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2muchestrogeninmyhouse
2muchestrog... asks:
Q:

3 1/2 doesn't listen which is driving my wife crazy

I have a 3 1/2 year old daughter ("M") that has issues listening.  My wife ("K") and I have to repeat ourselves many times.  We have taken away things, we did the time-out thing, we spanked, we raised our voices to the point of screaming and nothing seems to work.  We need help!!!  Millions of things are running through our head about this and we can't find an answer which is straining our lives.  Here are just 2...

1.)  We feel that we have done something terribly wrong in raising M.  Our fear is now that our 18 month old ("P") will exhibit those same behaviors.  We feel that M needs to go to counseling or see a doctor for medication.  I keep telling K that she is a 3 year old, but it doesn't help K.  She insists that there is something wrong with her.

2.)  K is definitely feeling the hardship of not listening and has reached her breaking point.  I told her to spend the night at her mother's and I will take them up to my mom's this weekend for a visit to give K a break.  Unfortunately, next week happens to be a week that I have to travel for work, so I am a little frightened.  For myself, the not listening is one thing, but to throw a mental breakdown from K on top of it, ends up making me crazier.

What can we do to make M listen?  
In Topics: Parenting / Our Family, Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
Jan 22, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

It can be very frustrating when we are trying to communicate with our young children and they are not listening.  There are a few simple things to remember that will improve communication.
1. Remove distractions from the environment.  If the TV is on or a video playing, stop those momentarily.  Put the toy down that they are playing with or just hold it still.

2.  Get on the same level of your child so you can look them in the eye.  Either get down to their level or raise them up to your level.

3.  Speak in a very clear, normal voice tone.  Use words that can be easily understood by your child.  Limit your words.

Teach your child “Listening to Others”.  This is a social skill that will help at home, at daycare and in other situations.  Social skills are sets of behaviors linked together in a certain order that will allow children to get along with others.
Use three simple steps to teach this and other social skills;

1. Show and Tell the positive behavior.  (Be brief and specific and tell and show what you want them to do.)
“When you listen to others be sure to look at the person who is talking to you.  Sit or stand quietly and say okay when they are finished talking.”

2.  Practice.  (Make it fun. Use pretend situations, games, or actual situations and keep it brief but do it often.)
“Let’s pretend you were watching TV and Mommy started talking to you.  Show me you can do what I just told you and showed you to do.”

3.  Show Approval.  (Use words of praise and encouragement.  Include smiles, touches and hugs. )
“That was simply super! Now that is what I call good listening skills. You won’t miss anything when you listen so well. High Five.”

By doing this type of teaching you are giving your child positive attention and preparing him with skills that will help him through the rest of his life experiences.

Boys Town National Hotline
1-800-448-3000
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Additional Answers (2)

kat_eden
kat_eden , Parent writes:
Hello - I'm so sorry you and your family are going through such a stressful time. As a mom of a 7 and 5 year old I have vivid - and not so happy - memories of my kids' crazy days. I think one thing to take comfort in is that all kids go through rough stages and can be completely different people 3 or 6 months from now than they are today. It's been a few years now and I'm finally at the point where I can look back and laugh at the times my kids through tantrums in public, colored the couch, or defied me for sport.

I can tell you that when my kids were that age (and even today) positive reinforcement always seems to be more effective than negative. We had a HUGE issue with my youngest son needing to be told 3 or 4 times to do everything. It was frustrating and exhausting and I sometimes found myself saying things like "I want you to do it because I'm your mom and I said so" which means absolutley nothing to a little person! We started a marble jar system and it turned him into a different kid. I started him with five marbles in a jar. Every time he did something the first time I asked I would add a marble and every time I had to ask him more than once I would take a marble out (or two marbles or three marbles etc depending on how many times I had to ask). When the jar was full, he would earn his choice of a trip for ice cream or a new book. It was amazing! I completely stopped yelling, nagging and tearing my hair out. And our mornings and bedtimes got really calm and peaceful. It really worked for us and it's also worked well for several of my friends.

That said, there's a wide spectrum of "normal" behavior for a 3 1/2 year old. I think "terrible twos" is a misnomer. Both my kids were much tougher at three than two. I think you get one really tough year out of your toddler and "terrible two" caught on as a catchy phrase- but it's really not always two!

It sounds like you think M is within the "normal" range and your wife thinks M is outside of that. Whether she's correct or not, your wife is clearly overwhelmed and it sounds like she could use some support (which it's clear you're trying to provide). If you're feeling scared for your girls' safety or your wife's sanity you have to listen to your gut and make sure you do whatever you need to to keep them all safe. I'm sure your wife is a wonderful mom but there are way too many stories out there of "wonderful moms" who got overwhelmed and did something to hurt a child that surprised everyone. Taking a night or two away from the kids has always been a great way for me to recharge my mommy batteries and it might help your wife a lot. But as you suggest, it might not be enough. Could your wife's mom come and stay with them while you're away next week? Or could your wife AND the kids go stay with her? If it comes down to it, you may want to think about postponing your trip.

Also, I'd recommend making an appointment with M's pediatrician. I've learned from my kids that their behavior and their physical health are really closely tied. Sometimes something's hurting or bothering them and they don't know how to say so and they act out their pain instead of telling me about it. Your pediatrican can help you either diagnose or eliminate such an issue. If it's not physical, your doctor can also help you determine whether or not M's behavior is "normal" for her age. If he's concerned he will be able to point you in the direction of services that can help her and you.

You, your wife, and your daughter WILL get through this. We all do! But it's not easy. All of your girls are lucky to have you - someone who addresses the issue directly instead of just ignoring it or wishing it away. I wish you all the best of luck!

Kat
> 60 days ago

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Dr. Hillary
Dr. Hillary writes:
Sounds like your family life is disturbed by your daughter's lack of listening.

The first step should be to consult with your daughter's health care provider who should perform a developmental screen and refer you for a hearing evaluation.  After that's done, other steps can be taken if necessary to help your daughter to be the best that she can be.
> 60 days ago

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