So my 3 1/2 year old, Ella, is a sweet, funny, loving, affection little girl. Except when she's not. She flew through the two-year-old stage with no issues and we thought the terrible twos had passed us by. Maybe they were just delayed.
She's not really different from any other preschooler, I know they all test limits and boundaries and see what they can get away with. My husband and I have set very clear limits and boundaries and expressed them to her with no room for misunderstanding. The main rules we are giving her are 1) NO hitting (people or animals) 2) Listen to your teachers at preschool and do as they ask and 3) No rudeness (yes we explained to her what it means to be rude, saucy, etc.)
Now I know that I can't expect her to obey all of the rules all of the time, and that we have to pick our battles when it comes to giving consequences. But we are firm and consistent and she knows we will follow through - she just doesn't care. First we tried time outs - she stayed in her time out and understood why she was put there, but a lot of the time it just made her more angry and she would get out of the chair and automatically do something against the rules, like smack my leg. So back into timeout. After a while we decided time outs weren't for her, so I came up with a plan. I posted a weekly calendar on the fridge that I make on the computer with pictures so she will know which days are daycare days, which days are weekends, when she has swimming lessons, etc. Friday has been set as "Reward Day". If she breaks a rule she gets a warning. If she does it again she gets an "x" marked on her calendar. 3 x's in the week and she does not get a Friday reward. Last week she really pushed her limits and for the first time got 3 x's. Friday came, she asked for her reward, and I explained that she wasn't getting one because she got three x's. (I also explained this at the time I gave her her third x).
I thought that would make an impact but she's still testing us. Today she got two x's and it's only Tuesday! One was for pinching me, and the other was for smacking the dog. I told her she hurt the dog's feelings, and I also told her she hurt my feelings and I was very upset with her. She grinned like it was funny. I tried to talk to her about why what she did was wrong, but she will not look at me or show any indication that she's listening. I was in the middle of telling her how the doggie feels pain just like her when she said "look mommy we both got buttons on our shirts!"
Ok so I'm a little frustrated. I love her to bits, and most of the time she really is a good kid, although she knows how to push buttons when she wants to. But the last week and a half have been pretty trying.
Oh yeah, and since she used all her x's last week, when she misbehaved on Saturday we took a toy away for the day. She hated that, but not enough to learn apparently.
Anyway long post I know. I'm just looking for people who've been there and people who have ideas how to effectively deal with this behaviour. I know she's probably picking things up at daycare and also trying to show us that she's her own person who won't be bossed around. But I want to tear my hair out! She doesn't seem to have any concept of empathy and she doesn't feel bad when I tell her she hurt the dog, etc.
Am I alone here? There's got to be a better way....
Shawna, first it sounds like you are a very responsible and committed parent. It also sounds like you have good structure in your home, which is good. After reading your post, my first thought about why your calendar method may not be working is because your daughter may not be developmentally ready for a weekly calendar. At that age, kids have different concepts of time than we as adults do. A week is a LONG time for them and having to behave well for the entire week may seem like an impossible task. Perhaps you can still use the calendar method, but change it a little bit. For instance, it would probably help if instead of "Xing" out days that she was bad, you put smiley face stickers for days that she was good. And instead of rewarding her with a big thing at the end of the week, try rewarding her with something small at the end of every day. If that doesn't seem to be working, break the day in half, and give her a sticker for half of the day, and a reward of your choosing at that time. Then if she is good for the next half of the day, she gets another reward. Soon she will be behaving very well and you can still award stickers for good behavior every day, but move the actual rewards back to every day, or every two days, and so forth.