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Attachment Parenting

Help! I just spanked my 3-year-old!
From Our AP Forum Archives
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From konamom~ Hi, I need some discipline techniques quick. I lost it tonight with my poor three year old and spanked him, not hard but I'm really against spanking. I guess it happens at one time or another with most parents.

He has just started a stage of not listening to us when we tell him no, and going through the house doing all the things he knows are no nos. He plays with our dvd player and video player, he reaches into the fish bowl and fish tank and tries to catch the fish and cracks up, he messes withe computer (he's already damaged two keyboards and two mice, and ruined the disk drive on our old and new computer). He's been writing on everything, the couch, his body, the buddha statue, the walls. I give him about ten time outs a day and he doesn't care; he seems to like them. I've tried patience, yelling, nothing works. I guess he's going through a stage. I have tried being diligent about his bedtime and eating and routine; I'm just not sure what to try next.

I know spanking is wrong and teaches it is ok to hit, and it isn't a problem for me in general. He isn't a big talker so I can't have a big conversation with him.

He's a sweet guy in a lot of ways, and this has been going on only for a few weeks; he just turned three. I'm expecting a baby in the next few weeks so he picked a great time.

Thanks for any advice!

From babypatten ~ I don't know how to say this exactly, but some of that's normal, and some of it may not be normal. It took me almost a year of my daughter's misbehavior to figure out that she has a terrible reaction to sugar and it causes her to act in ways that are so frustrating that I have on several occasions spanked or screamed and just completely lost all control. I can feel for you and don't think you're a terrible person! Could be wheat, sugar, or any number of things, but if it's not typical behavior for your child, then you need to take a step back and see if it might be an outside factor. I wish you great luck with this. Do a lot of reading and deducing and talking with people who have children with problems and I'm sure you'll find a solution. In the meantime, do your best to restrain yourself and by all means, just get your son out of the negative situation before you get upset. I could go on forever, so I'll just stop here.

From SusanH ~ My guess is that you pinpointed the problem when you wrote: "I'm expecting a baby in the next few weeks so he picked a great time." If he knows about the baby and is feeling stressed and nervous, that could account for a lot of his behavior.

Do you have any good discipline books? I really like Raising Your Spirited Child and others here have recommended Kid Cooperation by Elizabeth Pantley and The Discipline Book by Sears (both are available in the StorkNet bookstore ). I know it can be hard to find time to read a book when your darling is destroying your house, but a good book can help reassure you that everything is normal and give you good strategies for coping with behavior problems. I would think that the Pantley book is a great place to start. AmyC speaks highly of it.

In the meantime, I'm sending some ((hugs)) and patience to you.

From hedra ~ Two other books I love? Siblings Without Rivalry (get it now, I doubt you'll regret it!), and the Positive Discipline series (positive discipline for preschoolers should be about the right one for this). both very useful for me, and the sibling one is an easy read.

From LauraL ~ I don't really know what to say, but wanted to offer my hugs and support. Also want to add that I've heard some children have reactions to red dye (#40?) which is in just about everything, including liquid meds and fruit rollups.

From babypatten ~ Just wanted to point out about the person who suggested it might be because baby is on the way, that the reason it took us a year to figure out Reid had a problem is because we attributed her behavior to my pregnancy and the birth of her sister. It absolutely could be that, but I wouldn't just assume and ignore a greater problem. You've gotten lots of great advice and especially hugs here, though. Again, good luck.

From Celia ~ Welcome to Age Three. Whoever coined the term "terrible twos" didn't experience age 3, I'm guessing. It is wonderful of you to be searching for respectful solutions to deal with this.

From konamom ~ Thanks everyone for the great advice. I'll keep an eye on any foods and see if there is a link, and the books are a good idea. My mom also said after watching him today that he's very curious and I suspect he's bored around the house. He woke up at 1 am last night and wouldn't go back to sleep; he was telling stories etc. so we watched cartoons for two hours. That is unusual thank goodness but he loved it, I got three hours sleep though. Oh motherhood!

From Gayesy ~ Sorry to come in so late on this! My first reaction when I read your post was "He's bored". Of course you know your child and I don't, but it sounds SO much like what I have experienced with Thomas! Is he particularly bright by any chance? I have found over the years with Thomas that when he has something to do that really takes his interest, his behaviour is WONDERFUL. If he gets bored, he can get up to all kinds of mischief. The great thing is that it doesn't take much to keep him amused and in fact it doesn't involve me continually entertaining him. I think it is good for children to learn to find their own "entertainment", and like to think of myself more as a facilitator.

The sorts of things he has liked (and will do for HOURS!) include making playdough with me and then playing with it (some cheap cookie cutters and a rolling pin are great), dressing up (some old clothes are great), building with his blocks or making a train track throughout the house with his train set, making a cubby with a blanket and the couch. He also has some computer "games" (educational and fun), that he LOVES. The other things he LOVES involve doing all sorts of household tasks with me. He loves vacuuming, mopping, dusting, cleaning windows, baking, preparing dinner, tidying out cupboards . . . if he gets cabin fever, a trip to the playground will work wonders too! We have some near us that are under cover that are helpful if it is raining.

Good luck and please don't panic.

From lolly ~ Ditto what Gayesy came up with . . . I also thought "boredom makes for cranky, rang-y kids". I don't what your living situation is like, so this may not be helpful if you live somewhere far from town. I go to a drop-in playgroup several times a week. It is a big room full of toys, kids from birth to around 5, and parents (mainly moms). it is soooo great! It allows kids to explore friendships, play rough with someone else's furniture, play with a variety of toys. I have a great book called The Girlfriend's Guide to Toddlers (she calls toddlers those between 1-4) which is a scream to read, but has some down-to-earth advice. My favourite is this: "when you can't take your child for one more moment, invite another one over. Crazy? No! who better to entertain your rambunctious child than another one? And the best part... the parent may return the favour!"

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From Hieka ~ You sound like such a wonderful parent. It can be so hard to look objectively at our own parenting practices and adjust to new challenges. I wish there were more parents like you. My 3 year old went through a similar stage which really kicked in at about 2 years, 10 months when I was about 6 months pregnant. Screaming, tantrums, throwing food, ripping books totally ignoring any request made . . . it was exhausting. Four months. It lasted for four months and then when our newborn was about a month old, suddenly our 3 year old became more reasonable. But getting through those 4 months was really hard for me.

The Positive Discipline books really helped me. So did planning ahead and being super-consistent. I did raise my voice on occasion (which I was not proud of). I used those occasions much like you. I tried to figure out how to be a better parent. I also modelled saying sorry and making a plan to do a better job next time. I modelled my apologies on Barbara Coloroso's work (Kids Are Worth It).

Best wishes.

From Danica ~ I just wanted to say ditto to three's being harder than twos. Nicholas has become much more strong willed since turning three. Also to what Gayesy said about Thomas. The same holds true for Nicholas. Take care I totally understand what your going through. (HUGS)

From konamom ~ Thanks guys. I am beginning to think he sounds like an average three year old, which makes it easier for me to be patient. I think he's exploring and testing his boundaries. I need to check out some of these books! I'm waiting to give birth soon, I'm due June 22! I hope I'm early, but not too early.

From AandJsMom ~ Sounds like you've received some great ideas and insight. I'd also like to suggest making things more difficult for your three year old to get into. I have baby gates everywhere in my house, and anything that I don't want my toddler into, is out of his reach. Making more things OK to touch so that there are a lot less "no"s. Please also realize that hearing "no" a lot can be very discouraging and angering your child even further. Unfortunately this actually encourages and brings on worse behavior. Thus an ugly cycle continues and gets worse. Your toddler is probably also acting out on his anxieties over the expected baby. Talk to him more about it, and I also recommend the kid's book, Julius, Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes. That book became my daughter's favorite when I was expecting our second child. I'd also recommend Dr. Sears discipline book, and Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I bought the book on cassette version because I do not have much time to read, but can pop a cassette in my car or cassette player at home while I'm doing chores. Good Luck!!

In regards to the spanking . . . think of it as just as off limits as hitting your husband. Because really it is just as unacceptable to hit another adult as it is a child. (Or at least it is in my eyes, and I wish in others as well.) And I doubt that no matter how severely your husband ticks you off, you wouldn't even consider hitting him, would you?

Good luck!

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