This question came in response to my advice about handling tantrums—
Q: I have a 3 year old daughter, who I think should just be re-named “stubborn”. I know I am going to have to put my foot down and insist, always, that what I say is followed through with. When my daughter is raging, and refusing, do you just stand there as long as it takes, and insist that they stand up and cut out the attitude? Eventually, it will take less time? Like, hours at first? We have been putting her in her room or time-out on the stairs when she is refusing to obey, but I can see how that doesn’t get compliance.
One thing we are having trouble with is bed. She won’t stay in her room. She wanders around, waking the other kids, or downstairs to us in the living room. I tried cutting out her nap (which makes the late afternoons awful!), in the hopes that she would be so tired, she would go to sleep. But after one time of coming out, we lock her door and she kicks and screams, and wakes throughout the night mad and will do it when she wakes up, hollering out the name of whoever was the one to lock the door. We tried rewarding her for staying in there, removing benefits if she didn’t stay in there, spanks, standing at her door and not letting her leave, sleeping in the empty bunk bed of a brother in case she was lonely, sleeping on our bedroom floor.
It’s turned into such a charade and I hate bedtime. Anytime you tell her “no”, she just gets this grunting-attitude, and it is infuriating. I feel like she’s in charge!
First– let me say, you have it exactly right when you say:
“I know I am going to have to put my foot down and insist, always, that what I say is followed through with.”
Then you asked:
“When my daughter is raging, and refusing, do you just stand there as long as it takes, and insist that they stand up and cut out the attitude? Eventually, it will take less time? Like, hours at first?”
Yes. And you enforce it by doing whatever it is you do for discipline. Firm swat on the bottom, stand against the wall, loss of privilege, whatever.
Yes, they will fight back fiercely (increasing in stubbornness for however stubborn/strong-willed the child is) the first few times. The older the child is, the longer this initial fight-back will take, and the fiercer it will be.
But once she gives in (essentially, recognizing your authority and responsibility over her) in one area, it will carry over into other areas. The goal is not just to attack it in one area (i.e., bedtime), but to see to it that she’s obeying you ALL the time… meals, toy-pick-up, time-to-leave-friend’s-house, whatever.
Once she realizes that you really mean for her to obey at all times, then bedtime becomes less of a challenge, because you’ve learned to mean what you say and she’s learned that you really mean it. It’s a win-win for everyone.
As far as bedtime, what I would do is this:
(1) Talk with your husband and determine what really is reasonable.
If you’re not sure, run it by a friend that you respect whose children are obedient and well-cared for. (i.e., questions like, “Is it reasonable, do you think, for her to go to bed at 8:30 and stay there? Or do I need to do something different?”)
(2) Certain that what you’re asking is reasonable, see to it that she does what you decide.
It’s that simple.
That said, I do not recommend cutting out naps until the child can make it all the way until bedtime with a decent, obedient attitude. That has never happened here in our home before age 4. Many have needed naps (almost daily) clear to 6 years old. Sleep is a MAJOR REASON why kids get fussy. So, possibly, you might want to rethink that.
What you want to do is find a reasonable way to see to it that she gets the rest she needs. So, as you talk with your husband, consider things like:
- Letting her listen to Bible songs while she falls asleep
- Audio book while she falls asleep (“You must turn over and quietly go to sleep when the story ends.”)
- You sit with her, with your hand on her leg, while she falls asleep, insisting (and enforcing) that she do three things: 1- close her eyes, 2-close her mouth, 3- stop wiggling (I say this because this is how we do it with extra-wiggly ones… they need those 3 specific instructions and typically fall asleep very quickly (within 3-5 minutes) of laying down, once they do those 3 things.
- Put her back in a crib and tell her that she must not climb out or she will get X as her consequence. (An enforceable, painful consequence that she does not like… whatever it is you do– from a spanking, to a concrete thing like “you lose one Polly Pocket for 3 days”)
I would not ever lock the door– you are right, it sounds like she is in charge. You need to patiently, firmly, diligently, consistently, every-day-no-matter-what, with every-instruction-no-matter-what, keep showing her that she is the one who is following you, and not vice-versa.
I’d highly recommend you read these articles, especially #1:
- Do Your Kids Recognize Your Authority
- 10 Bible Truths to Help You Understand Your Child
- When Your Kid Needs YOU To Be Stubborn
- Are You Letting Your Kids Walk All Over You?
Hang in there, and don’t give up. She needs you to be more patient, more firm, and more for-her-good right now than ever. You can do this.
It will take time to get this ship going in the right direction, but you really can change directions and make a huge difference in her attitude and your relationship in just a few weeks’ time, if you persevere and do not give in or give up. YOU CAN DO IT!