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I am naturally a very conserved and patient person. I think this is sometimes confusing to a 4 year-old, who can easily tell when his mother is unhappy with him due to her tone of voice. For me, I may tell him to stop (or else, etc.), in a matter-of-fact tone of voice, which generally doesn't do anything unless he is pre-inclined to agree.

The time when it is most annoying is when I don't think the action itself requires disciplinary action. It is just annoying me. Like constantly buzzing his lips and blowing raspberries. Apparently, he can enjoy doing it for long periods of time, and really if he's having fun with it, should I care? Usually I might ask him to stop, but then just let it go, because I don't want to put him in time-out for it.

Meanwhile, his mother can just say his name in a warning tone of voice and he'll stop. It's worth mentioning that he is not as familiar with me. We've known and been around each other pretty often for almost 6 months.

Should I make more effort to say my words in a different tone of voice? Should I be more harsh, and start using time-outs even though his choice of fun is just annoying me a bit? Or do I just continue as I have been, and rely on the fact that eventually we'll better understand each other and he'll grow out of it?

  • I'm going to assume the downvote was a disagreement with the title, since I'm not sure how I can improve the question otherwise. – DoubleDouble Nov 17 '15 at 15:13
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I just want to add something to what was said above. I find with 4 years, they understand the difference between commands and requests. I think this is important, and it is important to honor them.

If you say: 'Stop throwing your cars, now!' it is a command. If he asks why, you can say it might damage the cars, the house, it is not a a good way to play with cars. If he doesn't stop, you can follow up with appropriate discipline or distraction.

If you say: 'Please stop blowing raspberries' it is a request. And that might be ok, you said you don't want to discipline him over stuff like this. It does mean you have to accept his decision to say 'no'. If you are unwilling to take no for an answer, then do not phrase it like a request.

I think there is some value in teaching children about requests, and letting them make their own choices. For things you can live with.

Another option here, is to find some minor options which are not really discipline. Like 'I am tired of your blowing raspberries. If you want to continue, please go to another room. if you wish to stay here, you can't do that'. (Of course, if he doesn't pick either of those options, you are bound to follow through)

as for getting mad - I think it is OK to show children you have feelings, but I don't think that it is a good way to discipline or get children to do what you say. If you are naturally a person checking your emotions and being calm, be that person. Don't fake emotions.

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I agree with what Michael has said, but I'd add (in comments if I could) that using the "Stop, or else" method is only effective if you follow through on the "or else" portion. If you can't manage to do that, or, as you've said, it doesn't seem worth it to punish the action then try and use different terminology. If you don't follow through children will often see this as an empty threat and this sense can lead to ignoring your authority altogether.

Always give clear explanations as to why the behavior is aggravating you, giving a child the ability to understand how an action can be distracting or upsetting is a great tool for reducing behavior issues and building trust in a relationship, ultimately leading to respect. I often have to use similar techniques in the classroom.

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  • Thank you for the advice, just thought I'd clarify that I do follow through on "or else", when I use it (which isn't very often). In that case where it's not worth it, it is more of a request which he always decides to ignore. (In fact, I feel like I could request him to stop doing something which I'd actually like him to do and he'd probably do it - but I'm uncomfortable with what that seems to teach so I haven't actually attempted.) – DoubleDouble Nov 16 '15 at 20:06
  • Glad to hear it! I often speak with parents who think the follow through portion exceeds the problem and choose not to go through with it. Does the behavior become worse after you ask him to stop? Or does he simply continue on as if you weren't heard? And how does he act if the mother is present when you ask him to do something? – Reed Rawlings Nov 16 '15 at 20:25
  • He usually "sort of" listens, for a moment - partly stopping whatever he's doing. Then goes back to it like he completely and immediately forgot about it. There are times he completely ignores, and there are times when he looks at me as if considering, gets a mischievous look about him, and then purposely continues. The first two are more likely when his mother is around. Sometimes he does listen, but its generally when he knows he can get something out of it. (He stops because I have something like candy and maybe I'll share it ;) )) – DoubleDouble Nov 16 '15 at 20:44
  • I would be very purposeful in your requests then. If his behavior is truly disruptive and he refuses to stop I would be more stern. Privately discuss with his mom what is okay for you to do when it comes to punishment and use those techniques. This will help in the long run, early school years where direction is given from more than just his mother. For the incidents that are annoying to you, but truly fun for him I'd take a deep breath and ignore it. Work on cultivating a relationship of respect where it seems natural and things will improve. – Reed Rawlings Nov 16 '15 at 20:58
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At this point the child clearly does not see you as an authority figure, and he won't until such time as you become one. How, if, and when that happens needs to be a discussion between you and the child's mother - it isn't something you can do unilaterally - because not many parents think highly of anyone else disciplining their children. I say that only because you don't describe the child as yours, and if I am wrong on that point please correct me.

On the positive side, it sounds as though this child does know how to take direction without much fuss, so once you take on that role it should go fairly smoothly.

But when the time comes, no - try not to show yourself as angry. Stern yes. In command yes. But not angry for minor things like this. The child needs to respect your position, wheras anger breeds fear instead.

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