Child who wont stop writing on stuff

Eric - posted on 05/14/2014 ( 9 moms have responded )

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My Fiance and I live together. She has a son that is 4, almost 5. For the last 2 years, and even before, he writes on everything. He writes on the walls, the doors, the counters, the floors, the furniture, etc.

I have seen this topic over and over, we have tried all of the suggestions. He has full access to paper, but even when he has paper in front of him he writes on the table. He has been punished by making him clean up his graffiti. he has been given time-out after time-out. He has lost "outside time" and has lost favorite toys.

We have put up all writing utensils. But we have other children who need them, and arent as good as putting things up as they should be. We have had everything from pencils on the wall to sharpies and scissors on the new $1800 couch (ruined by the way). As diligent as we try to be, he always seems to find some thing to write with. This morning it happened again, fabric paint all over the couch... His punishment is another time-out.

I feel like with continuing behavior punishments should increase, following the theory that only an insane person tries the same thing over and over expecting a different result. My belief is that we should be teaching our children to live in the outside world, where one day they will hopefully end up. In society, if you have behavior that is unacceptable, and the first punishment does not cease your behavior, the next time the punishment increases, and so on. Let say this child is 18 and he decides to go spray paint a wall, his first punishment is probation and community service. If he does it again they dont give him the same punishment, the next time he might see fines and a little time behind bars. If he is still doing it after 20 offenses he will definitely not still be getting probation and community service.

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♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 05/14/2014

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1) STOP giving him writing tools and scissors without having an adult on hand to supervise THE ENTIRE TIME.

2) STOP allowing him to have the privilege back so soon. If you sit him down with crayon and paper, and he immediately writes on the table, TAKE EVERYTHING AWAY.

3) Continue to enforce age appropriate punishment. He's seen that he can get away with it, because someone will hand him a writing utensil, and if he waits long enough their attention will wander away from him, and away he goes. Until he can control that impluse, DO NOT give him the opportunity.

4) STOP purchasing items that are PERMANENT. Technology has advanced to the point where there are a plethora of products out there that will simply NOT WRITE if they are not on a paper surface. Invest in them.

Some tips: Mr. Clean Erasers, and Wet Ones Antibacterial wipes are excellent resources for cleaning 'uncleanable' markers & crayons. ScotchGuard works wonders on upholstery & fabrics to repel the marks from the start.

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Mommy - posted on 09/03/2014

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Have you thought of doing nothing? It seems like, for some reason, this child must be getting something out of the cycle of doing stuff he isn't supposed to, getting a reaction, and continuing to do it. It sounds like you've tried everything. Except doing nothing. It sounds like you've been very accommodating (perhaps too much) as far as going to great lengths (ie removable construction paper on the walls) to have the child use acceptable things to draw on. But, it's not working. I do agree with what someone mentioned. If older kids are leaving things out, they need consequences, too. Their carelessness is contributing to the issue. If they get allowance of any kind, I'd garnish it to help pay for items used to clean up the mess caused by the 4 year old. And/or they can be the ones to clean it up. Also, I'd say he needs to lose all "art" privileges for a certain amount of time. Even the supervised ones, where he pushes aside the paper and chooses to draw on the table. What he's been consistent about is that he continually draws on unacceptable things. I see no reason to give him repeated chances to do it correctly at this point. I understand that he is getting a hold of things on his own, what I'm saying is, don't give the items to him at any point, even while he'll be supervised. He's lost that privilege, as far as I'm concerned.

Ev - posted on 05/14/2014

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I read all the comments and the OP's post to start. Shawnn is right. You have to find ways to get the other kids on board to be more responsible with their stuff. Its like in the case of an older child having things a younger child does not need to be into. The younger one gets into it and the older one has a melt down after parent told them to put it up. That is a consequence. Also, I work with kids younger than yours and most of them tend to want to write on anything but the paper. We use crayons, paints, color pencils, markers, and anything in between. But I am always with them at the table doing those activites and if they stray to the table I remind them to do things on paper only.
I also have a comment about couches. Instead of investing that much money into one that is made of certain materials and is so expensive, try finding couches that are more affordable but still nice and you are not so out of money on a couch. When kids this age are involved it does not go well with nice furniture.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 05/14/2014

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The point is, regardless of your house size, load level (how many kids you have), or individual homework situations, the child has proven to be tenacious beyond that, so you and your partner have to step up.

Nothing less than 100% attention will accomplish anything. And, well, if the older kids 'forget' to put their stuff away, out of his reach, THEY need consequences as well. (Although I've never heard of a HS or MS that didn't provide lockers...That's a new one on me)

He's not going to magically stop, and the explanations that you provided didn't really sway me as to it being that much of a problem for a parent to be a little more attentive.

Not every kid is biddable. Some require a bit more hands on! And, he;s FOUR. You cannot equate writing on the walls with drinking/driving, or rape. Good grief. Oh, and in case you hadn't been paying attention, giving DUI perpetrators multiple second chances is EXACTLY what 90% of court systems in the US today does...so that invalidates that argument.

Yes, it means that you may have to change methods for this one. How are you going to increase his punishment? Beat him every time he does it, since time outs and redirection isn't working?

Eric - posted on 05/14/2014

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He is not given writing tools. he finds them. we have children ranging in age from 4 to 16. While I am a very attentive parent, there are times he is not 100% supervised and times where I am busy cooking dinner or in the bathroom. In a 3 bedroom house with 6 children coming and going, we miss picking up a pencil, or a pair of scissors gets left out. Even when we think everything is put away and safe, he still finds them by entering bedroom and removing pens from sisters backpack.

We also dont have the option of "paper only" products. Kids need to do homework with pencils and scissors. Teens need (as required by high schools and middle schools) sharpies, and my son's school does not offer lockers to leave them there.

I know these probably sound like excuses, but you have to understand our household before you can make these suggestions. I would rather find a way to teach him this is unacceptable behavior than to wait until he grows out of it. I.e. my comments regarding increasing punishment. I dont think a court system would wait to see if he grows out of drinking and driving or wait to see if his impulse to rape can be controlled

Eric - posted on 05/14/2014

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We have sidewalk chalk, washable markers, crayons, coloring books, printer paper, construction paper, paint books, color by number, water color books, etc, etc, yet last week there was pencil all over the tile and today I have another ruined couch.

Eric - posted on 05/14/2014

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Not in the bedroom, but in the living room/dining room. We have rolls of construction paper we posted and could be removed and replaced. It rarely got used except by the older kids and the drawing from the 4 year old ended up in the bathroom and master bedroom. Like I said, even when a drawing area was designated, or even when he was seated at the table with several pieces of paper right in front of him, he pushed it aside and drew on the table.

Fatima - posted on 05/14/2014

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Have you tried designating an area in the child's room where they can write on the wall by using paint chalk on one of the walls? Some parents find relief in this. Hope it works!

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