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?