Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mommy Meltdown: What To Do With Strong Willed Child?

We're having some discipline problems lately--the kind that have me on my knees, trembling with anger, saying I don't know how much longer I can do this.

My three-year-old is The New Strong-Willed Child textbook strong-willed child. His weapon of choice is the public meltdown. I can't tell you how many times I've left the cart in the store.

My question is, what do you do when he is throwing such a fit you can't get him strapped in the seat for home?

I've been closing the car door and standing outside until he wears out. Last night a (kindly?) woman stopped at the spectacle and peppered us with questions.

Obviously, we're not doing *something* right; yet what do you do when
  • spanking doesn't make a dent
  • time out is way out
  • and the naughty chair needs its own seatbelt?

Last night we had a parenting powwow. I surrendered my daytime command post and asked my husband to please please please come up with a consistent behavior plan.

I feel guilty putting this on his shoulders because he is the disciplinarian at work, and he should come home to a peaceful home. Yet without his lead, our home will never become this way.

As you read it, you can see it is more for me than for Andrew.

1. Andrew wakes up every day at 7:00 a.m.

2. Andrew is provided with daily structured routines and activities. There will be at least one time in every day for independent play, physical activity, and a video.

3. Andrew will be served a nutritious and balanced lunch. If he chooses not to eat it, he gets nothing until dinner time. (He may choose to eat the lunch later, but nothing different).

4. If Andrew eats his lunch, he may have a healthy snack in the afternoon before 4 p.m.

5. If Andrew has gone the entire day without throwing any fits, he gets to put a gold star on his chart when Dad gets home. This means he gets a drink with dinner. Mom will give Andrew up to 2 warnings before he is told that he won’t get a gold star on his chart.

6. Andrew will be in bed every night by 7:30 p.m. without exception. He may read his books in bed.

7. Every night that he goes to bed on time and stays in his bed the whole night he gets a gold star for bed time in the morning.

8. Every time he poops in the potty he gets a gold star. (He's been regressing here lately.)

9. Whenever he gets 5 gold stars in one category (no fits, bed time, poops in potty), he gets to go to McDonald’s Playland.

Pray for us!


Anonymous said...

Hey, sorry life is dificult right now. Just wanted to let you know that we've had great success with star charts here at my school, especially with kids who don't seem to care about punishment. I hope it works as well for ya'll.

Meredith said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Kristy! My husband's school has good results with star charts, too. If it works on his inner-city adolescents, it's worth trying at home, too.

Meredith said...

Hey Meredith, I'll be saying some prayers for you and your family before going to bed tonight. Hang in there!


Shannon said...

Our three year old has been having some definite behavior issues lately, too. Maybe it's a three year old thing:) We just recently put up an "If/Then" chart that someone emailed me. It's also more for the grownups than for him since he can't read! It has 3 columns - the first is the offending behavior (IF he lies...hits...whines...talks back, etc), the next columns is scripture that tells what God thinks of that behavior, and the 3rd is the consequence (THEN he loses a possession...goes to bed early...gets a spanking, etc). It's purpose is to make sure dh and I are consistent with him and to help him remember that we're punishing him b/c of his actions not b/c we're mad. It's actually helped a lot with my temper. I'm really not punishing in anger any more, not that I was ever out of control. But I did get the feeling that he did some things just to "make" me get angry. A control thing.
It sounds like you have a good plan in place. If you'd like to look over the chart, I have it saved as a word doc I'd be happy to send it to you.

Anonymous said...

I think you are doing a wonderful job being a mother. I only have one comment to make, since Americans tend to be over weight maybe you could not use food as a reward for good behavior. Perhaps spending special time with mommy or daddy or visit your childs favoite place once a week.

Keep up the good work.



Anonymous said...

I like the star idea to reward good behavior. Although I think (healthy)afternnon snacks are a good idea. A young boy with hungry tummy or low blood sugar is bound to be cranky or uncooperative. Food should not be a reward or a punshment.

Oh and Coke with dinner? hope its caffiene free if you want him to sleep later!

~Linda~mom of three teens, so I survived the toddler years!

Anonymous said...


Reading your other posts,your heart is definitely in the right place about your possible only child. However, reading your situation, I had to check back about your son's age to be sure he was 3. It seems to me that he's acting like a typical 3 year old.

Your hubby's suggestions seem logical, for a much older child or as guidelines for you both to kinda keep you on track. Some seem a bit unrealistic at this age. I don't understand why Andrew much awake at 7am and have a structured day, other than 3 meals daily and nutritious snacks. I just feel that little ones should be allowed to be...children. A child's job is to play ... with perhaps a few structured activities.

Aside from having to awake for school or an appointment, it always worked better for me to let the child awake naturally & let them fall asleep when they are tired, not when I thought they should go to sleep. This saved LOTS of aggravation.

Yes, definitely nutritous meals (of you giving him 2 choices, not what would you like for b/f or lunch,etc) filled in with continuous snacks of veggies/fruits. The coke should be left for birthdays & special occasions as there is nothing in it that is good for him. Perhaps a small glass of his favorite juice combined with seltzer as a treat instead..

As much as everyone WANTS their children in bed by 7 and not out of bed, I don't think this happens as much as everyone makes you think. I also don't think it's realistic that a 3 year old will stay in bed with a book as stated, especially EVERY night and for the ENTIRE night - sometimes if you're lucky.

You have a family of 3 and possibly more. It is better to live as a family and not as two people with "children." There will be time for you and your hubby in the evening. Your child will go to be IF you stop trying to put & keep him there. Honest!

I've also gone through the acting out problems, but never just left them to vent. Pick him up, put him in the car & tell him in a lower voice than his so he can't yell so loud -- that he's going home and will not come with you again if he behaves like this & mean it. Go out another time & don't bring him & tell him why... because he behaves badly when you take him. He'll cry & want to come, but tell him he can't & if necessary, carry him back into the house & tell him again. When he has to stay with Dad or a sitter,a couple of times, he'll understand. Also, don't take him to a store when he's hungry..bring a snack...and tell him before hand that you won't be buyng any ?? whatever, so he's prepared to just shop.

All this has to be repeated and repeated. Before I had children, I trained dogs. Thought children would be easier because they could be reasoned with, etc. Ha! Did I learn. Don't think there's something wrong with you or the child because you have to constantly repeat/remind -- that's the nature of children. They need to know the rules are still the same "this time."

Sorry this is so long, but when I saw the list of "rules" I had to write. I'm a bit out of the loop as I'm now a Grandma, but also the Mom of 5 born within 7 years....They had choices, but limits. Never had a BIG problem, even with 5 teenagers in the house. Situations did occur, but were handled, I guess, well enough as they have ALL grown into fine adults who are wonderful parents!

Meredith said...

Thanks for all the mom-tested advice! I really appreciate every scrap of information. This discipline thing is tough! I appreciate the connection between food as reward and childhood obesity. We limit almost all sweets in our home out of respect to my husband, who's diabetic. Still, better not to set the pattern of sweet rewards too early. Many thanks!