Her Bad Mother

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rebel Angel

We have a discipline problem in our house, by which I mean to say: discipline, we have none.

We try, we really do. We bargain, we barter, we cajole, we threaten. We will bake cookies, Emilia, if you will just please listen to Mommy! We will bake cookies and have hot chocolate with marshmallows if you will please, please listen to Mommy! Mommy will take cookies away if you do not listen to Mommy! There will be no more cookies, ever, in this house, if you do not this instant start listening to Mommy! Mommy will destroy all the cookies in the world and angels will cry if you DO. NOT. LISTEN. TO. MOMMY. NOW!

But we never prevail. She is stronger than are we, and she knows it. She is patient: she knows that even if she does not get cookies today, there is always tomorrow. And she knows that if she does not get cookies tomorrow, there will be cookies some other day. And she knows that even if Mommy did try to destroy all the cookies and candy and treats in the world - which Mommy would not, because Mommy loves these things too, and she knows it - she would still have a stash, somewhere, to tide her over until the next solicitous neighbor or little old lady or shopping mall Santa slips her a gingerbread man or a candy cane or some other non-holiday-specific confection. Or she will just get the cookies herself, when we're not looking. She knows how the world works. And she knows that it works in her favor.

She is only just - just - three years old.

She is three years old, and a near-perfect angel when in the care of other authority figures (with the notable exception of my mother, whom she identified early on as possessing a spirit akin to her own and therefore as a potentially dangerous antagonist. Their relationship is loving, but fiery) and, for the most part, when in public. We spent three days at Disney World and Sea World and I - alone in charge of the girl and the infant boy - had very little trouble keeping care: he remained strapped to my chest, and she dutifully (if boisterously) remained within a shout's reach. But at home, when the only authority is my own and that of her father, and no witnesses are present, all hell regularly breaks loose, and we are helpless to stop it.

Every evening is the same: a battle over the when, where, how and why of dinner, and over the why, how, where and when of bedtime. I won't bore you with details; suffice to say that she uses her wits, her charm, sheer force of will and, sometimes, fists, to forestall sitting still, consuming food, bathing, changing for bed, and getting into and staying in bed. The morning is a variation of this struggle (reverse the order of obstacles), and afternoons, after preschool, are another. The weekends sometime erupt into epic battles, wherein she charges, naked, from room to room, cackling madly, slamming doors and diving under tables, evading our reach and our calls and our pleas for compliance. Please, sweetie, we must get dressed! We must eat lunch! We cannot see Santa/build a snowman/bake cookies unless we are dressed/have had lunch/have stopped pummeling our mother. Sometimes, it is not her physical will that she imposes upon us, it is her will-to-independence, her psychic will-to-power - her willingness to simply ignore whatever it is that we're saying and go, find a piece of furniture, push it into the kitchen and up next to the cupboards and go in search of cookies on her own, ignoring us as we stand, hands on hips, voices straining, hissing no, Emilia, we said NO. NO. Did you hear me? NO! Emilia, if you DO NOT CLIMB DOWN from that stool THIS INSTANT you are going into your buckle chair (the Stokke knock-off that functions as a naughty seat - which, yes, we strap her into because not even a team of SuperNannies could keep her in there with just a glare) and you will not have ANY cookies today, none at all, and WHERE ON EARTH ARE YOU GOING YOUNG LADY? and in the time that it takes to ask her to get down she's snatched her contraband and has done a base-slide under the dining room table to make fast work of it.

And we are left, scrambling, pursuing her into corners, sweating and shouting and stumbling gracelessly, two Yosemite Sams to her Bugs Bunny, helpless and ridiculous.

Children, Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued, are tyrants from the first. Struggling against their natural helplessness, their natural, almost slavish, dependence upon us, they strain to exert their will. Thrust into our world, entirely dependent upon us, they must either dominate us or serve us; according to Rousseau, they invariably - they naturally - choose to dominate. Their every impulse, from their very first wail, is to dominate, and by dominating, compel us to become their servants in turn. Which in so many respects we do. This is why, for Rousseau, mothers are always and necessarily imperfect authoritarians - that is, at least, if they are what he understood to be good mothers, which is to say, unconditionally loving mothers - because they are always, in some important way, subservient to their love for their children, and so less capable of imposing the harshest boundaries and teaching the most difficult lessons.

I love Emilia's domineering spirit; I truly do. But it frightens and intimidates me and - in some strange, confusing respect - shames me. She is powerful. She is fearless. She looks at the world around her and, for the most part, sees a world that can and should and will be conquered. That is a wonderful and terrible thing. It is wonderful (and this is the part that shames me) because it it is a remarkable, empowering thing, to regard the world as conquerable. It is something that I struggle to recognize for myself - that most of the obstacles that I see, or imagine I see, before me are conquerable. How extraordinary, to view the world through a lens that remains very nearly entirely unfogged by fear! But it is terrible, because - as Rousseau well knew, as we all well know - our children cannot advance into the world in that way, convinced of their utter entitlement to whatever it is that they desire, convinced of their ability to obtain it for themselves, convinced of their invincibility. They need to understand limits, boundaries. They need to understand that they must bend, give way, let go, listen, obey.

Emilia knows these things, at least as they pertain to the public spaces of her world - the spaces of school and neighborhood and friends and family. She is a remarkably polite and courteous and considerate little girl in spaces where authority emanates from some broader sphere or principle or institution, where everybody is expected to bend and give way equally, where everybody gets cookies if they say please (such are the cafes in our town, full of cookies for small children) and where everybody must wait their turn and where everybody must obey the traffic lights regardless of whether they are three feet tall or six. But in the private space of her home, where her parents loom over her like dictators - loving dictators, but still - where rules are issued that it seems only she must follow (no candy before bedtime no cookies before bedtime no playing after bedtime bedtime bedtime bedtime turn out the light put down your toys time for bed time for school time for dinner are you listening?) (she does not see that we deny ourselves - usually - cookies at bedtime. She sees only that we stay up later, and can and do reach the forbidden cupboards whenever we please) she resists. She resists, like (sometimes literally) a tiny little sans-culottes, or a tiny little Robespierre, or some explosive revolutionary hybrid of the two. She resists, and we cave to her resistance, and like France of the late 18C, we go down in flames.

It is, I don't have to tell you, exhausting. I have, in recent weeks, invoked the coal-delivering incarnation of Santa too many times (a topic for another post, another time: Santa here replaces God, watching us all to see if we are bad or good so be good for goodness sakes) and in so doing broke one of my writ-pre-parenthood Rules Of Parenting (thou shalt not threaten thy children with retribution from Higher Powers, seasonal or otherwise); I also, just yesterday evening - OH THE SHAME - slapped her tiny hand - I did, I did - not at all hard, but still - after taking one too many punches from her wee flying fists (thereby breaking my hardest and fastest rules: thou shalt always endeavor to not react in anger, and thou shalt not ever, EVER hit thine children.)

I feel like the worst shit. But I also feel like a helpless shit, one who is fighting a losing battle.

What do I do? What do you do?

For what it's worth, and because some of you have asked - we do enforce our threats. Time-out in her buckle chair is time-out in her buckle-chair - no negotiations. But she almost invariably, after time-out is over, bounds out of the chair and back into whatever she was doing that warranted the buckle-chair in the first place. We do physically stop her when, for example, she is stealing cookies (after giving her the opportunity to cease theft on her own), and our bargaining efforts escalate because she always raises the stakes - no cookies? She doesn't care. No cookies tomorrow? Doesn't care. NO COOKIES EVER? Whatever. She knows that there's no such thing as a world devoid of cookies.


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Blogger derfina said...


12:08 AM  
Blogger ScientistMother said...

As one who does not necessarily prescribe to the never spank child, I say don't feel bad. Hit hurts when she smacks you. She needs to understand it hurts. I was spanked as child. Not much and I am not suffering. My parents love me. I know that with all my heart. Emilia knows you love her. Its that knowledge that gives her the courage to push the boundaries

12:10 AM  
Blogger ScientistMother said...

Oh and SLEEP woman! If the boy is sleeping, SLEEP.

12:11 AM  
Blogger Petunia Face said...

I hesitated to comment because I'm so very afraid of jinxing myself... but my 2.5 year old responds well to the threat of the time out. I have only had to actually invoke a time out 2 or 3 times, and I admit I didn't really know what to do. I put her in her room for 5 minutes while she writhed on the floor like the demon seed gasping for breath. Then I went back in and she was more than ready to calm down. So that--just the threat of the time out is enough. I don't know why, I don't know how, I'm just crossing my fingers she never figures out that being left alone in your room for 5 minutes is hardly a punishment (and to me, is a treat).

If this comment does jinx it? I will have only you to blame and will bring my writhing demon toddler to your doorstep. ;)

12:11 AM  
Blogger Bethalea said...

I just have to tell you that this was a wonderfully written post.

I think you might want to slow down a little. I have a tyrant myself, and most things are a battle. My husband almost never battles because his first instinct is to say 'why not' when mine is to say 'hell no'.

Sometimes, if I can just say to myself, 'ok, why not have naked time. the (insert not crucial appointment/lunch/activity here) isn't THAT important.

My Sally is two and a half, and I have found that if I just sit still and let her run around and throw her fit, she will eventually come back to me. Our biggest struggle is diaper changing. Has been since she was born, honest to god. I'm getting better at not fighting her, and not even moving from my spot. She wants a cookie? OK, have a cookie, it won't kill her. If it stops being a victorious thing with your Emilia, maybe she won't have the need to fight for it. For my Sally, it's 'no, Momma is not getting up to get you anything or play or whatever until you come here and get your diaper changed'.

I'm late a lot. But my stress level is down, so I count it in the positive.

Good luck!



P.S., And/Or Drink. ;-)

12:19 AM  
Blogger Bianka said...

Mine has only just turned one year old, but I can already see in her the stubborn personality and independence that my parents told me I drove them nuts with when I was a toddler. I guess it's pay back time for me. :)

Check on me in a year or two and let me know what you've learned from your experience. One of my hard and fast rules is also to never ever hit my child(ren). I pray that I can stick by that. I don't want to hit out of anger like my folks did.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Ernesta said...

I hold my breath and tighten my fist and then explain calmly that it's not all about me, me, me (her, her, her) and that there are other people in the family that we need to be consdierate of. Sometimes it works!

12:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three is the hardest. Our strong willed daughter became more reasonable at about 3 1/2. She's still strong willed at nearly 11, but it gets easier and easier. Just do the obvious, like don't give in when you make an ultimatum. And wait. It will get easier.

1:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel you and wish I was there to give you a hug. I went through the same thing with my now five-year old daughter Boo, and my 18-month old boy (Doodle) is just getting into this.

It's tough on kids at this age. We're sending them a lot of mixed messages. We're teaching them to be more self-sufficient (e.g., self-feeding, potty training, etc.), but we want them to perform these feats in our time frames and at our pace. They get frustrated because a) they can't express their feelings in a coherent or constructive way and if they can b) they're realizing that merely expressing their desires does not guarantee that they'll get what they want.

Boo and I get into these battles all the time. When I step back, I often realize her rebellion is because her pre-k and home life are overstructured and overfull. I have to force myself to let go of the crap that I won't remember next week (e.g. did she just cheat at candyland?) and focus on making sure she's safe and healthy (e.g., no, you can't dive bomb the cat by jumping off the couch).

We even have a "No No" day every once in awhile, where she gets to call the shots (within reason). PB&J for breakfast? Sure. Cereal for Dinner? No problem! You want to ride your bike to grandma's? Great! And if you see that band of gypsies on the way, be sure to stop and say "hi!"

Good luck.I'd love to tell you it gets easier. It just gets different.


1:55 AM  
Blogger Maria Melee said...

I wish I knew. My son is two and a half, has the vocabulary of a four-year-old, and is REALLY SUPER INTO pushing boundaries and being a stubborn pain in the ass. Especially since baby brother came. I find myself yelling at him a lot and it makes me crazy because I don't want to be that yelling mom. A lot of bribery goes on over here as well.

1:56 AM  
Blogger Oonie said...

Oh, I wish I had something useful to say except that three sucks. Two needs a better PR agent because we found three to be the real problem age for our first and now, alas, for our formerly sweet-as-sugar second.
Here's the other thing, though; in an amazing lecture by a legendary professor who teaches a course called Managing People, I remember hearing that humans are at the peak of their manipulative powers at ages 3-4. At that point, they know enough of the social rules to know how to game them, but haven't internalized them enough yet to be truly impacted by them (which is why a 3 year old is more likely to be mouthy/have a tantrum than say, a five year old is. The five or six year old is starting to realize that some of his/her friends might be there and might not be impressed by his fit-throwing abilities.
Which is all to say this too shall pass.
And many of us resort to the swats, even those of us who never had them happen to us and swore them off completely pre-parenting. I'm not proud either and I don't condone it, but I will say that it happens and by resolving to try harder not to next time, and being public about it with your child, there is at least a silver lining to that.
End of screed. Thank you for sharing your family and your life with us in this way. I have enjoyed your writing since I found you this year! Happy holidays, and may Santa bring toys after all.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

That age, that age. I have a friend who calls it the "fucking threes." I remember sitting my raging, defiant son on my lap and weeping and rocking with him, crying, "Work with me. Work with me, honey. Please."

It'll pass. Eventually.

2:57 AM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

How am I supposed to write a blog post about discipline and boundaries and tyrants and dead philosophers when you've already done it?? And when you've done it in a tone and with a pace that read like it was coming straight out of my head?

I think I quit blogging. Sans-culottes. Fucking hell.

We got a call from Erin's daycare teacher on a Sunday night to talk about the very serious problem of her chemistry with a little girl who I dub Victim, because Jesus, my daughter runs straight for the edges and if no one tells her they are there she runs right them. Every eyeball is hers; every hat is hers; every neck is perfect for throttling, precious, and all done without emotion, to provoke emotion.

Well, you've saved me a post. Now I can just read your comments.

3:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She reminds me of my daughter, who is TWO and oh so very TWO and she just doesn't stop and people don't GET that she just doesn't stop, or listen or STOP moving ever.

And I love her independence and her TWO and her spirit, but she still doesn't sleep through the night and she is more stubborn than I am and she watches and waits to see if I am paying attention before doing whatever I said not to and some days? I'm just worn thin and wondering if anyone else's kids actually are like this. Amy is also incredibly good (if boisterous and energetic is considered good) out in public and with other people, but with me and her father? Not so much.

We have a baby gate on her bedroom rather than a door and when her behaviour gets too bad there are time outs. Also, our house is incredibly small so I can generally grab an arm or a leg as she races past me, even if I am 9mths pregnant.

Aside from that, I don't think there is much I can do. She is independent and stubborn and a force all of her own. I try and involve her as much as possible in whatever I am doing so she is 'helping' and I try not to sweat the little stuff. She doesn't want clothes? Fine. She doesn't want to eat? Fine, but when she says she is hungry later I offer the same sandwich/snack that I offered the first time. I let her make choices that don't matter (noodles or sandwiches for lunch?). My big thing though, is trying to limit her sugar intake as much as possible because otherwise everything revolves around chocolate/cookies/sweets and it's a struggle to get her to do anything without them.

(Heh and apparently her TWOness causes me to write in run on sentences. Sorry)

4:30 AM  
Blogger Beck said...

I've got a passionate fireball of a three year old, too - and one thing I've figured out is when her trouble spots are during the day (while her brother and sister are getting ready for school and while I'm getting supper ready). Knowing that those are grouchy times for her helps in advance - I can adjust my expectations accordingly. I've done the toddler and new baby combo twice now, and yeah, it's not easy, but responding consistently pays off in a surprisingly short while.

I don't repeat myself with my kids. Ever. She doesn't listen to mommy the first time? She doesn't get to bake cookies. Miss a pleasant experience often enough and it's funny how quickly they'll start to listen. As for her climbing into the cupboards: get some cupboard locks. Use 'em.

The fact that she hits you guys has to be nipped in the bud right now - hitting parents is taboo for a reason. And you don't want to send her out into the world thinking that it's all right to hit people that she's intimate with, either - and horribly enough, one of life's hard lessons is that IF YOU HIT SOMEONE THEY WILL LIKELY HIT YOU BACK, and it's probably better to learn this now from a light slap on the butt from mom, who loves you, then from someone who will punch you in the face at 10.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) You don't want a totally compliant child because you don't want to raise a totally compliant adult. I'm not perfect, my kid is not perfect, but I do a good job at discipline without hitting.

2) That said, assert your authority. If she's climbing a chair to get to the cupboards and you want her to stop, don't stand there with your hands on your hips begging her. Physically remove her. She's only 30 lbs, right? My 3 year old is 43 pounds and almost 4 feet tall and I still restrain, remove, and physically redirect.

3) Does she get enough gross motor activity? Instead of taking her to a cafe where she has to be relatively still and gets sugar, take her to McDonald's playplace (or the like). You must have indoor playgrounds in Canada. I find my son is a much more willing participant in errands and and bedtime and sitting at the dinner table on days he's had lots of movement.

4) Does she eat much protein? One of my best parenting tricks is the scrambled egg. A scrambled egg (or three!) is like a switch for my son. He can be a wild child, eats a scrambled egg, then 2 minutes later is playing trucks nicely on the floor chatting away.

For example, this weekend my son was behaving in a very bratty wild manner. He woke up that way. Hitting with lightsabers, terrorizing the cats, hanging up the phone while his daddy was talking to his nona, etc. So I cleared out everything fun from his room. No toys, no books, no pillows or blankets. Then he was jumping on his bed, so I removed his mattress too. I made him stay in his bare room for awhile, until my husband hollered up that he'd made eggs. I told Henry he may go down for breakfast but if he didn't straighten up he would be coming straight back to his room until his attitude improved. Well he ate his eggs up and behaved much more calmly. Over the lunch hour we went to the indoor playground where he climbed and slid and made moster faces for 90 minutes. The rest of the day he was quite well behaved.

For me it boils down to authority, following through on real punishment, exercise and diet.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Well. . .I thought living through my daughter's 3-5 year span would prepare me for anything. . .and then my son hit the age of 4. Holy moly, he can be tough.

I was of the "time outs are bad" camp, believing that punishment is not teaching the kids how to behave but to be mad at the punisher. But here's the thing: I need them to take a time out. Because, if I don't, my blood pressure rises, I get angrier, and then I blow up. When I try to put myself in time out, they fling themselves at the door of the bath/bedroom kicking and hitting and screaming, and this does not mellow me. A few minutes of them sitting on a chair in the hallway, screaming and yelling before quieting a bit, usually gets us in a better place.

And, one other thing I've learned is 'don't chase'. Turn and walk the other way. Ignore them even if you are freaking out. Turn the thermostat down a few degrees and being naked in the house may not be so exciting, especially without the chase. (chase her for fun when you think she needs to work off extra energy; make sure you have a little trampoline toy, bring a ride-on toy onto the 1st floor, etc---they need to get that energy out of themselves in some way).

Mealtime which used to be lovely, was turning awful with my 'never eat anything' son, so he is allowed to excuse himself when he is 'done', even if he eats nothing. He goes to bed hungry and wakes up to eat 3 breakfasts. He doesn't seem any worse for wear and I have learned to let it go. He'll eat if he's hungry enough.

And, hang in there---my two girls (lovely, wonderful girls) could be absolute monsters at 3-4, and possibly 5. I remember reading books about "explosive children" for my oldest, which seems laughable now.

And, you can do it. Believe that.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here I was, thinking I was the only one dealing with a kid like this. May have to try the eggs trick.

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to follow through. Cajoling, threatening and begging don't work.

I feel fortunate to have had my kids in an era when spanking was okay. I think a lot of what's wrong with the world today is that we don't spank. As you say, threats of no cookies don't work because they know there's going to be another day when cookies will exist. But a threat of three or four smacks on a padded backside works.

You don't have to be abusive. It's possible to spank kids without abusing them.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

We thought we were getting off so easy because the so called terrible two's never really *scarred* us in the bloody way we were expecting. We relaxed and laughed a bit scornfully....and then THREE arrived, haughty, impetuous, willfully deaf THREE, and life was never the same.

She's four now. I like her a lot better now.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

We are on #2 out of 4(HITTING THE TERRIBLE AGE OF 3)and I swear #2 is trying to kill me. But my husband reminds me (frequently) that #1 was exactly like this and 3 and 4 will soon follow. (My children are all less than 18 month apart and yet as each one passes out of a stage I forget that the next one will instantly go through this same thing)

I have no advice, everything I do fails. They can run circles around me and the 3 year old is smarter than me (and SO sneaky).

For now I will keep cleaning up the messes and putting my hand in poop as the 3 year old thrashes about the floor during a diaper change. And I will fall into bed with the knowledge that this can not last forever!

8:06 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

BP Dad - she is named after Rousseau's Emile. That is either perfectly ironic or perfect poetic justice. Or both.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Okay, so I have 1) drinking, and 2) eggs. Anything else?

(We do follow through on our threats. They just don't seem to phase her.)

8:11 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

First of all, my condolences - this is HARD, this parenting gig. And second, kudos to the sans culottes reference! Although Emilia might have more in common with la petrolouse instead....

Now for the assvice. The fact that she is an angel in other situations is a good thing - that means that she CAN do it. That she knows full well "how to be". I'd be worried if she was all Tasmanian Devil in every situtation. This is good. Hang on to that "phew" feeling.

It also is "good" in that she is secure enough in your love to know that she can be a complete monkey with you.

I'd take it one step at a time. You can't change it all at once - it'll be too confusing for her and you and the man will never be able to be consistent with a zillion changes at once. Then it won't work for sure.

Pick the first thing that is driving you crazy the most. And chip away at changing that.

Now her motivation. What's her currency? Is it a fave show? Is it a fave toy? Is it being with you? That'll be key to motivating her to change. That and consequences - i.e. if she isn't dressed in time, then she doesn't go to the playdate/out in the snow/museum/whatever. If she doesn't put on her jacket, then she will get cold outside.

I second and third those who said above about the diet - not so much that the sugar makes them CrAzY necessarily but that the arguments/stalemates over it are so tiring. I know it's hard this time of year but I'd reduce the amount of treats so that they are a real treat (i.e. more rare than common).

I find too that distracting through humour helps avoid a huge confrontation. I can't force the girl to get dressed fast but I can give her choices of what to wear and ask her to decide what I should wear. It's all a distraction and then she is dressed without realising it. How fast can she put on a shirt? You get the idea.

Hang in there. It'll get better.

8:13 AM  
Blogger mek said...

My own 2.5 year old daughter frequently explains to me that she *wants* to listen. Making it even harder to understand why she doesn't. We have some similar issues, and it seems like the same thing will rarely work twice in a row. My girl has also somehow learned my youngest brother's trick of embracing the punishment. "Do you want a time out?" I warn. "Yes!" she answers with delight. Even if the time out is sitting in her little chair facing a blank wall she will often run to it. But then, time out becomes a breathing space for me, a bizarre treat for her, and it isn't a punishment, but it does seem to change the atmosphere. And sometimes that is enough.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Badness Jones said...

Oh honey - it sounds like Emilia could have been separated at birth from my 2-year old Sam. They must never, EVER meet, or the world as we know it will be over. Hugs!

(And I don't know if it helps, but my daughter didn't have terrible twos, but the threes were a NIGHTMARE. She turned a corner at four though, and is now a perfectly charming five - except when she is possessed by the devil, of course.)

8:24 AM  
Blogger April said...

wish i could help. mine is headed on the same path :-/

8:32 AM  
Blogger Ms. Moon said...

One of my four children was a tyrant. From the moment of conception and I am not kidding you.
My advice- hang on and love her, love her, love her. Discipline as best you can as required, moment by moment. She is not going to be an easy teenager, either.
BUT, if your daughter turns out like mine, when she is about twenty she will turn into the sweetest, most hard-working, focused and loving individual you will ever know.
That has been my experience. Never easy, but now so sweet.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Don't feel too bad about the slap. I am filled with an unseemly rage when my daughter accidentally hurts me (real PAIN) and have been known to grab the offending limb a little too hard. I apologize. We kiss each others boo-boos and move on.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off I have to tell you my son watched the Sunday Morning Music Show and is convinced that Emilia is his sister. They do look a bit alike, blonde blue eyed and fair. But he is quite taken with her.

He will be three in January and reading your post, you could be talking about my son. Let see, here's a typical night at our house. Get home from work, "eat your dinner please" NO NO NO NO"

Mommy tries some sweet talking, which then turns into begging. We don't give him any sugar in the evening, regardless he sometimes still runs through the house screaming as if he were being chased by an axe murderer.

Then there is the fight for the bath, the crying the screaming never seems to end and then he does not want to get out of the bath because he's having such a good time.

Then there's the naked 100m dash between his bedroom our bedroom and needless to say I always come in second. We fight about p.j.'s I even bought p.j.'swith robots on them thinking this would bribe him into putting them on. Nope.

And brushing teeth I have to hold him down and tickle him under the arms, to get him to open his mouth at all. I can only imagine what my MIL will say this Christmas.

I feel for you Catherine I REALLY do, I just keep telling myself four has to be better than this.

8:51 AM  
Blogger W said...

I have no children and probably no business butting in, but a friend of mine had such a hard time with her children that she finally went to a counselor. The counselor told her to explain three rules to her children.

1. We use kind words.
2. We use kind hands.
3. We do as Mommy and Daddy tell us to do.

Any violation of those rules results in a time out. No exceptions.

My friend found that those three rules encompassed everything and gave her the power to begin to control her household again. She also implemented a sticker chart as a reward system. Her children are now better behaved than ever. And they did start this system when one of the kids was three.

Good luck to you. I will go back to lurking now!

9:05 AM  
Blogger Jezer said...

What do I do? We do not spank. But I do take advantage of the fact that I'm still bigger and--yes--stronger. Gentle advantage, that is. Granted, I have 15 years of experience of coercing little children to behave, and those 15 years have taught me one thing--discipline is nothing without consistency.

Which means that yes, when Alex was put in time out and refused to stay in the spot, I picked him up--crying, screaming, spraying snot and saliva everywhere--and placed him back on the spot. No less than 73 times in 2 minutes. When he does not want to take a bath, I ask "Do you want to get in the bath yourself like a big boy, or would you like for Mommy to put you in?" We have had a few nights when I had to put him in and then bathe a wriggling, screaming, thrashing boy. But he got bathed. And he understood that I meant it.

My MO has become one of choices. Both choices lead to the same outcome--"you pick a shirt, or I'll pick a shirt," "walk like a big boy, or I'll carry you," "help me clean up your toys, or there will be no television," "eat or don't eat (I honestly don't care about this one)." The key is to make sure both alternatives are something that YOU are willing to accept. Also, if Alex cries, he cries. Being unhappy is the consequence for not cooperating.

Sorry this was so long. Al is stubborn, moody, and would love to be in control--just like his mama. Good luck, my friend. And know you're not alone.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Jezer said...

I just reread. "Walk like a big boy or I'll carry you," is for when we're going somewhere he doesn't want to go--like AWAY from preschool. In that situation, he does NOT want to be carried. Hope that makes sense.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my youngest boy was the same. i'd tell him if you do this i'll give you candy. the little rat would just reply with, i don't want candy anyway. he could make me cry he'd misbehave so bad. i swore with a vengeance i would never spank. that kid broke me and i spanked him on the bottom one day. it wasn't hard by any means, but it caught his attention. watching my two children i have learned some kids need to be spanked. my oldest one, i can snap my fingers and point at him at what ever behavior it is is stopped. the spankings have not ruined my youngest spirit or made him mean. he's still my more loving kid and full of spunk. a firm i will spank you, i don't want to and it will break my heart, but i will spank you.
no i don't beat him, i remind him after he's sat for a few minutes to think about what he did wrong and that no matter what i love him and he's an awesome kid that is capable of so much more than the bad choices he's making.
i'm sure i will get hate comments, but my son has been much happier since i've been able to give him boundaries by spanking him.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Mandy said...

You've got tons of advice above me. I'll just say that I noticed that Nate's behaviour gets worse the more tired we are (kids sense weakness) and on the days where he does not get some full time, one on one attention from us.

Good luck with the battle. :)

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH! I do love your writing!

I hear your pain, and sheer frustration. I used to joke/cry that I was being held hostage by a three year old all day.

A friend's friend had these words to say about the ages of children: terrible twos, trying threes, fucking fours, fabulous fives... Mine entered these stages about six months ahead of time.

The other posts on giving choices (both lead to the desired outcome), diet, not chasing (waiting while appearing bored with it all), the three rules, and easing up on some things (naked lunches are just fine, as is any food they want for breakfast, as long as it's not candy), are all fabulous tools that we implemented in some version or another. In fact, not sweating the small stuff (and oh, I despise that cliche) is a saving grace of parenting intense and ferociously intelligent children.

Another thing that worked for my intense, hated to transition son, was to (a la Dora the Explorer) go through our day in stages for a while. First we do this, then that, then the other. Once they were achieved, onto the next trio of steps. Annoying for us, yes, but a lifesaver, too.

And what helped ME to calm down, was to snuggle with my little guy at the end of the day (being careful to not miss his 7 minute window for going to bed well, and even then it took 180 minutes until he was 4 1/2), and go through the things he did that day that I appreciated. (Mommy really appreciated it when you listened and helped pick up toys! It was soooo helpful, and you were such a good big boy...) And I didn't mention the negative. He went to bed hearing positive reinforcement of his actions. And I remembered that he WASN'T a complete shit all day long. So, I was able to be a bit more positive in my actions with him each subsequent day.

I hope that you can find some inspiration from all these posts that you can tweak to your family's benefit!!

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so here's my assvice and it agrees with Mamalooper. Give her choices on everything you can. Does she want to wear the pink shirt or the blue shirt? Does she want a bath tonight or not (kids don't need one every night, so let her choose)? Does she want the footy PJs or the striped ones? If you allow her to control certain aspects of her environment, the rest will go easier. It worked for Scooter but he had significant communication issues, so his frustrations occurred over every little thing imaginable. If she doesn't want to wear her coat, take it with you and let her "enjoy" the lovely Canadian winter air for a bit. As for cookies, have few to none in the house. If she refuses dinner, let her go without. She won't starve.
I think if you give her some choices about the truly irrelevant things like what she wears, you'll find her more interested in compliance on other things. We learned with Scooter that we just had to let go of rigidity about certain things. That way when we truly needed him to listen (do not run into the parking lot!), he was more likely to do so.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Tania said...

Three is kicking my ass too. I've been trying to implement the teachings from the book, 1-2-3 Magic, and it kind of works. I actually believe that it would work better if I followed through every time, but alas, I am a slacker. I do recommend that you read it just in case.

11:22 AM  
Blogger twelvekindsofcrazy said...

I love your honesty.

I honestly have no good advice for you. Derfina said "drink."
I second that.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's still bad in a couple years, you might try a therapy called PCIT. It works wonders. Most kids grow out of this stuff and don't become motorcycle hooligans, but PCIT may save your sanity in the mean time.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

My dear sweet daughter is the same. We have survived to 11 but honestly it has been a long road. It is just her. Thank God for organized sports. It has kicked her butt physically, wore her out and made it easier to attempt to bend her will my way. But the fight is always there. They can't help it, it is who they are. And honestly when I see the other little prissy girls I am so thankful she is the strong personality she is. And she finally started wearing her shirts around the house about age 8. Good luck.

11:30 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I felt like a bad mom for much of the age of three - it's a tough year, with constant testing of limits. I raised my voice more often than I would have liked and yes, once hit back before I realized what I was doing, out of sheer reflex. If there was one thing I would say you need to nip in the bud, it would be the hitting - they need to respect you at least enough not to hit you, and you as a person SHOULD feel justifiably angry and outraged at being struck. But yeah, three is HARD. Know that it will get better eventually if you stand your ground - that helps. that, and three was also the year I started shrugging off the little things to save energy for the big ones!

11:55 AM  
Blogger zipbagofbones said...

Oh dear lord, I have no idea what to tell you. I was always terrified of real/imaginary authority figures as a child, and the worst punishment I could imagine was to make my mother/father/teacher/stranger angry or disappointed in me. I don't know how my parents did it, but I do know my mom was a spanker. That was never a deterrent though, her being angry enough to spank was the deterrent.

Hang in there! And drinking never hurts.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I can help. My son, who is now 5, is exactly this way. Or can be. Here is what will help.

First, the book Raising Your Spirited Child by mary sheedy kurcinka. I don't recommend books casually because I understand the investment that goes into reading one, but you will find this book helpful and practical. It will help you understand yourself and your daughter. Love and Logic for the Early Years is very good, too.

Secondly, when you are telling her to do something and want to offer an incentive like a cookie, using the word WHEN changes it from being a bribe into an incentive. "WHEN you do XYZ you will get [insert what the child wants]." It assumes that she will listen to you and then she will get what it is she wants. My kids loved string cheese. Often I would struggle getting them out the door and into the car. I would say "When we get our coats and shoes on and are buckled into our car seats, then we will have some string cheese." Worked like magic without compromising our authority.

In any case, the book will help you develop strategies to work with your daughter so you don't feel so powerless.

12:15 PM  
Blogger maybaby said...


I've been an early childhood educator for 12 years and I have a daughter who's now a lovely 14 year old but she was a very similar three year old to your strong-willed girl.

It sounds like your daughter is not just strong willed but channeling a lot of "baby-brother-itis" energy into making defiance an art form.

I believe you that you guys are following through...are you following through without repeating yourselves? As in, say it once and then follow through with no more nagging or reminders. With kids this age it can be helpful to give them a choice ("Would you like juice in the red cup or the blue cup?") and if they try a third choice ("Green cup!") then there's no juice (or whatever).

If she's hitting, I would say to wait until she has another "rampage" or goes on a spree of defiance. Ask a friend to take her out of the house for an hour or two and when she comes back, make sure there's nothing in her room but her bed and the most essential clothing. If she hits, she goes to her room for the rest of the day (coming out for family mealtime). Her bedtime gets moved up an hour. If she refuses to eat with the family, that's fine. Back to her room until lunch. Most kids this age don't refuse to eat for long.She can earn back a toy for each day of being kind and respectful.

I know this sounds harsh, but believe me, at this age, "might makes right" and if you don't make sure she has an understanding of you as an authority figure, you'll have a hell of a time when she's a teenager.

Or when she laughingly defies you in public and slips out of your grasp and ends up out of your sight and lost...or worse.

I remember very well the utterly helpless feeling of having this tiny little human totally wreck your image of what parenting looks like.

The fact that she behaves well for others means that she thinks you guys are pushovers and that you don't really mean what you say.

Hang in there and make your word really mean something. The good news is that she won't be three forever...it just seems like it!

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Usually I just lurk, but I wanted to say Honey I feel your pain. My kids are older now, but they still like to challenge the balance of power.

It sounds to me like you are doing the right things with her, she is just testing you. You are a great mom with an excellent head on your shoulders, and you will definitely find something that works for your family.

In the mean time, there's always drinking. And eggs.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From my own experience, being consistent is the #1 priority. You and your husband need to sit down, work out a plan, and then stick to it EVERY TIME there is misbehavior. So, whenever she does xxx, this is the consequence, every single time.

I also had a hitter. The thing that was the most powerful with her was that if she hit me, I walked away and locked myself in a room where she could not get to me. It helped in two ways - she learned if she hits (or bites, which she did a few times, too!), she does not get to be with me. And it gave me a minute to calm down. I made it a significant period of time for her - say 4 or 5 min, which is an eternity to a 3 y.o.

As far as the cookies go one idea: take them out of your house altogether. Now, I could not do that but I would at least move the cookies to another cabinet when she is not looking then show her the next day that the cookies are gone, and they are now a special treat for when you are out. Period. End of story.

Or, you could tell her that she can have a cookie 2x/day (i.e. with her lunch, with her dinner) and no matter what her behavior, then she gets it. Its become a currency and there is no use debating it anymore b/c it won't work. We've used Ellen Satter's (Child of Mine) philosophy at times and put the cookie on the plate w/their food. Its the only thing they can't have seconds of, but my son will take a bite of cookie then go back to his chicken!

Have you tried a reward chart? That has worked wonders for our almost 3.5 y.o.

But 3 sucked, sucked, sucked. I spent way too much time that summer crying. I know it is hard - I have a similar 3 y.o. Hang in there. Get yourself some time to yourself - that was huge for me, too.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh catherine you need to pick your battles wisely with your little firecracker...my daughters are each very stubborn but the 4 year old outsmarts me on a daily basis.but i am also stubborn determined willful etc so i have only my self to blame...its good to give her choices as much as you can...you don;t want to break her spirit.but some days it would be so wonderful if they would just do as they are asked...good luck my friend

12:51 PM  
Blogger Jeni said...

Same kinds of problems here. My 2 year old girl is developing a sneakiness & selective hearing that I DO NOT WANT. Some days I feel like I spend my life reprimanding/cajoling/time-out-ing/spanking.


12:56 PM  
Blogger Blooming said...

Stop cajoling. Stop bribing. Stop threatening. Stop asking more than once. If she can't do what she is told the first time she is asked, she goes immediately to time out. No warnings. If she goes right back to doing it, she goes right back to time out.

Find someone who is willing to do that for you, and who can also make a mean margarita. Once everything is straightened out at your place, send them around to the rest of us. Who doesn't need a margarita?

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's a good thing I didnt bring Tessa with me when we met. Chances are we would have wound up tied to chairs and my car keys stolen.

The best thing I ever started to do was sit down and tell Tessa the rules.

I told her what she could do first and then what was a no no. After that every single time she did something she knew was wrong, I picked her up and took her directly to the corner (or the buckle chair in your case)

I did this wordlessly and consistently. There was about 2 weeks where i felt like a damn prison warden

slowly but surely things in the house improved.

Now that she's older we make her march in place. She hates it but it can be done anywhere (enforceable AND embarrassing)

I think you did a remarkable job while on vacation with 2 kids ALONE

1:06 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Cordy has recently started doing many of the same things. (Which, btw, can I tell you how annoying it is for her special ed teacher to tell me that this is great because she's exhibiting typical behavior for a 4 year old!)

We've tried the bargaining, and it takes little time before kids learn to exploit that. Anytime I tell her she can have one cookie, she immediately says "No, 10 cookies!" and the haggling begins.

My recent strategy is to give two choices for anything, with accompanying effects from those choices. She can stop what she's doing and we'll do something we both like, or she can continue and will go to time out.

When time out doesn't work, we start looking for things that mean a lot to her. Each further breaking of the rules results in one of her favorite items going away. We don't say for how long, but her toys always come back the next day. If we needed to, it would be longer.

She once went to bed in a nearly empty room due to a particularly bad day. I even took away her favorite blanket. Now I need to only threaten to take away something important and she stops.

I know you're strong willed. Meet her will with an iron will of your own. Hold firm. And then drink when she's in bed.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't had chance to read all the other comms so hope I'm not repeating! My little boy is 3.5 and so far has been pretty good. I've always been of the opinion that so long as they behave in public and at other people's houses then I don't really care how he plays up at home.

However when he does decide to play up I try very very hard to ignore him. He doesn't want to eat, I ask him three times if he wants it, he still says no then it goes in the bin and he can go hungry. He learnt pretty quickly that not having lunch wasn't that great and if he didn't eat dinner then it was hard going to bed hungry.

He doesn't want to put a coat on? He gets cold. I buy so many treats in a week, he steals them. Oh well, there's none when he is allowed them. I don't brgain, I don't cajole. I just shrug and let him learn that his actions have consequences. Is she enjoying the reaction, is it the thrill of the battle for her? Take away the battle and see what happens.

And the tapping hands? Oh man, my son has had so many tapped hands and legs. He's perfectly fine and a very well behaved child. I find a little smack every now and again makes for a much happier child than the ones who get yelled at 10 times a day. What works for you works be it a smack or a yell. If your child respondes then do whatever it takes.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

Oh Catherine,

I sooo feel this post. It has just over the last few weeks dawned on me that Graham's tantrums, his excitement, his refusal to listen is escalating to thepoint where it not so cute anymore. Almost overnight it's gotten out of control. I seem to have no authority at all anymore and that's a terrifying prospect going forward.

I'm afraid I have no advice, but I will be rereading every single one of these comments...

1:51 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

As others have said, you could have been writing about my 3 year old daughter. We had her baby brother in September, so between that & her turning 3 in November, I lost my sweet girl and now have a little monster about 50% of the time. Only she acts up in public, too. I've resorted to spanking (never say never) and it worked for some time, but now she doesn't care, plus I hate doing it. So now we're back to time outs again. I like the buckling in idea, sounds much better than the 3 hour Supernanny standoffs we have had. Hang in there!

1:58 PM  
Blogger Forgotten said...

I have no assvice for you since I am currently dealing with the beginnings of this with my twins. One listens like a dream, the other completely ignores me and his daddy. I hope that it really does get better because mine are only 20 months and I'm expecting #3 in a few short months. I have absorbed the advice of the other commenters though and I can see a few things I have been doing wrong myself. I think from now on I'm going to start putting some of this into practice. I'm one of the beggars myself. I don't spank and I have only smacked hands at very bad things like touching light sockets, playing with electrical cords, etc. I have all the safety measures you can imagine in my house but they still find those few things I missed on the first trip through, you know? Reserve the hand smacks for the really bad stuff and it truly does get their attention. Good luck dear with all of it and I hope that you found some advice in the other commenters that helped.

2:09 PM  
Blogger anniemom said...

I know. I know. And I know. Here's the skinny from child psychologist land...

Get a book (again, I know) called 1-2-3 Magic. It's a system being used in schools, counselor's offices, at home, by caregivers, and I shit you not, IT WORKS. It's a theory that there is some necessary training needed, under the old "I'm counting to 3 and then time out" umbrella. But you don't talk. You don't explain. You don't show any emotion, zero. ie: Emilia throws her food at the table. She knows that's not cool, and mommy says quietly, "That's 1." She gets excited, throws food again. You wait 5 seconds. "That's 2." She throws again. "That's 3. Buckle chair time." The key is, ZERO cajoling, zero discussion, zero emotion. When buckle chair time is over, STILL no talking or explaining. She knows what she did. When you read the book, it'll tell you all the reasons you're already thinking... "That will never work because..." But I'll be damned, we are doing this with our son, and it's unreal. We almost never get past 1 before he flies right, so to speak. These kids love to exert control over adults in any way possible - - even eliciting negative feedback is exciting. But this? They don't get the emotion. They just get the punishment. And if it's consistent and unpleasant enough, holy crap. Works. On that note, you are a GREAT parent, doing the hardest fricken job there is. I am a mom of a preschooler and a 3 month old, and dear God, I am an exhausted, piddling, fearful, guilt-ridden mess. But 1-2-3? Rocks our world. That, and Shiraz. xoxo, Email me if you want to know more, it's hard to cram in to the comment section, and I'd be happy to paraphrase the book and save you $15. ;) annietown@yahoo.com

2:14 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I wrote a response on my own blog - something I've been ruminating on for a while, and you were my catalyst. See:


2:22 PM  
Blogger Amy B said...

Fabulous writing, as always!

I was going to suggest what Sharon already suggested - instead of putting her in time out, put yourself in time out. Perhaps that would scare/upset her enough to know you mean business?

The only other suggestion I have is - have you figured out how to hit her where it hurts? And I don't mean actual hitting; I mean a punishment that actually punishes. Taking cookies away, time outs...if these things don't phase her, then you should try something else. Does she have a particular doll or toy or blanket that she is completely attached to? A video she absolutely loves? You need to take away something that she cannot do without, and that she cannot get anywhere else. And no matter the heart-wrenching tears and cries, you have to stick to it. You need to find a punishment that actually hits home to the fact that you are in charge and there are painful consequences to misbehaving.

I know this is what you have been trying to do. We are rooting for you! Good luck and I wish you all the best and a bit of peace this Christmas. :)

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emilia sounds exactly like my younger sister. Smart, willful, demanding, clever, stubborn, and determined (and a cute little blonde kid!). I distinctly remember my mom crying when my sister was 3 years old because she just did not know what to do next to make her behave (I was 9 at the time; I'm 6 yrs older). Gotta admit, 15 years later not much has changed.

Why nothing changed? A few reasons: My parents never enforced threats or "rules", had no chores or responsibilities ever, never had to earn money, and she always got what she wanted: the new American Girl Doll, Skittles from the candy cabinet right before dinner, a magazine on spur at the grocery store, etc. She had her own dinner because she refused to eat most food, tore through Christmas presents super-fast then pouted if others were still opening theirs - and yet at school and in public, she was fabulously behaved.

I've nannied and babysat regularly for over a decade now and I've found that, like most things, what works discipline-wise varies kid to kid (duh, I know, way to state the obvious!). What I've learned (especially from the week long overnight nannying experiences!)...
- don't yell unless its an emergency or very serious.
- stay calm. dont let her know she's winning or getting you upset.
- follow through. if you say "no cookies" do no give her one.
- ignoring tantrums is usually less stressful than fighting them. or, repeating "i'll talk to you when you (insert something here, ie, stop screaming)" very calmly.
- use "punishments" that won't be worse for you than them. don't take away time to watch a tv show if it means you'll be dealing with a crabby toddler for that period instead.
- give her choices. this is good for so many thing: independence, ideally cutting back on tantrums, and learning to take responsibility. "today you can have 1 cookie. do you want it now or later?" (and follow through). takes some time til they get it but often works pretty well.
- find out techniques her teachers use and maybe try them too.
- don't forget, she'll grow out of it eventually

Get some sleep if you can!!

Your kids are seriously beautiful and funny and wonderful. They're a credit to you.

And hell, don't forget what the first commenter said: you can always drink. ;)

2:33 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Clearly, I should be drinking more.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I do likethe 1-2-3 idea, might start using that myself!

Get out of the house more. Staying at home all day is asking for trouble at our house. We go to the YMCA (free child care!) and the library pretty often.

Let her watch TV! Half an hour saves my sanity.

Give her a cookie or a piece of cake/candy if she eats a good meal at lunchtime and dinnertime. Food should not be a reward for good behavior.

Good luck. Three sucks.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

What Kate said: Three sucks. Four is better. Anything is better than 3. Three is the new terrible twos.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

Well, I'm clearly no expert, but I will agree with a lot of what's been said already:

1) You already follow through on threats - say it once and implement it. I've noticed with a friend of mine that she does this - she does absolutely follow through on her threats, but she gives her son a lot of chances before she does, and he is running rampant.

2) If the threat of no cookies doesn't phase her, then find what does. Every kid has their price. (God, I'm a good parent).

3) Give choices whenever and wherever you can. The choice is one or the other and nothing else. End of story. Gives them control, but also an understanding of your control.

Again, I'm not perfect or an expert, but I do think the above things help, not hinder the problem.

Good luck!

3:45 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

I endeavor to keep both the rules and the consequences simple and consistently applied.

I frequently fail, but I continue to try.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Major Bedhead said...

I have this, times two, at my house and I have no clue. I yell too much and want to run away much of the time. It was suggested to me today to try one-on-one time with each girl, which means staggering naps and I don't know if my already-fragile sanity can take that.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy hell, three is tough. Three runs circles around two - I have to say that I am partial to the even years.
I say this with no judgement whatsoever, but I'm guessing that your daughter senses your fear and is thriving on it. Cut down on the warnings and negotiations, they learn to tune them out - fast, concrete reactions and no second chances may be necessary for awhile. You can be in charge while still demonstrating respect. I wonder if restraining her in time out is effective, although I appreciate what you're saying about her staying put. If she does not stay on her own accord, I'm not sure that she is learning much by being there.
Again, I say this without judgement. The early years with little ones can be dark, I know I've been there. Good luck.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have lots of great advice here. I am some 6 months behind you with my older boy so I won't offer any. Advice, that is. But after reading the comments I am hyperventilating because I am only at 2.5 and 3 is coming and WHERE CAN I HIDE.

Good luck. I have taken to baking during naptime and hiding all the cookies in the freezer.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Lydia said...

I feel for you, I really do. My Jake (4) has many of the same issues.
I have found that--as hard as it is--ignoring the behavior has helped. When he acts in a way i don't like, I walk away. Of course, if there's harm afoot, I don't go very far! But I don't give him what he craves most--ME.

It kills me to turn away from him. But I tell him "I don't like your actions and I will not pay attention to you while you do them." Then I turn away. Somehow--it's working. We have much less hysteria now.

And I have also decided-- go ahead. Eat the damn cookies. Then when his tummy hurts, I don't profess sympathy. One incident of eating JUNK won't kill him, I figure. And maybe learning from one's own mistakes is a better teacher.

I guess what I'm sharing is--stop saying no all the time. Pick the battles. I'm not saying it's all happiness and sunshine in our house, but there is quite a bit less yelling. I make it all about HIS choice.
When getting dressed-- "You can choose this shirt or that one." There's no choice of NOT getting dressed, only the choice of what to wear.
"You can have a cookie now, but that's it. If you want a cookie after dinner, you can't have one now. You choose."

i keep hammering in--it's HIS choice.

Hope this helps.

5:47 PM  
Blogger me in the pink said...

OMG. I just read your blog (first time - linked from Redneck), and it completely reminded me of my daughter - now 18 yrs. old. Here's my advice - wait it out. 15 years!!!! My daughter was *exactly* like that. And it didn't get much better until she left for college! So - hang in there. In 15 years she'll be packing her bags for college. You won't believe how fast the time goes.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Loonstruck said...

Timers. The timer saved us. He was a nightmare when it came to transitions. We set the timer and said we're gonna go in 5 minutes when the timer goes off. After about a week, he was practically sprinting out the door when the timer went off. Essentially, he thought we were stealing time from him. The sound also helped. He knows the sound means a change and it's just easier to accept.

I second, third, fourth the choices you can live with. All day long. We can take this route home, or that route home. You can have the big spoon or the little spoon. You can complain about brushing your teeth and we'll read one book or you can brush your teeth and we'll read two books. (The nights I took away books were the hardest nights for me, him too.) It is exhausting coming up with choices but it works. Mine just wanted some power. He understood the consequences so much better when he made the choice. Didn't mean he wasn't still mad. But he rarely made the same bad choice twice.

Distraction and jollying are par for the course, even at 7. I don't have to do it all day long, but I do have to recognize when he's feeling out of control and help him find his way back.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Less talk/explanation, more action.

Think like the "Dog Whisperer" - and Be the pack leader that She needs you to be!

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lot's of good stuff here.

Perhaps a conversation with your pediatrician or a nutritionist is warranted. Some kids are very sensitive to certain types of food (i.e. dairy or wheat) and it totally whacks them out.

I'm not suggesting if you eliminate wheat she'll be a docile Angel, but she might be more bearable.

I hate to add one more thing to your list of to dos, but keep a food journal of the things she eats (that you know of) and see if you can tie the explosive behavior to anything in her diet.

Please keep us posted.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Sierra said...

I had no idea that Grace lived with you. I was under the illusion that she lived here. Maybe my life is just one long, mostly tedious dream...

8:45 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Oh, and hire Kate for your nanny! Her advice is right on :-)

8:48 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

I'm just glad I'm not alone in the "easily manipulated by my children" department.

As for the light slapping misstep - been there, forgave myself. Try it? Maybe?

8:54 PM  
Blogger Annie, The Evil Queen said...

My son is 3.5 and we're also battling. Same strong will here. We used to buckle him into a time out chair, but it didn't really phase him. I've found that what he doesn't like is to be isolated from us. So the new punishment is that he goes to his room. If I need to, I gate him in there with the baby gate. Usually, he doesn't play with his toys, he stands up there and cries because he isn't with us. It has been much more effective. Some days he spends a lot of time in there. But we're seeing progress. Good luck.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Shonda Little said...

First, listen to Derfina and booze it up. It won't solve the 3 year old blues, but it sure makes them funnier. Then keep blogging about it. Also won't fix the problem, but it makes me feel better when I do.

Being a parent is just hard. I've had these same feelings myself a million times. I have two GREAT boys. But, like both their mother and father, they have strong personalities. The thing that seems to work best with both my boys is taking away their favorite toys. The first offense leads to their trains being put on the refrigerator for five minutes. If they do it again, I put them up for an hour. Third time they lose them all day. My oldest loves going with my husband to check cattle. If he's been bad, he can't go. And, he has a teacher he loves. So, the mere mention of, "What would Mrs. Fryman think?" makes him freeze in this tracks.
Yet, with all these and many other tactics, I still have several instances every day. The problems you are having with Emilia are the same in every home with a child her age. The important thing is you see it and address it, even if it is unsuccessful.

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my 3 year old was doing the same this summer with the no sleeping. we chalked it up to new baby bro, new house and new big bed, and potty training. now he's finally settled down and will go to sleep without drama, but it took some time.

they all act like polite angels to strangers, teachers, relatives, and like jerks at home. because they can? because they blow off steam at home? who knows, but when i can't take it anymore i check out the appropriate edition for the age by this author, Bates Ames. E.g. - "Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy." i like this series because the books are short, and the letters to the editor are funny and dated.

i wish i had started using the santa threat months ago. but you've got to figure out what is their 'currency' or else they don't care. obviously it's not cookies for yours, but there's got to be something out there that she cares about losing or getting or not getting. good luck figuring it out!

also, if my guy doesn't want to eat, he goes hungry. i try not to engage in that particular power struggle. it's not fun to battle if you don't take the bait! or, i'll just spoon it in his mouth; some nights he fights eating until i put it in his mouth then he cleans his plate. lazy? can't work the fork? no idea.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

You are a brave woman, opening the gates to assvice central, my friend heh.

I'm still reeling at the fact that E doesn't respond to the naughty spot (English accent required). She who climbed chairs at 9 months. I imagine needs more.

Perhaps writing out Dante's inferno backwards... NOW THAT will do it. :)

10:02 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

And I second the dog whisperer thing.

Although if you follow his advice, you'd have to walk her on a leash, which I actually do with Drew -- except w/o the leash and instead of outside we let him run laps in the basement.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 3 year old girl as well. She is testing every limit/rule we have. When I tell my mom this she said, quite sagely, find the thing she doesn't like and that's her punishment. My daughter HATES being alone right now, so punishment is first time out, if that doesn't work then it's time out in your bedroom. I have held the door closed to keep her in. She calms down and starts over. Some days are better than others.

K's new game - "naughty" words; the latest is "butthead". I have told her that I will wash her mouth out with soap.

I have figured out that some of this is because K wants attention. We also have a younger brother, J; he is one. A fix for this is K goes to the store with me on errands; the catch is she needs to be good BEFORE the errand. J is home with Dad - since we have no other family nearby.

This is what works for us...take what you can and good luck!

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's in Charge Anyway?
by Kathy Lynn (Author))

Kids Are Worth It! : Giving Your Child The Gift Of Inner Discipline
by Barbara Coloroso (Author

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. Fantastic stuff! You can get books at your library or bookstore- and they also have sound recordings - one great one is re: toddlers. It's common sense kind of stuff, but it works so well. I just got two new books for Christmas from my sister.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Ah, MU - it's only assvice if it's unsolicited. I *need* the advice.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things come to mind. First, if she's anything like my son, she thrives on the chasing and the begging and the negotiation and other forms of ATTENTION, especially with a younger brother.
Everything worked better with my son when I quit talking. He got one warning. Then he was picked up and taken to his room for timeout -- no explanations, no nothing. He stopped defying, and I stayed much calmer. If I couldn't reach him, I stayed completely still and silent; the instant I could, into time out he went.
Aall still works best when I stay completely zen, and act like what he does, doesn't affect me.
The second thing is, hitting me always, always promoted a timeout. Once when he was four (and 4 feet tall, 48 pounds -- I couldn't possibly have lifted him and carried him out if he was struggling), he swatted me in the middle of a church service. I grabbed his shoulder with one hand, and twisted his arm around behind him with the other (your basic half Nelson). When he opened his mouth to yell, I whispered in his ear "If you don't fight me, it won't hurt." And out we went.
He is never, never allowed to hit anyone. Ever.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Baby in the City said...

ooooo, let's talk. Hop is testing boundaries and driving us mad!

I've read a great book on this stuff and we've had success using its methods.

You mention that E understands and abides by the rules out in public; she appreciates that everyone needs to follow instruction sometimes, but inside your house she protests at being the only one with rules. Well, according to the book, she needs to see you follow her dad's rules (and/or instructions), right along with her, and other times see dad do what you say, right along with her. Take turns as the authority in the house but more importantly, demonstrate that she is not the only one following rules - both of you do it too. I've tried this and it is incredibly effective.

Example: Hop wants goldfish crackers before dinner. Just saying "Daddy is cooking dinner and has asked us to wait (and yes, he actually has to say it). I'm hungry too but Dad asked me to wait, so I'm doing what Dad says. We BOTH need to listen to daddy and he says wait for dinner."

This shit works. It takes time, but we've dodged so many power struggles through methods like this.

You can go so far as telling K to get dressed in the morning (at the same time you tell E) and have him declare that he is going to do it right now cause Mom said so (and he does need to do it). You can ask/tell as nicely as you like, the nicer the better, but E must see it happening, and even if she doesn't follow at first, she'll get it, just like she does in public.

The book? Positive Discipline. Awesome book.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

BITC - we're gonna talk about that on Thursday, FOR SURE.

Now - am still wondering - when she hits me - what's the best thing to do? At the moment she gets automatic time out, but it's not stopped her from doing it occasionally (for the record, I think that hitting is being learned at school - she talks about certain boys hitting - the teachers address it, but still - she's getting the message that it's a way to express anger)

11:34 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

You've just described my firstborn daughter.

She's NINE.

And we've experienced the ebb and flow of this strong personality for years.

I think the number one piece of advice is consistency. Whatever you do, do it all the time. Every time. She's waiting for you to alter your resolve.

When she hits, grab her hand firmly and put it to her side. "DO NOT hit mommy." And then walk away, don't have anything to do with her for a couple of minutes. Let her feel your pain and disappointment. Do this every time. Deep within her she wants your approval, attention, affection.

My daughter is the strongest, most determined person in our home. And even now, there are days...

But I love her strength, passion and I'm so glad she can let her hair down at home where she feels safe. I'd hate for others to see her at these times. But she knows we'll love her and accept her no matter what.

Even if she drives us to drink wine after she goes to sleep.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Tootsie Farklepants said...

The occasional spanking worked on my oldest son. It didn't phase my youngest son. I spent a lot of time physically removing him from situations...repeatedly. It was exhausting but necessary. I never negotiated.

I've also resorted to removing gifts from under the Christmas tree, opening them, then returning them. It broke my heart to watch them crumble when they seemed to physically ache from my following through with my threats but it worked.

None of my children ever hit me but my daughter did give me a good kick to the stomach when I was changing her diaper once (she was about 2 at the time) and I smacked her bare ass. She never did it again.

That being said, I still had many MANY moments where I felt like I was fighting a losing battle.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Binkytowne said...

I have a son who is just like your daughter. I got the book Parenting your out of control child. In it, it suggested if they hit you (and he did, again and again) it's an immediate time out while holding their arms down either at their sides or behind the back. It sucked and I hated it but it did work to improve the situation. He still does it from time to time but it's much better.

Overall, that's a great book. You may have a method and your husband may have a method but we didn't see any real results until we both got on the same page. Instead of deciding which offenses warranted what kind of discipline when they were happening, everything went straight to the time out/naughty chair; no yelling, remove the emotion, no negotiating.

Sorry this is rambling. I really recommend the book. It didn't solve all our problems but it was a really good start.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Velma said...

I'm sorry to say I don't have the time to read through the other comments, so I apologize if this has been said before. One of the big lessons I've learned about discipline at this age is to frame the interactions in such a way that it is easier to say "Yes" to your child than "No." And then, when the behavior is clearly unaceptable, to have zero tolerance for it.

So, in our house? YES, you may have a (teeny tiny) cookie if you do X, and YES, you may have another (teeny tiny) treat if you do Y! (We used a couple of Smarties or Tic Tacs or Tootsie Roll midgees or Trident gum, etc.)

YES, you may take off all your clothes and run around like a crazy person and shake your bum at me... for 5 minutes before your bath.

YES, you may talk bathroom talk, but only in the bathroom....

As far as the hitting, that's when we shut down on the fun. I remember holding my son for time-outs because he wouldn't stop thrashing. We have certain things that are unacceptable, like hitting and (really) bad words and unsafe behavior, and for those things, we timed out the kids like crazy.

With clever preschoolers, though, they will just keep hammering away at you. Exhausting as it is, in the long run, zero tolerance for those particular behaviors makes it much clearer for them to understand what is acceptable and what is not. Even if you have to give 16 time outs in a single night, like one memorable evening in my house a few years ago...

Good luck with it - it's a tough age. Once they get to school, you will be amazed at how much easier it is, really. Small comfort, I know. :)

12:00 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

I really liked 1-2-3 Magic. He (the author) has a newsletter on the internet and his book is available at the library (even on DVD!) It felt strange at first - not explaining, not bargaining, just 'That's three - take five! Up to your room!' but BY GOD IT WORKS. With BOTH my boy the aspiring politician (he can talk his way out of anything) and the drama queen.

My mother used to tell me that kids needed a Mom to be a Mom, not a friend. (squirms) She was right, but the hardest bit for me is knowing how to do that.

Good luck, C. Boy, you've had a hell of a time lately, huh?

12:12 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Oh, and every time I see that picture I think 'Why does E have a coffee cup and a cigarette?'

But that's just me.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Velma said...

Adding to my assvice after reading through the other comments. I did make a special effort to schedule one-on-one time with my daughter after her brother was born. It's something to keep in mind, because it really helped her - especially when her brother's behavior became problematic - to know that she would have me to herself for a chunk of a specific day each week. We would do something low-key but special together, like go fly kites at the beach or to a far away new playground, and it also gave me something to hold over her head for blackmail purposes!

I have tons of friends who swear by 1-2-3 Magic, although with my son's issues we pretty much used "1 Strike and You're Out." But by the time he was 4 1/2, all I had to say was, "Do I need to start counting?" and he'd stop. It WILL happen for you, so hang in there!

12:20 AM  
Blogger Carrien Blue said...

I don't comment much, I also don't usually pitch in with parenting advice on a blog post, but since you asked...

First, I have 3, ages 2, 5 and 7. I was also mentored as a mother by my grandmother mother to 11, and my mil mother to 8. They were smart women.

Second, I spank. thought you should know before I go ahead and give advice. but I spank as a very careful and well considered response to disobedient behavior. In other words, I haven't ever struck a child when angry or as a reaction. I calmly and quietly take them to their room, repeat the ritual, "What did mommy say to do? Did you do it? What happens when you don't obey mommy? That's right, you choose the no no stick? etc."

It's a consequence that works effectively with littles. It's immediate, it's dramatic, memorable, and unpleasant enough to be an effective deterrent, without doing any real or permanent damage. It stings a bit, and then it's over.

And that's what discipline should be. Otherwise it's not going to make enough of an impact.

Most important though is the time spent after hugging kissing cuddling, restoring the relationship together again. This is important no matter the form of discipline, This is what ties your hearts together through any experience. This is the part missed by many.

That said, I suspect you are a parent who would prefer not to spank. I understand, I wanted that too at first, I still wish there was a better way, but as my husband says, I love my kids more than I love my parenting theories, and it works.

It's important that it works, as you point out. Will must be tempered with self control, respect, etc.

Whatever the consequence, you must be willing to administer it relentlessly.

And so, with all that preamble here are a few things I can say from experience that you may want to change to make your discipline more effective.

As soon as your voice is straining you have already lost. She knows, can here in your voice that she is in control and you are not. Do not wait until your voice is straining, do not give her time to stop herself. She has shown you that she won't, and she knows how far she can push you.

Say it once, calmly and quietly. Count to 10 in your head. Then you pick her up and strap her in her chair. That's it. When she gets out of the chair and goes back to the forbidden things again do not even speak/threaten/cajole. She knows she is breaking the rules. Don't change the consequence and tell her no cookies ever that just confuses things and tells her that you don't really have a plan. Simply pick her up and put her in her chair again, calmly quietly, in spite of the raging. Do not stop this until she has submitted to your authority. Be prepared to do this 20, 30, 40 times over and over again, especially at first. This is where spanking is helpful, it accelerates the process, takes less time, especially if you are cuddling after the disciplinary action.

My son and I spent an hour or two one day locked in a power struggle like this, he was 2. My MIL came out to where we were at the time and mouthed over his head as I held him in between, "You know you have to win this one?" And I nodded. I thought he would never obey. And then, to my wonder, he finally just did. He is still my most obedient child. Because I stood my ground. Calmly, firmly, lovingly, refused to let him get away with it, no matter how long it took. That's all it takes. My children are calmer and happier when I am disciplined enough to maintain firm disciplinary boundaries. It makes them feel safe to know that the rules are going to change.

Here's the real secret, to discipline one's children effectively requires extreme self discipline on ones own part. It requires the belief that proper discipline is important enough to spend real time on.

It will pay off in the end.

That's what I've got. If you were my best friend sitting in my living room asking the same question, that is what I would tell you. Though if you were my best friend you would already know that about me anyway, and would have seen it in action.

I hope it helps.

1:05 AM  
Blogger Carrien Blue said...

On hitting-A child usually only ever hits me once. And I take care of a lot of children these days.

The instant they hit, even just a little bit with anger behind it, I grab both wrists, hold firmly, get right in their face and in a scary firm sort of quiet voice say, "You don't ever hit me!"

They usually burst into tears, and then I comfort them, and they don't ever do it again. One child I had to restrain physically for a minute or two he was so angry, and when I finally let go of him he ran away. And then we moved on to other things and were friends again in a little while, and he never hit me again. Still hit his mother, but never me. But she was too timid to say no and mean it.
They have to know they have crossed a line. They have to feel it. And they have to learn a healthy dose of respect for where that line is.

1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH my lawd, lol! I'm not laughing at you, but with you. Either by luck or the grace of God himself I've not been where you are right now. I suspect luck, because God loves us equally.
Ignore the people who are saying to hit that child. The few times I've resorted to it, it did not help. It only made the situation worse.
Keep doing what you feel is right. If it still doesn't work, it's time to call in a professional. There may be something in that child's precious little head that is a tad bit different than what's in most of ours, and someone can help you figure out what that is. Hitting is NEVER the answer.
Ame I.

1:32 AM  
Blogger Maria Melee said...

Re: Child hitting parent. Let me know if you get good suggestions. Chipmunk has been hitting me for about six months, and more often now that baby brother is here. He also hits the baby. We've tried time outs, stopping playing with him, putting all his toys away, a smack to the top of his hand, and lots of conversations about not hitting. (At various times over the past six months, not all at the same time.) He's 32-months-old now. I hear its a pretty common thing, but it sucks. There's nothing as heartbreakingly insulting as being smacked in the face by your own kid.

3:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a strong willed daughter who is finally coming out of the stage of always needing to test boundaries in such a defiant way (she's 6).

I wanted to second the advice of a couple of previous comments:

1. G would thrive off of the attention and chaos she was creating, so I learned to stop giving her that kind of attention. I don't bargain or negotiate when it comes to her doing what she is told or stopping when I say stop. (We do bargain/negotiate on things like what toys can be brought on an outing or how much extra t.v. time she gets on a rainy day, etc.) If she persisted in something I asked her to stop, I physically removed her to her room and shut the door. If she doesn't do what I have asked, I try to allow her to feel the natural consequences of it like going hungry because she didn't eat, but sometimes we have to create a consequence if the "natural" ones are too far off to make an impact. Now that she is older, we also talk about, and sometimes have to address, her attitude in these matters as well.

2. I also wanted to echo what someone else said here first, and that is that it is okay for children to be upset at the discipline you give them. In fact, I would say that if they do not seem upset by the consequences you're imposing, then you may need to find something that does. We tried time-outs with G, but they didn't seem to have the corrective effect we were looking for. She didn't like time-outs, but the threat of one didn't stop her from misbehaving. We discovered, though, that if we took away a treasured toy, THAT stopped her dead in her defiant little tracks. Now, the first few times we took away her "buddies," you would think we were killing somebody the way she carried on. However, we only had to follow through on that threat once or twice before the mere warning of it was enough to get her to listen. For your daughter, if taking away cookies doesn't really matter to her because she knows that there will be more cookies eventually--then you need to find a punishment that has an impact. And it is okay if it is an upsetting impact. The whole point is to make it something that she will want to avoid in the future... something that she is willing to make a better choice to prevent from happening. Before long, she will be regulating her own behavior... as long as you are consistent.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

My son is 4 1/2.
Right around his 4th birthday I discovered the book "The Explosive Child".
The focus is on kids who explode, and kids with problems like ADHD, etc.
BUT, the way discipline is explained is incredible.
For us time outs/threats weren't working and I was getting angry and shouting.
I shout far less and Matt is way more cooperative. It also lays the groundwork for better communication.
It's worth a read (in all your spare time).
And, just to clarify, I'm suggesting you read it for what they say, NOT because I think Emilia has ADHD.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My oldest is the child of which you speak. I have no suggestions other than what you are already doing (be consistent, etc etc). For us, the threat that worked the best was the TV, as he knew we could take that one away and it would never come back, and he loved his half-hour of TV before dinner. Cookies, eh, there will always be cookies ;-).

He is finally coming out of the awful defiance in the home stage, and has turned into a lovely child. He has finally channeled all that defiance into very perceptive and rational questioning (equally frustrating, but at least not in an anger provoking way.

I won't lie, it was a LONG, HARD few years. And I totally understand why some parents throw up their hands and give up, as we came very close several times. Keep persevering. It will pay off, eventually.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My older daughter was slightly easier to disicpline. We used time outs, if she hit us with a toy, we took it away. There were rewards for good behavior, punishments for bad. And it normally worked.
With out son, who's going to be 4 in a few weeks, time outs are a joke. You can take away a toy and he doesn't care. So we do time ins. We comment how nice his behavior is when he's good and pretty much ignore him when he's having a temper tantrum (we do make sure he's not hurting himself, but that's about it). His speech is delayed so we have to remind him to use his words and not hit. Othertimes when he refused to tell us anything and stands in the kitchen screaming,I walk away and tell him that when he wants to use his words, come find me or dad. its not easy, but its working for us.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Merry Christmas!

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone explain to me why forcibly buckling a kid in a chair is considered a better disciplinary method than spanking.

The principle of non-spanking is non-violence. Forcibly tying someone down is hardly non-violent.

I also don't see that humiliating a child by having them march in place in public is superior to spanking.

The non-spanking orthodoxy seems to have produced alternatives that are, if not worse, certainly not better.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

How on earth is buckling a child into a chair violent? We don't drag her kicking and screaming - she is carried to the chair and she sits and we buckle her in. She protests verbally but there's little to no physical struggle. And even if there was physical struggle, physical struggle is not of necessity violent (otherwise, every mother of every toddler ever would have exerted violence upon her child just getting him or her into a car seat.)

Spanking causes pain. It is believed to deter because it causes pain. Buckling a child into a booster chair does not cause pain nor the slightest discomfort. If all restraint is violence, then all children in our society suffer it constantly.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to respectfully point out that contrary to what some people say here, spanking *does* work for some parents and some children, however it is not a discipline for every parent or for every child.

I was spanked as a kid and it worked for me. I did not repeat the behavior that earned me that spanking, and the idea of getting one stopped me from making other "bad" decisions--which is exactly what you want discipline to do.

I don't remember ever questioning my parents love for me (so far as I can remember) as a result of a spanking. For my brother, however, it didn't work. My parents had to use other means, because for him, the spanking was over with (even if it did hurt) too soon for it change his behavior.

But spanking is not for every parent either. If it hurts a mother's soul to discipline her child in that way, then certainly she should not do it. Nor is it for a parent who is so emotionally caught up in the situation that they are not very aware of their physical bearing over the child. What I mean here is that it is okay to inflict a little corrective pain but one certainly doesn't want to harm a child.

I know there are people who will not separate the two--who will say that inflicting any pain is harmful. I respectfully disagree. Someone above said that when her child hits her, she slaps their hands, because it is better they should learn that hitting hurts from their parent, who loves them, than from someone who will simply punch them in the face in retaliation. I agree.

I am NOT advocating parents who domineer over children, intimidating them into goodness, threatening them with pain. BUT, some children at young ages DO need to learn that there are physical limits and there are physical consequences to actions. And they do need to learn that their parents are capable of physically controlling them if need be. I, for one, think it is OKAY to use restraint, time outs, and spanking--all physical types punishments--because some kids understand themselves and their worlds as a primarily physical one, and consequences don't mean much unless it is a physical one.

I want to be clear, though, that the big big big condition is that whatever a parent uses--whether it's physical or not--it should be done calmly, it should be done with instruction so the kid knows exactly why they are receiving the punishment, it should not inflict harm, and the kid should know throughout the entire time that they will have an opportunity in the very near future to do better, and that mom and dad love them.

Parents can go over the line with physical and non-physical punishments. I remember the time my mother publicly shamed me for smarting off to her. It was a more appropriate "punishment" considering my age, but the way in which she did it...I hope I will never do that to my girls. It cut me down. It changed the way I thought of my mom for a long time. It made me question whether she was really on my side (and, as I said before, I was spanked).

As a parent, spankings are not our primary form of discipline, because we find that other forms usually work just as well. But, if they're having a particularly bad day... if those other punishments aren't working, or if one (or both) of our girls are being holy terrors out in public and their behavior merits more than just "losing a privelege," we calmly escort them to the nearest restroom. I tell them exactly what they're doing that is unacceptable, tell them exactly what they need to do to fix it, then tell them they're getting a spanking because I shouldn't have to take them to the bathroom to get them to behave. Then it's usually three swats to the behind. I'll ask her if she understands everything I've said. Then I usually hug her and tell her that I know she'll do better. I have tried this exact same routine without the spanking, and honestly, the talk is usually forgotten within about 10 minutes. But with the spanks, 98% of the time, the problem is completely resolved. But again, that is us, that is our girls, and it works for us. It might not work for other people.

So you see, there is no one right or wrong method. If a parent can shame a kid because of their bad behavior, and the kid learns to do better from it, and the kid still knows that mom loves him/her after it's all said and done... then perhaps that is what works best for that family.

Discipline is such a personal and hot button issue. There are families that use methods that I would never dream of, but that doesn't make them *wrong* in my book. The bottom line is that parents should be allowed to use whatever corrective method works best for them and their children (again, as long as it is not harmful) without being judged as "horrible, awful, bad, not-very-good parent."

7:58 PM  
Blogger Lin said...

I'm a grandmother, and perhaps like your Mum, I'm feisty. I don't believe spanking a child is necessary although I well understand how it sometimes happens. Don't sweat it. She won't remember it. I also don't believe that talking, talking, talking to a child is always necessary. Too many words that they're not listening to and which are frustrating you even more.

Most of the time young children know when they're pushing buttons, making you nuts, stepping over the invisible line, etc. Instead of attention from talking, I think perhaps firmly grabbing her arm (trying hard not to leave marks...jk) and leading her briskly back to her time-out spot the minute she screws up in a way that makes you nuts. Because of the shock of your reaction, she'll normally carry on walking quickly beside you instead of dragging her heels or going limp. While you're walking there and she is in shock, that's when you say, "I have told you many times...and then say whatever story it is you need to share with her. And then, When you do these things I have TOLD you (not asked you, TOLD YOU) not to do, you will be punished immediately. We will not talk about it.

Three years old rarely need to be asked much of anything, unless it involves their feelings. Often, when we're telling young children what they can and can't do, it sounds as if we're asking them not to do something.

Hope this helps. She's darling!

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best piece of parenting advice I ever received was from my sister: "You can't make them stop doing something; you can only teach them that doing it is expensive." Eventually she will decide the consequences outweigh the rewards. It just takes longer than we'd like. My oldest has some similarities to Emilia, and some of the things I have tried to train her out of took a year or more to really change.

The other thing I have learned with 4 small kids is to focus on one or two things I want them to learn. There's time for the other stuff later. If not-hitting is the big thing you want her to learn, structure the whole day around it. Let some of the other issues slide for awhile, and make that The Big Lesson for a month or two, or however long it takes till it has sunk in. Of course, there will be relapses, but you can handle those if they come later.

I wouldn't necessarily blame the hitting on the boys she sees. Kids have teeth and hands and feet and will use them when they are mad, even if they never see anyone else do the same. My girls have certainly never seen me bite anyone, but they sure went through a biting phase. As for your many commenters who insisted that their children only did such things once, um, I cannot imagine any wrong thing that my kids only did ONCE. Training always takes time. That's why they're born small. One reason, anyway.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Ozma said...

They like limits. It doesn't seem like it but they do.

123 Magic is a great book.

There are a bunch of things. NEVER HIT but BE SCARIER.

Also, make up a small list of totally non-negotiable rules. Talk them over with your husband. Memorize them. Then: Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. Then act incredibly horrified and shocked if she ever violates them.

Repetition is crucial. Just constant and firm and extremely specific in the rules.

You have to be really calm. It makes you more intimidating.

Stare her down. Say 'look into my eyes.' Sounds bizarre but this works on my daughter. You really have to show you have more power. It sounds so blunt...I know there will be touchy-feeling moms who will object. But let me say that I never use physical force with my child. And I don't have to as long as I've managed to be powerful psychologically.

Finally, if your kid is smart and willful you may just need to give her an excuse to obey. Like kind of make things that are not important seem like her idea.

In a VERY short time that will seem like an ETERNITY she will reach the age where she can be reasoned with. Still, be as scary as you can without ever being mean, angry or physical. Just intimidating. Like an immovable rock. But she will start to cooperate and want to cooperate and understand how to do it.

For example, we flew on a plane and she actually played with her toys while I napped. Why? I explained to her how tired I was. Never got out of her seat. (We did have a few very brief incidents here and there on this trip...but easy.)

Last night she said (after the turning off of the light, which she resists) "See mommy? I didn't complain. I thought about it but I decided not to do it."

We are having lots of moments like this. She told me that when I wasn't around, and there were cookies and healthy food, she ate the healthy food first and then the cookies.

Another thing is to constantly reinforce good behavior. Just ALL the time. If my kid does something bad, I act really shocked. I'm like: I can't believe it! That's SO UNLIKE YOU! You are always so considerate (or whatever)."

Whenever she is good, tell her how you appreciate it. Even if it is for 2 minutes and she's been a nightmare for the previous hour.

Two shocking things about the super willful child (1) They love rules and boundaries. It makes them feel safe. Everyone says this. It's really true. (2) They are constantly testing you. Everyone says this. It's also true. The way to win? NEVER GIVE IN. NEVER. NEVER.

You have to out willful them for a period of time and then they are happy that you did that. They want to know you are the strong one. I know it doesn't seem like that.

My kid is INTENSE. Seriously, this is not an easy kid. If she came around, so will yours.

She's still a total handful. But a manageable handful.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dealt with the cookie thing by telling my daughter we shouldn't(not couldn't)have cookies NOW...there won't be any later when we REALLY want them. It also worked with going out...we have to get dressed and go NOW so we can come back LATER. She always seemed to feel more in control of the situation when I gave her a glimpse of the future. She'd get this little look of Oooohh, riiiight, of COURSE on her face and off we'd go onto the next thing.
I don't know if something like that would work with your little one but I taught pre-school for a while and discovered that it worked with most of the three year olds.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

It seems like the cookies are a big problem. I would not introduce any more cookies into your home. And not allow her to ask for them in public until she follows the rules at home. But I am pretty authoritative when it comes to that sort of thing. I think I scare my husband sometimes with how strictly I enforce our rules.

Good luck. And this was a great post.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Hey, I normally lurk, but wanted to recommend he book "Love and Logic for the Earlier Years". Really nice, simple, low-key approach to discipline that's been helpful to me with my bouncing-off-the-walls two-year-old.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big hugs! and another round of drinks on me.

My assvice:
Stop talking so much. "No" without explanation is more effective. Stop negotiating. Decide where you need to have a power struggle on the non-negotiable issues, let the rest go. Choices and natural consequences [refusal to put on shoes? I let it go and she walked barefoot across the gravel in a parking lot in December - never had a problem with shoes ever again].

We have a strong willed 8 year old - not as spirited as yours - but with a will that CANNOT be broken. We've tried. But it will BEND. Given an ultimatum, she wins every time for a variety of reasons [e.g. no bath, then no dinner]. Given the ability to chose between bath before dinner or after, then she will tell me which. Notice she has no choice about a bath or dinner but can control the order. It works. It takes parental ENERGY, which is thin on the ground for you right now, so if it works once or twice, I'll buy the drinks that time, too.

As far as the smack on hand. Aww. Another hug. Welcome to my private hell. I've done this about 5 times and I totally hate myself for it. I don't if that's worse than when I have the occasional perimenopause tantrum, but I'm certain that my daughters will let me know.

If anyone has any advice on dealing with an 8 year old lawyer in training or a 12 year with ADHD going in to puberty, then I'm all ears. Mojitos anyone?

8:49 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Catherine - I didn't have time to read all the other commentors, so sorry if you are getting duplicate assvice here. Our Henry (4 now) is extremely strong willed - had to be to survive some early health issues - like you we know it is a gift of sorts, but it is a gift that regularly kicks our ass as parents. We have two other much less strong willed children. It is like a bad comedy routine around here. With him, we feel incompetent often. He rages against the machine at home & complies fairly easily at school.

One book did help - Happiest Toddler on the Block, by Harvey Karp - it may sound too young for Emilia, but it goes through age 4.

Like you we avoid what battles we can, but still end up standing on our heads to get him to eat dinner, but we have a few tricks that work - a timer for dinner, so we don't have talk about it every night. If the timer beeps & dinner is uneaten, there is no bedtime story. It is now a fact of life, not a mommy & daddy idea...does that makes sense?
The book is clearer than I am on the day after the Christmas frenzy & joy, but email me if you want to about it. It saved our but when we couldn't potty train him or get him to eat anything but a cereal bar for two months....oh and also when he kept climbing the window casings...good times, as the old ladies at church remind me "treasure these years." We are trying.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My now five year old daughter was a nightmare! The ages of 2 to 4 are a blur of tears, yelling, and time-outs. Do you know what worked? Age...she's grown up and everything is clicking into place. She now instructs my youngest on the proper social behavior and offers gentle reminders of the expectations. I can't believe it, but I find her downright edible now!!!

What did work, at least for my husband, was to act like a total incompetent dote. He would pretend he didn't know how to put his pants on and throw himself in the floor. He would pretend the pants were flying in circles all around the floor and told my daughter there was no way she could tame the pants and jump into them. He killed her with humor and it TOTALLY WORKED! But, alas, when I do all the preparation and have 15 minutes to get out the door with three kids...Let's just say I can't call on the spirit of Steve Martin in the jerk to get us there faster. I bet you guys are doing an excellent job with your child. If you just keep hammering away, letting her know the expectations, behaving reasonably yourselves, the rest will fall into place. As I said I have three kids and my middle just took a while longer for things to *CLicK*!

Dinner time was the only thing she actually was good at. Our rule at home is we say a blessing (it DOES NOT have to be of christian origin) just the out loud proclamation that the meal is before you and you are thankful). This signified the start of the meal. Then all bets were off. Their food was left there and they could choose to run around or eat. Most kids aren't able to sit still, they eat when they are hungry. Sometimes they'd only take a few bites and run around, never to finish the meal. BUT we never fought them on it. When we went out they always behave. They know that the rules are different for a public place and it's easy to communicate that when we're so lenient in this one area in the privacy of our home. IF they decide they want to act up. I take them in the bathroom stall and sit on the toilet holding them as they kick and scream while I repeatedly use my jedi mind trick of repeating the sentence "we will sit in here until you are able to sit at our table and behave" on a continual loop. They don't like that much and straighten out quick.

My grandfather used to say...there's nothing wrong with that child that growing up won't fix! You lay the foundation through modeling and reminders and it will work out! Keep on trucking, many of us know your pain!

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto what April said. Humor can diffuse a bad situation pretty quick, and now, all of a sudden, they WANT to pay attention to what you are saying and doing.

The only problem is sometimes we just don't have it in us to be funny. We just want the kids to straighten up and OBEY, darn it!

My husband is better at this than I am... but I am so glad he is able to do it.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Blog said...

Oh wow, do I ever relate to this post. The "disciplining" is constant, and I don't have a solid game plan. We do the threats, the bribes, the "time out." One thing that tends to work well -- that a friend of mine insists on -- is the "1 - 2 - 3." This gives them a little time to act out, and then they know that when "3" comes 'round, we mean business. It usually works. All I have to do, if she doesn't behave by "3" is shut her door if we're in her room (even if I'm there, she hates it), or I put her on her time out chair.... The threat of time out seems to work well for us.

But, it is exhausting. I feel like I'm constantly chasing her....

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some thoughts from someone who has worked for more than 25 years in the field of child development with kids from birth - school-age: You say you are helpless a couple times in this post. Your child may be picking up on this and using it to her advantage. You are not helpless- you are bigger than her. Keep it simple. Pick a few important rules and stick to them. Don't ask Please or tell her she "must" do something- kids don't feel they "must" do anything and they have all the time in the world to resist you. Don't beg her to behave. It should be "if/then: if you do this, then this will happen. This applies to good and bad behavior. Don't buy any more cookies, then there will be no need for her to drag a chair over and get them. She can have them at parties and from Santa, because there will always be cookies. I know I am making this sound simple but it is not. I struggle with my own boy at times and I had been working with kids for 20 years before I had him. Some kids are tougher than others and it may always be hard for your girl to accept limits. But don't give up. Good Luck.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

I'm with Jan above me. Delurking to say that yes, there is such a world as a place with no more cookies or other treats. Just don't buy them, and when the people in cafes or other places offer them, say no thank you. If you have to have treats in the house, lock them up. If she sees you stay up, tell her too bad, different rules for grown ups.

I have three very willful boys, 12, 8 and a new baby just about the same age as your son. Your daughter sounds the same as my sons at that age, so we got rid of everything in the house that was a treat, took all the stuff out of his room, and if he hit or threw a tantrum, he lost all fun and privileges.

ALL of them.

It was very very hard, but we never allowed him to win, because we knew we'd be dead meat if he ever did. You are going to have to go right back to the start, and just make some rules and enforce them, no mercy, no nothing. And why is there any kind of stash in her room? Children do not have the right to privacy when it comes to health and safety. Search her room, regularly. Start now and you won't have to figure out how when she becomes a teen, cause trust me, you'll be searching it when she turns 13.

This may sound harsh but I got my parenting philosophies from Barbara Coloroso. You should get her books. Then follow the advice.

If you let this go on like it is, you are in for a nightmare later on. If she thinks she is in charge, she will run roughshod over you for her entire life. It killed me when the first kid cried and wept and demanded their own way, but I steeled myself and now he asks politely. I laughed when the second kid threw a tantrum. Puh-lease. Much easier to say no when you are used to it.

And now they are both incredibly polite, nice kids. They have their moments and I blog about it, but those really are the only times they misbehave.

On a separate note, I meant to email you, because I am adopted and found my birth mother, and I know you are going through some issues like this. If you would like some help, or just want to chat, please email me. (I promise not to be so bossy on that subject!)

2:50 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Sorry, I'm late to the party because I've been busy salving the wounds inflicted by my spirited 2.5 year old. She's not so physically wily as Emilia, but she's STRONG and has that same will.

Hon, we're going through exactly the same thing, and reacting in the same ways. I won't give you advice. I'll just say, hell, me too and pass the egg nog.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mom says that the best way to calm a kid down is to catch them being good and reward them for it, and the best way to stop them being bad, unless it is a physical emergency (they are running out in front of a car), is to turn your back on them. It may have worked - I'm extremely well behaved : ). I'm sure it isn't going to fix everything, but it might be a tool for your arsenal. My heart goes out to you.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Booba Juice said...

First of all let me say, you have made my year. Finding your blog, and being able to read about you and your world, have let me know that I am not alone, that at least in one spot on this world, there is another little three year old girl, so much like my own, that I am sure they must be twins.

So that being said, I do not have any answers for you. I too have tried the cycle of EVERYTHING! I have tried just to remind myself that I believe that God put some wonderful traits in my daughter, and someday, with his help, she will grow into a beautiful woman, one who is strong, and will do a great many wonderful things. And in the mean time, I try to see, and enjoy those moments when she is peacefull, and happy. I treasure those moments and try to bring them back to mind when my little tyrant is waling against the injustace that I impose upon her. :-)

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two boys who are older, and when they start acting all crazy we make them do pushups until they cant push anymore. I just read on Twitter that someone said your buckle chair was violent or whatever, so I am sure my option sounds like Gitmo. That being said, it works on older boys. They really hate pushups. And the bonus is if anyone messes with them on the playground I am quite sure they can hit harder.

Parenting at its finest.

10:18 PM  
Blogger xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx said...

Wonderfully written, despite how absolutely maddening this must be.

I'm no expert. Far, far from it. I've only just managed to figure out how to deal with my own little darling; and all children are their own people with their own issues and wants and needs.

But if I found you in my situation, I might decide to spend every single bit of my energy for several weeks, knowing it would be hard and horrible and that I would cry nearly every night, making sure she understood that Mommy and Daddy are to be listened to. And I would probably do this by instituting a policy of one warning, then time out. Three minutes, since she is three years old. Three minutes at every time out, and if she gets out of that chair and goes right back to it, another three minutes. I would require an apology after time out. I would make sure that the little time that she wasn't in time out she would have hugs and kisses and love, love love.... but that if she broke the rules? Time out.

I would also spend every moment that she wasn't in time out making sure to tell her what I DID like about what she was doing. Sitting and playing quietly? I'd tell her that Mommy is proud that she is sitting and playing quietly like a big girl. Holding hands in the parking lot? I'd praise it. And I'd try to show her, with every fiber of my being, that if she wants Mommy and Daddy's attention and approval at home, that means following rules.

Oh, so much easier said than done. So, so much easier to type here, where there is no screaming in my ear (at the moment)... but that's my advice. Know that it will be hard, but you and your husband could resolve to dedicate yourself to this one task. Forget laundry and housework and fun activities... just this one thing.

If you get desperate enough, it might be worth a try. And it might work.

Most of all... know deep in your heart that for how stubborn she seems.. you can win! You can prevail! you are older, wiser, more stubborn than she! If you believe it, she'll feel it... and she'll respond.

4:38 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

I'm behind, but had to comment.

This post completely freaks me out, because it really sounds like BooBaaa, our now 21 month old, in soooo many ways. We're already struggling with Mr Spirited Plus, and I can't even imagine what he's going to be like by the time he hits three. Heck, he already thinks he's three like his brother!

4:41 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

I'm behind, but had to comment.

This post completely freaks me out, because it really sounds like BooBaaa, our now 21 month old, in soooo many ways. We're already struggling with Mr Spirited Plus, and I can't even imagine what he's going to be like by the time he hits three. Heck, he already thinks he's three like his brother!

4:41 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

Interesting reading you've got here. I notice that there are two schools of thought:

(1) the Discipline Boot Camp approach of stripping all privileges and starting a new regime using any one of a variety of methods (the most popular of which seems to be the one-warning-only rule)

(2) the Pick Your Battles approach of letting the unimportant things slide and focusing your energy on one problem at a time.

I prefer the second approach - it was the one I was taught at a behaviour management seminar I attended last summer. As much as possible, look for environmental solutions (locks on cupboards, no cookies in the house, etc.). That done, address one behaviour at a time. The behaviour analysts were (unsurprisingly) really interested in documentation: keep track of exactly when and how often the behaviour occurs and then look for patterns. If the hitting always occurs at mealtime, try the scrambled eggs approach. Once you've decided on your strategy, all that record-keeping can also show you if your strategy is working.

Personally, I've never actually done the record-keeping because it seemed like a lot of effort. But I like the idea in theory - and I like the idea of becoming more lax in as many areas as possible and focusing all your disciplinary energy on one thing so that you're not suddenly turning your house into a police state.

8:24 PM  
Blogger zchamu said...

Talked to a friend of mine, a mother of a 3 year old, about this. Immediate and final consequences. "If you do not stop X rotten behaviour, that toy right there is going in the garbage." Behaviour doesn't stop. Toy gets picked up, marched to bin, goes in garbage. "Nooooo Mommy nooooooo I'm sorry Mommy noooooooo!" doesn't matter. Toy/book/whatever in garbage. Permanently. And it works. Behaviour stops and generally doesn't recur.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Mamalang said...

I have a long winded story to tell that ends with the fact that my MIL, who definitely believed in spanking as a parent, decided after earning a degree in pyschology, that spanking was bad. After watching several of her friends that earned those degrees with her raise their now teenage children with only timeouts as discipline, she has re-thought her stance on spanking.

My children only earned swats for very bad behavior and only after at least one warning.

But I will also advise you, that you have to find the right "reward" to remove. No cookies isn't working...it takes time, but you have to find that item. For my oldest, as a school age child, it was making her go to soccer practice, dressed for school, and watch practice. Just missing practice wasn't enough...she would have just entertained herself some other way. She was required to participate whenever the coach talked to team, but she was not allowed to actually participate in the running and kicking. And when someone asked why, she had to explain. I'm sure that someone will talk about how we demoralized and embarassed her, but after the third time of her getting into some pretty serious trouble at school, we had to find what worked. TV, Treats, etc didn't work, but this did.

Good luck. And while it probaby isn't that comforting, most children do act much worse at home, where they feel more secure. The fact that she is willing to be so willful speaks to how secure she feels in your love.

10:14 PM  
Blogger the new girl said...

Are you still reading these comments? LOL. There is a lot of info here.

1-2-3 Magic is great. Hitting = automatic time out. Consistency is the absolute key (along with non-emotion.) Choice giving between two favorable (to you) options and I agree with Bea re: the environmental solutions.

Often times, too, kids who are able to 'hold it together' outside the home or in school do so because there is increased structure in those places...adding some consistent structure, schedule, etc. can also be helpful.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Piling on:

favorite toys banished to the penalty box [top of the wardrobe or attic] for various amounts of time depending on infraction, but you have to announce the time up front and follow through;

my sitter used to punish us by having us stand on one foot, no hands with our nose touching the wall - it takes about 2 seconds for an active kid to become compliant - and you can use it anywhere! [bonus!]

we've found the counting method effective, too.

Hang in there . . .

8:34 PM  
Blogger Crystle said...

OMG, I stumbled across your blog and LMAO right now at this post. It's as if I could have written it myself. I too have a fiesty 3 yo by the name of Emilia, who is by the sounds of it, your Emilia's twin. Just want you to know, you are not alone, and perhaps the name is the problem? LOL

2:05 AM  
Blogger Gunfighter said...


The good thing is, that they finally get the idea about rules by the second or third time they get arrested.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Poppy B. said...

A lot of people resist establishing routines with the first child, but when the second comes along, the value of routine and discipline becomes clear.

Let's face it, it's a lot easier to parent when you don't have to convince your child to bathe and go to bed. Trust me. It's a good thing when the answer to the question "Why do I go to bed at 8:00?" is "Because 8:00 is bed time!"

I have an 11 and 13 year old and your daughter is the perfect age to do 1-2-3 Magic. There is a book and a video--you should check them out.

You might look into it and think "it's like training a dog." And it is. But for her own safety's sake, you must establish a hierarchy. She must understand who is boss.

It's also a good thing for the sake of your sanity. Who needs to explain that 8:00 is bed time every single night?

7:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't want to scare you but watching the videos reminds me that this child of yours is so much like my oldest. She was just too gifted and I believe had to create challenges in everything she did to amuse herself. Get ready for a rough ride. She could be quite charming and had all of her teachers enthralled with her giftedness, which allowed her to get by with many shenanigans she shouldn't have. BTW she is 34 now and mother of two beautiful children and a software engineer, still able to pull the wool over her boss' eyes. Your little Emelia is just one who is too smart to toe the line! love your blog.

3:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Egg Timer
Love & Logic
Happiest Toddler on the Block
Timeouts in her room (taking away your company)

If you say no more cookies, throw them in the trash and don't buy/make more. Show her you are serious. Then catch her doing something good and say "Yay the cookies can home back to the house!"

"Pay attention to what you like, and ignore/discourage the rest."

Mine is only 2.5 but she does all this stuff too. I can't wait till 3.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm new here. But your Emelia is like my Emma. I always said Emma's motto in life is run first, think later. She's fearless & can look deep into my eyes like I'm a piece of shit that she can live without. She once sat in time out for 45 min as a 2 yo because she refused to pick up the cheerios she dumped out of her bowl. (Yes, I know it's a minute per year old. but it wasn't working. I'd take her out of time out & try to even help her pick up the cereal and she'd refuse. So I'd put her back in.) I insisted she pick it up & put it in the bowl. Know what she did - she ate it off the floor when I was out of the room. Looking at me like "it's not in the bowl, take that you..."

I've used time outs and smacked hands and spanked butts. But the most effective thing for me has been to remove her from me. "You've lost your turn to be with mommy. It makes me sad when you do this. It hurts my feelings, etc. You can't be with me until you follow the rules." Then I'll make her sit somewhere she can't see me. It kills her. TIme out seemed to not be a big deal to her for quite some time. But losing time with me was key. Turned her behavior around very quickly. Good Luck!

12:00 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

I don't have kids (so discount this if you want) but have babysat and taught religious school a lot. One thing that's worked for me when a kid's getting in trouble with an item (can't share a toy, can't stop stealing cookies, etc.) is to put the OBJECT in time-out, rather than the KID. (say "wow! it looks like you're having trouble using that properly!" and put it on top of the fridge or something).

I also agree with the idea of not buying cookies for a while.

6:11 PM  

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