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In terms of changing unacceptable behavior, does what we do actually have any effect?

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  • In terms of changing unacceptable behavior, does what we do actually have any effect?

    I've been very frustrated with my son's unacceptable hair pulling, biting, and now shoving. He's been engaging in one form or another of painful, socially unacceptable behavior for about 10 months.

    One thing I've been wondering is, in terms of getting him to actually STOP doing these things, does it actually matter what I do? Of course I recognize that some techniques are more gentle than others, but it has recently occurred to me that until he acquires sufficient impulse control to stop himself when he wants to bite people, pull their hair, or shove them, it's probably unrealistic for me to expect that any parenting technique I use will actually make a difference anytime soon.

    The reason I bring this up is because I think the whole situation might be less frustrating for me if I simply accepted that I was likely to be dealing with this for another year. Of course I will continue to try to teach him alternative ways of expressing himself, encourage him to empathize with the other person, etc., etc.

    What do you think? Am I off my rocker?

  • #2
    I just finally started reading Hold on to Your Kids by Neufeld and Mate' this morning. On page 6 there is a sentence I read that I have always believed but never seen it expressed in clear form until now. "The secret of parenting is not in what a parent does but rather who the parent is to the child" Now I do believe this matters to the long term unacceptable behavior problem. Short term issues are just that, 'bothersome but normal toddler behavior' ( a very Dr. Sears phrase) Children are not born knowing how to walk or talk or control their impulses or to regulate the effects of their feeling. They learn through modeling and experience, watching those in their environment and eventually by growing out of the developmental stage. Sometimes kids just work through things themselves, others need parents to help guide them to meet a need. What we DO matters less then what we ARE to them. Its a subtle but important different.

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    • #3
      I think it certainly matters what parenting style you use, but I'm wondering if what you're asking is whether the parenting style you use will change the behavior? Is that an accurate interpretation?

      My initial thought is that whether the behavior stops because of your parenting or because he just changes it on his own as he develops may be less important than the way your parenting makes him feel about the behavior.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by naomifrederickmd View Post
        I just finally started reading Hold on to Your Kids by Neufeld and Mate' this morning. On page 6 there is a sentence I read that I have always believed but never seen it expressed in clear form until now. "The secret of parenting is not in what a parent does but rather who the parent is to the child" Now I do believe this matters to the long term unacceptable behavior problem. ..............What we DO matters less then what we ARE to them. Its a subtle but important different.
        naomi,
        this is profound! thank you for putting it so well!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by AwakenedMama View Post
          I think it certainly matters what parenting style you use, but I'm wondering if what you're asking is whether the parenting style you use will change the behavior? Is that an accurate interpretation?

          My initial thought is that whether the behavior stops because of your parenting or because he just changes it on his own as he develops may be less important than the way your parenting makes him feel about the behavior.
          Yes, that was basically what I was getting at. I think I've been feeling as though what I was already doing was ineffective, so I ought to be trying to find a better technique. Whereas I think what's really going on here is that I can't expect the behavior to stop anytime soon no matter what techniques I use, so it's better for me to accept that and just keep doing things I'm comfortable with, that reduce his ability to hurt other people as much as possible, and that I think foster a good relationship between me and my child.

          Thanks everyone, for your support and insight.

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          • #6
            I hear what you're saying and I think the answer is yes and no. Yes, I totally and completely agree that kids cannot do things until they are developmentally ready to. For example, I don't expect my 2.5 year old to sit at the table and I acknowledge that my kids will sleep through the night when they're ready. I think understanding of developmental milestones and appropriate expectations of your kids is crucial to gentle discipline.

            At the same time I do think you need to work towards the behavior you want to elicit so that when the time comes for your child to be developmentally ready to control their impulses they know to do so.

            So yeah, hitting, etc. is completely normal toddler behavior BUT we still need to let them know that it's not acceptable behavior each time they do it. I think the key is to remain consistent and keep reiterating that hitting etc. hurts - but realize that you may have to say it 20+ times before they're ready and able to channel that energy elsewhere. And often you have to try different things - distraction, redirection, talking and so on until you find the method that gets through to your kid.

            That make sense or answer your question at all? I've been interrupted 40 times and don't feel very coherent

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            • #7
              Originally posted by NicoleL View Post
              At the same time I do think you need to work towards the behavior you want to elicit so that when the time comes for your child to be developmentally ready to control their impulses they know to do so.

              So yeah, hitting, etc. is completely normal toddler behavior BUT we still need to let them know that it's not acceptable behavior each time they do it. I think the key is to remain consistent and keep reiterating that hitting etc. hurts - but realize that you may have to say it 20+ times before they're ready and able to channel that energy elsewhere. And often you have to try different things - distraction, redirection, talking and so on until you find the method that gets through to your kid.
              I think I was insufficiently clear when I first posted this. Of course I agree that my toddler needs to know, each and every time, that hitting isn't acceptable. He needs me to try to figure out what need he's trying to meet by hitting. He needs me to offer him alternative ways to express himself and meet his needs.

              But what neither of us need is for me to be frustrated because, after telling him literally a thousand times that it's not acceptable to pull hair, that it hurts, that perhaps he is feeling a, b, or c, that he could do x, y, or z instead, etc., etc., he still pulls my hair, his sister's hair, and recently the hair of other children, on a daily basis. Our relationship does not need for me to be imagining that if I could only find a better parenting technique, this behavior would stop.

              What it seems to me that we need is for me to decide that there's nothing wrong with the parenting techniques I'm already using, and that I just need to keep doing what I'm doing without expecting it to have any short-term impact, because otherwise it makes me crazy.

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              • #8
                I just need to keep doing what I'm doing without expecting it to have any short-term impact,
                Yes! Exactly

                Think of the parenting techniques that might have short term solutions---then extrapolate the long term repercussions. Violence begets violence. Shaming, isolation etc. You could drive the same behavior underground, sneaking and then denying. Or any number of things! I know you don't want that!

                So, yes, do the right thing even though you see no effect and are not guaranteed a result! Very frustrating, I know!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by naomifrederickmd View Post
                  So, yes, do the right thing even though you see no effect and are not guaranteed a result! Very frustrating, I know!
                  Actually, not frustrating at all. For me, it's not frustrating to see no effect now that I have accepted that it will stop when it's time and no sooner.

                  It was only frustrating when I forgot that, and started feeling like there ought to be some "solution" (other than time) to the problem.

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                  • #10
                    Maybe "wrong" but has helped me...

                    My son is almost 21 months... We go to a lot of play dates and generally he is really sweet. Sometimes he hits and it hurts. There have been a few occasions where I have suggested to him that he try hitting himself. I don't make him do it or make a big deal out of it, I just tell him that it hurts (is an ouch) and that he can try doing it to himself. This seems to have helped a little. He is really empathetic when he hurts someone and we ask him to help make that person feel better, too. I must emphasize that there is no coercion and a lot of redirection, but as an option it seems to help him understand why he is being redirected. I say to him, Iain, that hurts (Dada), please be gentle. You can hit Iain if you want. (Then sometimes he will and he says ouch) And then I say... be gentle with Iain, too. Can you show Mama gentle? Yea! Or something like that.

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