Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I hate using the word "defiant" to describe Sabrina's behavior, but some of it I do think is willful, and other bits I just can't figure out how to summarize for the title of a post.

I'm looking for some advice.

First, the therapist suggested that I very consistently give Sabrina a time out every time she hits, bites, or pulls my hair. We talked about it a little bit in the car today and she definitely had that "I'm embarrassed that I do this" tone of voice. Not that it helped when she started hitting me this evening!

Other friends of mine have said "of course no kid is willingly going to go to time out. I have to physically move my child to his time out chair." Well, I can't physically move Sabrina. One thing that I was thinking about doing is printing out a picture of a sad face and having one in each room; when she hits, she has to sit on the paper. I haven't done that yet, though, so do any of you brilliant and more experienced parents have any advice?

On a related note, this evening's hitting came after she was supposed to be in bed. She came out to the living room and I don't even remember why she started hitting me. If I had the sad face paper, should I have given her the time out in the living room, where she was, or made her go to her bedroom because it was an hour after her bedtime?

Also related, what should I do when she starts hitting or the like and we are late to school?

Done with the time out questions.

When Sabrina doesn't want to do what I'm asking her to do (put on her pajamas, or brush her teeth before putting on her pajamas, or wipe after using the toilet), she won't look at me. As in, I ask her to repeat what I asked her to do, she completely ignores me, I ask her to look at me and she keeps her head down or will actively turn her head away from me. Is this usual four year old behavior? Do you have any techniques for me to get her to listen to me? (I feel I should add that while some of this is a little bit "selfish" in the sense that I want her to get out of bed in the morning in less than 45 minutes because I want to get to work on time, but there are some real safety issues, too, like when we took the subway--at rush hour!--and she wouldn't hold my hand and wouldn't move away from the edge of the platform.)

Thanks for any advice you can share!


  1. Hey - do you want to call me? You've got my number and I live for this kind of stuff! No pressure - just thought I'd offer. Advice is easier to give if you can bounce a bunch of ideas around IMHO!

  2. I didn't totally understand, will she or won't she willingly go to timeout and sit there? If she will then I'd say have it be wherever you want (maybe in a different room will be better if she gets more angry if she sees you like my kid does). If its past bedtime I'd send her to bed and make her do it the next day or just take a toy away instead.

    My kid won't do the timeouts willingly, and when she hits me feels bad later so now I just mildly restrain her by holding her hands behind her back or in a hug. This has helped her calm down faster and also do less bad things which she later feels sorry for and then is mad at herself and sends her into a downward spiral.
    Other things that work are counting to 3 and telling her I will put her favorite toy in timeout (or giving the toy away or throwing it out). Its not as cruel as it sounds, basically I realized she wants to stop but can't and needs some extreme motivation to snap her out of the mood.
    Other consequences are having her draw me an apology note (this is like a timeout and helps calm her down). Or we usually have one fun thing right before bed that she looks forward to and helps her behave through the evening, either playing, dessert, movie,etc. And consequences can be reducing or losing this time. Or look for what her currency is, what does she ask for a lot, movies, wearing a certain outfit, etc. And use this as a motivator.
    If its really bad, I've cleared out her room while she was in school and put everything in timeout, and she had to earn toys back with good behavior - focusing on earning things this way instead of losing things helps when we get into a rut of lots of consequences.

    For late to work, I would give her a warning and then pick her up and go. Though you say you can't physically move her... hmm... maybe again give a warning or count to 3 and if she doesn't listen then use her currency. Or tell her you'll call her principal/teacher and tell them what she's doing (or whatever thing like this works for her, watch her closely and see what motivates her).
    Or say no problem, I can wait, but let me time your tantrum and you'll lose the same amount of time from tv time tonight, or you'll have to wake up that many hours early tomorrow, or you'll have to do that many chores, or that many pages of apologies, etc. Keep trying until you find something that works. See if her teachers have any ideas of what works.

    For subway safety, unfortunately until they learn to behave its better to keep them at home more or in a controlled environment. We had to stay home a lot and get groceries and other things delivered until behavior improved. If you have to go out, try some of the threats above, I also point out the policeman and say we have to behave, or that other people are staring at her,etc. Again its not to be cruel but its needed for their safety.
    Good luck.

  3. We have successfully used a system called 1-2-3 Magic. I know I know it sounded stupid to me to but I have learned it works really well. Kids want attention! if everytime they do something wrong no matter where it is they get ignored then they tend to quit. Of course the exception is the Subway type incident where someone could get hurt. At that point I would have physically moved her.

    The trick to this book is not that you ignore the behavior it is that the child loses time with you.

  4. SW247: Thanks for the offer! I may take you up on it next time I need help!

    A: Thanks for the suggestions. I particularly like the idea of drawing an apology note. As far as subway safety, it was kind of an experiment, a "let's see how it goes" kind of thing brought on by trying to figure out timing with work and her visit with her mom (which her social worker usually does the transportation for). Well, it didn't go so well, so I told the social worker that starting next week, we're going to have to figure something else out.