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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yes, I Really Do That

The other day, at the end of one of my classes, I ended up in a conversation with some of my students about our naughty children.  One woman was complaining that it was only the second week of school and her middle-schooler had already been suspended.  Another woman was explaining how she was having a multitude of problems with her two-year-old.  We discussed things that had been tried, and of course, miserably failed.  Sometimes, it seems like nothing you do works.  Time-outs?  Sometimes successful.  Spankings?  Interested in a visit from CPS?  Taking items/toys away?  About a 30% success rate.  Grounding?  Yeah, my parents tried that one, too . . .worked well, huh?

Often, you get to the point where you feel like you've tried everything, and none of it has the effect you'd like - putting an end to bad behavior.  So, you read parenting books and magazine articles, you try what they're selling you, and surprise, it doesn't work.  You either have two choices: give up or try something out-of-the-box - something radical.

A while back, Gavin developed a serious hitting problem.  Mostly, he hit me, but sometimes he hit other children or the dogs.  (Okay, often he hit the dogs).  It was a problem when he hit me, but hitting kids at daycare was no joke.  No way was I going to tolerate that (not that I was tolerating he's new found love of hitting me - it all kind of came to a head at the same time).  He wasn't hitting because he's mean, or because he enjoys hitting others, he was hitting out of frustration and anger (not justified, but it's important to understand the cause).  It would go something like this:

Scene: Leaving the movie theater after a movie:

Me:  Gavin, you need to hold my hand.

Gavin:  I don't want to.

Me:  You can either hold my hand and walk like a big boy or I will carry you like a baby.

Gavin:  No!  (starts running out into the parking lot)

I race after him, grab him, and pick him up - carrying him to the car.

Gavin:  No, Momma!  No!  I don't want to be a baby!  I want to walk like a big boy!  No!

Me:  I told you that you could either hold my hand or be carried.  You didn't listen, and you didn't hold my hand, so now I'm going to carry you.

Gavin:  No!  Put me down!  Stop!  I don't want to be carried.

Me:  Too bad.


Me:  (after the shock wears off) You do not hit.

Gavin:  Put me down!  I want to walk!  Stop, you're hurting me! (you know, because being carried is so painful).

Me:  When we get home, you are going in time-out.  (I start buckling him in his carseat).

Gavin:  No!  I don't want to go in time-out!  SMACK

Now, at this point, I'm so mad that I'm either going to laugh or strangle him.  I choose to finish strapping him in his seat and ignore his screaming (and eventual apology) the rest of the way home.

After this had happened a few times, I decided I had to take serious action.  My most recent form of punishment at that time was taking toys away and putting them on top the fridge.  Of course, it only took him two days to realize that it's not really a consequence because he eventually gets the toys back.  No real loss.  The hitting thing - it was totally unacceptable and a behavior I needed to curb right away.  Like right that second.  And, I knew I needed to do something drastic to rid him of his hitting problem - and by drastic I mean "drastic yet legal with minimal psychological damage."

So, a few days later, the conversation went like this:

Gavin hits the dog.

Me:  Gavin, go in time-out.  You do not hit the dog.

Gavin:  I don't want to go in time out.

Me:  Too bad. You hit the dog, so you go in time out.

Gavin:  No!

Me:  You can either walk to time out or I can carry you.

Gavin:  But I don't want to go to time out.

Me:  Go.  Now.

Punch in the leg.

Me:  Gavin, you do not hit.  If you hit me or the dogs again, I'm going to throw one of your toys away.

Gavin: No, Momma! 

Punch in the leg.

Me: (Completely silent, I walk over to one of his toy bins, reach in, find a toy, walk over the the trash can, and let the toy plummet to the bottom).  If you hit, I will throw away your toys.

Gavin: (after five minutes of screaming and flailing on the ground).  I want my car!  Don't throw my toys away!

Me:  You hit me, so I threw a toy away.

Gavin:  No!  I don't like that!  (kicks me in the shin)

Me:  (I repeat previous dramatic performance of locating a toy and throwing it away).  If you hit or kick people, I'm going to throw your toys away.

Gavin:  (resumes tantrum)

I pick him up, carry him to his bedroom, sit him on his bed, and shut the door.  Screaming and crying fill the house.  I ignore it.

A few minutes later, I take him out of time out. 

Gavin:  Can I have my toys out of the garbage?

Me:  No.  They're gone.  If you hit and kick, your toys are going in the trash.

Gavin:  But, Momma, I want them.

Me:  I'm sorry.  Maybe next time you won't hit and kick, and then I won't have to throw your toys away.

Image c/o

Now, at the point, you're probably thinking: "Oh, so you get the toys out later and give them back?"  No.  I don't.  I throw them away.  And now, you're thinking I'm nuts.  Yes, that's been proven, but I don't think I'm crazy for throwing away the toys. You see, I tried the confiscating-toys-for-awhile-and-then-giving-them-back thing, and it clearly didn't work.  So, this is my solution: throw that shit away!

The common response I hear is, "But you spent your money on that toy, and you're just going to throw it away?"  Yep.  But, don't get me wrong, I'm strategic about it.  I go for the broken toys, the toys with missing parts, the McDonald's Happy Meal toys, or the really annoying toys that I keep forgetting to throw away while he's sleeping.  He has yet to figure out that some toys hold more value than others.  Right now, any toy in the garbage is a serious consequence.  And you know what, after I discarded about six toys, the hitting problem magically went away, and I had a serious threat that I could use in public (which is where he always displays his worst behavior).

Plus, throwing away a toy that costs $8.99 is a lot cheaper than securing a lawyer when he gets kicked out of school for punching a classmate in the face five years down the road.  Just saying.


  1. We're not to this "fun" stage yet but I think this is a reasonable approach, I immediately assumed that you were tossing the toys that he either didn't play with much, were old/ratty/broken, or the completely annoying toys that the batteries just won't die in - that's what I would do.

  2. As a preschool teacher I see a lot. Hitting the mom always shocks me and most moms just let the kids do this with no consequence that I can see. So many kids are in control of their parents. I think your approach is very reasonable. Most importantly, you are meaning what you say and it is clear you are in charge.

  3. Hi there! I enjoy reading your blog, and would like to pass along the Liebster Blog award to you! Please check out my post with rules for accepting the award~

  4. We have a little hitter at our house too, though he's more likely to whack his siblings. Thankfully, he's been cutting back...a little. I love that you followed through! That's hard to do. I bet it will work!

  5. This is great! I really like the follow through on your punishment here! I don't think its over the top or too drastic at all, i think its brilliant!

  6. Good to know. We don't have a hitting problem at our house, but we do have a listening problem. As in he doesn't. And a defiance problem. Everyone has that one, right? I am going to start throwing that shit away. Brilliant. YOU should be writing those parenting articles in the magazines.

  7. I can't wait to have kids.. :) Thanks for sharing your experience.

    I got here through Blogaholic! Hope you find the time to come visit me too. Maybe we could follow each other?