Monday, December 12, 2011

Discipline issues

I'd like some advice from those of my readers that have raised kids, and maybe have a grandkid or two. My imp apparently didn't skip the terrible twos after all--he's hit them, just now, a year late. I've tried all the tricks I know to curb the tantrums: offering a choice between two things I'd like him to do, time outs (which do not work to prevent them. At all. All it does is get him out of our hair while he screams and stomps around--and at least they're shorter in his room with the door closed and no attention), spankings, removal of toys and/or privileges...we've tried it all, and none of it works. It's his way, or a temper tantrum.

A good example happens every morning. I fix his breakfast (sausage links) and leave it where he can reach it, but the pixie can't. He screams and shakes his head that he won't eat, then turns around and asks for milk. I don't grant this, because I've learned that he fills up on the milk, and won't eat. So he doesn't get milk until after he eats. He knows this, but does the same thing every morning: screaming, stomping temper tantrum on sight of sausage; I turn off the television, say "fine, go to your room and close the door until you're done screaming"; he goes, calms down, and comes back out, and asks for milk. I tell him "sausage, first, then milk," so he tries for orange juice. "Sausage first." Screaming temper tantrum, exile to calm down, then back, and asks for milk, orange juice, and then water. I give him a little drink--enough to quench thirst--then wait. He asks for milk again, and I point at the sausage. He throws a screaming tantrum, tells me "NO!" gets a spanking, and gets sent to his room. When he's let out, the cycle continues.

Breakfast sometimes takes half an hour, sometimes takes until lunch. Sometimes he'll settle down in time to watch Sesame Street, sometimes he won't. And it doesn't matter if it's sausage (though that's the most likely to be eaten), Cream o' Wheat, yogurt, or what have you: he insists on his way or throws a tantrum.

I am at the end of my rope, and don't know what I'm doing wrong.


  1. It sounds like you are doing good not giving in to him. One of my kids had the same kind of problem, we would fix his plate and he either ate or didn't. We did not fight or argue with him it just sat there till he ate. If he did not eat or said he was not hungry we put the plate in the fridge and next time he was hungry or next meal the same plate of food came back out (maybe reheated if necessary)we did this regardless of what others might be having to eat. The key was not to yell and shout but calmly explain that it had to be eaten first before he got anything else. They will learn quick it does no good 'holding out' till lunch because it will be the same thing. It did not take us long to correct this (but it may be a week or so) They might hold out till supper the first day or so then it might be till lunch or mid morning but they will learn it is best to eat and get it 'over with' The KEY is not letting him eat ANYTHING else till it is gone.

  2. Thanks, Duke--I'll try that again, see if it works this time.

  3. Maybe this is simplistic: JUST IGNORE HIM......

  4. I don't have kids, but I've observed child-rearing. It sounds like waiting him out is the best strategy, and also sending him to his room to blow off steam. Give in to him and he'll grow increasingly demanding. (I have friends who have a son who has become a little monster of ego and is miserable to be around).

    Does it help at all to remember that this is a developmental stage that he'll outgrow?

  5. OLDCATMAN had the answer. The one method that is the best way IMO, to extinguish unacceptable and inappropriate behavior. Children's behavior is a means to get ATTENTION, which is their primary need, that ensures their survival. All of their behavior primarily is is driven by this primary need, for attention which is how their other needs are met. Giving them attention for inappropriate behavior rewards them---even when it is negative attention or a negative consequence for undesirable behavior. Virtually all children go through a temper tantrum phase--as preschoolers/toddlers---Those whose parents do manage to ignore their tantrums most consistently--have this phase for a shorter period of time---Remember: his temper tantrums are not a reflection of your parenting, nor are they a motivated by anything more than a developmentally age appropriate attempt to get what he believes is a need met---but which you as his mother realize is a want---in the case of the breakfast scenario.

  6. OCM: that's why he gets sent into his room.

    Ricki: when he's not throwing a temper tantrum, remembering that this is normal helps. When he's actively throwing a tantrum, nothing helps.

    Becky: I'm trying to remember that, and I'm trying to ignore him, but it also upsets the pixie when her beloved big brother is crying. It's why he's sent to his room--both to isolate him and ignore him, and to keep his baby sister from starting to cry, as well.

  7. It isn't easy. You are doing what you need to do for two wee ones--not ever easy. Is it possible that you can take pixie and yourself to another room instead? I suggest this because it is a way to adhere to the strategy that no attention whatsoever be given to imp when he is throwing a tantrum; and lessen both your's and pixie's distress at being present...

    Hang in there---

  8. You mentioned that he's past the terrible two's, so I'll assume he's at least 4. By this time, their personality and behavior is almost set in stone. It's going to be hard until he outgrows it.

    Problem is, no two children are alike. With my oldest, now 30, he got his fist spanking for a tantrum by his mother when he was still and infant...never tried another. Unfortunately, that didn't work with his younger brother who was a terror as a child. He's actually the reason we stopped at two children. We wanted three to four but were scared of having another with his temperament. We would make him sit at the table to where he would fall asleep. He eventually outgrew it but it was rough. BTW, both of them grew into fine men with my youngest enlisting in the Air Force.

    OCM probably has the best advice but I would add, not a spaking, but a good old fashioned whopping so he knows there are dyer consequences.


  9. Bob: the imp turned three in October, so he's at the very least late to the terrible stage.

    As for the whopping...I cannot bring myself to do it or allow it--I was regularly beaten as a child, and even spanking or yelling at my son brings up ghosts.

    The sending him to his room stops the tantrums quicker than anything else, and he does get smacked when he back-talks (can't talk well and is already doing it--we're in for a rough ride).

    I have no doubt he's a great kid--all I have to do is be out in public and watch other people's kids to realize that he and his sister really are happy, well-behaved little angels by comparison, even at their worst.

  10. BINGO!

    And the winner is: "Does it help at all to remember that this is a developmental stage that he'll outgrow"(Ricki)