Alternatives to threats, ages 3-4

For example, below is an article I found on my Baby Center Web site. I love the site and feel like it has a lot of great information for keeping track of pregnancy, baby and beyond. Some of the information is too general for my kid, specifically. The first responses are hers, the second are mine.

Alternatives to threats (ages 3 to 4)

by Dorothy Folt

We’ve all been there: Your preschooler does something you don’t want her to, over and over again. Finally, you snap, and threaten to lock her in her room if she does it again. Here, tips for saying something you won’t regret later:
You want your child to: Instead of this: Say this: Which is better because:
Go to bed and stay there “If you get out of bed one more time, I’ll scream.” “After I put you to bed, I expect you to stay there.” The expectation for the behavior is clear and unemotional.

Ok, so this one is pretty easy. Charlie usually goes to bed without a hitch. We’ve even cut “technology” as reading materials suggest, a half hour before bedtime. Charlie and I usually have Book Club. If she doesn’t get herself ready and go to bed when I say, no Book Club.

Eat her peas and carrots “You’re going to sit at the table until you finish your peas.” “Remember — we won’t have a snack before bed.” It reminds her that the kitchen’s closed, but she can still choose whether or not to eat.

Ok, I don’t give Charlie a bed time snack. Dinnertime usually runs late at our house, so right after bed, we have bath and/or get ready for bed and Book Club. Charlie knows she won’t have a chance to eat dinner later if she chooses not to eat with us. We had to learn that one the hard way. Based on various articles I’ve read, parents seem to have a hard time with eating. I pray Theo doesn’t give me problems, because Charlie knows well that if she doesn’t eat what she has, that’s all she gets. Kids’ll eat when their hungry. If she cries about what’s on her plate, I just say, “You don’t have to eat it, just leave it on your plate, maybe you’ll want to try it.” 9 times out of 10, she ends up eating it. It’s not like I’m feeding her dirt.

Brush her teeth “No bedtime story if you don’t brush your teeth.” “It’s time for bed. What do you do first to get ready?” It lets her know it’s time for her bedtime routine without being punitive.

Charlie: “I brush my teeth. You brush your teeth and then I’ll brush my teeth. I have to get dressed first. Look at my bum, shake, shake, shake!” (Run around, run around)

Me: “Don’t wake up your brother, come here and get dressed now or no Book Club!”

Behave in the grocery store “Stop running now or no TV when we get home.” “Can you help me find the cereal you like?” It distracts from the negative behavior and offers a positive alternative.

Ok, this is what I do. Or, I tell her she has to get into the cart. However, how many aisles are in the store? Just put the kid in the cart.

Ask without whining “If you whine once more, I’ll take your sticker book away.” “I’d like to listen, but I can only understand your normal voice.” It lets her know you’re interested in what she’s saying, but won’t accept the tone.

Our family motto: You don’t get what you want by crying.

I’ve even resorted to hand puppets without the puppets, so it’s just my hands in the shape of talking ducks, you know what I mean. “This is Charlie crying. (right hand) Whaaa… This is what Charlie wants (left hand)… she only gets what she wants if she doesn’t cry. So please tell me why this crying is happening if it makes what you want go away?” Too literal for a 3-year-old? Try her. I swear she whines just to see how creative I can get.

Clean up her room “No dinner until your room is clean.” “I’d like you to pick up your toys and put them in your toy chest. Do you want to do that before or after dinner?” It makes your expectations clear, but also gives your preschooler a choice.

Charlie: “After dinner”.

Now, chalk it up to my un-diagnosed OCD, but I can’t sit and enjoy my dinner with a living room full of toys, can you?!

Stop tattling “I’m not taking a tattletale to the playground.” “It sounds like you’re upset with your sister. You need to tell her why.” It helps your preschooler understand that kids have to work it out together.

Charlie would give anything for a sister.

Be quiet in the car “If you scream one more time, we’ll turn around and go home.” “I’m having a hard time driving. I need to pull over until you’re settled.” It lets your child know the effect, limits, and consequences of her behavior.

I’m sorry, but I’m not that parent that will leave her shopping cart full of groceries at the check out counter because her child is having a temper tantrum and I’m going to pull over if my kid won’t stop screaming. I turn up the radio very loudly for ten seconds or so, and then when I turn it down, I talk real quietly so she has to shut her mouth to hear me. I then fillibuster her until she forget what she was yelling about. I’m small enough to move my seat all the way up when I drive so her feet don’t hit the back of the seat… she hates that…. Oh, I’ve swung my arm back a time or two and whatever I hit was enough for me. By biggest defenses are, I’ve found, not always the easiest, but whispering and acting like I don’t have a care in the world.

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