I have two creative and energetic boys, ages 3 and 6. I know that boys are more rambunctious than girls, but sometimes I lose my temper when I try to settle them down. Occasionally, I will remain calm and successfully quell the situation. I feel badly when I lose my temper. Both my wife and I work, so we feel our evenings should be dedicated to the boys. I would like some tips to help me settle down before I get angry.
Staying calm is one of the biggest challenges parents can face. Here are four steps that will help you maintain control of your emotions when your children start to push your buttons.
1. Identify what your children say and do that makes you angry. When you are at the grocery store, for instance, what is it that your kids do that wears on your nerves? Do they stand on the cart when you tell them not to? Are they running ahead of you? Write down a list of their aggravating behaviors.
2. Recognize the signs (how you feel and what you do) that indicate you are getting upset. How do you feel right before the yelling begins? Does your heart race? Do you clench your fists? Write down these signs.
3. Decide what you could do differently in order to stay calm in the future. Some parents count to 10; some focus on breathing techniques; some give themselves five minutes to calm down before addressing their kids; some rinse their faces with water, etc. Write down a couple of tricks that might work for you.
4. Make a “staying calm plan” that will work for you. Plug all your data from the above into the plan. It will probably look like this:
“The next time my kids (insert kids’ problem behaviors), and I start to (insert the early warning signals), I will (insert what I do to stay calm.)”
So, it could be something like, “The next time my kids start yelling at the grocery store and I start to notice my pulse speed up, I will pause and count to 10.” Make as many different plans as you need. Adjust them as often as you’d like.
I have a 2-year-old who will be 3 at the end of October. He is my third child. I am having a very difficult time potty-training him. He shows no interest in it, and he throws a fit when I put him on the toilet.
Though initially difficult, my first child was trained by 3 to 3 ½ years of age. My second child was very easy. I don’t know what specific steps to take with my youngest. I am concerned because he cannot attend preschool or any fun classes until he is fully trained.
He also is still attached to his bottle. He is capable of drinking out of a cup, which he does during the day. However, when he naps or goes down for the night he has to have a bottle in order to fall asleep. I once tried to break him of this habit by letting him cry it out. He screamed for two hours until I gave him the bottle. He then fell asleep.
Everyone keeps telling me that this is fine because he is my last one. But I don’t want him to suffer or to be developmentally behind. How can I solve these issues?
The ease with which a parent potty-trains her children varies with each child. Some toddlers are trained easily; others require great effort. This makes potty-training very frustrating for some parents.
The fact that your son is 2 and is not showing any interest in potty-training is neither surprising nor particularly concerning. When he throws a fit, he is essentially telling you, “Mommy, I am not ready for the potty.”
Potty-training is something that comes at different ages and stages for all children. Many parents start potty-training based on the child’s age, but children have to be emotionally, physically and mentally prepared as well.
So while it is difficult, try not to compare your son developmentally to your other children because they all develop differently. He’ll get it when he is ready. Be patient with him.
Do not force your son to use the potty. He will start to associate going potty with negative feelings, and you don’t want this to happen. Start small by doing little things like reading potty books, playing with his potty chair or changing his diaper in the bathroom. You can even just talk about the potty but not force him to sit on it if he does not want to. Introduce him to the idea and concept, and eventually when he is ready he will be more willing to give it a try.
Please remember that if you are ever concerned about the development of your child, you can contact your pediatrician. He or she can help with potty- training questions and tell you if your son is ready or not .
I am a divorced father with a 5-year-old child from my first marriage. I am now remarried and have three stepdaughters. My second wife and I have just had a child of our own. I treat all five of my children the same, and I have told them numerous times that I love them all the same.
We are now having problems with my 5-year-old. She is lying and hitting her 3-year-old stepsister. We have tried talking with her, asking her if she is upset and what is wrong. She either does not respond to our questions or says, “I don’t know.” We are concerned that her behavior will escalate into something worse, and we need advice on how to stop it before it does.
Blending families can be difficult, especially when young children are involved. It is good that you are talking with your daughter because she is going through a transition like the rest of your family. When she replies “I don’t know,” she probably is not being difficult; she most likely does not understand why she is acting out. Focus on teaching her the social skills she is lacking rather than determining why she is acting a certain way. Provide her with many opportunities to practice until she understands and implements what you are asking her to do.
It sounds like your daughter is only targeting her younger sister, so focus on their relationship. Find opportunities to have them work on something or play together in order to provide plenty of teaching opportunities for you and your wife and practice for your daughters. Have your daughter take the approach of being the big sister. Give her tasks that require her to help her little sister, and then let her know how important it is to you when she helps out and is a great big sister.
Continue to praise positive behavior and steps in the right direction no matter how small. Implement a no-hitting rule in the entire house, and make all members of the family, including your daughter, aware of it. If she knows that the entire house is expected to interact nicely with no hitting and not just her, she will respond more positively because she won’t feel like she is being singled out. Be a good role model of behaviors you want to see in your children.
My 5-year-old son, whose birthday is in November, will be starting kindergarten this fall. He is very excited about it. He attended daycare for a time, and while there he was taught some numbers and letters. He did not attend preschool, and now I am concerned that he will be behind his classmates academically.
He is a bright boy with a working vocabulary of an older child and a keen interest in and knowledge of science. However, he has no interest in his ABCs, and he does not care about reading or writing. While he can name 30 dinosaurs and state if they are meat- or plant-eaters, he cannot say his ABCs or count past five without help. He shows no interest in trying to learn.
He is the youngest of three, but his siblings are substantially older and thus, he is more like an only child. I stay home with him, and am willing to work with him so he will be successful in kindergarten and beyond. What can I do?
Children’s minds are wonderful things. It is amazing regarding the facts your son has stored in his brain. You can use his extensive interest in dinosaurs to improve his counting and letter recognition. Think of activities that involve dinosaurs and counting, whether it is flash cards or counting how many dinosaurs are on a page. You can also put his plastic dinosaur toys into a container to see how many he owns.
You can make flash cards with different dinosaur stickers on one side and the name of the dinosaur on the back. After he identifies the dinosaur by name, you can then spell the name together to reinforce his letters and reading skills.
Many schools have a letter of the week. When “A” is the letter, help him identify everything he can see that begins with the letter “A.” Eat foods that begin with “A.” Wear clothes that begin with the letter of the week or are the colors that begin with that letter.
Practice writing that letter in upper and lowercase. Make it fun. Sprinkle flour on a rimmed cookie sheet and ask your son to “write” with his finger letters that he has been taught in school. Or have him create letters with cooked spaghetti. Make learning more like play than work. Involve his father if he is in the picture.
The more importance and focus that is placed on letters and numbers, the more your son will be motivated to participate in the learning process.
My son does not see the importance of performing a task properly the first time. I have tried demonstrating how a particular task should be carried out, but he does not seem to listen and/or care. When his execution fails to meet my expectations, he responds with “Oh yeah, I forgot,” or “Oh, Mom.”
I follow up by first pointing out the things he has done well or correctly. After I have complimented him, I then indicate what he needs to improve on, and then I once again request that he complete the task. When I check up on his progress, I find that he has still not carried out my request. Out of frustration, I order him to do it.
I don’t want to fight with my son. But I do want him to complete tasks to the best of his ability and take pride in doing so.
To continually have to redirect your child to complete a task is frustrating and is a problem with which many parents contend. It is great that you compliment your child on what he is doing right rather than just criticize him on what he is doing wrong. Re-teaching how he should do it is also important. However, this is not working effectively for you. You need to change your strategy to affect a change in your son’s behavior.
So, think of a task you are sure to ask him to complete. Now write down in numbered order the steps needed to complete the task. The next time you ask him to complete a task, hand him the list, review the steps with him verbally and ask him to check off the tasks as he completes them. Ask him how long he thinks it will take him to complete the task. Then check to see if he has any questions.
Hold him accountable by saying that you will check to see if he has completed the task after the designated time passes. If it is completed to your satisfaction and according to the checklist, reward him with your praise and a privilege. If it is not finished or does not meet your expectations, he then forfeits a privilege.
Be consistent regardless of whether the task is involved, such as cleaning his room, or simple, such as taking a shower. Remove all distractions while he is working on the task.
You are most likely frustrated because you are more invested in this than your son is at this point. So make it worth his while to comply. He has to care more than you.
My girls are ages 3 and 4 and they share a bedroom. They have not been settling down at naptime and they are not going to sleep well at night. Consequently, they are not getting enough sleep. What can I do to teach them that bedtime is not playtime?
Review their bedtime routine. Do they go to bed every night at the same time, give or take 10 minutes? Children thrive on routine, and this can be your first step. The transition between play and sleep is important. Telling your children to pick up their toys, to get into bed and then turning the lights out will not work for most children, especially if they share a room. You need another activity, such as their nightly bathroom routine, sandwiched between play and bedtime.
Have your children pick up their toys and then complete their bathroom routine. This may be a nightly bath or simply brushing their teeth and washing their faces. If you typically bathe your children in the morning, you might consider moving bath time to the evening. Baths have a calming effect on children, and thus are helpful in putting them in the bedtime frame of mind. Then once they are in bed, read them a short story so they don’t begin to talk to one another. Once the story is over, it’s lights out and there is no more talking.
For naptime problems, you might have them nap in separate rooms, if that is possible, until they are able to nap in the same room without talking and playing.
How old is too old for time-outs?
A time-out can be used at nearly any age as long as it has the desired effect as a consequence. As our children get older and lose privileges or are grounded, those are forms of time-outs.
When your child is young, a time-out is one of the most effective consequences you can use when he misbehaves. You remove your child from the good things in life for a small amount of time immediately after he misbehaves. It is a great way to discipline without raising your hand or your voice. A time-out is simply having your child sit in one place for a certain amount of time (one minute for each year of life).
Time-outs continue to be effective as long as your child would rather be playing or engaging in an activity than sitting still and doing nothing. An example of an older child’s time-out would be during a hockey game. Players who violate the rules are put in time-out, and they have to sit and watch rather than participate or play in the game. It works because they would rather play than watch.
My divorced friend's 4-year-old son regularly punches her in the face when he does not get what he wants. He doesn’t seem angry, but he punches hard enough for it to hurt. After punching, he is given a time-out to think about it, and he destroys the room. After an hour, he returns to the sweet little boy that he is most of the time. How can we correct this behavior?
Time-outs are a very effective way to change behaviors if they are used correctly. From what you have told us, there are a few things we would encourage your friend to modify when putting her son in a time-out to make it more effective.
Have your friend explain to her son what a time-out should look like. This conversation should happen at a time when he is not being corrected and everyone is calm. Have her explain why he needs to go sit in a time-out and for how long. Then have her explain in detail what he should be doing while in time-out.
For example, it might sound something like, "When you are sitting in time-out, I want you to quietly sit on your bottom with your hands in your lap. When you can do this, I will know that you are ready to listen and follow instructions again." Then have him practice sitting in a time-out so that he knows exactly what is expected of him. A time-out should be one minute in length for each year of age the child has obtained (4 years old = a 4- minute time-out).
A time-out should be in an area where the child can be monitored at all times, such as a chair in a hallway or a step on a staircase. Select a spot for a time-out that has little to distract the child. Bedrooms tend to not be good, especially if they are filled with toys.
One of the biggest mistakes when using a time-out is a lack of teaching at the end of it. When trying to change or correct a behavior, it's important to have a consequence (time-out), and then teach the new appropriate behavior. Even if it seems like common sense or you assume the child knows what the correct behavior is, his actions are obviously not showing that he knows so teach it to him again.
After a time-out occurs, discuss what happened (in a calm way), and remind him what he is supposed to do. Have the child practice the appropriate behavior so that he is constantly reminded what is expected of him.
My three year-old son has been violent since he was two weeks old. He is wild, hits others, uses bad words and does not listen. I am confused about how to help him. When he acts out, I get angry and hit him. Please help me.
When young children hit others it is usually a result of two causes. Either he does not yet have the verbal development to express his feelings and so he uses his hands instead of words to express it; or, he has seen others solve their feelings of frustration with "hitting" instead of words. When your son acts out, instead of hitting him, walk away, take a deep breath and calm down. Practice journaling, calling a friend or counting to calm yourself down so that you do not model violent behavior to him.
As parents we know that modeling is our most powerful teaching tool. When we have problems, if we use our words in a calm manner to solve them, we are demonstrating or showing our children how they should behave when faced with similar situations. If this has not been done, don't worry, it is not too late to teach him. Use three simple steps to teach this to him.
- Tell him hitting is not okay. Instead, show and tell him what he should do.
- Have him practice what you have shown and told him.
- Reward his practice, or show your approval.
These same three steps can be used to teach your son "listening skills." Do that by showing and telling him what he should do when someone speaks to him. Practice these new skills throughout the day. Get the whole family involved so everyone is modeling the skill appropriately.
My nine year-old stepson has been saying he wants to know what it is like to kill someone. He recently shot a bee-bee gun at a dog. Also awhile back his cousin and stepsister were playing and tied him up. He went inside, got a pair of scissors and said he was going to stab them. I believe the boy is a mental case but my husband said it is only for attention and would never harm anyone. He has become defiant. What do I do?
We're glad you decided to contact us about your stepson. It definitely sounds like he is struggling with some behaviors and it's no surprise that you are concerned.
Regardless of why your stepson is saying these things, they are not okay. Even if your husband is correct, and your stepson is saying these things for attention, he needs to learn healthier ways to seek attention. If in fact you are correct and he is saying these things with the intent of following through, then he needs to be assessed immediately.
A therapist can work with your stepson on why he is saying these things and can help him learn alternative coping skills. He might be saying these things out of anger and therefore needs to learn anger management skills. Having a mental health evaluation done by a therapist will help you understand what's going on with your stepson.
If you need assistance in locating an agency that will do evaluations or offers counseling, send us your city and county and we can help you find you some.