Thursday, August 29, 2013

Discipline

Time Out Chair - Flotsam of the Mind
When we moved into this two-story house, my son got the upstairs room at the front of the house and my daughter got the room at the rear. One of her bedroom windows opens onto the single-story flat roof above the kitchen. On her first visit to our new home, my mother warned that the kids would need to switch bedrooms someday, because our daughter could not be trusted with an obvious window escape route. I agreed wholeheartedly. My daughter was six months old at the time.

We had her number early.

I believe my daughter will be a highly successful adult. She is smart and determined, an independent thinker, and a natural leader. She will be in charge of something someday. Until that time, she tries to be in charge of me (and everyone else). Too often, I fear she succeeds.

My alpha female six-year-old is stronger than I am. Her force of will is greater than mine. She often exhausts me.

All the qualities that make my daughter so amazing and engaging make her a difficult child to parent. I struggle with the best way to discipline her. Neither incentive nor punishment is effective.

Sent to time out as a toddler, she wouldn't cry or show remorse. She'd refuse to stay seated and might be angry, but her standard response was "so what?"

When potty training, she had no interest in an incentive and reward system. If she wanted to use the bathroom, she did. If she didn't, she didn't. She trained early but on her own terms. This is how it goes.

I've given up on the time out chair. She doesn't play with toys, so there are no favored items I can take away. We don't have a promised amount of screen time or a regular dessert, so I can't take those away. For the longest time, the one punishment that upset her was to take away our bedtime read-aloud time (twisted, but I did it). She mostly reads by herself at night now, so I doubt this tactic would work any longer.

My standard response to her bad behavior is to send her to her room. I know I'm tossing Brer Rabbit into the briar patch, but we require separation. She and her brother need to be separated so they stop fighting. She and I need to be separated so I don't lose my temper and do something I'll regret. She needs to be separated from everyone else so she can calm down and regain her senses. Sending my daughter to her room is useful, but it's not much in the way of discipline.

What is typically effective discipline for a six-year-old girl? I no longer know. My daughter is a dynamic, engaging, bright kid and mature for her age, but she is a kid. My kid.  It's my job to teach her appropriate behavior and that her actions have consequences. I do not want to fail at this.

Until I can take away the car keys, what should I do?

By the way, she is an attentive and well-behaved student in school and her after school activities. It seems she saves her best behavior for home. I deeply fear the pre-teen and teenage years.

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10 comments:

  1. I too have a daughter very much like yours. In fact I spent some time in therapy trying to figure out just how to deal with her personality (without doing something I would regret as you say) so I can totally empathize with you. I wish I had some magic answer for you. One of my biggest problems with my daughter was her treatment of her younger brother. One day, I finally told her that is my son you are talking about and it hurts my heart when you do that. She understood that. It didn't fix everything but it helped. Perhaps appealing to her mature side (in an age appropriate way of course) might help. Ask her what she thinks the consequences of her actions should be. My daughter is now 14 and things between us are much better. Once they get a little older and you can reason with them more it does get a bit easier. Hang in there - you are not alone! Judy - A friend of Brittany's in IL

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    1. Thank you! When my daughter is calm, I can speak to her reasonably and in a mature way despite her age. However, when she's in the midst of a fit, there's no talking to her--hence the "go to your room" treatment. I'm hoping for a reprieve before the teen years.

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  2. Does she earn money (from chores)? I recently discovered that charging my kids a "fine" for poor behavior works like magic. I take the money they pay me and put it in a charity collection jar. (We save money in the jar all year and "adopt" a family each Christmas.) Since your daughter is smart and mature, you could explain to her that adults get fined for poor behavior choices as well, like speeding in a car or not paying bills on time.
    Hope you find something that works for both of you. :)

    Jill H

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    1. My daughter is a saver rather than a spender, so I fear she'd tell me she already has plenty of money! I'm sure that will change as she gets older.

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  3. So, I just left my kids' school's open house and my son's teacher makes them write a letter home when they are really bad in school (as in, they've been warned three times already and they are still acting up). They have to sit during writing time by themselves and write a letter to their parents to explain what he/she did. Maybe you could try this - have her write a letter to Chris or to your mom or dad??

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  4. I enjoyed reading this. These traits will serve her well one day. My oldest has always been strong-willed and it's starting to serve her well as a young woman. But oh those days that I had to get through to get here! Best wishes and hopes for quiet moments of peace for you.

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  5. Well, let me start with saying I have no experience with a strong-willed daughter. Our 6yo son is almost too easy to discipline sometimes. A stern look stops him in his tracks. (no idea what to do if he calls my bluff on the stern look!) Through work, I've been exposed to a lot of Love & Logic training and when you said, no regular desserts or promised screen time, it reminded me of the L&L tips. You can create a teachable moment. You can pick a time you know she'll act up and everyone else gets the surprise trip to get ice cream that you had already "secretly" planned. L&L uses empathy & natural consequences. "Oh goodness, this is so sad...you guys have been so respectful and well mannered lately, I had planned to take the family for ice cream today. We will sure miss you when we go later."

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  6. Cyn, I like the idea of sending her to her room to write a letter. I think there is a lot of value in that for both of you.

    The other thought I had was putting her to work -- it might help her channel the excess energy and emotion that she presumably has if her behavior is unruly enough that you need to separate her from you and C. Could you send her outside to rake leaves or pick weeds (depending on the season)? You could send her to the basement playroom to pick up toys, organize shelves, etc. It could be completely fabricated busy work, but it should be just "drudgery" enough that it's an actual consequence of poor behavor. Obviously, it should be something that you're comfortable with her doing, and that doesn't require your constant supervision. For instance, in my house, I would send the girls to go outside to find and dispose of dog poop. :)

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    1. Finally, the first persuasive argument I've heard for getting a dog....Thanks. I think this is a good idea.

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