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My daughter, in the past 6 months has been displaying severe anger. When a toy doesn't come together, if she doesn't get her way... she throws herself on the floor and starts kicking and screaming. Now, they tell me that she is purposely going after the teachers to kick them. Before, the teachers would get hurt because they would attempt to physically remove her. To this, I thought... "well leave her alone and eventually she'll stop". Like in many articles I've read: "Ignore the child when throwing a tantrum". At her daycare they have worked with me in strategies to deal with these situations, to no avail.

At first, we decided that if she misbehaves at school then the consequences would be dealt with at school. Before, when they told me she had a "bad day", I would ground her. But it wasn't fair that she would be punished all day for it. I implemented the "marble system"... that worked for a whole week. I had to include my 6yr old son, because he felt left out. Since he's 90% of the time good, she felt it was a competition... and when a marble would be taken away she would lightly punch her head and say "I'm a dumb dumb". I explained to her that she is not a dumb dumb, she just has to make better choices. I read her "Sometimes I'm bumbaloo", book about a turtle and another book about how it's ok to be angry, but stop and think. I've told her to "blow bubbles"..."squeeze her fists tight and stop and think.

We started w/spanking, then to taking away toys, to privileges being taken away... Now, I try to talk to her with a calm and loving manner. I've even cried in front of her when I'm frustrated... she expresses concern, guilt and regret, but come the next day she's back at it again. I've involved everyone and anyone in hopes of getting advice or direction, but nothing has worked yet. I've explained to her the importance of her good behavior and the consequences of bad behavior. I've broken it down for her.....for example: if you misbehave you will get kicked out of daycare, mommy will lose her job, we will lose our house, we will have no money, we'll have to give our dogs away and live off of nature...I made it real drastic to see if it had an impact... NOT!!! I've sat down w/her and asked why she has so much anger, why she hurts her teachers?? I've told her we don't hurt the people we love and used reverse psychology.... "would you like it if your teachers kicked you?"... they keep giving you chances because they love you... and you hurt them.. why?? Silence is what I get w/sorry. I told her sorry doesn't cut it. I asked her "if i cut your finger off and then say I'm sorry, does that make it better? No, right? Your finger is still cut off.... then that's the same with when you hurt your teachers... you can't take it back." Any suggestions please....???

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    It sounds like, in your search for "what will work", you've tried many things, but it also sounds like you may not have stuck to one thing long enough. I implemented the "marble system"... that worked for a whole week. My impressions from this statement are: 1) after a week, you abandoned this approach, 2) this was one of the longest-running approaches. Consistency is key! – Dan Henderson Mar 21 '16 at 23:36
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    Yes you are correct... Consistency is the key... Will keep trying with everyone's suggestions.... Thank you – gigi Mar 24 '16 at 1:35
  • Actually I tried the marble system for 2 months..... It's just that it actually worked for 1 whole week....as I took marbles away and explained why and the consequences it's like it mattered for that split second and then back to the old behavior... Thank you for your comment... – gigi Mar 24 '16 at 2:14
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You asked for any suggestions, so here goes: you're talking too much! Stop explaining everything to her. She doesn't need to know about your job, or losing houses or getting kicked out of daycare, or apologizing for cutting off fingers, etc. The problem isn't that you haven't found the right book to read with her yet, or the right metaphor. As a 5 year old, she barely understands cause and effect, has no sense of responsibility whatsoever and almost no impulse control -- not that long ago, she was in diapers. You cannot reason with a 5 year old; those parts of her brain haven't even developed yet. It's like trying to reason with a puppy.

In fact, 5 year olds are like puppies in many ways (well, unusually articulate puppies) -- driven by strong whims, lacking impulse control, and forming bad habits very easily. 5 year olds (and puppies) need a very firm, patient hand. You can't change behavior in one day, especially if she has been acting his way for 6 months. But, like a puppy, if you are patient, constant, and firm, you can teach her appropriate behavior over time. But (warning): good parenting takes a large investment of time (also similar to training a puppy).

Here's the deal. Similar to dealing with a puppy, you have to make things crystal clear for her in terms she can easily understand, and establish a firm, dependable routine (she has to know that the routine will happen every single day). Here's what you do:

1) First figure out some things she likes, and some things she doesn't like. Simple things work best at this age. On the positive side: a favorite TV show, playing a round Candyland with you, a tablespoon of m&m's (enough to be worth it, but not so many that it will ruin her appetite), whatever. Every kid is different. On the negative side, the usual stuff: no TV, no dessert, no books, early bedtime. Whatever.

2) Find out how she behaved at day care every day. Every single day. Make it part of your routine to find out how she was every day. If she did good, try to find out one or two specific things she did well. If she misbehaved, find out one or two specific things she did wrong.

3) Establish an absolutely dependable routine where everyday where, as soon as she gets home, have a daily review.

If she was good, tell her, "hey kiddo! I hear you were really good a daycare today! You helped Chris with his paints, and were nice to Suzie. Great job! I'm so proud of you!" If possible, tell her one or two specific good things that she did. Treat her like a stinkin' rock star. Then tell her the reward. Make it the same thing every time (m&m's, tv show, play game, play baby dolls with her, whatever). It may take a few tries to figure out what she really likes. You may consider combining a smaller portion of m&m's (5-10) with something she likes to do together (two birds with one stone; she gets the immediate reward of a small treat, and the more important bonding of some quality time). If she tired of one reward, try another one. But do it, every day.

If she was misbehaved at day care, break the bad news. "Oh, kiddo. I'm so sad. I really want to give you some m&m's / play Shoots and Ladders / watch My Little Pony with you, but I can't. I hear that you didn't share today / pulled hair today / screamed when you didn't get the pink Barbie / kicked Ms. Jones. Darn it! I was really looking forward to doing X / Y / Z with you. So sad!" Really lay it on thick. Stay on her team: "I really wish I could do this for you! But my hands are tied. I can only give m&m's / watch TV with / whatever with little girls who don't kick / scream / throw toys. Darn it! I'm so sad, because I really want to do that with you." Stay absolutely firm. Do this consistently, every day.

This will be a revelation for her: What!? Stuff I do at daycare has real, enduring consequences? For me? It affects my privileges at home!? Every day!! Madness!!

Chances are, this will take time and patience. Modifying months of bad behavior takes time. And it sounds like your daughter is strong willed, and is caught up in the battle of wills, so it may take weeks or even a month or three. You may have to up the ante -- make the punishments stronger over time. On days she misbehaves, she doesn't get to watch any tv at all. Or, she has to earn TV -- no TV until she behaves for a solid week. Or she has to behave for a whole week to earn the right to stay up past 7:30. Make it something that she can achieve, but don't be afraid to make her work for it over time.

One more things: you have some leverage because there is another child. On nights that your daughter loses tv privileges or loses dessert, make sure to reward your son for good behavior. Seeing her sibling get something she doesn't may burn more than the punishment itself.

Strong willed children take grit, patience, and determination to parent, but my experience is that they often respond well and are happier once you establish yourself as the (calm, firm but loving) alpha dog.

PS: Also, don't let her suck you into mind games and distraction when she calls herself "dumb". That is a manipulative play for sympathy and negative attention. Either ignore, or say, "oh sweetie! You're so silly. You're my bright, smart girl." And then move on. Don't get sucked in.

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    Thank you so much for your suggestions..... They have been very helpful.... Will start as soon as tomorrow. Thank you! – gigi Mar 24 '16 at 1:36
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I realize that very few people on this site believe in meds, but if you're life is really up against the wall, why would you avoid a psychiatrist? They might even have a bright suggestion that doesn't involve meds because they've seen this exact scenario about 1000 times. As for me, I used flat-out bribery with dollar-store stuffed animals (which was fine until the dollar-store ones stopped working and then things got expensive, but way less expensive than therapy and corrected our little problem in 4 months--about 150 stuffed animals later because I usually had to buy one for my son as well).

  • It was either have her kicked out of daycare or take my last resort....Her pediatrician prescribed Guanfacine and it's working like a charm... She is not impulsive when she gets mad and she is still herself..... It helps her with the impulsivity ... Thank you for your comments. I hope my experience helps someone else out there..... – gigi Mar 25 '16 at 16:09

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