Desperately Seeking Advice on Controlling Rowdy Behavior..

Updated on September 25, 2008
L.C. asks from Newbury, MA
11 answers

We have 3 girls, ages 7, 5 & 4. They are highly active, loud, & have Tons of energy. While I'm thrilled to have my girls so close in age, because of how close they are to eachother (right now, and hopefully forever), and how they play so well MOST of the time; we are really struggling with trying to control them and settle them down when their play gets too rowdy, loud & 'wild'. It used to be that the oldest was the ring leader of them all, and would initiate games that involved running and screaming around the house. But now, they each seem to have their moments of 'engaging' and are all guilty of it from time to time. When i have only one.. things are great.. even two, it's rarely a problem.. but when all 3 are together, sometimes they are all so hard to control.. they get so focused and engaged in their rowdy and loud play, (basically having so much fun, laughing hard etc), but they won't listen, they seem to ignore me, and many times I'm forced to yell and scream myself, just so they'll hear and listen to me..

I'm so torn, because i know they're 'just kids', and i want them to have fun together and be able to expend their energy,, but this becoming a real problem.. it even carries over to meal times as they love to engage eachother and make eachother laugh.. My husband is growing more frustrated as am I, but we're not agreeing on how to solve this.

I know they need more structure probably, and I'm too tired these days to come up with something. We do have small yard, with a swing set, which has helped,, but many times they end up in doors, and we do not have a huge play room.. unfortunately.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated..!
I'm so tired of giving time-outs! or acting as drill seargant 24/7..

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much for your suggestions and resources! I wrote them down, and look forward to checking out some of the books and recommended websites you shared. This request was a first for me, and it feels great to have a such caring 'cyber' support network! It's very comforting when you don't always have family and friends that you feel can help or understand. hugs to all..

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answers from Springfield on

I hear you. I have a 6-year old boy and he is extremely rowdy. We usually take a little breather together, rather than a time-out. Just a few minutes where we sit in quiet to calm down. (I'm tired of time-outs, too.) I read on MSN that when kids are acting up like that, Mommy's need to take a time-out. I've done it a few times. Maybe showing them how frustrated you are will make them see what they're doing wrong and fix the behavior. When my son sees how he's upsetting me, (once I've stopped yelling), he apologizes for his behavior and calms down. I still separate myself from him until I get to calm down. I have a friend that locks herself in her bathroom, (the only place her kids won't bug her); the kids try to bother her, but when she explains that she needs a time-out, the kids calm down.

I hope this helps...Good luck with the girls!!

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answers from Boston on

Hello L.,
Don't you wish you could bottle that energy sometimes. I have a couple of thoughts. One have you ever thought of putting them into Martial Arts or Gymnastics, something that lets them exert their energy and learn to control it at the same time. Two, I find that giving my children limited choices such as you have a choice, you can tone it down (explain what you mean by that to them) and continue to play out here or you can go to your rooms and play. Or if they continue to play rowdy in their rooms and you need that to stop you can let them know they can choose to play respectfully or you will have to seperate them until they can. Finish with you decide. That gives them the power and they do seem to react better when they feel they have made the decision. Just make sure you follow through with what ever you choose that is very important. I am a huge fan of the "Positive Discipline" Series by Jane Nelsen. The website is awesome. Good luck and God Bless.


answers from Boston on

Hi L..
I have 3 boys ages 5, 3 and 1. I think we should have had one more. Then we could have split them in groups of 2. I find the same thing, 2 are great together and it doesn't matter which 2 it is, but 3....look out.
One thing that I have found is if I manage my time better and give them more undivided attention they seem to behave better when I have something to do. I too have a hard time doing it all. I have an online shopping mall as well so I really have to manage my time with them so they will let me get a little work done during the day. If I spend the time playing games or running around outside with them they just seem to act better later on in the day. Time outs don't really seem to work for me anymore. There's no big threat in sitting on the floor for 5 minutes.

One of the other responses mentions martial arts. My son is in a great class if you are in Uxbridge. The number is ###-###-####

Hope this helps.


answers from Boston on

You already have some great responses from other moms and teachers. I'd like to point out the problem in your second paragraph - a lot of us have had this: You and your husband do not agree!

Have him read the responses you got, and if you choose a book to read, then do so together. Find a technique (or several) you can absolutely agree on, and then implement it with total consistency.

If the kids sense a difference in the 2 of you, they'll cheerfully continue their behavior, knowing that any problem will turn into a dispute (large or small) between their mom and dad, and nothing will happen.

Good luck!



answers from New London on

If you know they need more structure, then do it. You are the parent, put your feet and stand to them. Do time outs every time they are not listening to you or acting up. Make sure you separate the time out spots so they cant play. Your 7 year old stays in for 8 min., the 5 year old in for 6 mins., and so on. After, talk to them on what they did wrong and always tell them that you love them. At dinner time let them know that if they act up they will go to time out and if they go three times they dont get to finish dinner and you will make them something they dont like to eat. Stick with it for a few weeks and things will change. BUT you can not give in and let them slide.



answers from Portland on

HI L.,
A famous educator named John HOlt, told a story about his class.He did not like to restrict his kids to only speaking when spoken too etc... and so eventlually discussed it with his class adn they came up with the solution of a bar on the chaulkboard and as the noise got louder he would simply approach the board and fill in the 'bar' when it reached the end the class would have to be quiet for a full ten(?) minutes untill they could start again. He told them how it was his job to maintain order and how he also did not like to become a domineering teacher... All sides were happy.
Eventually when they saw it about to be filled all the way (as he was approaching the 'bar') they would do a sound together...."WAHHHH" until he filled it in then they would stop. It worked well, perhaps you could devise an indoor visual method of sound control for your girls.

Also I have started on some viatmins that have given me tons more energy a day (2 hours). You might want to add a supplement to your diet.

C. W



answers from Providence on

Read Parenting with Love and Logic! or visit the web site at Theay also have DVD seminars and conferences that are inspiring and funny!
Good luck!



answers from Springfield on

First of all I would recommend 1-2-3 Magic. It has worked for both of my kids. It is a book. I am sure you can get it at the local library. I have a friend with twins who used it and her life changed in just a couple of days.
Second of all, I think you are probably right about the structure. These don't sound like mean girls, just rambunctious! So I would have a trove of quiet activities up your sleeve for when you are stuck inside all day due to weather or whatever. I highly recommend getting a bunch of beads and string. They can make necklaces, bracelets etc... THis is great for concentration, fine motor skills, creativity etc... ALso they can each do it to their own ability.
The more you can have them help you with the mundane tasks of the day- have them come with you to help with the laundry, the dishes, cooking supper etc.. the better things will get. This made a HUGE difference with my 3.5 yr old son. He begs to use the vacuum cleaner now.
The other thing I would recommend is to read to them. Nothing chills out a room like snuggling on the couch reading with Mom or Dad. If I get a stack of books to read to my 3.5 year old, my 7 year old grabs a stack and joins us. Before I know it, the 7 year old is reading to the 3 year old! Good for everyone.
Good luck!



answers from Boston on

Hi L.!

First of all, let me tell you that I asked for some similar advice about my active 3 year old and got some very helpful and some pretty judgemental comments. Just remember that the fact that you are aware that there is a need for more control means that you are heading in the right direction and that asking for help is one of the hardest things for some to do!

That being said, I got this book (after getting advice from several moms) called 1 2 3 Magic by Thomas Phelan. It's not just for toddlers, and is actually for all kids from ages 3 - 12.

I love the writing (it's not hard to read on the toilet at nap time) and the sentiment. The basic focus is gaining control without emotion or arguing or yelling. I haven't had time to finish the book (there are only so many nap times with two busy boys under 3) but I've started using the counting method of discipline (as opposed to punishment) and my little guy has really responded.

You can get this book used on-line or run to the book store. It's very popular.

Good luck with your active girls. Don't dispair, you can gain control of your house again. Keep your chin up! Email me if you need a pep talk! :)



answers from Boston on


I have three boys, they are a bit younger than your girls, but I find that they act much worse if they have not had a chance to be outdoors and run. And I don't mean the backyard (we do have...even fenced in.) I have to take them for hikes (which luckily I love!), playgrounds or even the high school track. When they get fresh air and outdoor time they are sooo much better when we get home. I know it's not always gets hectic...but this has worked for me.

Good luck!

H. Z. (SAHM 5, almost 4 and 14 1 1/2 month old boys)



answers from Boston on

I don't have kids in this situation, but I am a classroom teacher who frequently finds herself like this. This is what I would do based on classroom experience:

Set out clear expectations before the behavior starts. Is it a time that it is okay that they get loud and wild, or are you expecting quiet(er) play? And carefully assess how often you really expect quiet play, even at dinner.

Maybe one dinner a week can be "crazy" dinner, where manners get tossed out the window. (You and your husband can eat later and the girls could all eat together). Then, when behavior other nights gets out of control, you can tell them to save it for their "special girls dinner."

Make sure that you are actually punishing violations of rules, not just annoyances to you. If there is a "no pushing" rule, and they start pushing, it's time for a time out. If they are "raspberrying" each other and you just think its a little gross, let it go. They're kids and they're entertaining each other.

Give one clear warning for a rule infraction, specify what the punishment is going to be, then follow through if the rule is broken again.

Have the most important rule in the house be "you stop and listen to me when I am talking to you." Then, make sure you aren't always interrupting to punish. They're going to be more likely to follow the rule if sometimes you interrupt to say good things. (I'd be more likely to stop playing for "let's all go out for ice cream!" then "I said stop that! Into time out for you!")

Finally, I would institute some quiet or separate playtime every day. It's possible they really don't know how to play independently. Even if it's just 15 minutes. I would frame it in the positive, and when playtime is over you could all meet and report back about what you did. 15 minutes of quiet goes a long way.

good luck!

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