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I know that beating and spanking is no good, but there are situations sometimes when I'm unable to maintain control over myself.

We have two boys, one's five and the other's two. Due to their age difference, we're putting them to bed at different times. While we tuck the youngest in, the other is left by himself for a bit more than a half of an hour. He mostly watches cartoons or plays video games.

After we finally get the first one asleep, we have older one set aside his activity so he can go to bed too. We try to coax him into putting down his game and going to bed by promising we'll read him a book while he's in his bed or that we'll give him milk, tea or other snack, etc.

Despite our best efforts, nothing we offer seems to be a good enough incentive when he compares it to his current entertainment.

Usually after a several failed attempts at negotiation, when he absolutely refuses to go by himself, I do grab him and try to carry him to the kid's room.

At this point he starts crying, falling on the floor, and screaming (This is called tantrum, I believe).

He frequently ends up screaming so loud that it sometimes wakes up the younger one, and then you have to deal with both of them screaming (Which is really quite awful).

By then I can't help myself and end up hitting him once (before coming to my senses and realizing that it doesn't do any good anyway).

I tried to find guides on how beating can be avoided, but with no luck.

How can I avoid corporal punishment altogether when negotiation doesn't work?

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I've edited the title a bit, and removed the part requesting book or guide recommendations, as they are generally off-topic. Could you add some details to your question (how old is your child, what type of behavior are you looking to deal with without resorting to spanking, etc.)? –  Beofett May 25 '12 at 20:06
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I might add an answer later, but my first thought is that it's probably not a good idea to let the boy watch videos and play video games just before bedtime. He should be doing something calming instead. Let one parent handle him while the other puts the younger boy to bed. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 26 '12 at 19:49
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Have you read the answers to thus question How can you deal with tantrums without spanking? There are some great suggestions there too. –  Born2BeMild May 27 '12 at 21:01
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At five and two, they really should be going to bed pretty close together anyway, so I would agree that video games and tv are a little to exciting for that time of day. –  philosodad May 31 '12 at 17:40
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Please consider your own behavioral control in addition to your child's behavioral control as part of the problem you are trying to solve. As you have described it in your question you are losing control when you hit your son. Maybe another question is in order. "How can I maintain my composure when my children are provoking me to anger?" –  Paul Cline Jun 21 '12 at 23:52
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7 Answers 7

up vote 23 down vote accepted

We've recently read Positive Parenting, and it has several suggestions we're going to implement.

First, no TV within an hour of bedtime for either child. This is from me, not from the book-- TV is just too stimulating, even the most simplistic programs, so once one kid's going to bed, shut it off for the other one to get him to calm down. I have our TV plugged into a power strip, and I'll just trip the switch when I want TV to be off. No ifs, ands, or buts-- if it's off, it's off. If it really becomes an issue, I'll trip the breaker to the living room. Also, we only have one TV, rather than multiple TVs spread throughout the house.

Second, make a chart detailing the bedtime steps using pictures featuring the son in question. So, for us, the photos are:

  • Eating dinner
  • Clearing his plate
  • Taking a bath
  • getting dressed in PJ's
  • playing after bathtime (puzzles, running outside, etc)
  • brushing teeth
  • reading a book with mommy/daddy
  • sleeping

That way, we can point to which step we are in the process, and get him through from one step to the next. Making the chart is also fun, and is a project that involves the older child and at least one parent. We have a printer, so printing the photos and then putting them on a larger piece of paper using a glue stick is pretty straightforward; otherwise, a trip to the local printer or library or something similar may be necessary.

The idea is to engage him in bedtime, make it a process he can be a part of by making the chart and walking him through the steps.

Third, I'd suggest that the two of you swap off, if possible, between putting one or the other child to bed. If you're both present and able, one parent should be sufficient to put one child to bed. If you're not both present or not both able, then that could be a tricky issue as it is. I've noticed that our son is much more responsive to helping out (ie, "I need your help to do this!") rather than being ordered.

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When I have both my boys and Daddy isn't home, the eldest likes to "help" by reading his brother a book and singing him a song. Then I'll ask him to get his pajamas on, brush his teeth, and pick out his bedtime books while he is waiting for me. And if I am still not done with his brother, he'll get his lovies ready for bed and read books and sing to them too. –  KitFox Jun 1 '12 at 15:43
    
@Kith-- a solid strategy. Our eldest is still a bit too young; he's very rough with his younger sister without meaning too. Hopefully, once he learns a bit more delicacy, we can do something like what you've got going there. –  mmr Jun 1 '12 at 16:59
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Yes, some insight into any specific behavior or behavior set you are trying to discourage would be helpful as per Beofett's comment.

In general, rule #1 is, NEVER try to discipline your children when you are enraged at them. It's OK to be angry with them (you wouldn't be punishing them otherwise), but you must be able to be objective when disciplining, so that your punishments are fair and consistent, and you don't use them as a form of stress relief. If you are too mad to deal with the child's misdeed objectively, give the child to your spouse to deal with, or if the child has angered the both of you (or you're a single parent) sit them on the time-out stool as quickly and gently as you can manage and have them stay there until you have calmed down. It's a time-out for both of you in this case.

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First, emotions are really big beasts inside us, and they can be scary things for any small child who doesn't feel he has the means to control them. Please keep in mind that your son isn't born knowing what to do when he feels angry or frustrated; these are just huge feelings inside his body and they feel really, really bad.

Your child will learn to cope with these feelings by modeling your behavior. If you yell and hit when you are angry, your child will yell and hit when he is angry. Of course, the irony is that you are angry and frustrated to such a degree precisely because he is not behaving properly when he is angry and frustrated.

Of course it is easy to be calm and objective when your child is not having a meltdown, but in the heat of the moment, it is not always so easy to control our own behavior and really think about what we are teaching our children. It can be especially difficult if his screaming fits wake his brother (I have two boys as well, so I understand). So the very first thing you need to do is deal with his tantrums constructively, before they escalate to point where you lose control.

He is five, so pretty well past the point where timeouts would be effective, however he is ripe for confining him to his room. It may be hard at first, but it won't take very many room confinements before he learns that he can scream to his heart's content and it still won't get him what he wants. I let my boy have tantrums in his room and I wait (and do breathing exercises to stay calm) until he calms down before I talk to him. His room is safe, and he is old enough to be in there alone for ten or fifteen minutes...or longer, if that's what it takes.

Room confinement is a means to help diffuse emotional tension so that a child can listen well enough to have his behavior corrected, and a parent is calm enough to explain the difference between correct and incorrect behavior. It is not a punishment. Once everybody has calmed down, I ask my son how he feels, and why he feels that way. Then I explain that his tantrum was disruptive and not nice, but I understand how he feels. Then I give an example of proper behavior, usually couched as an example of how I behave when I feel that way. Finally, I have him apologize and then we move on without harping on it.

So once you have a plan for coping with his tantrums and your anger, you should be able to reduce those tantrums by making bedtime feel comfortable and safe for him. There are a lot of different reasons why your son might have objected to bedtime, but right now, for certain, he has a very negative association with bedtime, and you can change that quickly.

Start with a solid routine (if you don't already have one) and focus on making your child feel good about getting ready for sleep. For instance, you can praise him for the things he can do by himself, and compliment his cooperation for the things he needs help with. Also, remember that bedtime is a time when your child's fears and anxieties can surface easily because he is tired and not well trained at controlling his emotions. It is a good time to bond with him by encouraging him to talk about his feelings (when he is still in control of them), and by showing your respect for his attempts to act appropriately, even if he is not always successful. Everything takes practice, so take notice when he is exerting emotional control and encourage him when you know how difficult it can be. These small things will increase his trust in you, and he will be less likely to have a tantrum in order to get you to pay attention to how he feels because he will come to believe that you actually care about his emotions and will listen to him if he wants to tell you that he is upset.

My specific recommendations to help with bedtime:

  1. Give him notice. "When this show is done, it will be bedtime."
  2. Make a firm statement when it is time. "OK, the show is done. It's time to turn off the TV. Let's go to bed."
  3. Bribery is OK if you offer it before the tantrums start, but do not negotiate. "I'm bringing a little dessert than you can have after you put your jammies on."
  4. Praise the little things early on. "Wow! You got your jammies on so fast!"
  5. Stick to a clear routine. Predictability (consistency) will help cancel negative associations. "What do we do next? Brush our teeth!"
  6. Have a night-night ritual. My son always asks me what I want to dream about.
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It looks like negotiation isn't working here, so why not tell the child, "Because of your behaviour at bedtimes, we will be putting you to bed before your brother, until you start to behave properly."

And then stick to sending him to bed early for a week - say you'll check how he is doing then.

In the wider context, identifying when negotiation isn't working and taking steps to forestall the argument - define what will happen, and then stick to it, makes life easier. One of the most difficult things for children is when parents aren't consistent, or the parents give in - children need to know rules, and need discipline.

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I really don't think this is something you should be trying to resolve on your own or via the Internet. Please seek family counseling via the yellow pages or Google for a counselor in your area, but I congrats you on making an active effort on trying to stop this and seeing it as a problem that needs to be addressed.

Children will always be a challenge to get to bed for any family, and while I'm sure there is an endless list of recommendations on what might work best. The one thing you need to make a decision about is if this a bonding time for you and your child, or is it a control issue in obedience.

I personally can't image spanking a child for not going to bed. That's a horrible way to end the day. Try sitting down with both of them, reading them both a story, make it a family time, have them brush their teeth together and let bed time be a positive experience for them both.

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I agree with Mathew. No blame being attached here. But if you genuinely feel like you can't maintain control over yourself, there are anger-management classes that could help you. Goodness knows, if anything is going to test you to your limits, it's your own children. I really do sympathise, but please seek help. –  Urbycoz May 29 '12 at 9:27
    
Thanks for your reply, but here I don't have any anger-management classes, and I don't believe that official family counselors here are friendly enough, so I won't go to them. I was attending psychologist to deal with this problem and it improved greatly, also I was consulting with non-official family counselor-psychologist-teacher and it also helped. Your answer is really great and it's definitely one of the steps one must take to deal with this problem if it's serious, but I've already taken it. –  user54 Jun 18 '12 at 14:09
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If you ever feel like you are going to hit your kid, simplest thing to do is just walk away until you are in control again. Who cares if he screams and knocks stuff over or even breaks something etc (as long as he isn't endangering himself, but, with a large angry man pumped full of testosterone whose fight-or-flight response has just kicked in, he's endangering himself with you and he's no longer safe anyways, you just snapped an turned into the Hulk. Only the Hulk can get the Hulk out of the room, so just leave), an hour or two later it will all be over and you'll just be glad you didn't hit him.

We do 1-2-3 Magic. It's extremely effective, when used consistently and correctly you'll have a much improved relationship with your child and will very rarely have a compulsion to hit them. I have never ever had to spank my sons. I was spanked properly (according to what would be considered "correct" and "healthy" methods of spanking) growing up, and I find this 1-2-3 magic method to be far superior (and get the impression that even my mom wishes she had known something like this instead of spanking us).

In your situation you could try something like the following:

  1. Explain sometime outside of the situation ahead of time during the day that tonight after the younger one is asleep exactly what you expect of the older one when you inform him it is time for bed.
  2. When you inform him it is time for bed, if he does not respond in the expected manner in 5 seconds, tell him in a completely calm tone (the same tone you'd use to answer a stranger who inquired as to what time it was) "That's one. Turn off the TV and go into the bedroom. If I get to 3, X is going to happen" (DO NOT say ANYTHING more than this, keep it as short as possible).
  3. If he does not respond in the expected manner in 5 more seconds, using the same calm tone say "That's Two" (NOTHING ELSE).
  4. If he does not respond in the expected manner in 5 more seconds, using the same calm tone say "That's Three" and then calmly dispense the consequence (In your case, this would most likely be literally flipping the "off" switch on the six strip powering the electronic devices).
  5. Don't say ANYTHING at this point. No lecturing, no whining about the fact that you had to do that. Nothing.

At this point any number of things might happen. A) he might walk meekly into the bedroom (ROFL, not likely) B) He might start screaming and throwing a fit C) He might go and turn the switch back on

If A happens, rejoice! If B happens, just start counting him for the fit in the same calm manor with the consequence being something like a time-out or loss of one of the three stories you were going to read him before bed or something. If C happens, if it is small enough, just calmly unplug the TV, pick it up and carry it out to your car or the attic or something (if it is really big, find some other way to effectively achieve the same result, unplug it and hang the cord over a hook you oh-so-cleverly installed on the ceiling ahead of time) so he knows you're not screwing around. TV gone. Next he'll scream and cry, see B.

Either way, he's going to test you. The first few nights there will be tears and your younger one will wake up and you'll have to deal with that, but, once you show him you are unflappable and that when you say bed-time you mean it, you will rarely have to get past 2 again.

The 1-2-3 magic book is much better at explaining this method than I am and definitely worth the read.

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A great answer. Thanks. –  user54 Jun 18 '12 at 14:01
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I've a 3 year old, so don't yet have experience with five year olds, but we have similar troubles getting him off to bed at night. Seems like 50% of the time he's going under protest usually accompanied by tears. And often those are associated with TV watching, as in the OP.

One of the most useful techniques we've picked up when he's watching TV at night is to give him a countdown. "10 minutes until bedtime, do you want to watch one more cartoon, or just go read some books?" This gives him time to mentally prepare for the inevitability of bed, while still getting to do what he wants. Usually he asks for "just one more, please?" but we can justify the bedtime at that point; he may not like it but he's a lot more compliant.

I don't know if it'd work on a 5 year old, but my wife uses the same technique on me. "Honey, 10 minutes until dinner... wrap up whatever you're doing on the computer and come on down!" So... yeah.

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