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AP/UP parents – help with 4-yr-old PLEASE!

(6 Posts)
ScarlettCrossbones Thu 23-Jul-09 21:16:11

Hope it's ok to FAO those who (try to!) practise attachment/unconditional parenting.

I am finding myself physically restraining my DS (4) probably every couple of days, and I just think that what I'm doing can't be right, if I am trying my best to bring him up in a gentle, positive, Alfie-Kohn-y way! But I can't think what else to do in these situations that we get ourselves into.

By "physically restraining" I mean using my strength to hold him around the waist, usually sitting on my knee, and often holding his hands/arms into his body as well to stop him thrashing out or hitting me. There's no anger or violence to it on my part (well, no anger that I show to him outwardly anyway). I stay calm and talk to him in a calm voice (when I can get a word in between strangulated screams ...).

He seems to get into these "Jekyll and Hyde" moods, when all reason falls on deaf ears, he runs away laughing after doing annoying things, and if I don't hold him, he starts throwing things around and hitting out at me or DP. I go back in my mind and try to figure out what's caused the paddy every time, and yes, there is often something I can identify which DP or I could have done differently which might have avoided a blow-up and that we can learn from for next time, but that doesn't help the situation "in the moment", when all DS is interested in is winding us and himself up more and more. The one tonight was when he repeatedly switched off the lights when we needed them on (and we calmly explained why) then when we eventually lifted him down from the chair he started off on one, and it all spiralled from there ...

I wouldn't do anything like naughty step or sending him to his room, obviously. I am a bit worried that sitting holding him is giving him/the tantrum more attention than it should get, but at the same time I still want him to know that I love him despite what he's doing.

Do you think I am doing all I can for now and just need to sit this (disheartening long!) phase out, or am I seriously going wrong somewhere if I have to restrain him at all, so often? Thanks for opinions!

MotherofInvention Thu 23-Jul-09 22:08:00

Sounds to me like you're being a bit too calm and that he's trying to force a firm reaction out of you.

I consider myself an attached parent and am very loving and close with my boys, who are both 4. They too are going through this phase of not listening and pushing boundaries, and it is difficult to handle. Really difficult. I know it's normal for boys this age but it is bloody exhausting. I see it as exploring where the boundaries are - pushing to see how far they can go.

I don't believe in suppressing feelings of anger and always pretending to be calm - it might be well intended but it is not a good preparation for the real world. Anger and irritation are healthy and natural feelings and can be expressed in ways that aren't damaging or traumatic. I raise my voice when they have ignored me a few times, and it works because they know that I have boundaries too. Hitting out at you is def. not OK and its good to show him how you feel about it, just like any other person would if he tried to hit them, i.e outraged!

Laying down firm boundaries and sticking to them is attached, loving parenting, and talking can never get you all the way with a 4 year old.

I know one parent who had issues of extreme rage and having to physically restrain her 4-year-old, who would go completely nuts on a regular basis. In his case I think the unbridled anger was a raging frustration at a lack of clear boundaries and a firm reaction from his mother when he pushed it too far. He'd just push and push but get no feedback from her, as she'd just be trying to avoid a confrontation.

I don't have to physically restrain my boys now, but I used to when they were 2-3. We used the concept of time out, i.e. if you can't behave then you can't play. I would sit with them, quietly, holding them until the time was up, and then we'd talk about what happened and why they got time out. I used it today for the first time in ages with one of my sons after 3 warnings following biting, hitting, and ruining his brother's toy, and it worked very well. He knew why he had to sit with me for 4 minutes (to think about how he'd been behaving), we had a hug when it was over, and he didn't torture his brother again after that.

Obviously try to stop it before it gets out of hand by first explaining why you don't like whatever he's doing, issuing warnings about consequences if he doesn't stop, then follow through with your consequence. If you stick to this way of reacting, he will get it eventually, and when he's calm and it's all over you can have a hug and a chat about it.

It shows him that other people won't tolerate just anything, that they have feelings too, and that he has to start taking responsibility for behaving and listening to you. Once he's seen for himself that you have boundaries and will push back against his behaviour, he might just stop raging so much because he'll feel safe within those boundaries.

popcorn123 Thu 23-Jul-09 22:31:41

Are you me! I was going to post the exact same thing today! My 4 year ds is exactly the same. He has always been relatively easy to manage but things have really gone down hill and I have found myself getting so frustrated with him that I constantly bivker with him and he never does what he is told and ust blanks me. Today as we were leaving a shopping centre he ran away ahead with his brother empty buggy and wouldn't stop when I shouted - I was carrying ds2 and couldn't catch up. Felt so out of control.

He has started hitting me and ds2 when he is frustrated and wants something he can't have like going to the park at 7.30am or crisps instead of dinner. He has never done this before even as a younger toddler (ds2 did) and I feel really resentful towards him and it is a continuous cycle.

I have tried to practice UP as well and so far have managed OK and havn't ever had to use punishments as such. He has always responded to role playing to trach things and talking things over later.

I agree he is definitely looking for boundaries - particulalry when he hits me, Iknow he wants me to stop him - I do tell me firming "do not hit mummy" and take his hand away.

I am struggling with setting boundaries without resorting to bribery and withdrawal of things. Today with the buggy thing I treatened to ban a trip to the park but I sound so childish when I say this.

He is worse over the summer holidays (starts earlier in scotland) and he has finished nursery and has less structure to his days and hope he will get better when he starts school in a few weeks but I feel really out of my depth.

My situation is a bit more complicated as I am separated from his dad who was emotionally abusive and he has started to have overnight with him (in an unpredible fashion) and he doesn'y do any parenting and exposes then to lots of playstation games etc and he has become obsesses with boxing.

However I think the problem is how to set boundaries in a non punishment way.

Sorry for hijak - have lots of sympathy and will watch for advice.

ScarlettCrossbones Fri 24-Jul-09 09:30:24

So good to know we're not alone – that in itself makes me feel better! Popcorn, we're in Scotland too, and tbh I was quite relieved when the holidays came as one of the biggest daily conflicts was his absolute refusal to leave the nursery playground at lunchtime. I would wait and wait and chat to other mums, then they would all call their kids to them and leave, and DS would still be tearing round the playground. Then walking home was often a total nightmare, with him pulling my hand, sitting down on the pavement, and having to be carried (all this while I'm trying to push a buggy with DD with one hand as well!). I was hoping that he'd be out of this phase by the time we go back in August.

Of course, I feel much more optimistic this morning he's always in a better mood when he's well rested, but I know it'll all happen again ... probably this evening ...

I know what you mean about threats sounding childish, and I avoid them as well, it's just not the way I want to bring him up ("If you don't do this, you won't get THIS!" – groan) but I've done it myself too when I've been desperate!

I heard a wee while ago that by the age of 5, "a well brought-up child is usually a delight", so that's what I'm clinging onto at the moment!

Mother, I'm not trying to be argumentative here, but what exactly do we all mean by "firm boundaries"? What, in practice, is it??? If he does something wrong – hits us or his sister – of course I will tell him that it's unacceptable, it hurts, we don't do that in this family, etc, etc. If this is not setting a boundary, what is – shouting it at him? Hitting him? No, I'm sure you don't consider that the answer either. So I don't know what else I can do. I do show my anger to an extent, I suppose, by the tone of my voice, maybe I worded it wrongly above. It's just calm anger, IYSWIM! Any more suggestions welcome!

MotherofInvention Fri 24-Jul-09 20:36:27

Hello again - hope your day's been good and that the proverbial hasn't hit the fan. We've had lots of whingeing, shouting, pinching and generally very annoying behaviour, with lots of sweetness and light in between. I think it's just par for the course with 4 year old boys and that they do grow out of it.

I forgot to say this yesterday but the most useful thing I've ever learned comes from my boys' Montessori nursery, where they constantly ask the children to 'use their words'. That's how they resolve all conflicts - by helping the children name their feelings and encouraging them to express them in words and to listen to each other. I use that a lot at home and it helps them become much more aware of why they do what they do. But it doesn't always work, of course.

As for boundaries, I think I might be of a slightly different school of thought in that I think it is OK to 'bribe' children sometimes - although I choose to think of it as issuing incentives. I.e. if you tidy up we can go out and have an ice cream together later. Or, if you come now we can go home and cook a nice dinner together. If you don't, we won't have time. Not all the time, but when all else fails, including my own patience.

The same goes for 'threats', although I think of them as consequences, i.e. if you don't want to put your shoes on then we can't go to so-and-so's house because we'll run out of time. Or if you don't come now you won't have time to watch tv or have a bath or whatever when we get home. I think that's about learning to take responsibility for your own behaviour.

The thing about consequences of course is that you have to make sure they are relevant to the situation, realistic, won't put you in a worse position (i.e no telly is a rubbish threat as that's when I'd be sneaking off to cook dinner) and be prepared to follow through. And stick to your guns, every single time. Which is really hard and I often fail many of those criteria. But then I have long given up my quest for perfect parenting and cling on to the hope that trying my best will do.

And I will use time out on rare occasions for repeatedly intolerable behaviour. I believe it shows them in a very literal way that if you can't behave and listen, you can't participate. I don't isolate them, and if they won't sit still I sit with them until the buzzer goes. But I do think a little thinking time, followed by a chat and a cuddle, is a firm way of setting boundaries.

popcorn123 Sat 25-Jul-09 20:54:06

Thanks - motherofinvention - what you are saying makes alot of sense. I will try and use "consequences" of things more - I try it and then give in later so not helpful.
I think my ds is looking for more boundaries on behaviour at the moment and I need to find a way to do it.

Scarlettcrossbones - We are always the last to leave nursery as well but ds's finished at 3pm so the school playgroup would be empty excpet us on the slide in the playground. I sometimes had to pretend to leave (and almost do) to get them to move. Need to learn to be firm but fair. Every develpmental stage is different - drives me mad!
Have been firmer over the last couple of days and seems to be helping i.e not giving in when he refused to hold me hand near a busy road despite a scene but he was much more cooperative after that.

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