strong willed children

Erin - posted on 12/08/2010 ( 24 moms have responded )

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My son is extremely strong willed. As I've been consistent he tests me over and over. I don't give into tantrums but he still has them to try to get what he wants. I think he often feels like he has little control over things but I do give him choices I let him where what he wants most of the time. When he gets frustrated he slaps himself in the face. He hits me when he wants my attention and hangs on me. Time outs don't work because he won't stay there,Plus he likes the attention of a time out. I've tried giving me a time out (going in a separate room for a few minutes) This works but he cries hysterically (Not fake cries real ones) I can deal with the crying for 3 min but I don't want him to feel unloved. Do you moms out there think that is a rational punishment, me going in a room for his timeout? Please no rude comments about how "I better stop babying him and giving into him" because I really am trying to be stern. I just would like some helpful advise. Some of you moms out there are brutal.

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Rachel - posted on 12/11/2010

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I have three small children and different things work with each one. My biggest suggestion is to closely monitor your son's sleeping and eating. The book "Sleepless in America" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, who also authored "The Spirited Child," was a big help for us. Getting our kids more sleep and making sure they were eating every couple of hours has been the biggest help for reducing the number and intensity of melt downs.

The DVD "Happiest Toddler on the Block" had suggestions that worked with my two year old (although not with my daughter when she was two). His biggest suggestion was to demonstrate empathy by mirroring their feelings both in your words and your expressions. You have to see the video (your library probably has it) to really appreciate his technique.

I think giving yourself a time out is totally appropriate. He needs an adult who is calm and controlled. Taking a break when you've had enough seems like a great lesson to teach. As long as he knows you're coming back (something you might want to tell him in a calm moment along with a reminder as you head off in the heat of the moment).

For me, it helps to remember that children having melt downs are just needing help learning how to deal with big, overwhelming feelings. Punishing them has never seemed quite right to me. If I can find a way to keep myself from getting caught up in their emotion (which is tough to do while being screamed at) that seems to help. I also try not to talk very much when they are in the throws of it. Staying calm, reminding them to take deep breaths every now and then, and being available for a hug when they're ready is my basic approach.

But don't forget the sleeping and eating. ;)

You're doing great! Hang in there.

Shanna - posted on 12/21/2010

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I truly feel for you, my almost 4 year old is the same way, her teachers even comment on how stubborn she is, i too feel that I am too stern or she is left out of decision making. It truly breaks my heart but I don't give in, I keep right on being stern with her and letting her know that her behavior is not tolerated and will have punishments, and I follow thru with them. She cries and cries, and then I want to cry but when its all said and done, she says she is sorry for her bad actions and says she will try not to do it again. Then I hug her and tell her I love her. I used to over word things when I was telling her what she did wrong, but now I keep it short and to the point so she doesn't forget what was said. I am still learning to and I hope that it gets better for you. Just remember, this is still a 4 year old we are talking about, we forget right and wrong sometimes too even after we are an adult.

Erin - posted on 12/21/2010

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He's getting better with his tantrums, the hitting as well. Yesterday he had a time out for almost knocking down the Christmas tree when I told him twice to leave it alone. I just kept putting him back to it and I think he got the point he was staying there. I had done the same thing when he started giving me a hard time about bed last week. Every time he would get up with out saying a word to him I put him back after 2 knights he stopped getting out of bed. I figure if I do this with time out eventually he will stay there. He has a tendency to tear at my heart cry and say " wanna a hug " but I'm staying strong he gets no hug until the time out sentence has been completed.

Jamie - posted on 12/17/2010

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I've been told that strong willed children need to choose things so give them a couple of options and let him choose I have a strong willed 5 year old girl and it's been hard I'm Afraid that my son is going to be the same way and he will be 3 in feb. So try that see how it works

[deleted account]

One of my twins, who is just about 3, is the same. Time outs were totally ineffective. Ignoring it doesn't make it better -- it just escalates. Saying no just escalates the tantrum. Distraction doesn't work. However, what I have found works is to pick him up, hug him, and say in the most calming and reassuring voice possible, "I know you are very upset. I think you need to lay down in your bed until you calm down." I then put him in his bed and tuck him in and tell him to come out when he feels better. For some reason, that seems to be working. It's really a time out in a way, but we don't call it that and I don't treat it like a punishment. It seems to have made all the difference. The reality is he's just emotional and has lost control of his emotions -- turning it into a battle of wills won't help, but giving him time and space to calm down helps him to regain control.

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Dee - posted on 08/01/2011

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Erin I have 3 boys(5,7,9), all very strong willed, especially my youngest, and all very attached to mommy. My oldest would have anxiety attacks if I went grocery shopping without him when he was younger, it would drive my husband crazy. I can tell you that that fades as they get older. What I did with him was tell him I am going to be gone for this period of time and you are going to be okay because this is what you will be doing...or this is who will be with you... that seemed to work. I also let him call me if I was going to be out of the house. But if it was just that he was misbehaving and was sent to his room I would make sure that I spoke loudly every now and then so he could hear my voice and that seemed to calm him. I am still dealing with 3 very strong willed boys and the worst part is that they not only oppose me but they also go against each other which provides much unrest in our home at times. I'm left to deal with them along all week because my husband drives truck and is only home on the weekends. I completely understand what you all are going through!

Keri - posted on 01/01/2011

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How old is he? Kids really have NO SAY until they can take care of themselves. Is he cooking his own meals, cleaning his own room, washing his own clothes, etc.? You're the mom, you're the adult, don't stand for it. My son's a little like this, and in trying to get what he wants, he changes tactics several times. He asks for (junk) food or games or something I don't want him to have and he quickly asks for something he knows I usually let him do. He's taken lately to going in to his room, yelling "Leave me ALONE" and slamming the door. I just let him be. If I hear him start to cry (seriously, not sympathy tears) I will go in and check on him. We talk, I ask him if he knows why I said no or otherwise disciplined him and we talk it out. He's 4, so his memory isn't long like an adults and he does some things over and over, but I think he's getting the hang of what is good and what is bad behavior.

[deleted account]

I have the same problem with my daughter. I try to be consistent and stern, not give in to her but she is very pushy and demanding and strong willed. People tell me to give her time outs and she does the same as yours-she won't stay put. People tell me "don't let her win" and things like that but it just makes me feel defeated even more. I applaud you for being able to remove yourself from your son, I think thats good because he isn't rewarded for acting badly, he doesn't get what he wants most-which is his mom. I would say keep doing what your doing, at least in the long run it can't do anything but help because you are consistent and structured. Take care, hang in there.
-Brenda

Tiffany - posted on 12/21/2010

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your not babying him. consitency is key, as you said. I firmly believe that. My daughter is strong willed as well. she drives me nuts LOL But... i think going to another room is a great stress reliever for you, but does nothing for him. he doesnt understand. for all he knows, you've stepped out for no apparent reason. He needs to know that it is his 'unfavourable' bahavior that needs to stop. so always the same discipline. guiding him away from situations where he is being rude or unmannered or cranky. be proactive and try to stem it off before it begins. figure out where the tantrums come from if you can. and by all means, take a few mins to yourself. he will not feel unloved. he will have a better mommy for it - no need to feel guilty. seriously.

Gemma - posted on 12/21/2010

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i have the same problem and people say i too am babying my son hes 3 and is very stong willed also ive tried everything best advice i was given was to just ignore the tantrums they cannot hurt themselfs from crying its hard when you hate seeing your child distraught but in the long run they will understand that crying doesnt get you anywhere

Erin - posted on 12/20/2010

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I think that all children are strong willed... My 14 month old and I feel like i repeat myself over and over again... but with him crying I think he knows that after 3mins mummy going to come and I will keep doing it until she gives in... Children are very smart....and if you keep him in there longer he won't feel unloved... I leave my son in his room for half hour and if he continues then I will go in there and say laydown.

Ashley - posted on 12/13/2010

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I try and ignore as many as I can and reward good behavior! I have 3 kids 3, 2, and 11 months. If the older two lay down and behave while the baby sleeps than they get a snack if not they dont. But I have to stand my kids in a corner with their nose on the way. We tried the time outs and we tried taking things away from them that they loved but after awhile it didn't seem to bother them.

Leanne - posted on 12/12/2010

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you could always copy him-i do it with my little girl-in fact ive done it with all 4 of them when all else failed.they screamed i screamed,they shouted so did i-they eventually start to laugh because mummy looks silly! it worked with them 90% of time & got so silly that we all ended up laughing

Alyssa - posted on 12/11/2010

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This may sound odd, but there is a diciplinary method out there called "1, 2, 3, Magic" it changed my relationship with my step-son, who is strong willed and thrives on negative attention. I hope this helps. I know how frustrating it can be!

Lisa - posted on 12/11/2010

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Thanks for that idea Rebecca, i will give that a go. Nice to know i am not the only one (sorry that everyone else with this issue has it though)

Catherine - posted on 12/11/2010

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I don't think its harsh at all, you would not interact with him in timeout so its the same except he can't get to you. I do agree with the seperation, my nearly 2 year old is joined at my hip and he started biting. I would put him down instantly and he soon stopped when he realised. I hope you find something that works.

Lisa - posted on 12/10/2010

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I wish i knew the answer. I do know that since cutting he timeout (or time we are apart down) it is more successful but very emotionally draining on me as i need to be happy and positive all the time because if i raise my voice even slightly it sets her off with anxiety (this also occurs if strangers raise there voice in a shop or park). It was explained to me this way, if she is so attached to me, then the best 'punishment' for bad behaviour (my daughter hits me also) is to remove myself or her, however as this is the ultimate punishment it can not be expected to go on as long as you would for other children (just baby steps so it is introduced slowly)

Erin - posted on 12/10/2010

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Lisa, My son has separation anxiety too. He's so attached to me. I love that he loves me so much. But it can be draining and I don't want him hitting me for attention. He can still see me when I go and sit in the kitchen and it's only for 2 min but I worry that I'm being cruel ignoring a child who's so attached to me.

Erin - posted on 12/10/2010

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He will be 3 next month. He usually has tantrums more when he's tired but I never give in to them. It's not the tantrums that bother me as much as the hitting. He does that when my attention isn't on him so he decides to get it negatively . And a time out and the whole process of it gets him just what he's looking for. I tried me going into the kitchen (which he doesn't have access to, it's blocked off by baby gates so he can't get into anything dangerous in there) but he can still see me. I just sat there and ignored him for 2 min and he got very upset. I felt bad but I think he got the point. I just wonder if that seems like a harsh punishment.
I spend lots of time coloring, playing blocks, and singing songs with him. So it's not like I don't spend time with him. But when I need to do something that doesn't involve him he does whatever it takes to get my attention. He's more like this when he's tired.

Lisa - posted on 12/10/2010

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Hi Erin, no rude comment here, i know where you are coming from. I thought my first child was strong willed but he had nothing on my second. I am also at a loss. I have tried the time outs also but they don't work and i also give myself timeout but again that doesn't work (if anything i know this makes my child worse as she gets very distressed with the separation and suffers for weeks after with separation anxiety as she thinks i will leave). All the advise i have been given comes back to giving her a timeout but not as long as you would for other children (she is 3.5 years) however i only leave her in timeout until she is sitting quiety. I begin with her being quiet for 5 seconds and then each time she goes into timeout for that day i increase the quiet time, but usually the next day we have to go back to the beginning or her anxiety escalates and she will not even sleep as she dreams i am leaving her. I also do timeout in her room where i hold the door shut but i am on the outside as she will not stay in a corner or spot and she does not touch her toys as it is punishment not being able to see me. Sorry i don't have any helpful solutions but you are not alone

Catherine - posted on 12/10/2010

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how old is your son? my boy used to hit kick and bite when he was angry, timeout never worked like you say he would run away and enjoy the attention. that was when he was 2 now 3 his is a lot better but still gets angry. I certainly would not say he will feel unloved if you make him do his punishment. we read books watched programs and tried everything. naughty step didn't work for us either. I now give him 1 minute in time out as he will stay that long, but I tell him its 3 minutes. eventually I guess i'll increase it to the real 3 minutes. if he hits or kicks I go down to him and say very firmly, you will not hit mummy that is not nice and it hurts me. then its his choice if he does it again its time out. you need a lot of patience and don't let other people wind you up. keep praising him for good stuff, we find sometimes if he starts misbehaving a distraction before it gets to the point of a time out, a jig saw or reading a book with mum. I also never give in to tantrums, again we use distraction. you can have a tantrums and scream for what you want but you're not getting that right now. mummy is going in the other room to onstage cars if you want to come too you can if not stay here and cry. it might sound harsh but he usually come fairly quickly. hope it helps.....

Amy - posted on 12/09/2010

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Read any book by John Rosemond. Reading his stuff sure kicked my kids tantrums! He said when they start a tantrum, take them to a special tantrum place [someplace safe - we choose our bathroom so our daughter can pee if she needs to]. She just tell her to go to her tantrum spot and when she's done crying she can come out. At first, she'd try to come out still crying hysterically, but we'd just calmly say, oh, bummer, we thought you were done. Go and finish up so you can come out and play. Pretty soon she'd stay in there until she was done, then she'd take herself there when she got the "you're having a tantrum" look, and now she just kinda has them so few and far between, we've kinda forgotten about the tantrum place.

Brenda - posted on 12/08/2010

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Ignore his tantrum. Give him no reaction to his undesirable behaviors. Tell him in a firm steady voice thathe is not allowed to hit you

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