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How do I get my 3 1/2 year old to listen the first time without crushing her spirits or losing my cool?

My 3 1/2 is one of those "extremely" mature kids for her age.  Most of the time she is exceptionally good.  However, she "wants what she wants" and will not listen when it goes against "her" wishes.  She is headstrong and will not do what we ask, and I mean the "fight" could go on for hours if I let it (this is since birth).  For example, I could put her in a time out or send her to her room so I may cool down, and she will keep coming out.  If I threaten to take away her favorite show or other favorite thing (and follow through with the threat, be consistent) - she still does not care.  She will stick to her guns regardless of what's at stake.  I try to follow the "text book" steps with discipline - but they don't work with her.  She will respond sometimes with yelling - but I absolutely detest this form of discipline.

How do I get her to listen the first time around without crushing her spirits or losing my cool?
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
Feb 27, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Remembering that your child will not always listen to parents the first time they are given a decision. The key is consistency. Keep being consistent, this will help you and in turn her behaviors. Ask yourself, a few questions. Is there a time of day she will not listen? Could she be tired, hungry, thirsty or not feeling well? Is there a person that she seems to struggle with the most? Considering all the factors involved, may help. We all go through feeling like "its my way, and negotiating is not allowed". However, when you think of all the decisions you give your child in a day; can you make exceptions? If she asks to have another cookie, can she? Think of the decisions that you can not make exceptions for. For example, she needs to always wear a seat belt.

Think about teaching her to accept no answers, decisions and follow instructions. This can be done by practising with her. This can help as you want to try and help her control her feelings when she gets decisions or instructions she does not like. You can make it a game with her. At first, she will like being 'silly' and this can strengthen the bond with you. For example: she will ask you, "mom, can i watch T.V. all night tonight?" You will respond, "no". She will respond with "ok". Then that is it. You can give a short rationale as to why you said 'no'. It could sound something like this: "honey, if you watch T.V. all night, you will not sleep enough. You need your rest". Then over time, she will learn that accept 'real' no answers--with little to no 'fight' or complaints. Follow this same example for accepting decisions. Following instructions requires adding a last step to the example, which is: doing the task.

You might also want to try a chart. If she sees that she can accept no, decisions, and follow instructions--reward her. She will see how many stars or checks that are on the calendar. At the end of the day, if she has 10 stars; she can watch her favorite T.V. show. If she only makes 9 stars, and then she can only watch her show for 10 minutes with you. You can adjust her motivators as she changes them. You can also set up a 'menu' of options she can pick. For example: 5 stars = picking one bedtime book. Choosing a favorite cereal on grocery day. Choosing the dinner menu, etc.

Ultimately, over time her behavior can be shaped to the positive and more desirable behaviors. You are correct when you mention your feelings as a parent. Parenting is a tough job. If you remind yourself, what is it that you want to have happen in the heat of the moment? You may have to help your child follow the instruction, if it is cleaning up her room or her toys. If her behavior escalates to the tantrum, out of control behavior, try and remain calm yourself, and let her finish and calmly instruct her that when she is finished, you will talk with her. Its important that you model the correct behavior for.

If you feel you would like to talk to someone, you can call the Boys Town National Hotline. Our mission is helping kids and families and we have counselors available 24/7, to assist you. Take care, and let us know if we can be of any further assistance.
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