We have a four‑year‑old daughter who is giving us a difficult time with regard to discipline, obedience, respect, and following our orders. She has become rebellious: she doesn’t obey, hits us, and answers us with arrogance in spite of how young she is.
We have tried various methods of discipline, including not giving her rewards, sitting her in a time-out chair for three or four minutes, taking away TV time, etc. But now we even spank her, and… she will not obey.
We are desperate and don’t know what to do. Could you help us?
This is the kind of problem that is very difficult to answer because we can’t sit down and speak with you personally to learn more about you and your daughter. Have you consulted with a pediatrician? If not, that would be a good place to start finding a solution to your problem.
In our experience, there is usually one basic reason why a child behaves the way you are describing. That child has learned that he is more persistent and consistent than his parents are.
Most of us become parents without any idea of how hard it is, and usually we have no special training. Parenting is just one of many roles we play in everyday life, and it is usually something that we do while we are also trying to earn a living, pursue a career, and fulfill our dreams. Babies are along for the ride in our lives, and we expect them to fit into the space we provide for them and cooperate with our plans.
But a child is born with his own will and often it is a strong will. Some children show even before they learn to talk that they are not content to do it our way. They want it their own way and they expect us to come along for the ride with them!
So the stage is set for a daily battle. We are tired from all our other responsibilities, and many times we just don’t feel like engaging in a struggle. The child, on the other hand, has saved all his energy and is prepared to win at all costs! The incidents are small at first; but as soon as the child discovers that he can outlast the parent, he begins to exercise the upper hand that he has gained, demanding more and more, and winning more often than not. The parent doesn’t realize that he has completely lost control until it is too late.
So how does the parent win back the control? It’s not easy! It takes time, commitment, dedication, persistence, and consistency. It takes making reasonable rules and connecting them with reasonable consequences.
Then, when the child breaks a rule, the consequence MUST follow. It must follow immediately, every time, never missing even one time, over and over, no matter how hard, no matter where, no matter when. The parent must make it a priority, devote time to it, lose sleep over it, and never, never, never give in.
If the child is put in a time‑out chair (one minute per year of their age), then the parent must be willing to monitor the chair to make sure the child doesn’t get up before his time has passed. If he does get up too soon, the parent must firmly put him back in the chair, over and over, time after time, until the child is so exhausted from the ordeal that he gives up and finally stays in the chair. During this process, the parent is not yelling, not screaming, not hitting, and not losing his temper.
Civilization is built on following rules. In order to have good lives, we must all learn to obey the laws of our countries and the laws of human kindness. If we choose not to, there will be consequences. Helping a child to understand the connection between rules and consequences prepares him for a happier life.
Parenting is not for wimps!
Linda and Charles