling you this to help remind you that if it takes time to see results now and for a while after you move, it's NOT because you are doing anything wrong. It's totally normal child development.

The issue with the parents is VERY rough. I would tell them not to get involved, but I know that doesn't always work, so instead I'll tell you this. When people do that, it DOES make discipline harder, BUT that's a part of life. Your kids, no matter where you go, will meet people who undermine your rules (intentionally or unintentionally). they have to learn that different people have different rules and that you are the final say on things. This takes time, because they are being sent mixed messages which is confusing for a child and thus delays them reaching a point of feeling solid about your rules. But even if you were in that situation forever, it would be hard but eventually he would learn. We went through something similar before, so I've been there and understand how completely aggravating it is.

Structure is always good for a child! And having structure and being strict is definitely different from being harsh, ya know? There is nothing wrong with have structure--it's healthy. I'm glad that soon you will be able to provide that for Connor. It might get worse before it gets better (not to scare you) but it's called "extinction behaviors". When a behavior stops getting a reaction/reinforcement, the behavior gets worse in a struggle to be a behavior that still "works". If you stick to not reacting, then you won't reinforce, and eventually they realize no matter how bad it gets it still won't get reinforced, and so it does, indeed, become "extinct". My behavior therapist explained it to me You will probably see the most improvement after you have been settled in a new place for 3-6 months.

"I do need to get better at offering more than one choice, instead of leaving it open ended, if that makes sense!"
Yes, that does make sense! It's better to say "Do you want to take your nap now or in 5 minutes" than "Do you want to take a nap now?" (not that you ask him about nap time, but you know what I mean...) and when he is challenging things he likes doing, it's just totally him going through a NORMAL stage of development in testing in independence. I think it must be a fun and scary time for them, testing this.

The nap thing is rough. Shen, I think it's Shen!, has great information on Stay Listening. It might just come down to you telling him "It's nap time" and going in the room and sitting there and doing the stay listening program until he falls asleep. It might take a week or two but eventually he'll stop fighting it.

I tried look up the no phase and came up with this article, which looks pretty good...

I wish I could find the more developmental stage one. I hate to say take my word for it, but it's really such a normal part of development for the child, and the article above does explain it a little. Hope this helps!
Thank you Jaidynsmum for the beautiful siggy!
Check out the Attachment Parenting Board for Effective Parenting Solutions.
PM me if have questions about autism, TTC gender swaying, natural childbirth, going "vaccine-free", or if you are looking for gentle discipline advice.

Last edited by alittlelost; March 21st, 2013 at 12:22 PM.
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March 21st, 2013, 12:49 PM
ohnicole's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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It sounds like you've gotten some great advice. I just wanted to say that Eleanor has never been a great napper, and my general rule is that on days where she refuses a nap she goes to bed early. Depending on when she woke up that morning, she has gone to bed as early as 5:15 on a nap refusal day and still slept until her normal time in the morning. This way we have mostly avoided crankiness on nap refusal days. Your son may be getting ready to drop his nap and early bedtimes may help him while he transitions.

Last week we had several nap refusal days in a row, and one day I sat quietly in her dark room hoping that she would give in and nap. She played independently for over 2 hours and never napped! I guess sometimes they are just not ready for a nap I know it can be frustrating when you know they need the rest!
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