15 answers

Self Regulation Skills/impulsiveness/teaching Self Control

Hi moms,
Just had a parent/teacher conference and was told told I need to help my daughter manage her impulsive actions and self regulation skills and to help her recognize other's personal space. Here's some background on etc. :
My daughter is going to be 5 in March. She's smart and reasonable and tens to be strong willed. She is active, intensive and loud-voiced and she needs to spend a lot of energy during the day. But there are times lately when she is happy playing in her room by herself for a decent amount of time, and she has 'quite time' everyday if not an actual nap.
Her dad and I are Christians and are trying to raise her up in a Godly christian manor, she has a set of 7 'guidelines/rules' that we go over every morning. I am trying not to be extremely strict or overbearing b/c thats how my mother was and it squached my creative side not to mention me self esteem growing up.
We have a calendar type of chart so she know whats to expect in consequences and we talk to her about behavior things she does etc. Rewards charts do not work, the tangible 'prizes' like getting a milkshake as a treat or having just mommy time where she gets to pick an activity doesn't work. She could care less she has 10 princess stickers and that means she gets something special. So we don't do those.
Her teacher said that one example was that our daughter was washing her hands and she splashed a little bit of water on two girls. Noe threw water at them but after she was done washign her hands before she dried them she sprinkled the water on the girls and they ran to the arts n crafts teacher saying "ohh so and so thre water at us". And the teacher knows my daughter from last year and this shcool year and knew it wasn't done maliciously, my daughter was teasing and 'having fun'.
So my question is how do I teach my four and a half year old better self control skills and self regulation skills, not using reward charts? (As of up to now we do talk though thing, so much that it feels like most of my day is explaining what to do, not just what not to do)
Thanks!

3 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

We haven't been able to play the red light/green light games or be consistent with anything since the conference unfortunately. My daugyter's teach wants to schedule a conference with myself, dad, and the teacher in the arts n craft area(because she see's my daughter a lot). But we havent scheduled a meeting yet only because my daughter has the flu(regular kind) and not today an ear infection and has been miserable. But when she gets a little better I'm juct going to reinforce positive behavior and reiterate that she ask before she 'teases' other girls whther it's splashing water or pulling on a ponytail and if the other person says no to respect their answer. I don't expect my daughter to be a mini adult by any means and duh she's 4 yrs old. So THANKS to all the moms for your responses!!!

Featured Answers

It seems to me that she's getting conflicting messages at school and at home. At school those little tattletalers should have been reprimanded for squealing. It's obvious she gets in trouble for everything and they pile on. Sorry, but I have a child who that happened to and I resent it.

At 4, how much self control do you expect her to have? She's still a baby. She's loud and boisterous and that's okay. It's her personality. She wants to have fun. My now 17 year old was the same way. We put him in Karate to help with the self control and the energy. It worked. Try it.

Reward good behavior. Ignore the not so good.

YMMV
LBC

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It seems to me that she's getting conflicting messages at school and at home. At school those little tattletalers should have been reprimanded for squealing. It's obvious she gets in trouble for everything and they pile on. Sorry, but I have a child who that happened to and I resent it.

At 4, how much self control do you expect her to have? She's still a baby. She's loud and boisterous and that's okay. It's her personality. She wants to have fun. My now 17 year old was the same way. We put him in Karate to help with the self control and the energy. It worked. Try it.

Reward good behavior. Ignore the not so good.

YMMV
LBC

1 mom found this helpful

I would ask the teacher for more examples of what your daughter has done that makes the teacher think she needs to manage her impulsivity more. That way you can talk specifically with your daughter about how a specific action was a bad choice. If this was the only incident, just laugh and say "whatever". Whenever my son even gets color changes or a sad face when younger in school I ask the teacher for all the events that happened up to him getting the color change and why exactly he had his color changed. Some times it was well deserved and others it was just almost a whole group color change and if you were near the disruptive child you got a color change too. But if she is disrupting the whole class than a good talking to is in order and specific expectations have to be set. My son has ADHD and med's helped a lot (and no I'm not advocating medicine for every child just so you know where he comes from)but he also needs specific expectations and examples from his past actions and the appropriate responses helped a lot. Repetition helps a lot at this age and though it might sound really dorky, role playing about appropriate choices helps too. And if invading personal space is the main issue you can totally have fun teaching about that. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm not sure what the answer is here. I know when my son has done similar stuff we've just kept going over what being kind to others looks like. For example, if you flick water at someone and they don't like it, just don't do it to them. And then we correlate it with something he doesn't like, and tell him how he feels when that happens is how the other child feels when he flicks water, and usually ends with "so let's try to not do that." He still needs reminding, but if it's not something harmful (it didn't actually HURT anyone or anything), I refuse to punish him. I'd rather remind him 100 times to be nice than punish him for something that really wasn't wrong. I don't know what the teacher told you, but I'd ask what, if any, action they take after something like this is done. If it's hurtful, it's one thing, but if they punish for stuff like this, then I'd ask what they do to tattle-tailers b/c no one likes that, and when kids are constantly tattled on and punished for little things that aren't harmful it has a negative effect on their view of school, their learning ability, and their creativity. Honestly, if a teacher told me that story, I'd probably say, "Really? In a day when we have kids bringing guns to school you're honestly concerned about one child flicking a few drops of water on another?" You can always remind her about personal space, and being nice to others, but if all the examples are like this, I'd let them all slide. Correct, sure (tell her the best way to act in a situation), but only punish when something bad actually happens.

1 mom found this helpful

I think all 4 year olds are fun and impulsive. Some kids like to tattle! Doesn't sound like she is being bad....but just talking to her and letting her know appropriate classroom behavior, etc will help. It may take her longer to catch on - but every child has a different personality - my brother was a class clown and he was constantly getting in trouble with teachers at school, but just because he was so smart! Everyone loved him because of his carefree and fun attitude, but the teachers found him unruly. He is now a lawyer in Manhattan and very successful. The teachers couldn't appreciate him or learn to adapt to his ways - so my mom was always getting phone calls, etc. Sounds like the teacher could have better classroom management skills and deal with conflict resolution between students. I think you are doing a good job - sometimes charts just don't work for some....but it sounds like your daughter is probably very smart and cares about other people, so maybe just using consistent reiteration will help her. I would also talk to her teacher about keeping her occupied with other things, etc - she may just be bored or trying to make friends....it's hard to know how to interact with other kids sometimes, so she may want to befriend some of those girls and she doesn't know how. I would just say, next time, instead of splashing them with water, why not try giving them a compliment? Something like that....? 4 only lasts for so long, so I'm sure she will grow out of some of this...

1 mom found this helpful

I would also ask if there is anything else other than flicking water. Like others have mentioned--flicking water doesn't hurt anyone and there is only so much you can expect of a 4 y.o. in terms of self-control. They must have rules in their classroom--is this breaking a rule? Maybe it falls under something like keep hands and objects to self, but it seems that if anything that bothers another child can get a child in trouble that that is an impossible standard (because plausibly your daughter could look at another kid the wrong way--would that be against the rules too?).

Something you can do at home to help is play a game where you dance to music and when the music stops you have to stop. Also play red light green light.

1 mom found this helpful

Oh my goodness she is 4 !!! Acting on impulse is normal for that age. I do not know what is wrong with teachers these days. Do they even take a course in early childhood develpment ?? Now what you can do is praise correct behavior and discourage incorrect behavior. Say " well done" followed by a hug and kiss will go a long long way. Say " No honey please don't do it that way. Let me show you you how and let's try together" when you see behavior you want to discourage.

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My daughter needed the same skills taught in preschool and she was able to change her behavior when:
given a different action to do. For instance, if she wants to be playful and teasing; she can ask first, - "want me to sprinkle some water on you?" then wait for and respect their response. OR, she can change her voice and pretend she's talking to the water... then ask the near-by girls if they think the water is listening? If the other girls find it too strange, your daughter can move on and think of (with you) new ways to be playful without offending others.
For personal space: explain that anything closer than an arm's length to a person's nose is their personal space - stay out of it; unless you have permission, "may I come closer?".
Self control: when things are calm, Make a list of things that help self control ( counting, breathing, walking away, getting help, holding a pillow...); read a book made for children that will address the times self control behaviors are needed...
Then, any time she forgets the above skills, you remind her-as it happens or right before a potential moment( like right before school, or right before visiting a friend or the store, etc.), and if her behavior doesn't change, she'll go to time out for four minutes (until she turns five, then five minutes...) to give her time to relax and be able to use her skills when they are needed.
The above was very helpful for her.
Two years later she couldn't focus on school work without ADHD medication and she has it for school. Meanwhile, she was a well-behaved student the whole time.

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I would ask the teacher about the whole class. How out of the norm is her behavior? And are the kids that she splashed tattle tales?

With my stepdaughter, about the only thing that got to her was social activity. If she couldn't go play, she was upset. But you could take all her toys and she'd just look at you. Maybe your daughter is the same way.

We struggled a lot with my stepdaughter. She'd cut holes in her clothes, read books instead of do class work, run around and be silly instead of be seated. This went on through elementary school. 4th grade was really hard. This is probably not going to be an easy fix.

One thing we did was remind her that there are appropriate times to play and appropriate times to be serious. Church - time to be serious. Playground - time to play. Math class - time to be serious. Recess - time to play. We'd preface an event by asking her if it was serious time or fun time, or a bit of both.

Hope that helps.

1 mom found this helpful

P.:
Your daughter sounds like my son (and same age). And when I asked our pediatrician who is educated well in age appropriate behavior. He said there are children who are "pleasers" and "Non-pleasers" I have a non - pleaser which means you make the rule and you blame the rule. You can't have a cookie before dinner. "Why" he asks and wants to throw a fit - Because that's the rule. His response - OH! Doc said that children don't have the idea of reasoning until 8 so explaining why - especially to a non-pleaser is useless and is a waste of breath. They aren't even wired for that at this age. This "make the rule" and "blame the rule" has been working well. the good thing about having a non-pleaser - they are independant and usually leaders not followers. So, good for us in the teen years! And throughout the rest of their lives - it's just a little tougher when they are little. Hang in there! Blessings, S.

PS ater reading some posts. We had our son in a PreK last year that we took him out of. One of the things my husband pointed out after I would come home upset daily cos the 2 older Pre K teachers couldn't get him to behave, was that HE was the only child acting like a 3 yr old. And that the 2 ladies acted like they were mad that he was making them do their job. My point is that you have to consider the source and if it's credible then act once you have all the facts. But my husband was right. THEY needed to figure out a way to manage him during school times - as we didn't have those problems with him (it rather puzzled me)So because a few of the issues where they couldn't get him to respond in my eyes were dangerous to him - I took him out and never looked back.

1 mom found this helpful

i am sorry but , what is problem ??
it sounds to me like you trying to "encourage"
this little girl to be the perfect little lady
and she is just not interested. instead of discouraging
her and allowing her classmates to bully her by claiming
that a tiny splash of water has somehow hurt them. try
stepping away from the perfect princess model and encouraging her to be herself, you might be very
surprised. well behaved women rarely make history
besides little ladies who never complain and never
defends themselves make very easy pickings for every jerk
that comes down the pike
K. h.
when in doubt, ask yourself, would you expect your son to
act like this. if not, then you should not expect it from your daughter

1 mom found this helpful

You need to get a lot more specific information from the preschool teacher -- maybe you did already, but only used the flicking-water example here? If that's the sole issue, it's not an issue. But if you daughter is riding roughshod over other kids, not letting them talk or participate because she's doing her own thing or wants all the teacher's attention, getting in their faces (is that what the teacher means by "personal space" issues?) etc. that is of course a bigger issue. You need to sit down with the teacher for a much longer, more detailed talk. Your daughter is at an age when she is only just learning how to behave in a group and how not to talk over/flick things at/get in the faces of other people. These are skills and you and the teacher together have to teach those skills--not a set of rules to memorize.

Your little girl is only four and still a preschooler. Take care you're not expecting too much from her; look at what she's capable of as a four-year-old, and don't expect her to be able to have self-control that is just not normal for a child her age. Yes, this is when kids start to develop better self-control but the key word here is start. I"m not saying let her off the hook for problem behaviors, and I understand the attempt to teach her rules for behavior. But seven rules is a lot to drill into a child daily. At four, rules are just words she learns; when she's in a real-life situation at school, with another child right there next to her and the temptation to do something hanging right there in the air, she isn't going to stop and think, "What do the rules say?" Not yet, at least. Talk to the teacher about a more age-appropriate set of expectations at home that is reinforced by the expectations at school.

Reward charts can work-- if you find her personal "currency." You have to find what really motivates her that she's willing to work for. For some kids, that's hard to find for a long time. It needs to be something that she will be truly sorry she missed out on if she doesn't get her stickers or misbehaves. And be sure any reward system is based on getting stickers or points or whatever for what she DOES that's positive and very specific, not what she doesn't do -- Kids her age just do not understand the idea of "We'll reward you for NOT doing something," but they do get the idea of "We'll reward you for doing something specific." Praise her a LOT for even small good behaviors and ignore as much other behavior as you can.

1 mom found this helpful

I would do things differently for my oldest if given a chance. Teacher conferences can really throw you. I think it is important to support the teacher but not a good idea to have consequences at home for what happens at school. You can take a walk and discuss how school is going, using information you have from the school. And you can encourage your daughter to think before acting at home - I really like the "1, 2, 3 Magic" book and also Dr. Sear's book on discipline. Lots of exercise, nutritious real food, and positive attention are important. But you can't control how your daughter behaves when she is at school. I used to think I'd have to sit in the classroom to accomplish what the teacher was asking or listen remotely and have some kind of mike in his ear to whisper suggestions. I have sat through Sunday School from time to time to put a hand on my son's shoulder and remind him to only speak a couple of times and to be still so others can participate and not be distracted.

Some kids, including my oldest, have high expectations of adults - they don't want to be bored or ignored. Some kids will take negative attention over no attention at all. That's why stickers don't work. Plus, some kids see through the sticker charts as a game to play. When asked what would help him do better at school (sit longer, talk less), my son asked to go home earlier, run or swing, or go to the school library. They thought he was being disrespectful saying those things and also told other kids to all look at my son, who couldn't sit still. I've heard a number of teacher call attention to negative behavior and try to use other kids to curb it. That just makes it harder for the more impulsive child to make friends. The teachers who quietly noted good behavior or quietly had him leave when he was too active to sit at a desk outside the classroom did the best. He stopped feeling bad about himself and just did his work or drew or wrote a story in the quieter place.

At first when I received the phone calls from the school, I would meet the bus mad and take away a privilege. After a while, my son told me that noone was happy at school and then he came home and I was mad too so that everywhere was awful. I decided to let the school handle the school issues and just work on making our homelife pleasant, busy, and loving. He did much better then. And we could talk about what would make school better but it wasn't about being in trouble or signing the chart.

Everything was much better when he learned to read and could get a book if he was bored. And then he went to a harder school where they let him work standing up or sitting on the floor or told him to look up the answers to his many questions and share with the class the next day. The impulsiveness got better as he grew older although he always craved more attention than most people and participated more than some teachers preferred. He now is in college and getting all the right kind of attention as a theatre major.

Teachers have a lot of power and influence but you have the most as the Mom. Every child has many gifts but not every child is a great fit with every teacher or a busy classroom. Good luck.

K.

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P.,

I had the same situation with one of my sons. Long (very long) story short, he was diagnosed with ADHD. You may want to talk to your pediatrician about her behavior. It may just be a learning thing for her - she has to mature a bit to gain the self control, or it may be something like ADD/ADHD which means she is not fully in control of her actions. I strongly recommend you speak to your pediatrician about this so even if she is not diagnosed, then at least you'll know for sure what it is not. BUT, if it is, there are several avenues to explore (medication, behavior therapy, diet, etc). If it is ADHD, then the earlier you catch it, the easier it is to deal with and the less hassles you, your family, your daughter, her classmates, her teacher have to handle. I spent 9 months of constant stress and research and waiting on doc appts, and doubt and concern that I hadn't been a good enough mother, etc - you name it, we went through it emotionally. My son no longer has uncontrolled outbursts, he no longer fights the teacher, he is more flexible (although not 100% but much more so than he used to be). I was afraid he was going to fail first grade he was so uncooperative. But when he wasn't uncontrolled, he was a sweet, inquisitive, friendly boy who the teachers just adored - a true Jackyl and Hyde kinda kid. It was that extreme in personality that lead us to put him in therapy which lead to his diagnosis. I am grateful to the docs we've seen - the majority have been just so caring and concerned and helped us tremendously.

While we were dealing with all this, we too tried a variety of reward charts etc, here's what we found:
1- they don't care about sticker charts.
2- for a child having trouble controlling himself, the idea of waiting a week for a reward was just too much to process.
3- we tried using marbles in a mason jar. We did this all day, everyday for every good thing the child did from doing his homework without complaint to trying even a single bite of a new food. If he did something without being asked - like helping his brother, he got 2 marbles. This one worked very very well. Since it was immediate results for his actions all day, it seemed to work better. They got to put the marbles in their jars. We marked the jar in 4 sections. As they filled the jars to each mark, they got a reward of some sort. Once they filled the jar, they got to choose from much larger rewards. By then, they were much more into filling it up. His 1st grade teacher (last school year) did a similar thing with little interlocking plastic rings. When he did good, he got a ring to add to his chain and if he got X, then he'd get Y as a reward. She worked hard with us to help.

We did the marble jars for almost a year and after 8 or so months, we did kind of stop giving the marbles out since by then the behavior was better. After a few months of no real reward system, we've recently moved to a new one. I found this foam/paper tree at the craft store, we put it up on the wall upstairs between the bedrooms. I cut out a bunch of bird shapes and leaves and when the boys do something good (again, try a new food, show good manners for the day, help with the dishes, etc) they get a leaf/bird. We write their name on it and the date and what the leaf/bird is for- "I showed good manners all day". I don't think this would have worked as well a year ago, as with this, the reward is the leaf/bird and the sense of pride vs the marbles were really bribes for good behavior with definitive rewards (movie night, pick a game, choose dinner, etc).

Sorry this is so long and rambling, but I hope you and your family find strength in God and accept the gift of doctors to help with your daughter.

1 mom found this helpful

What ever happened to letting little kids be little kids? She's 4 yrs old! Of course she's going to be childish! I imagine she should be jumping in puddles, occasionally jumping on the bed, and maybe diving into a large box filled with packing peanuts once in awhile. And, dare I suggest it, you could join her in the puddle jumping every so often. Put on some rain boots and splash away! A little running around at Chuck E Cheese would not be a bad thing either. Doing things like that all the time would be a problem. But if it's only happening once in awhile I wouldn't worry about it. Self regulation skills/impulsiveness/self control? I know some adults who've never mastered these. They'll be grown before you know it. Enjoy their childhood while it's there.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree that a lot of that is normal 4 and 5-year-old behavior. And stickers aren't good for long term behavior. They teach obedience not self-discipline. My active intense daughter benefitted from lots of explanations. She likes to talk things out. I've also spent many hours talking about how to act how to assess a situation. At this point, I would keep having conversations about what's appropriate behavior in different situations. I'm sure she'll get it. You can teach kids to think about why people do what they do. Find out how she learns and if there's other ways besides talking, try to use them. Lots of storybooks discuss different social situations and how to handle them. I've also found that music classes and sports that require kids to start and stop can help teach impulse control. Good luck, she sounds like a great kid.

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