SERIOUS Discipline Issue!!! Please help!

Christina - posted on 04/29/2010 ( 9 moms have responded )

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My 3-year old daughter, Elayne, has been picking up the kittens by their front legs. When she started doing this we would tell her to put the cat down. When she still did it, or didn't put the kitten down, we would give her a swat on the butt or send her to time out. When she started throwing the kittens - yes, she has been caught throwing baby cats like they are toys - we would give her a few firm spanks and she would get a time out. She stopped throwing them but would still pick them up by their front legs, or by only one leg, or occasionally by their heads. She received the same punishment (a few spanks and time out/sent to her room) but she would still do it again!

Today I caught her holding a kitten by it's front legs, jumping up and down, and swinging the kitten so it was being tossed around like a string. I yelled at her to put the kitten down, and she immediately dropped it and said she was sorry, like she usually does, but I thought she had broken the kittens legs or back, because it sure looked like something was broken, the way it was flopping around! I spanked her, not a few firm swats but a real spanking, and sent her to her room, where I told her she would stay for the rest of the afternoon and all night. Like always, she stopped crying after a minute, and tried to come out of her room saying she was sorry, but I know from previous experience that she isn't really sorry and she will do it again. So I am holding firm to keeping her in her room all night, except to brush her teeth and go potty later.

But I am not sure it will be enough. This general technique hasn't worked before; she knows she is doing something wrong, but she doesn't stop doing it - she just doesn't do it if she knows I am watching. We have told her that kittens aren't toys, but she insists that they are (she gets a swat and a time out every time she says that, but it hasn't stopped her).

I hated spanking my daughter like I had to today - I thought I was going to throw up. But there is no way I am going to let her get away with hurting kittens! By the way, I checked and nothing is broken on any of the kittens. We will be getting rid of the kittens as soon as they are old enough to leave their mother, but in the mean time - do you have any suggestions for a new improved disciplinary action, in case the all-evening-and-night solitary confinement with a red bottom doesn't work?

I am seriously concerned about my daughter. I do not want her growing up to have any homicidal tenancies!

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Christina - posted on 05/02/2010

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Morgan, thank you for that! So many people have told me that she isn't old enough to understand so there is no point is explaining to her that she can hurt the cats.... But I know she IS old enough to gain some understanding!

Jodi's advise seems to have worked. She knows now that she is allowed to pet the cats, but not allowed to pick them up. She no longer sneaks away with a kitten, because she knows she is allowed to touch them. She will still occasionally pick one up, but telling her to put the kitten down works a lot faster now - she puts the cat down instead of arguing with us.

So she is getting better. Thank you all for helping me out with this!

Morgan - posted on 04/30/2010

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I have worked in child care centers for 8 years now and I find that you cant just tell a child NO, because they just don't understand that, instead you have to explain to her WHY it is wrong to pick up the cats by their front legs, heads, or throwing them. You need to FIRMLY tell her that it hurts the kittens and can make them very sick (ie breaking a leg) you should explain to her that we need to be gentle with our friends so they want to be her friend and come by her. The thing is when diciplining a child THEY have to make the choice not to do it again, you can't make it for them so give her reasons and show her why it is wrong, and what she can do to correct it. I ope this helps you.

Stevie - posted on 04/29/2010

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I agree with Jodi you can't just tell a child what NOT to do you have to tell them what they can do INSTEAD of the bad behavior. Also maybe you could keep the kittens confined to one room with their mother, if she has litter food and water in the room with her she shouldn't need to leave that room right?

Christina - posted on 04/29/2010

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Jodi - that sounds like it may work. At least she won't always be trying to sneak around to "play" with them, if she knows she IS allowed to pet them. I tried to make a rule that she can pet them but she can't pick them up. She understands this concept with the baby chickens, but they can run away from her while the kittens can't :P They are growing fast and the yarn trick might work soon. Thanks for the idea. My mom is coming up tomorrow help Elayne's Granny watch her. Four eyes are always better than two!

Christina - posted on 04/29/2010

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Kristen - We have tried explaining it to her, and tried telling her she just plain isn't allowed to touch the kittens, which is the current standing rule. She still grabs the kittens, but only when she thinks she won't be caught. But I think you might be right, we need a way to redirect her. I think she is too young for baseball or gymnastics or anything like that, and we need something immediate anyways, but I will try to think of something. It just occurred to me that I might try something other than spanking, a different unpleasant experience, like a glass of water dumped on her head :P That's less painful but just as shocking as a spank. Makes a mess, though.

Katie - I do hope you're right, but at the same time I am pretty sure she is well aware of her actions - why else would she try to hide the fact that she is hurting the cats? And I tried blocking the cats in the guest bedroom, but that was worse in it's way because I had to get up every hour to let the mother cat in or out. I almost went crazy from lack of sleep! I thought I was done with that now that Elayne sleeps through the night! :P The point is, that option didn't work. I will of course try to talk to her again... 600th time's a charm, right?

Junella - We tried the time outs, the talks, everything; she did not stop after a few times. And I am not going to ignore the fact that my girl is trying to break bones in a kittens leg. She is hiding it, so I doubt that it is a plea for my attention.

Jodi - posted on 04/29/2010

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Perhaps instead of such serious punishments, show her how she CAN play with the kittens. Sit down with her, each of you with a kitten, or just one for the two of you if that's easier and show her how to pet the kitten, scratch under it's chin, behind it's ears and what not. Give her yarn she can trail in front of the kitten to chase if the kitten is old enough. Instead of always say "no, you can't do that with a kitten." Give her something she CAN do with the kitten. This works fairly well with my daughter, good luck!!!

Katie - posted on 04/29/2010

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Well first of all, she IS 3 y/o and clinically unaware of her actions, so (in my opinion) I don't think homicidal tenancies will be an issue. If you catch her doing it again, gently have her put the kitten down and sit her down to have a talk. Make sure you have eye contact, and say something like "They're baby cats, just like you're a baby. What you're doing is hurting them, it gives them owies." Don't be suprised if she forgets the next day. In this talk get one of the kittens and show her the proper way to hold it gently and have her try. If all else fails, block the kittens in another room. Good Luck!!

Kristen - posted on 04/29/2010

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i suggest keeping the kittens where she can see them or atleast knows where they are, and not allowing her to be with them at all. she'll ask why and you tell her ( "because you're mean to them and you will hurt them if you keep treating them that way" or something like that). maybe even "show her how it feels", far more gently but in the same relative manor. maybe she needs an energy outlet, dance, soccer, gymnastics, baseball, etc. hope those help :)

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