June 12, 2011,
V.P. asks from Pocahontas, AR on June 12, 2011
3 Year Old Grandson Kicking
I think I've had enough answers, thank you. A few suggestions were helpful, but obvuously it is difficult for people who do not know the children to really give advice.
For the past few months my grandson has been kicking his 6 year sister when they ride in their car seats. He seems to think it a huge joke. The only way to travel with both in the car is for someone to hold his feet. They can't stop to make him walk as it is a rural area and there are no side walks. I'm wondering if we can put a barrier between them?
His sister retaliates by calling him a baby.
Dawn wanted more details. The children are in side by side car seats - no space to separate them unfortunately. His shoes are taken of but he can still do a hefty sideways kick.
So What Happened?™
Thanks Teresa. You did have some helpful ideas. Unfortunately there is no way my granddaughter could avoid getting kicked hard in the face!
Taking away privileges hasn't worked at all. They take away his favorite cars, but it hasn't stopped the kicking. They stopped and rewarded his sister for not retaliating, with an ice cream, but he didn't seem to care. Maybe they just need to carry on the same way.
Unfortunately many of the answers aren't practical as the rural roads are very narrow, so stopping is impractical. Leaving him in the car for a while at the other end is good idea.
J.N. answers from Salt Lake City on June 12, 2011
A barrier can be a temporary solution, but the big thing is to teach him it's not okay. I would institute a consequence for every time it happens (for example, loss of favored privilege every time it happens). If he starts kicking, remind him that if he keeps it up he will lose the privilege. And follow through! After losing tv or something every time he kicks for a few times, he'll start realizing that it is not as fun to kick.
I would also talk to the sister and remind her that it's not okay to retaliate, and have a consequence for her when she does.
T.C. answers from Dallas on June 12, 2011
I would try a more positive approach. Sometimes at church my 4 yr old son will get a little too wiggly. He gets grumpy and won't stop kicking my feet. He won't stop trying to get off his chair, etc. He becomes a big handful. We've tried the usual types of reactions to force him to behave, but they do absolutely NOTHING. I agree these types of behaviors are good to nip in the bud, but sometimes it doesn't work by being aggressive about it...
So, we switched our approach. My son kicked my foot again (making it hard for me to keep my legs crossed! hehe), and I leaned over and said, "Hey! Let's play the point game! If you get FIVE points, then you win!" (you could also try insert a reward - whatever HE really likes - but just winning was enough for my son...hehe). I didn't do it in any sort of disciplining way - totally a fun game way. He didn't realize he was being disciplined. He only saw that we were playing a game.
I told him how he can earn points - holding still (or for your grandson - to keep his arms and legs legs on this side of the line (and put a line of some sort between the car seats). You can have the granddaughter play too. I wouldn't say any of the usual stuff like "keep your legs to yourself and don't kick your sister and you'll get some points". I think it would work better to say it differently and have him use a line to keep his legs on his side of in order to win points.
My son was super excited to play. When we first started, I would award him with a point very quickly...to show him it was the proper behavior because it made him more excited to do it. Then I would space the time out more and more between points. He would sometimes ask, "do I get another point yet?" and I'd tell him "almost!" I tried to keep it as positive as I could. No saying anything like "if you ask if you are going to get a point, then you're not getting one". Don't turn it negative.
anyway, for us, totally flipped his behavior around.
It sounds like your grandson is getting WAY too much attention for his poor behavior. If your granddaughter didn't respond at all and completely ignored him, as well as the parents, I bet his bad behavior would go away too after him trying for a bit to get a reaction! He's only doing it because he's getting something for it - lots of attention. don't give the attention. Of course, that would be really hard for granddaughter to do! But that's another way we get bad behaviors to stop successful. Give it NO power or to turn it into some type of game of earning points to 'win'.
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G.T. answers from Modesto on June 12, 2011
If it were mine, and I'm sure I had to spin in the seat before and do it, I'd give a nice swat and tell him to knock it off. Kids fighting in the car is far TOO dangerous to dilly dally with silly punishments.
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R.R. answers from Los Angeles on June 12, 2011
Unacceptable behavior such as hitting, biting and kicking need to be nipped in the bud ASAP. It wasn't and now your grandson thinks it's a joke. A barrier would be a joke as well, he'd think ~ "I have to get over this or through it so I can kick!" so it wouldn't be a solution since the problem is HIS behavior. Mom and anyone witnessing his kicking will have to work extra hard to help him get this under control.
~ He needs to be told that his behavior is unacceptable and shown other ways to express his feelings verbally. Is he tired or hungry? His feelings should be acknowledged, but the kicking not excused.
~ He needs to have logical consequences for his behavior immediately and clear limits, "We do NOT kick, it is never acceptable." I know they're in a rural area, so does Mom have the option of simply stopping the car, and removing him from the car seat and the car? (Sister staying in her seat.) He should know instantly when he's done something wrong, so removing him from the situation for a brief time-out, a couple of minutes, would be a good way to let him cool down, and after a while he'll connect his behavior with the consequence and figure out that if he kicks he's removed from the car.
~ An additional consequence once he's home following any kicking will reinforce that what he did was wrong, too. No TV the rest of the day, or something he was looking forward to, no playing with a "special" toy, etc. Since you've already indicated that taking his cars away did no good you know a consequence is meaningless if a child doesn't care, so parents have to look at THEIR child to decide what will work as an effective consequence, sometimes by trial and error. *Also, IF his sister is teasing him or provoking him in any way she will need to have consequences and be disciplined as well.
~ Each kicking episode should be dealt with consistently, the same way as the last time, each and every time. The predictable response ("Okay, you kicked again — that means time-out") will set up a pattern that he'll recognize and come to expect. Eventually, it will sink in that if he kicks, he'll get a time-out (or other discipline that has been established.)
~ When he's settled down he should be asked why he kicked his sister, and once he's answered told it's OK to get angry, it's NOT OK to kick, and that he needs to find a new way to show his anger with his words. He also needs to taught he needs to tell his sister he's sorry after any kicks. Yes, he won't be at first, but as incidents occur over time he will learn it's wrong to hurt another person and will hopefully feel compassion. And, his sister should say, "Ouch! You hurt me!" rather than calling him a baby when he kicks. Maybe he wants to be a baby and he likes hearing that? Young children think differently than us sometimes, and what we think is a good thing may be the opposite of what they think! ; )
~ If he gets angry because he's hungry Mom can make sure he eats before traveling and carry easy-to-eat snacks like cereal, crackers and juice or water. If he's tired she can bring a blanket and something he likes to cuddle with in bed. If he's bored, she can bring books and quiet, non-aggressive toys for him to play with, which she can take away if he kicks.
~ Any good car trips without kicking need to be rewarded with praise once home, and immediately when he verbalizes his anger or frustration, and over time he's realize just how powerful his words are.
~ His TV time should be closely monitored. Some cartoons and other shows can be filled with shouting, threats, shoving, hitting and kicking, and should be quickly eliminated from his viewing. An adult should watch TV with him, and talk to him about situations that arise: "That wasn't a very good way for him to get what he wanted, was it?"
His diet should be scrutinized as well. Junk food, sugar, chocolate and caffeine should be eliminated as they can all contribute to unruly behavior.
And, sometimes a child's aggression requires more intervention than a parent can provide. If your grandson continues to kick and consistent efforts to curb it have little effect, Mom will need to talk to his doctor, who may in turn recommend a counselor or child psychologist. That way they can determine the source of the behavior and help him through it.
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D.B. answers from Boston on June 12, 2011
Stop the car and get everyone out except for him. Do not let him have any toys. Talk to the sister, read a story, play jump rope, toss a ball, anything to let him know he's missing out. Do not talk to him, stand behind the car where he can hear you but not see you. He will know that you have not abandoned him, but he won't get any attention. Do not respond to him screaming or calling you, but don't let him think you have abandoned him or have completely walked away. Be prepared to arrive late to a lot of things so leave extra early. Let him know that there is no time to do what HE wanted because HE CHOSE to have you stop the car every time. His choice. If he's 3, he can't be out walking by himself anyway, so leave him in the car. Everyone else has "together time" except for him. Getting an ice cream is fine. He didn't care the first time, but he will care if you keep doing it. You don't have to buy her food - just deprive him of attention. He's getting lots of attention by being naughty and having someone hold his feet just gives him more attention. He will get bored very quickly being alone all the time. It will be very frustrating for a few days but if you are consistent, he will get the message. Do not let him know that it irritates you to be late to things or to have to stop the car. Make it "game time" and get the sister to buy into it. Take plenty of things for her to do. If it's raining, pull in someplace where she can be sheltered from the elements and still have fun doing something - make him be bored as all get out because of his kicking. Don't lecture him - just say "Oh that was so much fun. Too bad you couldn't be part of it because you were kicking." If he kicks again in 100 yards, stop the car again and get out. Really.
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L.C. answers from Washington DC on June 12, 2011
Personally, if I were his sister, I'd kick him right back good and hard and make it hurt and I'd not tell mom that I did it. :-)
But, since I'm not his sister and I'm an adult, I'd figure out his currency. I'd remind him of the rule and and the consequence when he got into the car. Then, I'd remind him a few times en-route.
If he kicks, he gets the consequence - whatever it might be -- no TV for the rest of the day or whatever.
I'd do it every single time... I'd be totally consistent.
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R.S. answers from New York on June 12, 2011
I am sure there is so much more to the story, but
there are a few points here that I am questioning...first is, if they are around, how concerned is your daughter/son about this (the parents)? If they are the main caretakers, it is really their concern to address this issue. Second, you have tried a lot of methods, but are you trying them for any length of time? Or is a once, twice, then you give up type of thing? Consistency is so important. Third, if the sis is calling the bro a "baby" aren't they both behaving inappropriately? Then why do you target the boy and not the girl as the problem in your post? And why is the girl getting rewarded -- she calls him a baby. I say they are both in need of some consequences. Plus, I am not in agreement of the idea that you reward her when someone -- anyone -- hits her and she does not respond in some way or another. She should be taught that her being hit is never OK, period -- and that if she does get hit, she should do/say something about it. I am also not in agreement that you stop for ice cream when she does not respond to her brother. Isn't that expensive, unhealthy, and, in my opinion, a little excessively indulgent if you do it over and over and over?
My recommendation would be to make it clear to them before you start the car...any kicking OR calling names ("baby" included), you warn with stating clearly what the consequence will be, and then slowly counting to three. At the count of three, if the unwanted behavior does not stop, implement the consequence immediately. Repeat this several times at the start of the trip to ensure that they have both heard you loud and clear. You may even ask them to repeat what you said and ask if there are any questions. Then drive...no physical restraints here. They are not wild animals.
The consequence has to be something that you can do immediately while driving, or if you have to stop, only for a minute. You live in a rural area, so stopping is not feasible, you say. OK, how about, if you are travelling to somewhere not urgent, immediately turn around and go home? Or, allowing a priviledge during the trip with immediate removal of a priviledge if the behavior continues after counting to three. I am thinking of things like a DS game or something to the effect that is ONLY played in the car, or a toy that is only permitted to be carried during trips, or a video only played in the car that is turned off if needed. Try to think of a few things that will really get them upset if they are not permitted to play/watch/attend.
So, what I is say, in a calm but clear voice, "Billy, if you do not stop kicking your sister by the time I am done counting to three, we are turning around to go home and you will not be going to your karate class. (firm and clear voice, but yelling is not necessary) ONE! TWO!...." I even change the tone of my voice to "serious Mommy" voice. And I even sometimes tell him "No funny business. I am serious." to signal to him that I WILL implement the consequence if he challenges me.
Of course, I expect that at some point, he will in fact try to test me. When he does, and sees that I have in fact meant business, it will work as a strong incentive not to test the waters in the future.
The 1-2-3 Magic method works for me because I think I am pretty successful at being as consistent as I can with it. And be patient -- it does take time for the chidren to get the concept and understand that you really are serious with consequences. I also like that I don't need to scream or yell to get my point across (most of the time, lol!). Finally, it gives the child some control over choosing and modifying his behavior, as it gives her time to think about whether the behavior is worth losing a priviledge for.
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J.G. answers from Springfield on June 12, 2011
At 3 years old I would try a reward system. Before getting in the car, remind him of the rules and the reward he will get if he refrains from kicking the entire trip. Maybe start with really short trips and small rewards, a trip to the post office or gas station. Make a really big deal about it when he does succeed in not kicking the entire trip.
I think most kids respond better when they are rewarded for good behavior, rather than punished for bad behavior.
One of the Sunday School teachers at our church told me that when she needed the kids to quiet down, rather than scolding the ones who were talking she would notice the ones who were quiet. "I see Sarah and Jason and sitting quietly and are ready to hear about our project. Oh look, Joey and Katie are ready, too! Great. Who else is ready?"
Make sure he is reminded of the rule every time he gets in the car and that he knows the reward and/or consequences before he gets in the car. "Remember, when we are riding in the car we keep our legs still. Good boys who keep their legs still for the whole trip will get a cookie." He'll learn :-)
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P.M. answers from Portland on June 12, 2011
I agree with Teresa C that negative consequences don't seem to be working. Perhaps this is because your grandson is already beginning to see himself and his place in the family in negative terms. Some kids take on the black sheep role early, because they get attention that would not come their way otherwise. Even if it's a punishment or a deprivation, it's better than no attention. And unfortunately, each punishment or angry response begins to cement their own sense of self more deeply. They gradually become tough and angry.
For such kids, looking for the positive may be the only way to turn a situation around. If his parents are willing to actively look for appreciative things they can say about their son, he may be surprised into looking for more ways to please them.
And if big sister can be convinced to tell him something like "When you kick me, I know you're saying 'i love you,'" he will get less of the kind of attention he's been seeking. This could actually become something of a game for a clever girl – taking some responsibility for changing the tone of the car rides.
Behavioral researchers have come to believe that all behaviors, in adult, child, or animal, are strategies to get some need met. These needs can be physical or emotional, and the behaviors are sometimes subtle and baffling. I suspect this is the situation with your grandson. Shifting the attention he gets to positive may totally transform the current dynamics, which appear to be stuck in negative.
I have personal experience with using this approach; I worked for several years with at-risk high school kids, tutoring them to help them pass classes. These kids were angry and 'closed,' many getting their kicks through creating havoc in their classes, or in other ways causing misery for others. Sort of instinctively, I started listening to and watching these kids for any small thing I could find to complement, any possible basis for encouraging them to reach for a higher goal. By the end of my first year, I had a batch of kids who were caring about their educations, speaking respectfully to teachers, and participating in life in more positive ways. There were only a couple of kids who didn't respond, and the changes were apparently so startling that teachers and administrators kept giving me positive comments about my work.
My belief, looking back, is that many or perhaps most of those kids had formed negative self-images, and had come to believe that negative behavior was the only way they could find to get the feedback they craved from the world. I didn't solve all their behavior problems, to be sure, but I think my approach would have made a much bigger difference if it had come earlier in their lives.