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Supacase's avatar

I really need parenting help/advice - Part 2?

Asked by Supacase (14533points) February 8th, 2011

As some of you may know, I am trying to figure out the best way to parent my “strong-willed” daughter. Consistency and consequences are the main things, according to books I have read and people who responded to my original question.
Well, She has caught on and is working me hard.

Earlier today I conversationally said, “You are testing daddy and me to see how far you can push us before we get upset, aren’t you? It is fun. It is interesting. Right?” She gave me this wow-you-are-so-right-but-I-will-never-admit-it smile/smirk and I swear her eyes were dancing.

Later tonight she asked, “What would the consequence for that be? Would it be a really bad one or just a sort of bad one? Because if it is just sort of bad, that might be okay.”

What do I do with that?!

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26 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

You are the parent, you’re in control – smirk back and ignore it. Remember who is the adult here and continue with consistency.

Supacase's avatar

Let me also add that my husband is having a hard time getting into this. He is still letting her get to him and last night he spanked her three times (which really pissed me off). I walked away before I did it, but I laughed my ass of when she started shaking her bottom and spanking it while singing “I’m gonna spank my booty off.”

Supacase's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir That is where I’m confused. I can’t ignore her behavior or she thinks it is okay, but I can’t hand out major consequences for minor misbehavior just to get her attention.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Supacase The issue with your husband is more of a problem here, in my mind. Neither of you should do anything without the both of you agreeing to it. If my partner touched any of our kids in a physical manner, he’d have a BIG problem on his hands. First, solve that issue and not for nothing, but your daughter possibly picks up on your possible tension in this matter.

YARNLADY's avatar

It’s just going to be a constant fight. You can use the fact that you can force her to behave, while you are stronger than she is, but that won’t necessarily teach her self-discipline. Misdirection is probably your best bet, just start a different activity that she likes.

It sounds like she needs a lot of attention. Get used to that for a few years. Be prepared to leave your own activities until she is asleep or out of the house.

Edit to add: To answer her comment you quoted above: “What would you suggest it would take to get you to behave?”

Supacase's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Oh, absolutely. He and I are not speaking at the moment beyond basics. We try to keep it light around her, but that’s it. This will be addressed in our counseling session on Thursday.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Supacase I see. That’s good. It only makes it harder for you to parent if your child is seeing two different responses from her parents.

gailcalled's avatar

I think also that you are overtalking, overexplaining and using too complicated language. Simplify your sentences. Simplify the rules and consequences.

Did she really, at five, say this? “What would the consequence for that be? Would it be a really bad one or just a sort of bad one? Because if it is just sort of bad, that might be okay.”

Supacase's avatar

@gailcalled Yes, she really did. And she knew exactly what it meant.

Pandora's avatar

How old is she? Are we talking teen or toddler?
If she is a toddler than its an easy fix. Take things away from her. Lock up one of her toys (that she like) and don’t give it back to her till she shows some impovement. If it makes her behave worse than take two more the next time. Eventually she will run out of toys so take away favorite snack and or tv or play time.
She will figure out in time that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Make sure the punishment fits the crime. If she doesn’t want to take a nap than give her other options. This would not be something I would punish a child for but I’ve known parents who would consider something this trivial as an offense. You and your husband should sit down and discuss what is an appropiate response to different offenses so you both are on the same page. Children like to divide and concur so be ready to be united. Once she learns this than she will learn she has no choice but to surrender.
If its a teen, than you have a much bigger problem. No doubt the bad behavior has been something that has been brewing for some time. If you don’t have her respect by now than it may be too late for it now.

Kardamom's avatar

Because your husband is not totally on board with this yet, it might be advisable for you all to go into some family counseling. You should ask your pediatrician for a referral.

It probably didn’t help matters when you said to her that she was testing you. She doesn’t need to know that YOU know that she’s testing you. You probably should have kept that to yourself.

Even if she asks you what the punishment will be for this or that, you don’t need to give her any specifics. Just let her know that the punishment will fit the offense and that she will be punished each and every time she goes against what you have asked her to do. That is part of the consistency aspect of this whole thing. If you cave in, because she starts getting smirky or asking questions, then she will always win and will never learn any kind of self discipline. One of the things that I’ve heard other child advocates say with regards to difficult children is that you say to them, “You will need to learn to control yourself, until then I will have to control your behavior for the safety and sanity of this household.”

But it can be very valuable if you get a few sessions with a family counselor to help you both, as parents, to learn how to be consistent and how NOT to give in to her bad attitude.

Again, I would strongly recommend that you rent a few episodes of Jo Frost’s Supernanny. She does not advocate spanking or hitting, but she has taken some kids that were the worst of the worst and taught the parents how to effectively and lovingly deal with their strong willed children.

Some of the kids on that show were so awful that I thought that if they were my kids I would immediately put them up for adoption. Hopefully you won’t have to resort to that.

gailcalled's avatar

@Pandora: She is 5 years old.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Hon, I wish I knew what to tell you. I’m still struggling with this, and my oldest is 10 going on 16. The advice to be consistent helps, but in some cases, it’s almost impossible trying to deal with her. All I can say is: be strong, be consistent, and get a prescription for Xanax. For you, not her. :P

wundayatta's avatar

I thought you had been trying positive reinforcement, and had had some success? Did I misread that (on your other question), or has it stopped working?

The fact that you and your husband aren’t on the same page and that he seems to be playing “Mommy’s the bad guy” is not at all helpful. I think your husband needs a few consequences, himself.

Supacase's avatar

@wundayatta No, you didn’t misread it. Things went well for a few days until she caught on. She has decided the rewards aren’t worth letting us “win.”

filmfann's avatar

The whole idea of punishment is to make sure they don’t want to do it again.
If they begin to balance the punishment as an acceptable price to pay, you need to raise the price.

faye's avatar

How about if she spends some time in her room, smirking, without any electronic buddies?

cak's avatar

Unfortunately, until you and your ex are on the same page, she might just try this as often as possible. Something I did when my daughter briefly tried this with me, I ignored her.

One example (well, two). My daughter didn’t like my rules in my house. At 5, she declared she was going to leave and live with daddy. I cried and begged. I caved. Second time, I pulled her suitcase down, called her Dad and had her tell him her bright idea. It backfired, in a major way.

Her punishment, not just wounded pride…but to pick up those stupid porcupine ball thingys in the back yard.

She later apologized. It wasn’t the last time, but when she really found out the I wasn’t going to bend, she eventually stopped.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@Supacase You have got to get your husband on board before she starts playing you against each other. Remember that she is the child and you are the parent, and you have to outsmart her! I understand not wanting to hand out “major” punishments for “minor” infractions, but let’s be clear here- you aren’t on the same page as your daughter as to what is minor/major. What you are doing is not working, so yes you do need to up the punishments. It may be easier for you to do this if you look at her “minor” infractions for what they really are, which is blatant disrespect and disobedience to her parents (pretty dang major in most parent’s books). Both you and your husband need to be a lot more firmer, or else just get ready for 18 years of this.

blueiiznh's avatar

Yep, you have your hands full and she is a “knowing, reasoning, smart” child who enjoys pushing the envelope and seeing where the edge is.
If I was posed with that Q&A, I might have said something like, “What do you think the consequence should be?”
The key is both parents being on board and engaged in the same way. Consistency is key.
You both are the parents and need to show that.

wundayatta's avatar

If there is trouble between you and your husband, then your daughter has got to be a bundle of fear inside. She is worried that Mommy and Daddy might split up, and she doesn’t know what will happen to her world if that happens. By being bad, she gets both Mommy and Daddy’s attention in a big way. While they have to discipline her, they can’t fight amongst themselves.

It might be worse. She might be blaming herself for what is happening between you. She might be thinking she’s a bad kid and that’s why you are splitting. You don’t really love her any more. If she thinks she’s bad, she’ll act bad. She is trying to figure out what is the worst thing she can do in order to be bad, but not so bad you ship her off to wherever her mind thinks you might send her if she is too bad.

Have you been discussing parenting during counseling? I think she’s pretty scared and will say and do anything that makes sense to her in order to stabilize her life. Kids feel the tension between parents even if nothing is ever said about it. They make up stories to explain it. Usually, those stories are not helpful ones.

augustlan's avatar

Your child sounds a lot like one of my daughters. Very bright, very willful, and quite the handful.

We had to change our rewards and punishments frequently. Something she considered a fantastic reward / awful punishment the first time around would be no big deal to her by the third time, so we had to switch it up. In some cases, the behaviors eventually disappeared, but in others… not so much. If a behavior was extremely persistent, in spite of consistent punishment, we opted to just remove her from the environment when she started up with it (making her stay in her room until she settled down or the outburst had passed). Not as a punishment (which didn’t work anyway), but as a way to make sure everyone else wasn’t being negatively affected by the behavior.

Send me a PM if you want to vent. :)

asmonet's avatar

@gailcalled: I spoke like that when I was five. There are videos and everything. I was a weird kid.

I was also just as willful and stubborn. I would think very long and hard about what my possible punishments were, weigh my options and decide. My mom put me in the corner and I would have a laughing fit for hours. She would keep extending it because I wasn’t taking it seriously and I would just laugh harder. I didn’t understand how sitting quietly and thinking was a punishment – that was like my hobby as a kid. She tried taking things away, I just used my imagination (at one point I was left with a bed, a desk and my school supplies in my room for several weeks – didn’t bother me). She tried spanking me, and I realized it was just a momentary pain and it would pass and since it was never too terrible it didn’t deter me from much. (the spanking however did make me resent her and have less respect for her decisions, it caused me to be more defiant because i was angry with her.)

Then she cut off about a foot of my hair as punishment one day. (Don’t worry she warned me a lot, it’s not like she just attacked me with scissors at dinner.)

Stopped me dead in my tracks for several months. And after that I was much, much more careful about when I defied her. Like I said, I went back to my behavior eventually because my mom hadn’t yet figured out what worked on me.

What did work on me was choice – I know, I know some of you up there are not fans but to a smart kid who judges actions and can see the difference in what they can do and what you can do and feels slighted by them, choices can mean everything. Little choices. Which chore I had to do, which activity came first so that I had some control over my life. I didn’t run my mom’s day but she certainly didn’t boss me around without regard to my feelings as an individual and as adults all of her children have commented on how positive that was for us. As teenagers and adults we have all enjoyed a strong sense of self, free will and choice.

Another thing? BEING TOLD WHY SOMETHING WAS BAD. You can’t just tell a kid that something is bad and they shouldn’t do it. Kids learn. CONSTANTLY. They’re built to want to know the why of everything. If you can’t explain why they shouldn’t do something, besides respecting your statement (which if they’re willful and defiant they aren’t doing) they have no reason not to do it. You’re really just making it more interesting, they’ll find out the ‘why’ by doing it and seeing the consequences.

I’m not a parent, just a former child. I was smart, defiant, willful, stubborn, mischievous and a toddler going on teen. The only thing that ever stopped me from doing something was being considered as an individual and having my mental needs met.


That was fucking long. If it was too long for you it comes down to this:

None of the traditional consequences ever worked on me. Didn’t work on my siblings. Giving a small amount of control over my life when there was little structure and being spoken to rationally about why something was bad behavior was the only thing that ever stopped me from being an ass of a kid. And eventually, given time, I grew the hell out of it because I understood what was expected and in new situations with the information I had been given previously I was able to make fewer and fewer ‘wrong choices’ with regards to my behavior. I could expect that being good is a hell of a lot less energy consuming than being bad if you understand the results of each option.

Supacase's avatar

@asmonet You sound just like her! She is down to a bed, books and clothes in her room. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t care what we take away. I do explain and try to give her choices – but I need to do more of both of these. I think you are correct about that helping.

@augustlan She is the same about one thing working the first time, but not the third. I am going to have to get creative.

Ok, I think I’ve got a good handle on what I need to do and I will keep figuring out how to do it. There is no one single answer other than I am the parent and I need to find a way to be an effective one.

Thank you all for being patient and helping me out.

Dog's avatar

My Grandmother told me advice that enabled me to parent well and keep my sanity. Both my husband and I had to remind ourselves to follow it.

“Not everything should be a battle. Choose your battles wisely but win the ones you choose

wundayatta's avatar

@asmonet said, “My mom put me in the corner and I would have a laughing fit for hours. She would keep extending it because I wasn’t taking it seriously and I would just laugh harder.”

Later on, she said, “What did work on me was choice – I know, I know some of you up there are not fans but to a smart kid who judges actions and can see the difference in what they can do and what you can do and feels slighted by them, choices can mean everything.”

I think these are very true words, and they fit with everything we know about how to motivate adults as well. It has always dismayed me that the education system seems to think that “adult” learners are different from kids. I think we all want the same things—particularly, as @asmonet wrote, choice. At work, we want control over what work we do and how we do it, and the research says that employees will be most motivated if you provide that. True for kids, too.

I think we used to let our children choose the consequences of their behavior. Or even invent them, but I’m not sure I remember that correctly. In any case, I think that’s an effective way of working with kids.

But what @asmonet‘s story reminded me most of was the way we handled “time-out.” I told my son that he didn’t have to go into time-out. However, each time he decided not to go, his time was increased. When he eventually did go, it was his choice. Yes, the penalty put pressure on him, but that’s real life. We don’t have to do what other’s want us to do if we choose not to.

However, in the real world, if we don’t cooperate with others, we’ll have a hard time. They won’t like us. They won’t want to work with us. They won’t want to give us things.

Child learners are like adult learners, I believe. If we treat them the way we want to be treated (hey—it’s the golden rule again), then I think they will choose to be more cooperative. If we fight with them and try to coerce them, they will fight back.

People here say, “choose your battles and win them.” Personally, I choose not to battle. I try to figure it out together with my kids and I respect their choices even when I think they are bad choices. Funny thing, though. I hardly ever think their choices are bad.

As a result, they have come to be able to think about my concerns and moderate their own demands except for things they really, really want. We passed my son’s old gym where he was learning gymnastics for a year. I asked him if he ever wanted to take gymnastics again, and he said that he never asked because he thought we couldn’t afford it. He’s 11, by the way.

But now he has his heart set on getting a Motorola Zoom. He’s been researching it and we’ve been discussing it for over a month. We told him he could either have a party or have the money the party would have cost. At first he said that he wouldn’t be able to pay for it with that, but we helped him see that he had money in gift cards and he could expect some money from his relatives for his birthday, and he decided maybe he could afford it.

Then he got upset because he wouldn’t have a service plan. Then he decided wifi was good enough—but I had to get a phone that could be a hot spot. On and on it goes. It’s all part of his education. And much of it is about negotiating with people in a reasonable way. People who are backed into corners don’t negotiate.

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