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    #185380 - 03/20/14 11:07 AM Managing 2.5 year old behavior
    mlam Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 02/13/14
    Posts: 7
    I can't spend very many hours a day with my (I think profoundly gifted) son because eventually I lose my cool and start using all kinds of bad parenting techniques like empty threats and shouting. He spends most of his day (8 hours) in a good preschool program so I shouldn't even be complaining but the reason we put him there is because I cannot manage him at home.

    He refuses to do pretty much anything you tell him unless it involves eating something sweet.

    Has to be in control of everything. (He even says "Don't look at me./Don't scold me/ Don't shout/ The answer is Yes, Say Yes Mama")

    He is what they call in his preschool "a flight risk" - he'll take off running or go hide somewhere.

    He never wants to 'do the next thing' - even with preparation, talking about it, planning ahead, setting timers. even if it's something he likes: music class, grandparents house, school, library, swimming. the answer is always No. and he ALWAYS makes it difficult.

    He behaves significantly better with other people, especially those he is less familiar with. grandparents and familiar teachers at school have started to get the same treatment as we do at home.

    We are not indulgent parents, but are probably not the firmest or most consistent with our boundaries. It is really hard because he finds every single boundary every day.

    It's also hard because he is amazing and social and sensitive. and the temptation is not to crush or stamp any of that out. How do you not crush his spirit and his abilities and his opinions and will, yet still be firm, authoritative parents.

    anyone have a similarly spirited and willful child? or feel completely useless as a parent?

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    #185395 - 03/20/14 12:28 PM Re: Managing 2.5 year old behavior [Re: mlam]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    No, but I married well. My DW has significant experience as a caregiver for children other than our own, some of whom have presented to their parents in much the same way as you describe. And after a bit of time with her, most of the willful behavior disappears... only to reappear the instant the child's primary caregiver arrives on scene. For example, my niece used to stay with us a lot, and she was a "flight risk" who would run out into the parking lot when she was your son's age. DW put a stop to it. Anytime we went anywhere with my niece and her parents, my niece would run again.

    Originally Posted By: mlam
    but are probably not the firmest or most consistent with our boundaries.


    That would appear to me to be the issue. My DW and I are guided by this simple principle: Choose your battles carefully, but win all the ones you choose.

    And above all, this principle: consider the child's perspective, and what you're teaching to that child with each seemingly-innocuous interaction.

    One thing to understand is that the world is a confusing place to a 2.5yo, and they have to test using cause and effect in order to make sense of things. When results are predictable, the child gets a sense of order, and it can be quite calming and comforting. When results are unpredictable, the child must continue to test and gain more data. The child may also become frustrated, confused, and frightened when the results don't match expectations.

    Consistent boundaries and consistent responses from you are key.

    Originally Posted By: mlam
    It's also hard because he is amazing and social and sensitive. and the temptation is not to crush or stamp any of that out. How do you not crush his spirit and his abilities and his opinions and will, yet still be firm, authoritative parents.


    First, I would advise you to abandon the notion that exercising authority is associated with crushing spirit. The arbitrary and capricious exercise of authority can do that. The responsible use of authority, on the other hand, is yours because he's a child, and it's the best way you can keep him safe, socialize him appropriately, and nurture him in ways that guide him towards becoming a responsible, functional, capable adult.

    The setting of boundaries still allows for free-spirited exploration, because we allow our child to, within the established boundaries, go nuts. We're also careful to never create a rule or boundary without a very good reason for it. We should always be able to answer a question of "Why not?", even if we wouldn't actually answer it to her based on age-appropriateness.

    Second, I would advise you that any change you make in your parenting approach is going to exacerbate problems in the short term, because your DS has become used to certain responses from you, and any change you make will create more confusion, leading to even more acting out. Only when you've established a pattern of consistent responses to his behavior will he start to settle down, and that takes time and commitment.

    [My DW and I remain convinced that this is the major reason why "terrible twos" is a thing, because most parents impose very few rules and consequences on their children until that time, and then the child experiences what seems to them to be a complete upending of what they understand about the world and their place in it, based on a complete and unexplained change in the nature of their interactions with their parents (who make up most of their world).]

    Third, I would advise you to start talking with your DH over every seemingly-insignificant interaction with your son, so you can establish a uniformity in your boundaries and responses between the two of you.

    Finally, I would advise you to spend quality time with your DS in child-led play every day. It strengthens the bond that makes him want to naturally please you and earn your approval. It provides you with natural opportunities and teachable moments to help him work on his boundaries and socialization. You've indicated that you feel like you can't handle him, and he's in school partly to get a break from him... if he starts to get the sense that you're avoiding him, that will only increase his insecurity, and he'll act out appropriately.

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    #185398 - 03/20/14 12:56 PM Re: Managing 2.5 year old behavior [Re: mlam]
    polarbear Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/29/11
    Posts: 3363
    I agree with Dude on almost everything smile (Except that 2 year olds act the way they do because their parents impose few rules and consequences - I've seen quite a few "terrible twos" behavior even among families where there were strong consistent rules etc - I think the "terrible twos" is really just a very normal part of development that most children go through - although not always at exactly 2 :)).

    The only piece of advice I'd add is a trick we used with our kids when they were that age - distract with humor. Basically get there attention off of whatever is causing the fight-back and get the both of you laughing. It's good all around, and not ever moment is a teachable moment - sometimes you just have to have fun smile

    polarbear

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    #185405 - 03/20/14 01:56 PM Re: Managing 2.5 year old behavior [Re: mlam]
    binip Offline
    Member

    Registered: 03/10/14
    Posts: 96
    Oh my god. Yes. My second was nicknamed "Bonnie" in pre-school, along with another boy--"Clyde". The two would escape from the playground in a major city. Both would take the bikes and their helmets and attempt to ride out into the street (they never made it, of course, but they kept the teacher on her toes). My older daughter would make Supernanny cry--I believe her longest time-out had me not going to the bathroom or nursing her sister for something like six hours. She never gave in until she finally screamed herself into a heap in a locked room. It was all about control. What motivates these kids is control, not love, not affection, not order. It is all about control.

    Not that they don't need love, affection, and order. They do. But those don't motivate them.

    I read every parenting book. I tried everything, and usually, after 8 weeks (length of the trials), it would be far worse, because every book was based on the premise that the child lacked order, or affection, or connection. That was not my child's motivation. Her motivation was control, to a really, really creepy degree, where even a hug could turn into a battle.

    Quote:
    "It is really hard because he finds every single boundary every day."


    So familiar. Every boundary. You can make EVERYTHING perfect for the child, and he will still find a battle to pick, to control that moment. These kids prefer a screaming match to Disneyland, because they can't control Disneyland, but they can control a screaming match. It is so soul-crushing as a parent. Every fun activity, every attempt to connect with the child, is turned into a control issue.

    What I finally decided was to just go through the motions and not care about the result, the connection, the relationship. I had to stay in control of MYSELF, and give up control of the kids. That was the only way to maintain my dignity and my sanity.

    When I decided that, my kids still did a lot of stuff, but they lost control of me. Their actions had ZERO effect on my mood or behavior. I just went through the motions of parenting, like Dude suggests, do all the "right" things, and ignore what the child does. Focus on yourself, not your kid.

    I'm not saying have no limits. I'm just saying, set your limits and consequences and say, "That's what I'm going to do, whether or not it 'works' to change behavior or attitudes, because that's what the books say, and I'm going to be okay with it, because it is ALL I CAN DO."

    This allows you to maintain sanity (since you can't control your child) and also takes the wind out of the child's sails. What, I can't make mommy/teacher/granny upset any more? I can't change anything about my situation?

    Good luck. I am also a big fan of red wine. Patron has a faster effect when necessary.


    Edited by binip (03/20/14 01:59 PM)

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    #185409 - 03/20/14 02:05 PM Re: Managing 2.5 year old behavior [Re: mlam]
    binip Offline
    Member

    Registered: 03/10/14
    Posts: 96
    "DW put a stop to it."

    How?

    Surely she didn't do anything more severe than the parent would have done. And consistency--well, she's only with them for a short period of time, so that's not really the question.

    I'm willing to bet that her authority comes from the fact that she really doesn't care--not like the parent does--about what the child does. She's in total control of her behavior, which does not depend on the child.

    For many parents, who are taught that their child's behavior is their fault, such an attitude is extremely hard to cultivate. There are emotions and attitudes attached to the child's behavior.

    Experience with children helps with this but so does having a certain temperament and not having to deal with said child 24/7.


    Edited by binip (03/20/14 02:06 PM)

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    #185410 - 03/20/14 02:22 PM Re: Managing 2.5 year old behavior [Re: binip]
    puffin Offline
    Member

    Registered: 12/11/12
    Posts: 2035
    Kids behave better for those not emotionally invested. Did you say whether you had other kids? It seems full time childcare must be extremely expensive if you don't work and probably not good go the child. Could you use the money to employ in home help instead. It is a lot easier to be consistent etc if you have someone else there to back you up and if there are other kids to look after those. Even a few hours would help. A tired scratchy after care child is hard to manage and it means you have no routine to fall back on in the weekend. The daycare/work thing has resulted in a lot of probema in our house. Also you will yell and you will fail. Just pick yourself up and start again (think dieting)

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    #185411 - 03/20/14 02:23 PM Re: Managing 2.5 year old behavior [Re: binip]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    Originally Posted By: binip
    I'm willing to bet that her authority comes from the fact that she really doesn't care--not like the parent does--about what the child does. She's in total control of her behavior, which does not depend on the child.


    I find this statement extremely offensive and inappropriate.

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    #185414 - 03/20/14 03:43 PM Re: Managing 2.5 year old behavior [Re: mlam]
    binip Offline
    Member

    Registered: 03/10/14
    Posts: 96
    I'm terribly sorry.

    My children respond far better to people who aren't invested in the outcomes of their behavior, as do the children in my care who are not my own.

    I don't mean your wife doesn't care if they live or die or anything.

    I just mean, whether or not they behave, does not affect her opinion of herself or the situation. She can remain objective and detached, a professional manager of child behavior, rather than a family member who reacts to it.

    The behavior doesn't affect her because she doesn't take responsibility for it. Because it doesn't affect her, the control motive is gone, so the child responds to the other systems she has in place.

    Does that make sense?

    I'm not trying to insult your wife. I personally care far less about the behavior of kids who aren't my own, even if I love them dearly. I just feel their behavior doesn't reflect on me as a person, so I can confidently do what I want and they obey me. It's awesome. I do not consider it to be a character flaw. That's just how it is.

    As a parent, though, I have to put on a mask and hide my emotional investment in my children's behavior, or detach from it in a zen-like exercise which requires significant mental effort. Otherwise, they control me, and that control intoxicates them. That intoxication makes any other interaction pale in comparison.

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    #185438 - 03/20/14 09:04 PM Re: Managing 2.5 year old behavior [Re: binip]
    Dude Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/04/11
    Posts: 2856
    Originally Posted By: binip
    As a parent, though, I have to put on a mask and hide my emotional investment in my children's behavior, or detach from it in a zen-like exercise which requires significant mental effort. Otherwise, they control me, and that control intoxicates them. That intoxication makes any other interaction pale in comparison.


    There you go. That's exactly what you do. You can't let the children control your behavior. You're the parent.

    DW used the same approach with our own DD for the same problem, so it's not like there's an investment issue. In both cases, her instincts screamed out to chase the child and catch them before danger struck. But she also knew that she'd be playing right into the child's hands, and effectively encouraging the behavior she wanted to prevent. So she stood her ground, and declared, "I am not going to chase you." Then she backed up those words by not giving chase. The child had no reason to run if there wouldn't be a chase. Where's the fun in that?

    DW would calmly explain why the child needed to walk with an adult and hold their hand, because drivers can't see them, but they can see the adult, and the adult can keep them alive.

    If the child still wanted to run, the trip was aborted, and whatever negative consequences came of that were felt by the child. "Sorry, we can't play this afternoon, because I couldn't make that grocery trip and now I'm going to have to figure out what I can do with what we have on hand, so I'll be busy. I need to be able to trust you to stay with me so I can keep you safe in the parking lot. Maybe we'll try again tomorrow."

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    #185447 - 03/21/14 02:56 AM Re: Managing 2.5 year old behavior [Re: mlam]
    Mana Offline
    Member

    Registered: 12/17/12
    Posts: 882
    I'm one of those people who has had many careers and one of them was working with children with emotional behavioral disorders (not implying that your DS has one; just explaining my circumstances). Many of them were runners. I was placed in a facility that was very close to a busy intersection. Needless to say, it was not an ideal situation.

    My biggest challenge was controlling my own emotional reactions. I was young and inexperienced so it didn't come easily but I realized soon enough that I wasn't getting anywhere if I didn't remain calm while the boys were climbing up the trees and throwing rocks (at me and others).

    It was easier to be sympathetic towards these children as most of them had a very traumatic childhood and/or severe disorders. Then I see DD. We are by no means wealthy but we have enough and she has two loving parents who are devoted to her well-being. So when she gives us attitude, it is harder for me to stay calm and not react because honestly, there is no need for her to be so defiant and oppositional. I WISH I had parents who cared about me as much as we care about DD. My first 6 or 7 years were filled with near-death experiences since I was so poorly supervised.

    So I'm still learning to remain calm with DD. It's slowly improving. It helps immensely that she no longer fights about bedtime. Both SO and I keep on repeating to her that it's our job as her parents to keep her safe and healthy because we love her. I think the message is sinking in and she is no longer blatantly oppositional like doing exactly what we've just told her not to do. It's a long learning process.

    One thing I do suggest is that you stop giving empty threats. When I threaten DD, she knows I mean every word so she stops and assess about the possible consequence of her action like the time when her glockenspiel ended up being donated to a shelter.

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