My 5-year-old daughter just won't listen anymore. If you ask her something, she'll say No. She's been hitting, eye rolling and all. I have taken toys away to the point where she has only a bed and put her in her room to bed and still nothing is working. I don't know what to do anymore.
You need some new tools. Google "discipline techniques" and you will find plenty of ideas. Pick something you think will work. If it doesn't, try something else.
One parenting system (commercial product) that has been particularly effective for us is Love and Logic. Specifically, two things that have worked very well from this program are offering choices and using logical consequences.
1) Offer choices: This only works before a conflict. You can't offer choices when your child is already disobeying. Before a conflict, offer your daughter two choices:
- Would you like to clean your room before dinner or after dinner?
- Would you like to drink water or juice with lunch?
It's important that both choices are reasonable. "Would you like to eat fish or nothing?" doesn't work, as not eating is not a reasonable outcome. You cannot offer a punishment as a choice. "Are you going to say you're sorry or go to your room?"
The idea is to offer limited, shared control before she attempts to take full control of the situation. Don't allow her to change the options. "I want milk." is not an acceptable answer if you didn't offer it. If she doesn't make a choice quickly, tell her you can make the choice for her.
"I can choose for you if you're having trouble deciding."
If she takes longer than 5-10 seconds, choose for her. Don't back down from your decision no matter how much she protests. Don't count. She will quickly learn how far she can push you before you will break.
2) Use logical consequences: This one can be more difficult, but is very effective when done correctly. Allow your kids to learn lessons from life. Here are some examples:
- She misbehaves in a restaurant or fun place. "You know what? This wasn't very fun for me. You really drained my energy. I don't think we're going to come here again for a while." If there were any additional fun activities planned, consider cancelling them so you can go home and regain some energy.
- She refuses to brush her teeth at night. "Uh oh! I give sweets to kids who take good care of their teeth. I don't think you're going to be able to have dessert anymore if you won't brush."
- She throws her dinner on the floor. "I'm sorry you did that. What a mess! Would you be cleaning this up yourself or do you want to pay me to do it? I charge $1 per minute." If she doesn't have money, that's okay. She can do some extra jobs for you until she's repaid her debt.
- She asks for dessert after not eating her dinner. "Oh, I'm sorry. It's really bad to put unhealthy foods in an empty tummy. I wouldn't want you to get sick." If you're feeling generous, "Would you like some carrots or an apple instead?" Otherwise, "We'll be eating breakfast in the morning."
The presentation of the consequences is key. You have to be empathetic. If you act happy or sarcastic when your kids are experiencing negative consequences, they learn that you are their enemy. You want them to know that you love them and are genuinely sad they have to experience the consequences. But you can't rescue them! They don't learn anything from the mistake when you shield them from the consequences.
Remember that not all consequences are negative. Try to make your rewards be logical consequences of good behavior. Paying your daughter not to hit teaches her how to extort money from kids at school. Allowing her more freedom at the park when she proves she can make good choices is a logical consequence.
3) BONUS: Use enforceable statements: Rather than telling your daughter what she must do, tell her what you will do.
- Instead of saying, "Brush your teeth." Say, "I give sweets to kids who take good care of their teeth."
- Instead of saying, "Stop hitting." Say, "I take well-behaved kids to the park."
Don't make threats. "You can't go to the park if you don't stop hitting." Don't make promises you don't intend to keep. "I'll pay you $1,000,000 if you don't hit your friends today."