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Heidi LPC
Heidi LPC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 240
Experience:  Licensed Professional Counselor
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I have a 4 year old little boy who constantly doesnt listen. His preschool teacher

Customer Question

I have a 4 year old little boy who constantly doesn't listen. His preschool teacher convinced me that he may have learning disability because he wasn't learning, he never follows directions. I had him tested for early intervention and there is nothing wrong at this point. I took him to the audiologist and had his hearing tested and he can hear just fine. Everyone who spends time with him becomes extremely frustrated. I have begun spanking him out of frustration, because I was spanked. After spanking him, I go in my room and cry because I am so upset that I have lost control. His behavior is wearing me down and exhausting our family. We are a very happy healthy, educate family otherwise. I have used a behavior chart, positive reinforcements, timeouts, redirecting him, nothing I try seems to make an impact.
#1-How do I control myself in the heat of the moment to not spank him when my frustration level is at a boiling point?
#2 - How do I teach him to start listening to adults?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Heidi LPC replied 2 years ago.

Heidi LPC :

Hi there! I hope to be of some assistance to you this morning! I can hear your frustration, but know that there is an answer. It will require some restructuring of your old patterns of reaction, but it can be done!! Let me ask; has he been screened for any attention-deficit type of issue by the pediatrician?


 

Customer:

When I spoke to the individuals for the Early Intervention they said they felt it was "too early" and that he was "too young" to really determine. When I talked to the pediatrician about my concerns he referred me for counseling, but we currently have no health insurance.

Heidi LPC :

First, I want to recommend a book that I recommend to all parents I work with on this issue: http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Positive-Parenting-Wonderful/dp/1567131751


 

Customer:

Actually, to clarify, our children have health insurance but we do not.

Heidi LPC :

Ok... so what we have here is an issue with teaching him to learn how to control his impulses and second, to help you learn some new techniques for managing behavior. I commend you for reaching out. Your gut instinct about spanking is right on the money; spanking is just adult temper-tantrums, in a way. You have trouble controlling your own impulse to get control of him, so you resort to force... and yes, many many people just do what was done to them, whether it is right or wrong! So, feel good that you are looking for another alternative!!


 

Customer:

:)

Heidi LPC :

I tell families all the time that when we hit our kids, it teaches them that hitting is ok, and a viable option to use when you are angry... just fyi... so we want to stop this so that he learns that it is never ok to hit, at pre-school, etc...


 

Customer:

I feel like he is heading down a terribly difficult path if I can't help teach him how to follow instructions, listen and help him not frustrate the adults who work with him. He is now hitting his older sister and me, it has already begun. :(

Heidi LPC :

What you want to do is to use discipline to TEACH, not shame. So, when he misbehaves, he is telling you that there is something he needs to learn. Kids misbehave for two reasons: to gain something, or to avoid something. So when he acts up, ask yourself what he is trying to get, or get out of. Then it is your job to help him either follow through or you have to enforce a consequence. Consequences should always be directly related to the situation at hand, if they are necessary.


 

Heidi LPC :

Give me an example of something he misbehaves in regards XXXXX XXXXX I will walk you through it.


 

Customer:

He is hungry. He immediately goes to the pantry, opens it up and grabs what he wants to eat. Pudding, chips, nuts (nothing is terrible in the pantry) so I tell him I am making dinner. He will run away from me with the snack. I will tell him to come back and not chase him. He will either not come back and eat it, or I have to go follow him a physically remove it from his hands and he flips out. So now, I try to make meals before I know he will get hungry...but it is always planning to avoid a problem.

Heidi LPC :

I am going to switch our conversation to the Q & A format as opposed to chat, so that you can reply when you can and I can do the same, as I may be interrupted as we chat and I don't want the window to freeze up... just keep typing your replies in the box as it appears and we will work this through!! OK?


 

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Alright.
Expert:  Heidi LPC replied 2 years ago.
OK, Rhea... I got your example...and here is how I would handle this one: If he comes to you and says he is hungry, tell him dinner is in 5 minutes, but that you will let him choose a healthy snack if he needs one--- give him two choices of a snack... something healthy. Even three choices. Say, OK: snack choice today is "banana, apple or crackers... or a glass of water". Tell him to choose one. If he says no, and wants a candy bar, say "that is not a choice". Tell him again to choose... or you will choose. Either he will, or you will. Now, he will tantrum. He is used to getting his way, and this is where you will have to stand firm and follow through. You have to watch that he doesn't take something, and if he does, you will have to follow through and retrieve it. Say to him calmly, "This is not a choice--- now I will choose, and hand him the banana". He can choose to eat it or not. If he tantrums, ignore it and tell him when he is calm you will speak to him, and walk away, giving him zero attention. The key to this method is showering kids with praise when they follow directions, and ignoring negative behavior to extinguish it. It won't work the first 2 weeks... you will meet resistance, but don't give up. It takes at least 4 weeks for children to see that you are serious and are staying consistent with expecting them to obey your authority. He will test you, and it will get worse before it gets better, and then he will finally start to realize that his fighting isn't working. Reward the proper behavior with lots of attention, hugs, smiles, high-5's, rewards... and look very hard to find the times he is on target. The goal is to flip him being used to getting lots of attention when he acts out, and not as much when he acts right. Does this make sense?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Yes, but when he is screaming and pulling on my clothes, hanging on my leg or hitting me and I am trying to ignore it, I try to tell him to go in his room if he is going to behave this way. But he won't stay in his room. At that point, after 3-4 minutes of him pulling on my clothes or leg and screaming, I start to lose control.
Expert:  Heidi LPC replied 2 years ago.
He is doing this because it worked for him in the past. You would tire of the tantrum and give in at times, and so this is the only way he knows how to get what he wants. We want him to relearn that he can ask, and sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes it is no, but choices are the magical way around this. Always offer a choice; it gives kids the feeling of power. Even just in normal circumstances... and once he feels he has power but APPROPRIATE power, he won't need to use "force". "Red cup or blue cup for your milk?" "white shirt or red shirt today?" etc... offer him choices all the time, and then in cases like these, he will be used to making choices and will eventually just accept the offer. Create a "time out" spot together when he is in a good mood, and tell him that you want to help him to learn how to calm down when he is angry. Choose 2 places in the house, his room and another. Stop him from hitting you by holding him and putting him in a chosen "time out" spot. If he gets up, put him back. Repeat. Over and over. Tell him when he is calm he can come out... so he gets to decide how long it lasts. But, he must be calm. With this, he will be learning self-regulation. Teach him to close his eyes and take deep breaths to calm down... and practice together. Above all, I highly recommend ordering the book--- it has helped a multitude of teachers and parents to re-think behavior management and to keep homes & classrooms in control and happy!! I hope this was somewhat helpful to you!! My experience with this personally is as a teacher and having raised three children... as well as now directing a Child Development Center... and I swear by this process of managing behavior. Counseling/parent education is another alternative that you might like to try, where you can work with someone face-to-face to get answers to the day-to-day situations that will come up. Do you have any further questions other than what you asked originally??
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
One quick question, do you have an exercise that I could try to get myself back into control...when I am losing control to not spank him?
Expert:  Heidi LPC replied 2 years ago.
Tell him you need a "time-out" to get control of yourself before you deal with his behavior, and model for him how to walk away from distressing circumstances to regain control and calmness before you react. Tell him you will be right back to help him figure out what the two of you need to do to solve your problem. Go to your room and close the door, close your eyes, take 10 deep breaths. Stretch your neck muscles by tilting your head side to side, bend forward at the waist and let your arms hang down... stretch your arms & hands up towards the ceiling, and just breathe. Now, think: what is he wanting to gain or avoid? And what lesson needs teaching? And just remind yourself that he will be watching your behavior closely and will learn from watching how you handle frustration. It is called increasing his frustration tolerance.. as well as yours! Kids don't absorb what we say as much as what we do... so be a good example!! Problems just need solutions and you are on your way to finding them!! :-)
Heidi LPC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 240
Experience: Licensed Professional Counselor
Heidi LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Heidi LPC replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for the positive rating! One more thought: Use the phrase, "use your words" with him as much as possible when he is upset and trying to express his frustration through unacceptable behavior. Remind him, "use your words and tell me how you feel". This will help to teach him proper ways of expressing himself... and will be a reminder to you, as well... to use your words to communicate your feelings and thoughts, rather than physical action. Thank you for using the site, and please come back anytime if I can be of more assistance to you!! My best to you and your family!! :-)
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you so much for all your help! I am going to put all your good ideas to work. I really want to change the situation and I think that if I can keep trying new ways and read the book that you suggested that we can have a positive change for our family.
Expert:  Heidi LPC replied 2 years ago.
Excellent news!!! The work and time that you invest in learning these skills now will pay off for generations to come, and will make your children even better parents down the line!! Thanks again, and take good care!!

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Heidi LPC
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