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MomOThree
MomOThree asks:
Q:

When told "no" my 4yo has recently started talking back and kicking (gently, missing on purpose). This is new behavior. She is the middle child.Ideas?

My daughter, who has always been very lovingand peaceful, has started picking fights with her younger brother, and acting very defiantly toward me and my husband.  When she is "counted out" for pinching, hitting or chasing her younger brother, she no longer will go to time out without arguing, and even sometimes makes half hearted attempts at kicking me or my husband. This has just started in the last two months. We have an older diabetic child and a younger 2year old child.  We try to give her lots of praise and each child some one on one time - but she refuses to spend one on one time with my husband when I am with her younger brother, and just recently seems very very jealous of him  She has no issues with her older brother - who is 6.  All three play nicely together most of the time - this is just weird new behavior and I wonder what else I can do to give her assurances and make her feel more certain that she is loved for who she is and need not worry that her younger brother is displacing her in any way?!
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Hand in Hand
Apr 15, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Dear MomOThree:

You are doing so much that's right in your parenting! And you have a full load--three is a big parenting job, and you have a child with an illness to boot. Good for you for reaching out for some help.

When children's feelings get backed up inside, their behavior goes haywire on the outside. It's driven off track by feelings that can't fully be expressed in words alone. Children feel alone, their big feelings arise, and they can't really think straight. They do things they know aren't good, but they can't really help themselves: the feelings are in charge, and they can't remember their love or their connections with others at those moments.

A remedy that seems totally counter intuitive, but is a wonderful help, is to Staylisten. That means, when she begins to show that she's upset, move closer to her, perhaps hold her gently but firmly, gently stop her legs from kicking, and look into her eyes. You can softly say, "No, sweetie, I won't let you kick." or "No, I'm going to keep your legs from hurting." This will intensify her feelings. She'll probably get hot and bothered, may cry, and may struggle even more. This is actually good! This is a sign that the feelings that have been causing trouble on the inside are releasing. As they release, she won't be fun to listen to. You'll hear, "You're a bad mommy!" or "Let me go, you're hurting me!" or "I want to go to my room!" or "You stink!" as she cries and struggles.

Don't worry too much about what she says. This is not encouragement to use bad language. This is letting the feelings have their moment, so they can leave her system, and let her relax and feel love for you again. Bad feelings stored equal trouble in a child's behavior. Bad feelings, as they release, are what they are--bad! That's why she hasn't released them before--she's been afraid that you would go away, or think badly of her. But if you stay, listen, and keep telling her "I'm going to be with you until you aren't kicking, until you can think what you want to do that's fun," she'll keep scrubbing out those problem feelings until she feels better. Then, you'll see a relaxed, loving, flexible child.

Here's more on using this Staylistening approach, and a few other "Listening Tools" to help resolve sibling tensions. And I'm going to add a sibling success story, so you can see how this works.

Yours,

Patty Wipfler

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