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How to avoid the ask-nag-nag-explode syndrome?

(23 Posts)
elliott Mon 30-Jun-08 16:30:57

I really want to have a less confrontational and more civilised co-existence with 6 and 4 yr old ds's. I feel that dh and I are spending too much time reacing the point where we get really cross with them for not doing what we ask. Main flashpoints are in the morning (chivvying them to get ready) and at bathtime/bedtime, when they are high as kites. Ds2 aged 4 is particularly contrary (i.e. we ask him -nicely- to do something, he just says 'no' and it tends to escalate from there). I feel we need to be smarter about how we deal with him - he really seems to enjoy the ding-dong of confrontation and having the last word. So how can we be firm without situations reaching explosion point? And how do I help dh not reach flashpoint so often? (we both get angry but he is not as good at trying to avoid escalation as me...)

We do do lots of praise and encouragement, and on the whole they are lovely. I just want to stop shouting at them quite so much...

avenanap Mon 30-Jun-08 16:38:22

Don't ask, order! You are not making a polite request to your mum. You want the darlings to get off their backside and do something for you. If the little darling tries to backanswer you, put your hand up, say you've been told to do ... and turn and walk away. Put a penalty in place for something not done. I have a bean system with my ds, good things earn beans, mischief and back answering get them taken away. 1 bean =10p. Maximim £3.50 per week, extra beans for very nice things. Tell them why you are removing a bean, if they argue, keep removing until they get the message and stop. Don't allow him to get into an argument with you. You are the boss, he does as he's told. I would do the beans for an older child, a star chart for a younger one so they can see what they have earned. Try not to get angry, this is a lost battle. Stay firm and stick to your guns.

onwardandupward Mon 30-Jun-08 17:56:35

One of those "how to listen so kids will talk and talk so kids will listen" type books might help.

I'm a big fan of Alfie Kohn Unconditional Parenting. In a nutshell, based on what you've written, the Alfie Kohn approach would be more like

"bath time, boys"
"oh, ok then"

because it's really not a big deal if a child doesn't bathe every day or even every few days.

Work out carefully which of these conflict points you can let go of. You don't need to control as many of your childrens' actions as you maybe think you do. In fact, there might be hardly any.

We don't have bedtimes in our house. When people are tired, they go to sleep. This means that from a young age they learn to know their own tiredness cues (and we parents help them to learn to recognise and act on them) so there's no "come on now, it's bed time" but instead the children say "I'm tired now, let's go to bed". Seriously.

And for the morning - if you are on an absolutely fixed external schedule which is based on the adult agenda in the mornings, then you the adult need to make it as easy as possible and as painless as possible for the children to get out of the house. You're the one who thinks it's important to get to nursery/school/work on time. So you make the packed lunches the night before and put the bags all packed by the door and lay out the right clothes and have breakfast on the table ready to eat and the whole thing is much easier (this is how my mother functioned my entire childhood. She hated mornings and made it possible for everyone to do the routine pretty much fast asleep).

colditz Mon 30-Jun-08 18:33:02

I don't agree with onwardandupward's approach of "Oh ok then"

If it's not important to you, don't ask them to do it but once it has been asked of them I think it is very important they do not think of these requests as optional - at least if you ever want them to obey the teachers at school. Teachers don't tolerate "No" very well, they have more important things to concern themselves with.

1,2,3 magic has worked well in our house. Ask, warn, one two three consequence.

So "Please can you put your school shoes on?"

iF action has not been started by three, I ban Gamecube for one day.

It has been working - he obeys me more promptly now - my need to do this was realised when he kept running away and not returning, and now he comes back before I get to three.

Never ever do "two and a half"

moosemama Mon 30-Jun-08 18:34:12

Hi there

Could've written your post myself. 2 boys, exactly the same ages, love em to bits but getting them moving in the morning and coping with that mad hour around bed and bath has been a real trial just recently.

Like you say, most of the time they are lovely, its just the start and end of the day (when they are tired) that can be tricky.

Don't know about you, but we find the closer it gets to bed/bath, the crazier (and louder) the kids seem to get. It is usually the 6 year old that leads the mayhem, whilst the 4 year old has just got to the, "I have to do what I'm told at school, so I'll challenge everything I'm told to do at home instead" stage! (I remember his brother going through the same thing at about the same age!)

As avenap suggested its seems in our house to be best to tell rather than ask at these times. (They are far too wound up and tired to be reasoned with.) We have also developed a zero-tolerance to back-chatting and tempers and they now clearly understand that they are not to say no to us or argue/tantrum and if they do, they have to go and sit on the bottom step of the stairs (luckily for us we have a particularly small, boring hallway and they both hate having to sit there).

We have also started waking them up 20 minutes earlier in the morning but leave them in bed to give them time to shake off the grumps before coming downstairs and we have altered their bedtime routine slightly to allow for a bit of 'divide and conquer' as not only do they then both get a bit of all important one on one time with Mummy or Daddy, it also helps to calm the atmosphere.

Generally we tend to repeat the 'this too shall pass' mantra on a regular basis to each other. Sounds simple but its sooo true, there have been other stages where things have been tough, but we survived wink .

Its been a long school term, don't know about your boys, but ours are absolutely exhausted and really ready for their holidays.

moosemama Mon 30-Jun-08 18:41:36

Me again,

Just realised, wasn't clear on the zero-tolerance thing. We also do the 1-2-3 thing - its amazing how quickly they learn to move or stop what they are doing by number 2 wink.

The other thing is that even though we are firm and ask rather than tell we still make sure we always use please and thank you for example:

"right boys, time to put your pj's on now, please"

rather than asking:

"please would you put your pj's on now"

or barking:

"right boys, put your pjs on now"

subtle differences but, it seems to be working for us.

Othersideofthechannel Mon 30-Jun-08 18:48:28

When they have to do it, I agree with ask rather than tell.

But they can still find a way of encouraging a confrontation DS will sometimes say 'no' when I say 'DS, it's time for bath' or he'll run and hide somewhere.

I then ask why he is saying no. Sometimes it is because he wants longer to play but will is happy to have a quick shower to get clean. Sometimes he wants to finish his picture very quickly, then have a bath. Both of those are reasonable requests in my book.

Othersideofthechannel Mon 30-Jun-08 18:49:46

Elliot also asked for advice on not reaching flashpoint so quickly.
I think this has been overlooked.

Olihan Mon 30-Jun-08 18:57:49

There was a fantastic thread a while ago on ways to keep your cool and not get to flashpoint so quickly, will see if I can find it......

Olihan Mon 30-Jun-08 19:03:00

It's long but there are some fantastic strategies in it, lisalisa in particular has some absolute gems of wisdom.

TheChicken Mon 30-Jun-08 19:03:43

"I'm a big fan of Alfie Kohn Unconditional Parenting. In a nutshell, based on what you've written, the Alfie Kohn approach would be more like

"bath time, boys"
"oh, ok then""

sit hat really a therory?
why not hand em your bank card and a bottle of vodka

TheChicken Mon 30-Jun-08 19:04:28

also listen to hwo you talk to them
do you ask beg nag
calm down
stop going ON and ON and ON

Countingthegreyhairs Mon 30-Jun-08 19:24:41

Really sympathise with the problem as my dd used to dawdle endlessly in the mornings and it drove me spare. I'm not a paid up member of Alfie Kohn club because as adults we have to do things we don't want to and children have to learn that at some point and why not start early?

However, have had SOME (a bit hit and miss in places) success with methods 'How to talk so kids will listen' - particularly where you give the child more responsibility for solving the problem ie

sit down with your dc when they aren't tired and say "if you were a mummy who had two lovely little boys who don't want to get dressed/tidy up/get in to the bath on time etc etc in the morning/evening, what would you do?" then treat all their answers (however ludicrous) seriously and write them down. Then explain why the more far-fetched one's wouldn't work and exclude those with the dc's agreement. Then you are left with a plan to follow.

Didn't think it would work with my dd but she recently suggested using a timer to remind her when to come up stairs and get dressed before school and with a few exceptions it's worked quite well. I've struggled with other parts of the book though to be honest, particularly in situations when we are running out of time and therefore not in a position to negotiate endlessly.

I presume you've tried all the usual stuff such as races, eg I'll beat you to the top of the stairs, let's play music really loudly when we get dressed, who can put their socks on first, do you want to get in the bath as a frog or a rabbit etc etc?

Good luck. I'm still trying to temper my shoutiness so I really sympathise.

Othersideofthechannel Mon 30-Jun-08 20:02:51

Yes, I have found the 'problem solving' thing from the 'how to talk' book useful.

elliott Tue 01-Jul-08 11:13:44

Thanks for all these helpful ideas (sorry I started the thread then went off home!) - I will have a look at the 'flashpoint' thread too as that is really what I want to stop.

The main problem is that ds2 can be relentlessly provocative and we are running out of strategies. Basically when we enforce somehting, he just fights back harder and harder and doesn't seem to be able to stop himself - he can get into a real rage, running away, screaming, hitting and kicking us. Ignoring sometimes works (for more minor blatant attention seeking like saying 'no' or blowing a raspberry), but sometimes he just escalates what he is doing until we have to react (he starts throwing things for example). I think a lot of it is tiredness and we do try to prevent that, but it is difficult as he gets up far too early.

We need strategies for de-escalation that don't involve capitulation (I really can't in conscience follow Alfie Kohn - for one thing I am trying to encourage them to be self reliant so no I am not going to do everything for them in the morning....and it is not ME PERSONALLY that thinks it is important to get out in the morning, it is the way our society runs and they need to live in it)

We do use 1-2-3 and we do enforce consequences, but really I want to get past them only doing things under threat or bribery....and I don't want to be barking orders, we want everyone to follow the same basic rules about talking politely to each other.
Any more ideas?
We have done a bit of problem solving but the problem really is that for ds2 it is an emotional reaction of defiance and anger.

Countingthegreyhairs Tue 01-Jul-08 18:05:21

mmmm, it's difficult

I did use the naughty step to good effect when my dd was between the ages of 2.5 yrs and 3.5 yrs (have used it alot less since) primarily in order to get her to calm down so that she could begin to listen and reason ... she got so worked up that any interaction at that point was counter-productive and ended up in a negative spiral/heightened tension etc ... and that space allowed her to calm down. I also think the lesson of "if you behave in a really 'anti-social' way then you get excluded/separated from people until you can behave a bit better" is a useful (albeit hard) lesson to learn. It's only then that explanations about "why" something is unacceptable can be explained in a calm manner.

Would you consider allowing them to experience the consequences of their behaviour? Ie the nursery school where dd used to go suggested letting her come to school in her pyjamas if she protested about getting dressed on time in the morning. I never had the balls to follow this through (and worried about humiliation aspect) but apparently you only ever have to do it once ....

I also used pasta jars and star charts to good effect although I agree you can't rely on reward systems forever.

"Control" is always a huge issue at this age when they test our boundaries. And yes testing is the right word. The 'How to talk' book does describe some good strategies for giving dc more control whilst reaching your end objective also. But it's not easy and I reckon if I'm getting through to dd 60% of the time then that's OK. No strategy works perfectly - hold on to the fact that it is a phase and it does get better as time goes on.

The only other suggestion, having ruled out sleep problems, tensions at school/home etc is to perhaps take a couple of days with them - just you and them on your own - and go and do something really low-key but interesting such as rock-pooling and give them all their attention when they are behaving well; although I see you already use loads of praise and encouragement. I dunno - it's just I really understand about the morning and evening interactions getting you down - that's when everyone's under pressure and it's good just to take some time away from it all and focus on the good stuff ....

Good luck. It's tough ...

HonoriaGlossop Tue 01-Jul-08 18:19:24

my ds is six soon...just thinking what we do with him....

In the morning; his responsibility is to bring his clothes down and get dressed. I leave his shoes out for him. Other than that, I sort lunch and school bag and remind him to do his teeth (we usually do them together). He gets dressed at the last minute because that's what he prefers. He often gets his own breakfast, because he wants to. I would get it if he didn't.

On some occasions he's been larking about instead of getting dressed and it can be stressful as I have to get straight to work after dropping him, but I've simply said to him that if we're late I'll let him explain why to the teacher...and so far that's worked.

At night I think a very clear routine helps. It probably isn't best in terms of letting his dinner go down, but basically it has evolved that straight after dinner it's time to go upstairs. He has a play and a story and he can choose which order those happen in. I remind him to do teeth and sit in there with him chatting. If he's high or larking about we warn him he'll use up his story time; and he loves that so doesn't want to lose it.

So I guess I could summarise by saying

Keeping expectations low-ish
Encouraging/reminding and being WITH him when he does stuff
Giving him choices
Consequences - too much larking = lack of story

elliott Tue 01-Jul-08 20:21:31

Thanks again. HG you have pretty much described exactly our approach - though we have the added complication of the two of them bouncing off each other. Funnily, ds2 was lovely tonight after a completely atrocious evening yesterday - although we did manage to follow through without losing our tempers yesterday, so perhaps that helped.

HonoriaGlossop Tue 01-Jul-08 20:31:52

well I think you're getting it right then elliott - the only thing is to keep calm! easier said than done I know - and having two as you say does take the larking about up a notch or ten, of course

but yes, I think you have answered your own question; you followed through calmly yesterday.....and it seems to have worked.

Just have confidence in what you're saying/doing and it will help you keep calm. I really think the importance of you being calm cannot be overstated

They will bounce off eachother of course, and if there is a shouting parent to add to the mix - hurray! Up another notch!

good luck though. I realise that having one child only, I am not best placed to give advice on this one!

carrieon Tue 01-Jul-08 20:48:47

Have no personal experience of this but I do remember a Supernanny episode where a child had a 'calm down' space (or similar name) with a large bean bag in, so the idea wasn't that he was necessarily being punished, but that he was given a place where he could get his frustration out and calm down because he wasn't doing it in acceptable ways in the rest of the house. So a sort of combination of time-out and treating them a bit more grown up and acknowledging that they're frustrated and helping them deal with it. Obv doesn't help with getting him to obey requests in the first place, but might communicate the message that the way he's responding is unacceptable? Sorry if useless advice...dd is only 15 months so all this still to come!

Mungarra Wed 02-Jul-08 11:49:42

I'm not into Supernanny techniques - naughty steps, time out etc, as I don't like them. I think locking a kid into a room and not listening to them is kind of mean.

However, I have to comment on onwardandupwards post. My father (and my mother by extension) didn't believe in bedtimes or telling us what to do much at all. We went to bed when we felt like it or, more likely, got carried to bed when we fell asleep on the sofa.

I remember ALWAYS being tired in the morning when I had to get up for school. I really wasn't getting enough sleep. My kids have a regular bedtime. I think a lot of tantrums/bad behaviour stems from not having enough sleep.

My parents also didn't insist that we brush our teeth. We had tooth brushes etc but it was mostly up to us to do it. When I first went to a dentist at the age of about 8, I had a shocking amount of dental work done - something like 12 fillings and 3 caps.

Othersideofthechannel Wed 02-Jul-08 13:00:00

I think it is possible to have a happy medium.

We have bedtime when there is school the next day. Sometimes the DCs are not very tired at that time so they lie in bed singing or playing with soft toys (can't read yet) but they wind down and eventually fall asleep. In the holidays, we are a bit more relaxed and sometimes it is the children who tell us they need to sleep before we have mentioned bedtime.

elliott Mon 18-Aug-08 17:09:07

Just reviving this as we are still struggling - have printed off the redmist thread and will read tonight.
But in the meantime, those of you who use time out or a similar cooling down area, what do you do if they refuse to go there? ds2 will start running round the house creating a 'chase' game which is sooo not the point I think....
Also, with 'zero tolerance' (moosemama I guess you are on holiday but if not...) what do you use as a consequence?
ds2 has taken to putting his fingers in his ears when we are trying to spell out consequences, which really pushes our buttons - any ideas what to do with that?

I feel very conflicted and confused about things tbh - sometimes I think we need to be firmer, other times I think we are in danger of becoming a joyless boot camp and should ease up a bit...

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