Disciplining My Four-Year-Old

We’ve been having some problems lately. Cassie is starting to test the limits of what is and is not acceptable behavior. And boy, do I mean test. We’ve had open defiance, full-blown melt-downs, hitting, whining, etc. I have been at a loss as to what’s been causing her bad behavior, and also at a loss as to how to handle it.

It used to be a simple matter of threatening to take away Cassie’s movie time or her treat to get her to straighten up. But for a while now, she hasn’t bothered to eat enough dinner to earn a treat, so that obviously doesn’t matter to her. And since she started taking karate, she doesn’t have enough time in the evenings to watch a movie, so yanking that is no threat either. I suggested to Michael that we refuse to take her to karate class, but he pointed out that it’s a physical activity (which she needs) and it’s purpose is to instill a sense of self-discipline in children, so he won’t agree to that tactic (and yes, we both have to agree to the punishments; otherwise we end up undermining each other while trying to discipline Cass).

But we’ve got to do something. Things have just gotten out of hand. Cassie ended up in time out three times last week, once for telling her teacher “No!” when she was asked to be quiet. And then this week she hit another child in the face with a toy when that child refused to share with her.

What to do, what to do? The thing that bothered me the most about all of this was that I was hearing about most of these incidents from Cassie herself, and not the teacher. I don’t always see the teacher when I come to pick Cassie up, so when Cassie tells me she ended up in time out that day, I’m forced to decipher her 4-year-old babble to figure out why. That really doesn’t help. The “No!” incident was apparently bad enough behavior that the teacher took time to tell me, and I made Cassie apologize on the spot for that. But then two days later, as we were leaving the school, Cassie told me she was back in time out again for refusing to wash her hands, at which point I got out of the car, hunted down her teacher and told the woman that I wanted to know every time Cassie misbehaved. Why this surprised the teacher is beyond me, but her response of, “Oh, so you’re one of those parents who cares!” did not leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Yes, I care. On Tuesday, when I found out about the hitting incident, I made the teacher write it up in a note. I get notes all the time about how Cassie needs to practice writing her X’s or her Q’s, or she needs to practice writing her name. But I’ve never gotten a note because she was in time out. “We don’t normally write notes for things like that,” the teacher explained.

Well you do now.

I took Cassie and her note to karate class that evening, and made her hand the note to Sensei. At over six feet tall, he is an imposing figure to small child. His voice is deep, and it sounds like thunder when he’s not happy. Cassie got only a fraction of its full force as he read the note, but I think that was enough. Then she had to come home and show the note to her father as well. She’s kept her nose pretty clean the rest of this week.

I could have just let Michael and I handle this, but obviously our disapproval doesn’t matter as much to Cass at this point as someone else’s, like say Sensei’s. So I’m thinking if enough adults show disapproval of what she does, that may work better than just yanking her movie and treat every night (although she now automatically losses those privileges as well if we get any more notes). We’ll see how it works.

About Cynical Woman

Cartoonist, Artist, Geek, Evil Crafter, Girl Scout Troop Leader and Writer. Also, a zombie. I haven't slept in I don't know how long.
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