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Terrible Threes?
November 23, 2011 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I need advice on how to raise disciplined, well-behaved children. Lengthy details within.

My kids (girl/boy twins) spent their first three and a half years being taken care of during business hours on weekdays by a wonderful nanny, and by my wife and I at all other times. In September we let go of our nanny and put them in a local preschool program. They're learning by leaps and bounds, soaking up knowledge like little sponges, and we know we made the right decision there.

The problem is, they're now developing discipline problems. Hitting and kicking each other and others. Being defiant. Refusing to share. Throwing tantrums. We'd like to try to nip all of this in the bud early before they worsen.

They come home from school and it's the same litany day after day: "Eric pulled my hair. Jasmine kicked me. Tiffany pushed me." The teachers say our kids never instigate and that they keep a close eye to prevent incidents. We're teaching them to stand their ground and yell, "NO" but at the same time it seems obvious they're picking up bad behaviors from their classmates.

What's frustrating about this is they're generally sweet kids. They're affectionate and loving. Kind and considerate. They get along with each other pretty well. They did none of this before they were put in school, with the possible exception of infrequently refusing to share with each other. But that was rarely much of an issue.

We talk to them and make them understand when they do something wrong. We give timeouts. We raise our voices. (I feel like all I do is yell lately and honestly, I can't stand it. But it does seem to work in the moment.) We threaten to take toys away. We make them apologize to each other. But is there no other way to instil discipline in a three year old than giving them punishments?

But we don't spank our kids. They haven't seemed to need it. I'm resistant to corporal punishment because I grew up in an abusive home and my sense is it doesn't work. But at this point I'm really wondering if I'm wrong about it. I worry that once you open the door to spankings, you're setting up a negative environment which isn't reversible. And I also worry that spankings are either a type of abuse, or a short road to it.

I'd like to ask y'all how you raised your kids to be well-adjusted, relatively obedient and disciplined. I'm not looking for my kids to become mindless automatons. But I want them to stay polite and not betoo defiant. I want them to know their parents are in charge. (When mommy says "no" that means "no.") I'd also like to teach them to not resort to beating the crap out of each other if they're not getting their way.

I realize there are a lot of different schools of thought regarding disciplining one's children. We'd really like to know what worked for you and what didn't, so we can try and draw our own conclusions and figure out what might work for us. Please feel free to speak your minds. Thanks in advance.
posted by zarq to Human Relations (47 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
Haven't had three-year olds for a while, but I do remember that having a quiet, transition-to-home daily ritual right after getting home from nursery school and later, elementary school, was incredibly important. I immediately offered a snack and a storybook reading. We cuddled up on the bed for the story. I also recall one nursery school teacher suggesting a slightly earlier bedtime when one of our kids seemed uncharacteristically cranky at school and started to pitch mini-fits at home. The earlier bedtime worked really well. Many preschoolers need predictable down time as soon as they get home before they segue into the next part of their day. You may not need as many disciplinary measures as you think if you can get the twins into a comforting ritual every day, one on one side of you, one on the other. Easier said than done, but that's what worked for us long ago.
posted by Elsie at 8:44 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the myriad problems with spankings is that they need to be done in the heat of the moment. The kid doesn't do something they shouldn't in a vacuum; you get riled when they misbehave so bad you think they need a spanking. And you don't have the time for a cooldown period to make sure your GRRR doesn't get into the spanking. So the punishment is almost inherently disproportional to the crime whether it ought to be or not.

Now, I don't know, maybe, somewhere in time and space, there are parents with a totally cool head who can dole out just the right temperament of spanking. But you know as well as I do that coming out of an abusive home means you will never get to be one of those parents. So I'd say stay away from the corporal punishment in general.
posted by griphus at 8:46 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


In a word, homeschooling.

And to elaborate, the situation you describe exactly explains why so many parents who choose not to send their kids to school-let alone preschool--are rendered momentarily speechless by the inevitable "But what about socialization?" question.

You and your wife (and your little ones) are fortunate that as twins your children always have a playmate around. Sometimes, no doubt the hard part is finding a way to be alone.

But seriously, if all this negative stuff is coming home from someplace else, why keep returning th there?

Also, good for you for "sparing the rod," so to speak. Nothing spells out the inherent contradiction
in the corporal punishment advocacy quite so much as a parent spanking with the admonishment "this is what you get for hitting!"
posted by emhutchinson at 8:47 AM on November 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can I throw out there that the daycare thing may be a red herring -- your kids are probably picking up bad habits at the daycare but they may just be going through a phase that they would have gone through anyway... All kids will go through phases where they are more/less defiant and obedient. Even homeschooled ones.

From what I've observed of raising my two kids and observing the parenting of my friends and neighbors there are no magic bullets -- no formula that if you do X you are guaranteed to have a well-behaved, obedient, kind, child. What works wonderfully for one kid may be an absolute disaster for another.
Having said that, there are some things that seem to be important:
- being fair and reasonable as a parent
- being willing to admit you were wrong
- being consistent. (No means no not maybe. Even if they beg and plead. Especially when they beg and plead. And whine).
- following through 100% of the time (if you say that you will leave the restaurant the minute they throw a tantrum -- leave. Even if you are dining with your inlaws on their birthday and that means sitting in a cold car for 1.5 hours with a tantruming child and having your MIL angry for ruining her birthday)
- not making stupid/empty threats (if you don't stop that this minute I am going to throw away the TV)
- being kind, warm, loving
- quantity time counts
- read aloud to your kids. Till they are adults.
- spending time together having FUN (make sure to plan for success when you have fun -- if you know a trip to the zoo will end in a meltdown, don't go just because it seems like it should be fun. Rent a video instead and make popcorn.)
- find a hobby as a family -- biking, hiking, geocaching, doing puzzles, sewing, art
- make family traditions -- January 1st is stay-in-your-jammies-and-do-nothing-day, upside down days, pancakes for dinner, spagetti tacos, sick-of-school days, annual camping trips, what have you
posted by LittleMy at 8:47 AM on November 23, 2011 [33 favorites]


My 3.5 year old twins had some discipline problems when they moved to the 3 year old class at their daycare. They were uncomfortable in the new room, with older kids and a different routine, so there was some kicking, pinching, biting, and refusal to cooperate.

A sticker chart worked really well with them. We would give stickers for good behavior, and take them away for bad. After any report of misbehavior at daycare, or observed misbehavior at home we would remove a sticker. They became pretty committed to their stickers, and would suggest to us that maybe they deserved a sticker for something nice they just did. After getting N stickers, (we changed N over time) they'd get to pick some reward- usually going to get ice cream or to the playground at Chik-fil-a. (I used colored post-it notes for stickers, since they are easy to add and remove). We found it helpful to make it really easy to earn stickers at first, so they could get the reward and understand what they were working towards. We made it a little harder to earn stickers over time, but never too hard.

There were also lots of long talks about how to behave with people, and occasionally, regretfully, some shouting. We still did timeout for major offenses.

The problems gradually receded, probably through a mixture of them adapting to the new environment and the sticker chart. We still use the chart, but these days mostly to reward good behavior.
posted by uberfunk at 8:49 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha ha ha. I actually wrote my comment before I saw emhutchinson's so it wasn't meant to be a rebuttal to her comment :-)
Having both HS'd my kids and sent them to public school I have seen that they pick up more bad behaviors in public school but a lot of it they develop on their own as they go through various phases.
posted by LittleMy at 8:49 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Part of it is almost certainly the age. My 3.75 year old has been in daycare since about a year old, and in the last six months we've seen a dramatic upswing in aggression. Also, don't underestimate the power of the new social world that is opening up to them - they are probably realizing how much power they gain by assigning blame. There is a TON of social drama between kids at this age.

Two specific points - you talk about raising your voice a lot. We spend too much time doing that too, and I'm determined to not have a house where yelling is the norm. What has magical powers, instead, is what I've heard referred to as "Valium Voice." Monotone, repetitive, state over and over what you need them to do. Three year olds are absolutely powerless against it - it's freaky. Sometimes he takes a while to start listening - it doesn't grab the attention like yelling - but once he hears it and processes it he is weirdly compliant.

And everyone else will post this too, but the AAP (and others) are quite firm that spanking makes behavior worse. Just doesn't work. It's more of a release for the parent than a lesson for the kid, and tends to escalate.

After school routines and rituals are magical. They don't have to look like anyone else's - they can be fun for both you and the kids. Find what works and embrace it.
posted by pekala at 8:51 AM on November 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


They come home from school and it's the same litany day after day: "Eric pulled my hair. Jasmine kicked me. Tiffany pushed me." The teachers say our kids never instigate and that they keep a close eye to prevent incidents. We're teaching them to stand their ground and yell, "NO" but at the same time it seems obvious they're picking up bad behaviors from their classmates.

It sounds like you're doing a great job already, and the only thing I would add is that we have always worked to create empathy, not just teach them to follow rules. So, when the child says "Eric pulled my hair," our response would be, "How did that make you feel? Why do you think he did that?" Likewise, if one of the twins hits the other, ask the hitter, "How would you feel if your brother hit you?" It will take what seems like forever for this to start to sink in, because empathy is a pretty heavy concept that some adults don't even have down, but I really believe it's the thing to teach when it comes to dealing with other people.

Also, deep breath, because three-year-olds can be very challenging and you won't see miraculous results from any one thing you do. Like I said, you're a mindful and thoughtful parent who has chosen not to use corporal punishment, so you've won most of the battle already. Brighter days ahead.
posted by jbickers at 8:51 AM on November 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Get ready for this pattern to continue until they are, oh, 21 or so.

Yes, they're learning some behaviors (good and bad) in preschool. It's possible that you didn't do enough socialization earlier, with the nanny and all, but socialization is essential, even if you decide to homeschool.

At age 3.5, when you "talk to them and make them understand when they do something wrong," that's not going to work very often. Reason and logic just don't work that well yet (and won't for 5 or 6 more years). Do keep talking and trying, though — something will sink in.

Positive reinforcement will work much better than punishments. Don't just be resistant to spanking and other corporal punishment, resolve that it is not an option, period. At most, use time outs, but when the time out is over, make it clear that all is now forgiven, you love them, let's do something fun.

Distraction is another good technique. If behavior is going in the wrong direction, try redirecting attention to something positive.

Lots of parenting advice revolves around using "I" statements. It's worth getting some literature and reading up on it. An "I" statement is something like: "I feel X when you do Y." As opposed to "Don't do X or you're getting a timeout." There's more to it, do some Googling or visit the parenting section at your favorite bookstore.

"Obedience" and "discipline" are not what you should expect at this point, or ever. They are individuals in their own right, they know it, and they're simply not going to be subservient to you. It's more like an ongoing process of learning to live together.
posted by beagle at 8:53 AM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


My kid is a year younger than yours, but I've been really pleased with the conflict resolution tools his daycare has taught him. Instead of shouting, the kids coolly say "no thank you" or "walk away" to one another when things get heated. (This has the added benefit of being slightly hilarious.) They also encourage them to specify the behavior that's upsetting them: "don't push me" or "I'm using this." And instead of snatching a popular toy, the kids usually offer a trade. It doesn't prevent conflicts altogether (I mean, they're two) but it seems to be an effective approach that's simple enough for the kids to understand and let's them feel empowered to solve conflicts on their own and advocate for themselves. Try modeling these tactics at home and see if your kids are responsive? It's worrying that your teachers haven't provided better solutions in the classroom, but if your kids start using these techniques and find them effective maybe they'll catch on with others.
posted by milk white peacock at 8:53 AM on November 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


My kid is and has mostly been lovely, well-disciplined and eager to please. That said, she was a monster at three and a half and I would happily have put her out on the curb with the recycling.

All these behaviours are normal for kids that age. What is unusual is that they lived in a kind of perfect bubble for the first three and half years. Kids who are in a group daycare situation from a young age are more used the rough and tumble, and maybe are more savvy about what is acceptable and what is not? My kid was in daycare from 11 months, so this is total conjecture on my part, but I could see how if they've been around you and the nanny primarily, and so basically only ever seen good behaviour being modelled, being around other kids who don't share or hit or whatever might be confusing in some ways. Like, "Oh, OK, this is how things work here."

Likely the transition has also been jarring. Imagine spending 3 years yourself primarily at home with loving people, and then going back to a loud and busy workplace. Even with having been at work before, the transition would be pretty hard. They've never been in the mix at all before now.


Be firm, don't threaten unless you intend to follow through, choose discipline that focuses on natural consequences (you're hitting your brother, you need to spend some time alone; you won't share the toy, the toy goes away, etc.) and ride it out. These aren't punishments, in my opinion, they're consequences--in the real world, if you're a jerk, people won't want to be around you.

Apparently yelling is a bad idea, but I've never managed to master that one. You can only repeat something calmly for long before you raise your voice. I will say, though, after a while it gets so that your kid doesn't listen until you're yelling. Also, if you can resist the urge to yell often, then you have yelling set aside for special occasions when you need your child to obey immediately (running towards traffic, grabbing for a pot handle on the stove, etc.).


For whatever reason--and possibly it's all in my head--but I have always found the half years difficult. My kid is coming up on 9 and so sweet and funny and smart right now I can hardly stand it. Three or four months ago, when she was 8 1/2, she was such a snotty, know-it-all, flying off the handle in anger or breaking down in tears every fifteen minute, I despaired of having to raise her another ten years. I think as long as you stay calm (ha!) and remain firm (I wish!), don't panic or lose patience, it passes. Keep the boundaries firm, as much as possible; don't get more strict or demanding, but don't become a total pushover because they've warn you down.

I wouldn't start spanking. I don't think it serves anyone. If you are sick of yelling, imagine how you're going to feel hitting. And it's certainly not going to teach them not to hit. It'll just make them afraid of you, and that's going to thwart developing self-discipline: they won't be behaving because they have learned to express how they feel without getting frustrated, they'll be behaving because if they don't, you're going to swat them.
posted by looli at 8:54 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a parent, but I was a kid. Spanking and yelling made me afraid of my parents and averse to confrontation in general, which has adversely affected my adult life. Time outs worked the best; kids want to be the center of attention, and being removed from the mix is a very good disincentive.
posted by desjardins at 8:58 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


First of all, I wouldn't trust the advice of any person who claims to be able to answer your question definitively, so let me get that out of the way.

Second, your title nails it. The Threes are TERRIBLE. Really. Worse than the Twos by far (one of parenting's dirty little secrets).

Third, trust your own instincts on the spanking. You don't want to, it doesn't feel right, so don't.

OK, I'm going to stop with the numbering. Any time kids get together in a big group, there will be some sharing of unsavory behaviors. For me, I didn't go to daycare, but we frequently got together with our cousins, and my mom HATED how my brother and I would act after visits with them. It's not that THEY were bad, but kids in large groups sometimes = bad news. But that's a fact of life! You can't shelter them from it. Your kids are going to go to school eventually. Homeschooling is an impossibility for the vast majority of people.

My son is six and I'm very happy with the little person he's growing up to be. I don't really know what we did - I can't explain it. A huge part of our parenting is just going with the flow. One thing I had to really work on was just letting him be "bad" sometimes. Kids are going to flip out. They get pissed. They are irrational. They whine. They will never ever behave perfectly. You have to allow some room for their natural development.
posted by peep at 9:00 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh! pekala's Valium Voice reminded me of two things I tried that worked when she was that age. Surely just a fluke, but a reminder that nothing is off the table with three year olds.

If I counted off marching (hup! two! three! four!) it was like she was on remote control. No matter how she was ignoring or resisting, I'd start counting off and she would literally stand up and start marching in whatever direction I told her to. Totally hilarious, and didn't work long, but was so much better than yelling.

And then one day I was trying an Elmo impersonation just quietly to myself, and she over heard and was totally engaged. For a few weeks I could get her to do anything I wanted if I asked in an Elmo voice.

One last thing: the Louise Bates Ames' single year books (Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy) are great, if only because they make everything your kid does feel so normal.
posted by looli at 9:04 AM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know what to do, even though it's hard and takes a long time: just be calm, respectful, consistent, and firm. It sounds like you're wondering whether you should consider corporal punishment, but spanking is not the way to teach your kids not to hit others.

Give it some time -- going from a nanny to a center is probably a tough transition for them, and they may be responding by acting out.
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:05 AM on November 23, 2011


I was going to memail you this, but you have it disabled, so I realize it's not 100% on topic.

My brother (3.5 years younger) and I beat the crap out of each other for years growing up. We had a few major rules from the parents (no fighting near the brick fireplace, no fighting on the stairs, no fighting near [breakable decoration], no fighting while using q-tips) that we followed pretty well, but outside of that we let each other have it.

Our parents would yell at us when we'd start up, tell us how disappointed they were in us that we didn't get along, yell at us some more, and generally offer very little sympathy when we ended up injuring each other. And still we kept fighting. It was like that until I moved out for college.

Now we're best friends. Seriously. Even after that time he actually sat on my head and farted on my face. We acted like we hated each other the whole time we were growing up, but really? All that time we were fighting together? We were still spending time together, bonding. Now we look back at stuff we did and say, "man, we really were a couple of little assholes, weren't we?" and just laugh and laugh.

I'm not a parent, so I don't know what to tell you, really, but I wouldn't worry so much about their behavior toward each other. (Towards other kids? Sure.) Let them work out their own problems with each other in whatever way suits them. I think my brother and I have a better relationship as a result.
posted by phunniemee at 9:06 AM on November 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like what milk white peacock has to say.

Even if this is just what 3 year olds do, I might do some investigating and change schools if it seemed necessary after a closer look at things. I don't think you would be expecting to much from a daycare that they model and teach better conflict resolution techniques than your kids seem to be getting in this particular environment.

Everybody else is giving great advice, I point this out because lots of my friends have kids in daycare and preschool and they don't mention that level of meanness between students being normal or allowed.

I know some homeschooled children who are absolutely vicious with other children, FWIW, and their patents are also unpleasant people, so I do think environment has a lot to do with it. Come to think of it, all the children I see regularly who go through this one very popular preschool in my area are very well behaved and get a long well with each other on a whole.

Disclaimer: my son is 7.5 months so I've been watching and weighing issues related to when and how we will start with daycare and school.
posted by jbenben at 9:11 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


1-2-3 Magic worked really well for us (we have a boy and a girl, now 9 and 8). I've recommended it a couple times before.

Two explicit warnings ("that's one", "that's two") and then a timeout. Be dead serious, but not angry or upset.
posted by russilwvong at 9:38 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


My son will turn four in February, and I'm here to tell you, it's not the "terrible Threes", it's the "effing Threes."

That being said, when my son started at preschool (at 2.5) he picked up some behaviors that we really didn't much care for. A year later, he's outgrown most of them. And picked up a few new ones. A lot of this is a phase, it's developmental, and if they didn't do some of these things, they wouldn't be normal.

One thing that we really didn't understand until our son started preschool was how important the cohort of other kids is- one or two kids can have a big impact on the rest of the group in terms of instigating a bunch of undesirable behavior. You don't say how large their preschool class is, but I think this effect is more exaggerated in a smaller setting. I don't know how much it's possible for you to observe your kids at preschool or learn about their classmates, but peers modeling behavior, good and bad, is part of your life forever.

Having had both a dog and a three year old, I have to say training them is not all that different. Positive reinforcement works so much better than reprimands, and if you don't catch them in the act, in the moment, I think it's hard for them to get the message about exactly what it is they shouldn't do it again.

I agree with you on the spanking, especially if you are trying to discourage them hitting each other. No hitting, period, is a nice bright line, and I think that even a swat on the tushie muddies the waters for little kids.
posted by ambrosia at 9:58 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


First off, just to echo what a lot of people have said-- the twos and threes seem to be universally challenging, and kids in that range can change temperment overnight so the change you've seen isn't necessarily linked to anything going on at school.

Our daughter is a wonderful and sweet girl, but about age 2.5, she suddenly realized that she didn't have to do whatever we told her, and she went through a period of really testing what she could get away with. Everybody recommended giving time outs, but we found those didn't work and just became their own battlegrounds.

Through trial and error, we eventually found a set of carrots and sticks that worked for her. She loves being read to, and we discovered that the threat of having fewer bedtime stories at night always gets her attention. IE, if she's refusing to put her shoes on, we say, "I'm going to count to 10, and if you aren't putting your shoes on by the time I get to 10, you'll lose a bedtime story." And we keep track of the stories lost, so we can actually enforce this at bedtime. We don't dwell on it, but we mention it in passing at bedtime in a neutral tone of voice-- "We usually read four stories, but tonight we're only reading three because we lost one. OK! What should we read first? How about Fancy Nancy?"

We were very consistent and firm about this initially, even though it meant tantrums and difficult bedtimes for a few nights. Now that she knows we're serious, just the threat of losing a story is usually enough to get good behavior. And nowadays, when she does lose a story, we usually offer a way to "earn it back" by behaving better.

Anyway, my point is not that you should implement exactly this system in your house. I'm just suggesting:

1. You think about what your kids really care about.

2. You target your punishments and rewards to those things.

3. You make your punishments and rewards things that you have control over. "I won't read four stories tonight" works because you, the parent, can control what you read. "You will sit in the corner and think about what you did" didn't work for us because it involved making her do something, which became its own battle.

4. You give your kids them lots of chances to enjoy their favorite things independently of rewards and punishments-- you don't want them to feel like life is just a series of pavlovian responses. We're very specific about the number of bedtime stories, but at every other waking moment, we love reading her as many stories as she wants.

5. You follow through on the rewards and punishments in a consistent way.

6. When your kids misbehave, you explain to them immediately why it was wrong, and then (other than implementing any specific rewards and punishments), you drop it completely. You don't yell at your kids, or try to make them feel guilty for what they've done, or dwell on it grumpily for hours.

7. You make a point of catching your kids being good-- praise them when they treat each other well, or share, or whatever. And DO linger on the good stuff-- if they do something notably good in the morning, bring it up again over dinner and mention how proud you were. Let them overhear you telling their grandparents how good they were that day.

I know you asked if there was a way to instil discipline other than through rewards and punishments, but I would argue that, if you do it consistently, this system actually makes for a humane and relaxed home. We've found that we lose our tempers much less, because there's a concrete and emotionally neutral system in place for dealing with frustrating behaviors. (I mean, we definitely lose our tempers sometimes, and she still has tantrums some times, because we're all human, and she's three. But we're all a lot more relaxed and happy because we've got a consistent system that we know works tolerably well.)
posted by yankeefog at 9:59 AM on November 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm truly grateful for everyone's fantastic answers, so far. Thank you so much. You've given us a great deal to think about.

Want to address this briefly:

emhutchinson: "In a word, homeschooling."

Homeschooling is not an option at the moment for financial reasons. My wife can't stop working and we need her income to survive. So it's off the table right now. Unless our financial and/or geographic situation changes in a big way, it's not something we can even begin to consider.

I haven't really read up on the subject, but I'd be somewhat less concerned with the possible socialization drawbacks of homeschooling than making sure their educations were as well-rounded and focused as possible.
posted by zarq at 10:02 AM on November 23, 2011


One parenting technique I've heard about is "Catch them Being Good"

The basic id is to give kids attention and positive reinforcement when they are behaving in ways you want them to behave instead of just giving punishment when they are acting up.

"Catch ’Em Being Good
Consciously use smiles, gestures, and verbal comments when you really like what your child is doing.

* Tell them exactly what you liked. Pick out behaviors, ideas, or personal characteristics that please you.
* Be specific! Praise the behavior, idea, or characteristic— not the child. Example: “I like how you picked up your room,” rather than “Thanks for being so good.”
* Be physical! Try using a hug, a smile, or a touch on the shoulder.
* Catch them in the act if you can. The more immediate your recognition is, the more likely children will associate the good feelings they have with the behavior they did."
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:31 AM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Kids, as they grow, will experiment with new behaviors on their own, and will pick up other kids' bad behaviors at school, or in any other social environment. And in my experience thus far as a parent I've learned there is not much you can do about it other than to keep consistently modeling your family's moral code, enforcing high standards at home with rational discipline and reasonable consequences for bad behavior, teaching your kids that being a good friend sometimes means calling your friends out on their bad behavior, and reminding your kids on a regular basis that you really, really, really don't have to jump off a bridge just because someone else did.

It's very hard to reason with three-year-olds, given their limited grasp of language and higher level social skills; it may take a while for your lessons to sink in. Just be persistent.

My son is seven and has never been spanked and he gets regular praise from strangers for his good behavior when we are out in public settings. So I for one do not think spanking is necessary. When my son misbehaves I express my disapproval, remove privileges where appropriate and / or remove him from the situation (time out, leaving the party, etc.). This works for us.

It's good that you want to raise good kids, but I think you should cut yourself some slack when it comes to the sibling rivalry thing. Siblings, even twins, even angelic twins, are just going to argue and refuse to share with each other sometimes. They just are. Find me a pair of similar-aged siblings who spent a childhood without ever once hitting each other and you will have found me a pair of siblings who were separated at birth.
posted by BlueJae at 10:44 AM on November 23, 2011


There are four of us all together, me and three brothers. Teachers, babysitters, random strangers, they were all in awe of our amazing, polite, respectful behavior. I don't really remember getting much discipline because at some point before I was old enough to retain it, I developed a fear of disappoint my mother and/or angering my father. Its hard to articulate what I am trying to say, but I do think that laying down the law at a very young age can lay the groundwork for the almost complete lack of disipline later.

If we did do something very wrong, i.e spiteful (saying "I hate you" to one another) or dangerous (running out in the street), we were spanked. The key is that as a parent you never ever do this if you are even a hint angry. NEVER. It is not intended to "hurt", I always felt worse that I had dissapointed my parents, I really truly wanted to be good. Spankings should be rare and reserved only for the most serious of transgressions to impress a point. That is what worked for us, but every child and every parent is built a little differently.
posted by stormygrey at 11:12 AM on November 23, 2011


I stopped yelling at my kids because my son said that it scared him. That scared me. I do not want to be that father.

What I found was that my anger was triggered in the moment, and that it lingered long after my kids had gotten over whatever spat they were involved in. In other words, my anger was more about me than about them. To hold a grudge against your kids is - well - unthinkable as a parenting strategy.

So I worked on my own anger. I started by looking at my own thinking: "When Salishsea Jr, hits other kids it means that..." Look at that thought. I use Byron Katie's work as the process that helped me through that.

Now my kids are 14 and 11 and they are terrific. And so am I, if I do say so myself.

You recognize that your kids are essentially sweet. They are. And this will pass, but those little moments, when they are finding their power in themselves can look so much bigger than they really are.
posted by salishsea at 11:16 AM on November 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


They come home from school and it's the same litany day after day: "Eric pulled my hair. Jasmine kicked me. Tiffany pushed me." The teachers say our kids never instigate and that they keep a close eye to prevent incidents. We're teaching them to stand their ground and yell, "NO" but at the same time it seems obvious they're picking up bad behaviors from their classmates...They did none of this before they were put in school, with the possible exception of infrequently refusing to share with each other. But that was rarely much of an issue.

Um, hello? Your kids are naturally well-behaved and never instigate, but their behavior is worsening because of the environment you're putting them in, and now you're speculating if it's okay to spank them?

You may not be hitting your kids--yet--but by keeping them in this particular daycare you're teaching them that 1) other kids have the right to hit them and 2) that you'll tolerate them being hit, even if you don't hit them yourself.

Whether you homeschool or not, I think you need to get your kids out of this particular place, especially since you're becoming increasingly tempted to hit your own children due to the bad behavior (which I read as stressed acting-out) resulting from the beatings they're enduring at school each day. As three-year-olds.
posted by ziggly at 11:17 AM on November 23, 2011


In response to your title, yes--terrible threes. Three year olds are pretty obnoxious sometimes, I've known a ton of them from a variety of families, and they do grow out of it.

I would be worried that they're in a stressful situation at preschool, though--daily hitting and pushing doesn't sound like a fun environment for them and in my experience, it's not normal. I would seriously consider looking into another preschool, even though they're learning a lot.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:22 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


zarq, if in the future you do want to consider homeschooling, don't worry about the socialization thing. My brothers and I were all home schooled, all are now successful professionals, as are most of the other homeschoolers we know (OK, some of them had parents who were hippies, and they grew up to be hippies, but that's not really surprising, is it). Just because you're not in school doesn't mean you don't do anything social. I played team sports every season, took lessons in everything from Russian to cooking, to theater (in after school classes with other kids), and took advantage of the large and growing, and wonderful community of other homeschoolers out there. I made a lot of great friends who were also home schooled, and I didn't have to sit in a boring classroom all day. No regrets. I loved it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:36 AM on November 23, 2011


Your comment about feeling like you feel like you're yelling all the time made me think of a book that several parents I know have recommended. It's called Playful Parenting. I haven't read it myself, but I admire the mellow parenting style of the people who have recommended it to me and will pick up a copy for myself soon, as I have a little guy who is easing into toddlerhood.

Also, your instinct to not hit your children is right on. When a lot of the behavior you're concerned with is physical, it makes no sense to hit your children to teach them not to hit or for any reason really.
posted by chiababe at 12:26 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]



I'd like to ask y'all how you raised your kids to be well-adjusted, relatively obedient and disciplined.


I like to think of it as raising my kids to be well-adjusted, nice, and considerate. It's the difference between my three year old saying "thank you" because he's thankful, and "thank you" because I remind him. Children learn how to behave from watching the people around them, so I make a point of smiling, saying excuse me, and generally being what feels like I'm exaggerating how nice and polite people should be. It has the added bonus of making my day a lot less stressful. I also encourage my son to go "calm down" when he starts to get upset, he's got a special spot for it (different than his time out spot), then we calmly talk about what upset him.

On the other hand, when he does do something he knows he shouldn't, the punishment fits the crime. If he throws a toy, it gets taken away, if it's a situational thing, he gets removed from the situation. Time out works great for the situational kind, "you know you're not supposed to hit to get attention, go sit in time out." I think consistency is the most important thing though. Find a system that both parents agree to use, and then do it. Which, I suspect you have already.

It sounds like it's just your kids trying on these new behaviors they learned at preschool. They're probably doing the same thing with new words. You should be encouraging and modeling the new things you like as much as you are discouraging the things you don't like.

And, as someone who deals with lots of different daycares and preschools, I just want to echo that you might want to look around at others in your area. Kids are like everyone else, some cultures and social groups work better for them than others.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:06 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just a quick comment about jbickers' answer regarding empathy: it came up in conversation with a co-worker/mother that empathy is not something kids' brains can "do" until circa 9 years of age. I have no evidence to back this up, though, and I am not a parent. I only mention it because I really, really liked jbickers' suggestion, and this might be something to dig deeper on. :)
posted by TangoCharlie at 1:25 PM on November 23, 2011


They come home from school and it's the same litany day after day: "Eric pulled my hair. Jasmine kicked me. Tiffany pushed me." The teachers say our kids never instigate and that they keep a close eye to prevent incidents. We're teaching them to stand their ground and yell, "NO" but at the same time it seems obvious they're picking up bad behaviors from their classmates.

The "same litany" makes me wonder if either: this school is not so great, or if you may be rewarding them with extra attention when they complain and fight, compared to the attention they receive when talking about or behaving in mundane or positive ways. The latter is a very easy trap to fall into, because you never want to be dismissive of pain or violence, but I think that sometimes extra drama and acting out can grow out of this scenario. Listen to everything your kids say, but really respond extra positively to good stories about school and non-aggressive behavior. If they are fighting at home, deal with it as quickly and dispassionately and consistently as possible, without sustained attention. Then when they are getting along, reward them with interaction.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:54 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I spank my kids. Or, rather, I spank the ones who are at an appropriate age for it. I have five kids: 10, 8, 5, 20 months and 1 month. And guess what? It works just fine.

My wife works opposite shifts from me, so I often take our four kids out by myself (the baby doesn't get out much...). Out to restaurants, movies, church, the mall - everything I do on the weekends, I have four kids with me. And almost every time we go somewhere, I get compliments on how well-behaved they are.

Kids are kids - they fight, argue, roughhouse, etc. But I can tell you that my kids know when to behave and when they can let loose. In public (specifically in a restaurant, store, or church) they know to be quiet and respectful because other people are there. Those other people didn't come to a restaurant to listen to kids throw tantrums. They didn't pay $40 for movie tickets and popcorn to deal with kids kicking their chairs. They didn't attend church because they wanted to hear sibling rivalry first-hand.

Spanking works as a deterrent if it is accompanied by love and dialogue. My kids always know why they are getting spanked, they always know that I love them (but disapprove of their behavior/choice), and they always get a hug after. I don't use a belt or piece of wood. They aren't "scared" of me. They know I don't spank out of anger. It is simply like everything else in life: many choices result in a reward or a consequence. My kids know that spanking is a consequence for certain behaviors that ONLY happens if they choose to engage in those behaviors.

"Spanking a child for hitting is hypocrisy!" is a straw man argument. My choice to spank doesn't teach my kids that hitting other people is okay; it teaches them that a parent spanking their own child as a form of punishment is okay. There's a huge difference between those two ideas.
posted by tacodave at 2:51 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


the beatings they're enduring at school each day.

There is nothing in the OP's question that suggests the children are being beaten at daycare. I'm sure this situation is already stressful enough without throwing around that kind of destructive hyperbole.

Regarding the daily catalogue of complaints; three year olds are developing their nascent system of justice and rights at that age and are typically very invested in them. But investment should not be confused with clear-eyed analysis; when you're three, you're frequently powerless and impotent, and often feel put-upon and downtrodden. The kids aren't likely to tell you about the kids they may have pushed, if you know what I mean.

I sympathise with you it's a very difficult time, developmentally. Moreover, the kids are learning a whole new set of patterns and mores for interacting with other adults and children. Their social matrix has just grown exponentially more complex, and they will struggle to navigate it for a while. It sounds like you have a good relationship with your daycarers, which is great. As a former carer, I loved it when parents would "check in" with me, and share any and all questions, concerns, notes etc. I felt like it made both our jobs a lot easier, and the information I got from parents in these chats definitely informed my interactions with the kids, and sometimes vice versa.

More broadly, I think rituals and routines are a great thing for children of all ages. In addition to several of the great books listed above, you might also enjoy How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. I think this books is a useful one for situations that can fall outside the routines.

Best of luck, I know it can be tough.
posted by smoke at 3:03 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


A sticker chart worked really well with them. We would give stickers for good behavior, and take them away for bad. After any report of misbehavior at daycare, or observed misbehavior at home we would remove a sticker. They became pretty committed to their stickers, and would suggest to us that maybe they deserved a sticker for something nice they just did.

When I was the primary caregiver for my little brother (I'm 13 years older), this method was extremely effective. However, my mother spanked him and it did nothing but create resentment and shifted the focus from his tantrum to her more significant violent outburst. I can say without hesitation that the only times she resorted to spanking were when she was too lazy/inconsistent/short-sighted to actually understand why he was acting out and discipline him more thoughtfully. I was a very strict sister and still felt corporal punishment is always abuse, full stop. My mid-tantrum method was always:

1.) Get down to his level

2.) Look him in the eye, stay calm but firm and tell him to stop everything he was doing and why.

3.) Walk him to the time out chair.

4.) Take him out if he was willing to be a gentleman/ tell me he was sorry/understand why his behavior was dangerous/rude, etc. Give a hug/kiss/tickle if possible.

5.) Have him mark these infractions on the sticker board and talk about where it fits in with his general behavior for the week-- "I'd love for us to be able to go to the Tot Lot tomorrow, but if you can't show me that you'll be well-behaved, how can we go places and have fun? You had three tantrums this week-- that's not good for you, and it upsets everyone, including yourself. Now you know what you have to do to go have some fun tomorrow, are you going to be a gentleman and do it?"

I've been a babysitter for parents who felt so guilty about leaving their children in daycare that they chased them around begging for good behavior as if they were *afraid" using discipline would make the child "hate them" since they spent so little time together. Instead they ended up with children who has serious but (initially) avoidable issues. All those children needed was for a parent to be *IN CHARGE*. Not mean, but on the look-out and with certain expectations of good behavior. It's not about repressing your children's emotions, it's about getting them to express those emotions appropriately.

Also, I agree with everyone who says more time at home, preferably with mom and dad if possible, is a huge, ESSENTIAL component here.
posted by devymetal at 6:04 PM on November 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


PS And I'd always tell him this at the end of time-out, if he said he was "bad":

"No, your behavior was naughty, but you are not bad at all. How could such a wonderful child be bad? You're a very good boy, and your sister loves you."
posted by devymetal at 6:10 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Devymetal makes great points! Reward systems work wonders for kids. And it's wonderful that she emphasized the difference between bad behavior and actually being a bad kid.

Anecdotally, my mom never made an empty threat, and tells this story about why me and my brother and sister were such well behaved children:

When we were all pretty young, under five years old, we loved going to McDonald's and it was an infrequent, awesome-beyond-belief treat. One day, we got to go, and my mom told us to wait quietly at a booth for her. When she saw that we were being rowdy, she walked past the booth with the tray full of happy meals and dramatically dumped it in the trash. She wasn't mad at all, but we didn't get to eat McDonald's that night. Legend goes that after that night we were all really good and quiet when we waited for anything.
posted by pluot at 7:10 PM on November 23, 2011


They sound like perfectly normal kids to me. Have rules, stick to them and don't lose your temper. Don't make a threat you're not willing and able to carry out. Don't let them make the decisions about anything, but always offer them the illusion of choice between two things you're ok with doing e.g. do you want an apple or a banana? After they've been told off, forgive them. They're kids, exactly the same as every other kid in the world. Kids are not naturally kind and sweet, manners have to be drummed into them at every turn. Let them jump on the bed.
posted by joannemullen at 7:30 PM on November 23, 2011


Seconding 1-2-3 Magic. Let me respond to some of your present techniques from the point of view of a parent successfully using that one.

We talk to them and make them understand when they do something wrong.

Three-year-olds are not miniature adults, and attempting to reason with them as if they were can waste a great deal of your time and theirs. The fastest way to teach a littlie what kinds of behaviours are wrong and what kinds are right is to let them try things out and make sure the consequences are consistent.

We give timeouts.

1-2-3 Magic uses timeout as a kind of Ultimate Nuclear Weapon, and puts strong limits on the amount; when a timeout is imposed, it's one minute of timeout for each year of age. But before a timeout is ever imposed, there are up to two warnings given. Once the program's been in use for a while, actually getting all the way to timeout is really very rare.

We raise our voices.

If it's OK for you to yell at your kids, you're teaching them it's OK to yell at you.

(I feel like all I do is yell lately and honestly, I can't stand it. But it does seem to work in the moment.)

Rule-by-fear does work in the short term, but in order to keep working it needs to escalate to ugly places you really don't want to go. Rule-by-firm-and-fair is far more sustainable.

We threaten to take toys away.

Are the toys in question in any way involved in the obnoxious behaviours you're trying to quell? If so, how often do you follow through on these threats?

The thing is, if you don't follow through then your threats will lose all effectiveness over time, and if you do follow through then you'll just end up feeling mean.

The only time we take toys away from Little Ms. flabdablet is after they've been abandoned, and they they just mysteriously disappear; they might reappear later at some point if her inability to find them is clearly causing distress, which it doesn't often do. We don't ever do it overtly as punishment.

We make them apologize to each other.

Good.

Your chances of extracting anything more than a ritualistic apology from a three year old are slim to none, but it's a ritual definitely worth establishing early.

But is there no other way to instil discipline in a three year old than giving them punishments?

Yes there is, and it works better too.

The key to making 1-2-3 Magic work is calmness. When you're issuing a "That's 1" or "That's 2" warning, or a "That's three - take a three minute timeout" instruction, you must do so without shouting. Your reference frame needs to be one of instruction,, not admonishment, and you need to actively model self-control in the face of irritation.

In order to achieve that calmness, you will need two things: an ironclad confidence that it's right and proper for you to be in charge, and an experience-based confidence that the 1-2-3 Magic method works. The first should go without saying, but remind yourself of it anyway in so many words. I can personally attest to the second, and I expect you'll find the same thing if you try it out.

Once you've been using 1-2-3 Magic for a week or so, your kids will have worked out that ignoring the warnings always leads to a timeout, and you will find that (a) they will try out all kinds of things to see what provokes "That's 1", and (b) very very rarely will you ever have to go further than "That's 1". And this is exactly where you want them: able to work out for themselves what's appropriate while remaining safe in a supportive parental environment.

You should buy and read the book. As well as the 1-2-3 method for curbing obnoxious behaviour that gives it its name, it also contains a tremendous amount of useful, sane advice on ways to get kids to do things you do want them to do.
posted by flabdablet at 7:39 PM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


My kids are now adults, and (mostly) well adjusted. There were two things that really helped me as a parent. First, my kids attended Montessori preschools, which seemed to avoid most of the issues you're concerned about. Secondly, I read this book, Parent Effectiveness Training, and there are concepts in it that I used with my kids and applied to my management career. Good luck!
posted by raisingsand at 8:11 PM on November 23, 2011


All these are great ideas. I have four and a new baby who at a week has no discipline problems yet, beyond pushing off all her NICU sensors and CPAP! But I wanted to add that a lot of this is individual.

My four are adopted siblings, so nurture/nature has been fun to spot. I knew other adoptive parents who were convinced that their unique parenting style made all the difference, but it's rubbish. Every kid is different. What works for one kid may not work for another kid. Don't think you have to be "fair" and give the same treatment to both kids. Charts work for some, others respond best to talking time. Experiment!

Backtalk (http://www.amazon.com/Backtalk-Steps-Ending-Rude-Behavior/) is an awesome skinny little book to go with Magic 1-2-3 for shutting down rude behaviour fast. We used it a lot and bring it out every now and then again.

Spanking and other physical punishments make the adults feel better momentarily, but are toxic long-term for kids and parents. The only time I've seen it work has been for pre-verbal toddlers as a very direct danger-linked punishment, or for a child with severe intellectual disabilities who had to be restrained from self-violence with safety holds, which can look like physical punishment from the outside - basically for very limited or complex situations.

And most of all: focus on their characters, not their behavior. Kids go through phases. What counts is if they have empathy and common sense and kindness and all that stuff. I'd worry about a kid enjoying another kid's distress, not an angry kid hitting out over sharing. Three and a half is a busy social age where they're figuring lots out.

http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/ Teacher Tom's blog is a great place to read about preschool children. He's a bit woo-woo for me, but he gets kids' minds and emotions.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:35 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Skipped most of the answers above, sorry if I am repeating anything; Short Story is no where near three yet, so I can't address your question specifically, but just jumped in to say that, you know we all learn how to parent by how we were parented. If you are interested in learning about "positive discipline", there is a FB page called "Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond". Just about every day there is an article that I end up discussing with my husband, as the subject/tips sound like something we would like to incorporate into our parenting style. Maybe you will find it useful in the long run.
posted by vignettist at 3:01 PM on November 25, 2011


I'm sincerely in awe of all of you. Thank you so, so much for your great advice and suggestions. My wife and I have been reading your answers and discussing them for the last couple of days.

I'm going to address a few things and will probably do so again before the weekend ends. :)

viggorlijah: " http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/ Teacher Tom's blog is a great place to read about preschool children. He's a bit woo-woo for me, but he gets kids' minds and emotions."

Thank you for suggesting him. I haven't gone into his blog in depth yet, but his descriptions of how the kids are puzzling out different problems and situations are fascinating. :)

vignettist: " If you are interested in learning about "positive discipline", there is a FB page called "Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond"."

That is an AWESOME resource. Thank you for mentioning it! We "liked" them and will be exploring further.

raisingsand: " Secondly, I read this book, Parent Effectiveness Training, and there are concepts in it that I used with my kids and applied to my management career."

I ordered the book, thank you. And "liked" the page on FB, too.

Gygesringtone: "I like to think of it as raising my kids to be well-adjusted, nice, and considerate. It's the difference between my three year old saying "thank you" because he's thankful, and "thank you" because I remind him"

That's a much clearer way of framing what we want to do, thank you. One of the things that we've been doing is asking them why they are apologizing, or saying please. They're now of an age where they're getting better at expressing how they feel.

chiababe: "Your comment about feeling like you feel like you're yelling all the time made me think of a book that several parents I know have recommended. It's called Playful Parenting."

Ordered! Thank you!

salishsea: "I stopped yelling at my kids because my son said that it scared him. That scared me. I do not want to be that father.

Yes. Neither do I. You've hit on exactly why I posted this. I don't want to be that father either. My parents were those parents, and it was horrible.

What I found was that my anger was triggered in the moment, and that it lingered long after my kids had gotten over whatever spat they were involved in. In other words, my anger was more about me than about them. To hold a grudge against your kids is - well - unthinkable as a parenting strategy.

My parents did this. It was... scarring. I do not want to be that father, either.

So I worked on my own anger. I started by looking at my own thinking: "When Salishsea Jr, hits other kids it means that..." Look at that thought. I use Byron Katie's work as the process that helped me through that."

Thank you for this. Sincerely and deeply, thank you. You've articulated several of my fears here.

I think her work is going to be incredibly helpful. Am going to read up on her this weekend.

russilwvong: "1-2-3 Magic worked really well for us (we have a boy and a girl, now 9 and 8). I've recommended it a couple times before."

Ordered the book and we're reading up on it online. Thank you!

nooneyouknow: "One parenting technique I've heard about is "Catch them Being Good""

Neat. That's something we can do! Thank you!

ambrosia: "My son will turn four in February, and I'm here to tell you, it's not the "terrible Threes", it's the "effing Threes." "

Ha! :)

Very true.

ziggly: "Whether you homeschool or not, I think you need to get your kids out of this particular place, especially since you're becoming increasingly tempted to hit your own children due to the bad behavior (which I read as stressed acting-out) resulting from the beatings they're enduring at school each day. As three-year-olds."

Ack. OK, as smoke says, they're not enduring beatings. Yikes.

They are having some issues with the other children in their class. But we've had difficulty defining what's been happening for a couple of reasons:

1) If you tap them lightly with your pinky finger, they might say "Daddy, don't hit me!" :)

2) They've started making up stories. My daughter came home last month saying she had gotten in trouble and been punished by one of their teachers for hitting another kid. When I took them to school the next morning, the teacher said it hadn't happened.

Obviously they're picking up bad behaviors. Ok, perhaps not obviously. Some people here did say this is normal behavior for their age. But it is an issue for us.
posted by zarq at 7:36 PM on November 25, 2011


Disclaimer: just offering this as a fellow parent whose struggled lot's, not as an expert of any kind. It's possible you should avoid anything I say. LOL

1. I moved my son from a school like you describe to a montessori school for the same reason. We have not had the same behavior problems since, you might need to spend some time redirecting the problem behavior into more constructive positive behaviors.

2. If you want some ideas for interacting with kids in fun ways that teach appropriate behaviors I would recommend Barbara Sher (the occupational therapist, not the life coach) particularly "Spirit Games". Specifically for YOU, find some books about learning through play, positive redirection, and over all games in general. What i like about Spirit Games is that is has chapters specificially on activities, games, and conversations to help everyone (including parents!) come out of a bad mood, get out of funky behavior patters and explore other ways of interacting. I can't write more than this because I wrote you two different things and they were both so long I couldn't turn them short!

The other thing: Relax. Let go of thinking this makes you a failure or you suck at parenting or it means you're not doing the right things. Seriously when your kiddo makes a minor rude behavior and your insides fall apart and you think "OMG I AM A FAILURE" it really doesn't matter what techniques you use, the dynamic will be funky. So lighten and loosen yourself up so that when your kid misbehaves instead of thinking, "OMG I have messed up, I can never do this I am going to have to resort to spanking everything is terrible: stress, must yell, my children are terrible and they don't have empathy, they should just be nice, they know better they are awful ARGH YELL ARGH", you can instead think, "Oh it looks like the kiddos need a little redirection and guidance learning how to treat each other. Let's do some practice activites to teach empathy, sharing, and cooperation and let's practice role playing the scenarios where conflicts tend to happen but with new ideas about how that could be done with kindness."

Also give yourself some positive feedback, "Hey parenting is really hard! I feel clueless! So do most people! I am doing a really great job loving my kids and trying to figure this out and it's really really ok. Sometimes parents get in grumpy stressed moods too. We need to find better ways to help ourselves and our kids get into better moods and interact. We'll figure it out." ---Which is really the same way to help your kids get out of bad moods too. Come up with some techniques when you notice you are stressed, in a bad mood and then show your kids you're doing them. "You know, Daddy IS really grumpy! I need to take some deep breaths. Whew. Ah that's helping me feel better, can you take deep breaths?"

You have to keep trying while using patience because cultivating kind behaviors in kids takes time and patience and creating a gentle understanding attitude in yourself along the way. There will always be periods where the kids behaviors get more out of control than others and if you think that's a sign you aren't good enough then you will be trying to correct their behavior for the wrong reasons. Not because you want them to learn how to be kind people (which is an ongoing process for children and understandable that they don't understand yet) but because if they are behaving badly it means you aren't a good parent, or that you aren't trying enough, of it just gets on your nerves-- and annoyed parents aren't the best at teaching children how to stop being annoyed at each other and practicing kindness and forgiveness with each other. I can't speak for anyone else, but I suck in lot's of ways at parenting. Being gentle with yourself with this is a great way to come up with positive ideas for growing as a person and being kind to yourself and your kids for the areas where positive behaviors are a struggle.

Ok again this is turning long again, so if you want more ideas of books and redirecting behavior through play and stuff, let me know.

Byron Katie creeps me out, but as far as dealing with minor issues of anger she has some great techniques. It's probably worth reading her for most people for the techniques in minor situation that are really useful. But if I were me, i would keep in mind she takes her statement there is no suffering to the extreme of saying that when children die she celebrates that as a good thing??? Ok really creeps me out.
posted by xarnop at 8:04 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Xarnop...that's a pretty one dimensional take on Byron Katie's work.

She does not say there is no suffering. She DOES advocate that we examine the thoughts that keep us in suffering. She doesn't even say we need to let them go, just inquire, that's all. Take a stressful to inquiry and see where it takes you. There is no rubric about where you are supposed to go, or what you are supposed to think.

Her work also does not benefit from meta-discussions about it. It's a practice, like meditation. It's worth doing for a while and discovering what happens. My experience is that it doesn't do much good to simply read her work, or invite people to read it. It needs application.

Having said all that, the rest of your excellent post really resonates with me. Right on the money!
posted by salishsea at 12:27 PM on December 5, 2011


Byron Katie and The Work thorougly creep me out as well, having seen a friend be completely fucked up by it. It might work for some people, but as someone who has suffered abuse be extremely careful about how much credence you give her when it comes to your own experiences.

Many of her ideas about suffering and anger have much better counterparts in Buddhist practice and philosophy.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2011


[please leave the Byron Katie stuff alone and do not make this thread about it, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:14 PM on December 31, 2011


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