Impulsive Behaviour and stubborness!

Archana - posted on 11/03/2011 ( 1 mom has responded )




My Four and a half yr. old boy is creating too many tensions for us. Time outs, no-talking, etc are not working. Misbehaviour at school too. School too is being over-reactive, but what to do? Pls. help


Wendy - posted on 11/08/2011




I feel you - my 4½ year old is a hand full to say the least as well, but this could be a response to so many different things. Here are some ideas to think about:

Being a 4½ year old boy alone is enough reason for him to be challenging you at every turn. That is actually a sign of an intelligent kid developing normally. It is always possible that there could also be a medical/biological reason or contribution to the behaviors (i.e., food allergies/sensitivities; ingesting foods with food coloring; or any sort of processing disorder [sensory, social, emotional]). You can have him tested (or assessed) for any or all of these. I always suggest removing food coloring from any child's diet, as it is well known for having negative effects on behavior.

As frustrating and challenging as situations can be, try to view each of them as a teaching opportunity, instead of just thinking about the fact that your child misbehaving. Communication (in addition to being consistent and following through EVERY time) is the most important tool in teaching. A big key in communication is to always be calm both in tone and body language, even when you feel like you want to pull all of the hair out of your head. If you are getting upset, it only adds to the fire. Also, he has to be calm before you can talk to him. If he is not calm, he will not hear anything you say.

Start by setting clear expectations in advance, which should always include options for what TO do in situations, as well as what NOT to do. Usually kids don't know the right way to handle hard situations (if they are frustrated about something, etc.). We have to teach them (sometimes over and over again). **ALWAYS try to remember to praise him when he makes the right choice, even if it's something small. "Thank you for not interrupting me when I was on the phone. I really appreciate that." This is one of the most important things to do, because it is giving him positive attention and a feeling of pride that every kid seeks, which will go WAY farther than any punishment ever will.

One thing to keep in mind is that every thought and every action we all have as human beings are based on an emotion. It is SO important to validate and acknowledge his feelings and never to dismiss them. You can still discuss them and set boundaries, but even when you completely disagree with what he is feeling or why he says he feels that way, the feeling is still very real to him. Validating his feelings builds trust and lets him know that you are listening to him. It's also good help him build his emotional vocabulary. Reading books that describe or talk about emotions and label them is a really great way to help your son learn to describe what he is feeling and how things affect him, which is a great way for you both to learn how to help each other and communicate. Also, talking to him and labeling a situation directly is great for vocabulary and for an in the situation teaching moment. Example: "I see that you are having a hard time getting your shirt on right. That is really frustrating. Try putting your head in first, then your arms." (Or whatever it is.)

I believe that presenting adverse situations as being a choice that the child makes (not the parent) is a good long term lesson for all kids too. For example, when you see your son starting to go down the path of making the wrong choice (of the expectations that you have already clearly set), talk to him about that and remind him what are the right choices/things to do. "If you choose to not listen, then you will go in timeout (or whatever is appropriate). I will be very proud of you if you make the right choice. It's up to you, you make your choice." If he still makes the wrong choice, and then gets upset about the consequences, you can remind him that it was his choice to not listen, not yours - he has the power.

When he goes into timeout, follow him and give a brief and CALM reminder of WHY he is in timeout. Even though it may seem obvious, it is always good to make a brief statement, so they are clear on why they are going in timeout, and tell him the exact time (set a timer). "You are in timeout for 4 minutes for hitting the cat" (or whatever it is), then walk away. This is not the time to talk or argue. When his time is up (BEFORE he leaves the timeout spot), briefly remind him again for why he went into timeout and make sure he apologizes as necessary. If he wants to talk about anything, this is the time to talk. (Set that expectation in advance.) Make sure that he knows that everyone makes mistakes, we just need to learn from them and try harder next time.

Starting the communication bond and mutual respect for each other is key at this age, so he knows he can always trust to come to you when things are more serious when they are older. The choices portion also teaches him that he is in control of his own life.

There could also be triggers that you are not noticing right off. It might help to keep a simple log for a few weeks just noting time of day, what happened right before the incident, what the incident was, and maybe note the environment, or any other possible relevant info to see if there are any consistencies of something he is needing or specifically adverse to. (You can ask teachers to help with this too.) Maybe transitions are hard for him and a simple 5 minute warning before changing activities would help, or maybe environments with a lot of noise overwhelm him. A log will help you find those kinds of triggers, so you can find a solution for it/them.

You can also start a "positive behavior plan" with him and have him earn points for some sort of reward. This focuses on positives rather than negatives, and kids respond well to that. The reward doesn't have to be something tangible; it could be a trip to the park or just some specific undivided attention and time with you or your husband doing a favorite activity (blocks, Legos, reading, etc.).

Finally, I try to avoid ever using the word "bad". If kids feel like they are labeled as "bad" (or anything else negative), they think you know best and will follow suit. Try replacing "bad" with "not good".

These are just a handful of random ideas that came to mind. Probably more than you were looking for. ;o)

Take a deep breath, and know that you are doing the best you can and make sure you are getting time to yourself so you don't go crazy. Good luck!

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