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Can you Gentle Parent a "strong willed" child??

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Okay, I'm just going to be blunt.

My 2yo DD is a terror. We are having her evaluated for Sensory/developmental/behavioral disorders as well as Autism (PDD-NOS is our worst case scenario). She isn't always awful, but she is at least difficult most of the time. I walk on eggshells for sure.

I have tried the gentle parenting approach with her. She used to be a wonderful little angel, up until she turned 2. I'm patient with her and use a gentle tone. I don't spank and only use time out for when she does something really bad. But I'm sooo beyond sick of this and I'm at my wits end. She is mean to her big sister... hits and yells at her. So many times I tell my oldest to just give my 2yo whatever just to avoid a 30 minute meltdown.

Being gentle (talking to her gently or sturn-but-not-loud), explaining etc.... it just isn't working. Her behavior is getting worse and worse. Her evaluation isn't until January. I may go insane before then.

Is 2.5 too young for a pop on the butt? She understands what time out is, and knows that if she does certain things she will go, but it doesn't stop her from doing it!! A big one is spilling things on purpose... throwing bowls of food, spilling an entire bottled water into the floor etc. She knows she'll go to time out, but still does it.

Can you gentle parent a terror?

by on Nov. 11, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Replies (21-30):
by on Nov. 11, 2012 at 8:54 AM
1 mom liked this
Everything here is correct. Also let them know ahead of time when youre changing activities....ok we are leaving the park in 5 minutes. ....2 more minutes guys etc young kids and those with special needs often have a hard time transitioning from one activity to the next

Quoting Anonymous:

I think you can totally gentle parent are terror - HOWEVER- I say this not because I have parented one, rather, I work with children who have some serious behavioral issues, and lack a parental/authority figure in their life. I have a tornado two year old as well who I handle in a similar way

I don't think that being a gentle parent, means that you are soft/push over/etc.

What some may call gentle parenting, I just consider being clear and consistent. So, this is just how I roll, and it might not work for others, but it works like crazy at work and with my own child (who, let's be honest at two, still has his moments). 

1) Let them know the plan and how you expect it to go "Jessica, we are going to go to the pool today, it is going to be SO much fun! We are going to splash, we are going to swim, but when I say that it is time to go, we are going to get out of the pool, get bundled up in our towels and head back to the house.  If you cry like yesterday, then we won't have time to read our two books before nap". This also let's the child know what to expect, which is so helpful.

2) If...then.. statements.  It removes a lot of noise and puts the responsibility on their actions. For the older kids (even my kiddos with autism), it removes the adult from the equation and puts it on their choices. For the younger kids, it works well as a simple set up for what you expect, and if a consequence is necessary - they know why they got it. 

3) I messages.  I use these a lot at work with my older kids (including the three who have varying degrees of autism), because, well, there isn't much sassing/negotiating/blaming on others that can come after them. I have been working on a training for my company, so I have been up to my elbows in emotional intelligence, and I happen to use one of these on my toddler on accident. He is 2 and some change. I said " I feel frustrated when I have to ask you to pick up your trains 2 times. I should only have to ask once. Can you please pick up your trains? If you don't then you won't get to play with them until after nap and that is a really long time. He said "Sorry mama" and started picking up his trains. To be honest, I thought this would be over his head, but it has been working consistently for him. 

4) Dude, I have a kid at work with...well, I don't know what he has going on. I have never asked because it isn't relevant. It is very easy to see what his different needs are and how to accomidate them.  I could make my guesses, but again, they don't really matter. ANYWAYS, the spilling. Oi! The spilling. He does it on purpose too, and it took me a short while to catch on to. If we have any art supply out (he will run it through his fingers and then *boop* poured out.  name it. *boop*. Setting him up with some sensory bins that he can do that with anytime he needs to (because, he isn't doing it to be a jerk - he is doing it, because he honestly can't NOT do it. For him, he HAS to do it. He is a polite, respectful, good, wonderful kid. He just can't NOT do it) has been really helpful for us. Right now he (well, anyone, but he is the only one who uses it) has a big thing of pinto beans in a corner with cups, spoons, funnels, bowls. He can pour away until his heart is content)

5) This might be a little out there for the younger kids,  have a peace corner - a place to go that isn't a time out, but a place to cool off. "Cool Off" is a word we have worked hard to code into our son's mind, he knows that it means that it is time to do some deep breathing, but we are trying to transition it to mean that he needs to go to a certain place in his room, do some deep breathing and chill out while his emotions settle (he usually chooses to read a book), it sounds like the emotional regulation is a bit difficult with regard to your daughters behvaioral concerns, but I thought I would throw this out as another option for a time out. At work the kids have a table with a nice table cloth, some worry beads, a stress ball and a few tools for conflict resolution.  The older kids go for a wide range of reasons, from self regulation, to me asking them to take a breather there.  The ones who go for self regulation, I suspect go because of the calming jar. It is oddly facinating (pretty, but so over my 2 year old's head).

6) The emotions are okay, your child feels sad/upset/frustrated/mad, it might be out of whack, but that is how they feel and that is okay.  What ISN'T okay is the behavior. Address the hell out of that. 

I will stop boring you - but I think the one thing I want to get across is, I am a hard ass. I might not spank my kid, or pop them in the mouth, but I DO NOT tolerate unkind, rude, or disrespectful behavior. I just happen to think that there is nothing wrong with tailoring the emotional coaching and consequences in a creative approach that works for everyone - as an example, the child I talked about with regard to pouring things out, has two awesome parents.  Then, I showed up to work one day, and the kid was outside doing push-ups. I was taken aback and shocked that they would make him do something like that. I mean, a 2nd grader doing push-ups? Ick.  Then, I saw how it really worked for the child.  He has a huge amount of extra energy, and he will bounce (like jumping jacks, but without the arms), so for him, it was a way to channel the extra energy that sometimes leads to the behavioral issues (he is focused on jumping instead of listening) while getting a point across. The parents are not sitting there with their foot on his back making him do 200. It is appropriate, he knows the limits and what matter's most is that it works for the child in a constructive way.

 Also, I can only imagine how draining it might be to parent a child with higher emotional needs, and I know how hard it can be to parent effictively when drained yourself. Your fuse is short, you are at a loss and just want something to stop the unwanted behavior. So, ,take care of yourself mama. Things can be stressful, make sure you are doing things for yourself too! 

There is my novel. I doubt it was helpful, but there it was. 

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by on Nov. 11, 2012 at 8:55 AM
I think you are underestimating and misunderstanding non-violent parenting methods.

There are far more effective non-violent parenting methods you can utilize.

It sounds like you, at the very least, have a high needs child.

I would recommend you find some local parenting classes so you can have a wide array of "parenting tools" in your bag.

Spanking is not effective and very often makes matters much worse for high needs/sensory kids.

Good luck!
by Diamond Member on Nov. 11, 2012 at 9:00 AM
2 moms liked this

Strong willed kids are hard wired to push boundaries.  I have one, she's 15 now.  I found this book really helpful.  The techniques actually work, but I warn you the yelling and screaming won't go away over night and the best solution for that is making sure she is well rested.

by Anonymous 6 on Nov. 11, 2012 at 9:04 AM
If she has "issues" then I'm not sure how much spanking would help. I have no experience with sppecial needs children but my now 3 year old is a very strong willed girl. Its very hard to deal with her sometimes. We do spank but as a last resort, if after 3 warnings she keeps disobeying she gets a spanking. I've only had to do it twice. Now she doesn't get past the second warning because she knows I mean business and she knows what's coming. I don't allow disrespect of any kind, that just warrants a spanking right there and there.
With all the sensory issues and autism and adhd and all this things you read/hear about all the time, I thought she may have a problem because I was reading too much into it. Now, I just look at it as she is JUST a very strong willed kid who does well on rules and discipline.
It does seem like now a days every kid is labeled with something. Like if your kid acts up/has meldowns/doesn't listen and misbehaves then he/she must have some sort of "problem".
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by Ruby Member on Nov. 11, 2012 at 9:04 AM

I am forever telling my son, you may be stubborn but I've got 24 more years of perfecting the art!

Quoting Matriarch87:

Gentleness and being strong willed are not defeat a strong will your will must be stronger not more violent or less gentle.

Seems to me from what you do to avoid her tantrum is to give into her. So while she very well might have whatever disorder im certain you walking on eggshells has not helped in anyway and most likely made it worse.

Be firm with her, have a strong constitution, mean what u say...if it brings on a 4 hour tantrum so be it. ignore the tantrum, only respond to her when she is calm.

Dont hit just doesnt make sense.

This is why non spankers feel spanking is for the lazy. You dont want to win the battle of wills, u want a fast solution.

Ill be the first to say, giving her a whooping will surely stop her in her tracks...but it will do much more than just that, its an immediate response not a long term solution and it comes with many harmful risks.

Good luck momma. I hope endless patience for you and total health for your family.

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by Anonymous 7 on Nov. 11, 2012 at 9:06 AM
1 mom liked this are allowing this behaviour. Stop it immediately with a stern word and a firm swat to the bottom. If the tantrum continues place her un her room with the door shut and tell her she can come out only when she stops and stay firm. I am a very strict parent and my kids have rarely had tantrums because of it.

Quoting lissetteP:

Tough love!! Stop the gentle...
by Anonymous 8 on Nov. 11, 2012 at 9:09 AM
Giving in is never the answer. Once you decide something stick with it. Make a chart of good behavior and bad such as a big sis little sis chart everytime they are sweet to each other they get a star. Once they get a certain amount of stars they get a treat. You can decorate it with pics of people hugging and what ever "nice" behavior pics you find off the Internet. Making the charts was incredibly helpful as now my son has a visual of his positive bahvior abd his bad behaviors I started them when he was two and its the best thing ever. Of he has a bad day he ends up in time outs or looses a toy or whatever it is at that moment.
by Silver Member on Nov. 11, 2012 at 9:20 AM

 I would always put my dd in her room when she would have tantrums and tell her she could cry as long as she wanted but she couldn't come out until she was calm and we could talk about it when she calmed down. You have to be consistent giving in to want she wants so she'll stop the tantrum just reinforces the behavior. Let her have the tantrum if she wants to but once she learns throwing a fit won't get her anywhere she'll get tired of it. Make sure she is getting enough sleep too, if a child is tired they will become frustrated much more easily. Also keep track of her diet to see if there are certain things that set her off. Limit her sugar intake, some dyes can cause behavior problems in children so taking those foods out of her diet may help.

by Gold Member on Nov. 11, 2012 at 9:29 AM
Idk if she has any problems because I've never met you or her but from you post I do see that you are reinforcing bad behavior by giving in to avoid the tantrums. My son is almost 4 and has been a terror since 10mo old. He can throw tantrums that last 2hrs and has but I didn't quit being harsh just because he threw a tantrum. He hits, kicks, bites etc and every time he sits in the corner. If I have to drag him back into the corner 20 times I will. I spanked a lot between 2&3 but it never helped. It just made us both more mad.

I guess the point here is that if you give in she will keep doing it because she is getting what she wants. If she purposely spills something, she's done until the next meal. She has to help clean it up and then she sits in a 2 minute timeout. Make sure after the timeout you explain why she went and give hugs and kisses. If age is throwing a tantrums walk away, if she follows keep moving, don't even speak to get. As soon as she clams down immediately give a ton of attention, tell her how glad you are that shes feeling better and then move her on to a new activity.

If you truly believe something is wrong than take her. It kind of sounds to me like she is just walking all over you, but again I'm not there so I can't say for sure.

My youngest that I've been writing about was dx with sensory processing disorder right after he turned 2. We tried OT and he was asked to leave because he wasn't progressing. We also did behavioral therapy for the last year, again not making much progress, but it helped me learn to parent better. He was dx with ADHD a few weeks ago. We ate waiting for OT to open again now and then we will probably try meds in conjunction with OT and behavioral therapy. We have high hopes that he will get better.

You could also try an elimination diet to see if that makes a difference. Good Luck mama!
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by on Nov. 11, 2012 at 9:39 AM
What is her diet like?

I ask because we started noticing that when our middle son (who was diagnosed by doctors with ODD and SPD) would eat anything with gluten or red dye, he would have horrible melt downs. These weren't the only triggers, but triggers none the less.

Also, spanking will do nothing... It is a short term fix to a very long problem. You need to atop giving in. You have actually started to teach her that when she does have a melt down, she gets whatever she wants.

Next time she has a melt down, put her in a safe place and leave her be. Don't tell your oldest to give in to her... Have your oldest walk away and ignore her if she is being mean.
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