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  • and the correct answer is?.....

    Hi All,
    I've been reading voraciously since discovering the API forum last month and have gleaned a lot of good information about what I need to be reading to learn more and guidance/suggestions on ways I can immediately make our discipline more positive for my 4yo DD. Our daughter is spirited, strong willed and emotionally sensitive.
    We do a lot of redirecting. We give a LOT of transition time (10 mins until bed time, 5 min, 2 min, etc) warnings. We try to always make a direction positive ("hitting hurts" not "no hitting!"). We use "time in" (we call it cuddle time) when she is over tired/stimulated/whelmed and she loses control over her feelings. Then she and I climb up on the couch and cuddle until she can catch her breath. Sometimes we talk about what prompted the melt down and/or what we need to do to correct the cause (" I know you're really tired, lets sleep for a while so that you can feel better"). Sometimes we just cuddle until her mood changes back to a positive one. We also use "time out" for very specific incidents- hurting a person or an animal (we have lots of pets), doing something dangerous, being uncooperative or rude. When DD is in time out she is NOT isolated away. We have bench in our entry which is the junction point of our house. From there you can see into either the kitchen or living room and into the hall to all bedrooms. We use a timer and during her time out we do not talk. At the end of the time out we ask her if she knows why she is in time out and talk from there about better ways to do something the next time.
    I am happy to phase out "time out" but I need some input on how better to handle some of these situations. Let me give you an example.
    Recently my DD and I were in the bathroom while she pottied and somehow in the midst of our conversation she started to talk about a recent incident in which she ended up in time out for hurting one of our cats. She informed me, very clearly, that she had hurt the cat because I was on the phone at the time and "not paying attention" to her (her words). In fact her actions had seemed very intentional - she had headed for the cat who was sitting on a nearby stool and did a double fisted grab of his coat and yanked out hair. I had suspected it was an attention getting device but I had not attributed her with as much conciousness about it. While we were in the bathroom we talked about the fact that our animals are part of our family and that loving our family means not trying to hurt them. We talked about how frustrating it can be when mommy/daddy has to do other things and cannot give DD attention RIGHT NOW. We talked about being patient and expressing the need for attention with words and not by hurting our beloved pets.
    Today she did it again. This time I had come home from work, she and I had a few minutes to cuddle, talk about our days, etc. and I had gone into the kitchen to help my DH get dinner ready. DD marched across the kitchen and hauled off and hit another cat of ours -this one old/frail. I immediately took a very serious tone to my voice, told her she needed to apologize to the cat and then I walked away. The walking away seemed to "get to" my daughter who started to cry and follow me. We went and sat in the rocker in her room while I tried to calm down. I told her that the cats really didnt understand why DD insists on hurting them if she loves them. I told her I was disappointed in her for hurting our pets. I told her that if she couldnt treat our animals well that she didnt deserve to have them (not that I could/would ever get rid of our pets, but she doesnt know that). I asked her why she hurt the cat, she again iformed me that she did it for my attention and that sometimes she hurts the animals when she is "grumpy." I told her that, in the future if she wants my attention she needs to use her words and ask for it. That if she feels grumpy she should come to her room and hit one of her pillows or stuffed animals. Then we cuddled and moved on to something else.
    I am a Veterinarian. Animals have been a BIG part of my life from an early age. I knew that when we had our DD that there would be adjustments and that we would have to teach her to be gentle. I knew that our animals would figure out good escape routes when necessary. One of our cats has ADORED our DD from the day she came home. He cannot start his day without knowing she made it through the night. He has been dressed up, "taught" to do the excercises that she does at preschool gymnastics, has had her trip to the dentist re-enacted for him-with DD as "mommy" and cat as DD. Historically DD only ended up in time out when she really went to far in her play and induced an obvious protest from the cat. Historically her actions were never intentional. The intentional harming of any of our animals just angers me to no end -its intolerable as far as Im concerned. Since its an attention getting device I guess the obvious answer is to ignore the behavior - I cant do that either - it would be a betrayel of trust with our pets. I know my words were strong and really beyond a 4 yo level, but I was SO ANGRY.
    I would greatly appreciate the input of all of you ladies with so much more AP experience than I. How would you have handled the situation?

    Thanks,
    Carrie

  • #2
    I'm thinking her knowledge of why she does it is a blessing, not a curse. You won't have to go through the step of figuring out why. The next step would be to find a solution for everyone to get what they need (she gets to tell you she wants attention and you get safety for the pets).

    I might approach a conversation about this like, "I've noticed that you sometimes hurt a kitty when you are really wanting some time with me, would you be willing to think up some ways you can let me what you want without hurting the cats?". Maybe you could come up with some creative ways for her to tell you, maybe even a sign so she could use it when you're on the phone without disturbing you? It might also be a good idea to find ways to "schedule" time with her when you are really needing to do something else. You could role play these ideas when she's feeling happy. Also, you may be able to find ways she can help cook dinner, clean up, or whatever else you do when away from her.

    By the way, I don't think the obvious answer to attention seeking behavior is to ignore. I think its to- give attention. Attention is afterall, a need we all have

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    • #3
      I wanted to add that taking away the behavior won't take away the need...so it becomes imperative to work on the need.

      And I do hope you find something that works for you soon, because this situation seems stressful

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      • #4
        Originally posted by cmsobleo View Post
        I am happy to phase out "time out" but I need some input on how better to handle some of these situations. Let me give you an example.
        if you really want to "phase" them out, then i say, just do it! tell yourself that time outs are no longer an available option in your home and stick to it. once it is no longer a tool, i believe it will open up a world of creativity to you. one step would be to ask, what am i trying to accomplish in this specific situation and in the larger picture of my parenting? what kind of relationship do i want to create w/my daughter?

        if the time-ins are proving valuable to you, then try using them for every episode, whether she's feeling overstimulated or hitting an animal. try reconnecting w/her no matter what her actions are. this will give her a very clear message that she is valuable, regardless of her behaviors.

        i second the pp that her clear understanding behind her actions is an asset. she is communicating to you a need. and, again i agree w/pp, attention is a NEED. esp. to a young child. if she came to you and said she was hungry, how would you act? the same response should be to her need for attention.

        Originally posted by cmsobleo View Post
        I told her I was disappointed in her for hurting our pets. I told her that if she couldnt treat our animals well that she didnt deserve to have them (not that I could/would ever get rid of our pets, but she doesnt know that). I asked her why she hurt the cat, she again iformed me that she did it for my attention and that sometimes she hurts the animals when she is "grumpy." I told her that, in the future if she wants my attention she needs to use her words and ask for it. That if she feels grumpy she should come to her room and hit one of her pillows or stuffed animals. Then we cuddled and moved on to something else.
        it sounds like you are already using some terrific skills here--talking through the episode, giving her appropriate response choices, etc. i would just caution you against using the "disappointment" card. the best research and psychology shows this to be the most damaging of all emotions. when ernest hemingway died, his son was notified. his son's first response was "well, at least i'll never have to worry about disappointing him again." disappointment is just too hard for most people to take.

        Originally posted by cmsobleo View Post
        The intentional harming of any of our animals just angers me to no end -its intolerable as far as Im concerned. Since its an attention getting device I guess the obvious answer is to ignore the behavior
        i understand your concern for your pets. but try not to think of your daughter's intentions as having the same deliberateness as an adult. she doesn't really understand the depth of her actions and isn't trying to contribute to animal cruelty. she really is simply trying to get your attention. and i doubt on this board that it would be "obvious" to anyone for you to ignore it. in fact, the opposite is true here, so your gut is right.

        okay, so a specific idea for your "phone" dilemma. when you need to make a call, say something like "mommy needs to make a call right now, but i want to make sure that you know how important you are to me. if you need anything, let's take care of that right now. if you need something while i'm on the phone, come sit down next to me and i'll put my arm around you. as soon as i'm done talking, i'll help you. is there something you'd like to do while i'm talking? (playdough, paint, puzzle, etc.)

        Originally posted by cmsobleo View Post
        I know my words were strong and really beyond a 4 yo level, but I was SO ANGRY.
        try not to be too hard on yourself. we have all been there. my most unflattering mommy moments were when i was angry. the important thing is to apologize to her. if you do/say something wrong, let her know. this will also model for her what to do when she makes a mistake. she will know it's okay to ask for forgiveness and, of course, that mommy ALWAYS gives it!

        i apologized to my son yesterday because i got so angry w/him when he wouldn't stop throwing tennis balls at his little brother who was on the stairs. you know what he said to me when i apologized? "i guess we both did something wrong, huh? i forgive you."

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        • #5
          Thank you ladies for your input,
          Brandy, I like your "kitty conversation." DD can be creative- it will be interesting to see what she comes up with for a "sign"
          Dedra- Your right DD doesnt understand the full weight of her actions- Im going to have to try harder not to act as if she's older than she is in the understanding department.
          By the way, I got Unconditional Parenting in the mail yesterday. I started it about 10 last night and couldnt put it down! I got through the first 4 chapters in an hour and a half and only quit when I got to sleepy to retain any more. What I have read so far really resonates with me and our current issues. Im looking forward to getting all the way through it. Then (I think) I'll have the tools to nix the "time outs". Will also need to get the babysitter and my DH on board with the new plan. He's out of town this week (left today) for business, so I'll have to fill him in - although I may just hand him the book and say "READ"
          Thanks again for your collective shoulders
          Carrie

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