Monday, October 25, 2010

To spank or not to spank....

Don't they look innocent and sweet? Don't let it fool you. Cate is driving me crazy - she will not leave her poor brother alone. She's hitting him, knocking him over, shoving him and pounding him on the head with anything she can get her hands on. I'm so sick of it. I've tried just about everything: naughty chair, time out, scolding, loss of privileges, grounding, sending her to her room, you name it, I've tried it - other than spanking.

It seems to send a mixed message: 'Don't hit your brother!' followed by a smack for her. My husband disagrees completely. He gives her a smack from time to time when she really gets out of line and she just gets angry or bursts into tears and wants hugs. That results in a time out on the naughty chair, tears and huffiness. Sometimes she just laughs when she's given a reprimand. Just yesterday she said to me as I dragged her into her room for a time out, 'Cate hit X anyway.' It's the most frustrating thing on earth.

It doesn't matter what I do she just goes for it. She's fine with other children but not with her brother. All day I break it up. I cannot turn my back for a second. I get nothing done and I'm SO tired of it all. All I say is, 'Don't touch him,' 'Leave him alone,' Get off your brother,' 'Stop it right now,' etc, etc, etc, all day, every day. this has got to stop because I'm ready to run off to Bora Bora. Solo. I'm that close to my wits end.

We try not to give X any more attention than we do Cate but he is just learning to walk and that's a big deal. As soon as he tries to take a few steps Cate's on him knocking him over or shoving him. I seriously do not know what to do about this. I need Jo Frost pronto.

Has anyone else had to deal with this and how did you manage it? I'm open to any and all advice!! Email me if you don't want to post a comment: jollyoldengland @ gmail (dot) com  (it's broken to discourage spammers)



  1. It's nice to hear I'm not the only one going through this at the moment! Makes you feel a bit better. Wee Z and Miss C get on great most of the time however if I'm ever telling her not to touch something he will go up to her and tell her off too. He's also started hitting and kicking her and pushing her over. Sometimes she hits him back. I tell them both off for hitting each other and Wee Z has a reward chart which he gets stickers if he is good and sad faces if he is bad. Most of the time that works, especially if he knows that he will lose his TV time if he has sad faces. It's no fun having to constantly tell them off, it really drains you.

  2. First, one of the bad things about spanking is that it has diminishing returns. That is, it is only effective if used sparingly. Since little C is digging in and being stubborn you'd be spanking all the time, which is bad on all counts. Second, as she is being stubborn you will have to out last her. She cannot be allowed to win these battles. This really sucks for you because you will have to be on full monitor duty until this passes. Three, I suggest a slightly new tack. If she hits her brother, then she isn't allowed to be around him for the rest of the day. She can't be in the kitchen when he's eating, in the playroom when he's playing. She can't help you with him, can't kiss him, etc. She can't play with Daddy when Daddy is playing with him. As a pratical matter this requires loads of monitoring by you (sorry, no way round that) and it will be much like time out in her room, just longer and indefinite. It will also focus her on the root behavior problem. When she complains tell her that she can't be around her brother when she hits him. Be calm and cool. No yelling, spanking--just cold "If you hit your brother you can't be around him" and remove him from her presence. Also, don't overly comfort him when she does hit. Comfort him, of course, but don't drama it up for her benefit. Also, as this is a big problem you must fix, if y'all are working on other discipline issues, smaller ones like sitting at the table properly or yelling, drop them. At her age you have to choose your battles or you will spend the whole day as Ogre Mommy. Besides, when you win this one, the other wins will come easier.

  3. I'm afraid I'm old school. A swat on the bottom was what stopped my middle daughter from biting her older sister. We never smacked hard or more than once. Spanking was always the last resort. But it was all that would control my middle one. My oldest never got spanked,and our baby maybe once. So as I said ,last resort.

  4. You're absolutely right - you can't be angry at her for hitting her brother then deal with it by spanking her. Completely mixing up the messages and she's too young to see the "sense" of it. Besides, why would you intentionally inflict pain on a child, which is what spanking is?
    She is clearly feeling jealous of her brother at the moment, so why don't you try some kind of collaboration? If he's learning to walk, get her to measure how far he can walk or count how many steps he can take. If she's included in the activity, she may feel a little better about the whole thing.

  5. When my son started hitting when he was two, I wasn't sure how to deal with it - strong words didn't seem enough. However, I felt that how could I tell him not to hit, then hit him? So I continued telling him off, or ignoring and using diversions, and it stopped.

    I hope this week is going well for you and that Cate is much better x

  6. It's a difficult one. I do remember my son and daughter being exactly the same when they were very young but it was so long ago I can't remember exactly how I dealt with it. I think I yelled a son got an occasional tap on the bottom, which didn't achieve very much. I think Jo Frost's solutions are excellent. I watch all the re-runs wishing these programmes had been around in my day...maybe you should order the whole lot on DVD and watch them in your spare time...which doesn't sound too often these days!

    Rest assured this will doesn't last forever! xx

  7. I don't personally believe that smacking works (although, I would be lying if I said I had never given my daughter a tap). For me an explanation is far better. If the child is smacked and they don't realise why they won't be able to learn from the experience.

    I used to be smacked for "showing off." I never actually knew what it was I had done wrong so I just withdrew from situations that looked like they could get me into trouble.

    I am sure that Cate will grow out of it - my daughter was exactly the same but soon moved on.

  8. Sorry to read you are having such a difficult time with the wee ones. I agree that spanking is not the best solution as it reinforces it is OK to hit. And I presume that you have tried the "You're the big sister, so I need your help" ploy. In that case, how about a break for you. Time out for Mummy would at least give you a chance to recharge. And btw, I respect what AH suggests, but when my kids were small (4 of them) I never had time or energy for so much input. Every Blessing

  9. Thank you all for the advice - I think I'm going to try everything and resort to a smack as the absolute last tactic. I'll keep you all posted. They're in bed so I'm taping reruns of Supernanny.

  10. I don't think you can punish a smack with a smack, it doesn't make sense. I don't want to get too excited yet but we seem to getting out of that stage, it's such hard work!

    I read 'Toddler Taming' by Christopher Green and for me, it really helped with my "strong willed" toddler. I'm not into self-help books but this was given to me, and was such a lifesaver, now I tell everyone about it!

  11. This all sounds "normal" to me, except I am anti-smacking. Are you going to an early childhood centre? I found it really helped me to keep my sanity, and I learned some good positive guidance techniques from other parents. At your daughter's age, she might go three or four mornings a week, and might be able to be dropped off by herself sometimes. If you observe other kids, you will see that they all go through this phase. Stressing the "big girl" stuff that your daughter does is important too.

    Having three simple rules, like, "we do not hit, we listen to each other, and we use our good words" will help the message sink in. Be firm, but don't make too big a deal out of it if she falls short of expectations. Address it and move on. If you use a time out, only have one minute per year of her age, and try to have it in the same room with you. Talking about the feelings behind the action helps too. Like, "you look like you are really upset right now." And look for more appropriate ways for her to self-soothe, whether it's a run in the garden, turning on some loud music, or watching a little TV.

  12. I just asked my six year old if he was being naughty, what I could do to make him stop. He said to tell him off... then he said that we might get into an argument! Anyway, usually with Toby I tell him very firmly that something is wrong, then swiftly move on to something positive (eg lets go and feed the birds) so there isn't an atmosphere. I also tell him how it makes me feel, as he doesn't like me to feel sad or cross.

  13. in my experience of working as a nanny, combined with a psych degree and countless hours watching family-based reality tv, i'd say maybe she wants more attention and she's learned that by acting out, she gets it. try giving her praise and one-on-one time when she's NOT being naughty and maybe that will smooth things out a bit.

    otherwise, i say a little smack on the bum never killed anyone. -just make sure to preface each spank with "this is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you." ;)

    good luck!

  14. Its a very hard time. Just keep talking to her about the issue. Ask her why she does it? And how would she feel if her brother was hurting her? My mother would give us big spills about how we need to respect each other. My brother is a couple years older than me. And we picked up a lot on using words about our problems with each other. Of course, my Aunt often said we acted like an old married couple when we were little. We were very close. Everything from taking baths to sleeping together. About middle school..well, we drifted a part. Now as an adult he comes over to torment my cats. Funny, when I was about 5 I told my mom I wanted to live with my brother when I grew up. Ha..glad that didn't happen.

    But hang in there. You have to act the way you'd want them to act. They learn to copy you. I don't know how many little ones I've ran into at the library(where I work) who don't really know what they are saying, but they are saying exactly what their parents have said to them. Often, you have to wonder what is really going on in their family.

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