mdogg's picture

Defiant 5 1/2 yo..HELP! time-out doesn't work

I'm step-mom to a 5 1/2 yo girl who was physically & verbally abused by her mother (who has no contact with daughter). SD's father has custody of her, he and I have been married for 5 months. I have a 9 yo son from a previous marriage who lives with us. I stay home with the kids and my husband works.

I think SD has serious anger and impulse control issues that I don't know how to manage. SD can be very sweet & fun to be with..when she wants to be. Most of the time she is very defiant, not listening, doing whatever she wants, not doing what is asked, getting into things, won't stop teasing/being mean to the dog, etc. When she doesn't get her own way or is disciplined she growls, says mean things & makes mean faces, sticks out her tongue, screams & yells, throws things, flings her body around, tries to bite, pinch, kick, hit, scratch, tears up anything she can reach, and more.

Recently SD got angry with my son and threw a large plastic toybox cover down the stairs, hitting him in the back with it. She pushes to get past if we are in her way. Sometimes she will purposefully misbehave to get a reaction..all the while giggling or smiling while she does it.

I've tried putting her in the corner for time-out..she will scream & yell, kick the wall, peel the wallpaper, fling her body around, bang her head on the wall, etc. Then when her time is up she will go right back to doing what she got in trouble for in the first place.

A friend suggested sitting her in a chair in the middle of the floor for her time-out. I tried that and she will do the same things as well as scoot the chair around so she can reach things to kick or tear up. Each time she scoots the chair I quietly put her (and the chair) back in the middle of the floor while she tries to kick or pinch me & just keeps scooting the chair and acting horrible. Once she scooted over to the kitchen table and pulled the table cloth, if I hadn't reached the table in time all that was on it would have landed on the floor.

I'm at a loss as to how to handle her. I find myself starting to loose control sometimes. I try not to yell at her but it is so frustrating. SD is not like this when her father is around..he is an "in your face" discipliner and controls her with fear & intimidation. That is not my way..and I believe my husband's method is, at least in part, fueling SD's bad behavior. I don't believe you can fight anger & aggression with more anger & aggression. Maybe I'm wrong.

SD usually only behaves this way at home but this past wkend she started being mean to her grandmother, even slapped her once. It seems the conventional ways of parenting and discipline do not work with this child.

I'm desperate for ideas that work for other parents of defiant, strong-willed children.

sharonnewmom's picture

wow this heart breaking i really believe she is testing you as well as she has a lot of emotional problems and until you get to the root of them you will not see any relief is she going to therapy for the abuse she had ?as for her father his way of getting her to behave is also a problem she is a abused child and he uses fear to control her that just adds to her problems ,first thing i would do is call and get her help ,you can get this from the local mental health ,family doc .they can help you find the best place to start with trying to find this little child some help until she starts to improve you may need to seek care for her a few hrs a day so you can have a break .try talking to her tell her you know she was hurt in the past but you are here now and love her let her know with emotional support she is going to be okay and that you are here for her .try giving her one on one attention a few hrs a day just doing something she would like ,when she does miss behave let her know that you will not put up with it but you still love her .you can take control of this but it will take time .this is a lot you are taking on keep strong

Only2boys's picture

I agree with the other poster. You need to get help. She needs to talk out her anger and you need to find out what is causing this anger. You said she was physically and verbally abused, which is probably the root of the problems you are having. Try taking her to a child psychologist. Call your insurance company to see what is covered. Look in the phone book or call a mental health agency.

Your SD will get harder as she gets older, so I'd try to get on top of this now. Good luck to her and I do agree that more agression towards her certainly won't help things.

mdogg's picture

I have been talking to my husband about family counseling and feel he will be receptive to going. I strongly believe we don't have the tools (knowledge?) to help SD on our own. I do feel a bit inadequate..I have already raised 2 children (from a previous marriage) to adulthood however I never had to deal with such extreme behavior.

I also want to have a family meeting to discuss rules, what will or won't be tolerated, consequences for non-compliance, etc. We did that once a while ago but didn't really follow through..our bad, I know.

What are some consequence ideas for such things as: talking back, getting physical, not doing what is asked, etc. Do I ignore SD when she's in time-out & screaming, kicking, flailing herself around, etc. Do I keep restarting the clock until she settles down or eliminate time-outs all together since they don't seem to work with her?

I will also be having a discussion with Hubby about loosening up a bit and picking his battles. He has a tendency to nit-pic about things I feel could be overlooked, thus avoiding major meltdowns, from both adult & child.

Hubby believes both kids should be treated equally in their discipline..I'm not so sure. There is a 4 yr difference in age, one is 9yo, the other is 5yo. 5yo has a lot more emotional/behavioral issues than 9yo. I feel we need to be harder (the right word?) with 5yo than 9yo as her behavior is more extreme.

I'm also having a hard time convincing Hubby that his aggressive discipline is compounding the problem. It's how he was raised, he doesn't know any other way. To him any other way means letting the kids do what they please & run all over us. He can be stubburn about this but he will try anything at this point.

We want very much to be a happy, functioning family and help our children grow into respectful, well adjusted adults.

summer5kids's picture

i would seek help like posted above ,as for punishment it can not really be the same because starting with the age i have kids and step kids and we punish by age .yes if she does something worse than him she would get more punishment but once a punishment is done it should be done you should never come back and say "well she did this early and got this so now i will punish her more "you need to start fresh everytime .i have a step son has issues with this he has some mentalhealth issues and we were told once a punish ment is done you dont bring it back up you start with a new slat .we were also told not to tattle to each other on them that it is okay to tell your husband what went on but not in front of the kids. next you must stick with it or they will think you will always give in ,time out should start over if they are acting up during it they must act right in time out for a set amount of time before getting out ,and dont give much attention in it or they will just keep doing it in time out because that is what most crave the attention from you be straight forward and make eye contact but never spend much time dealing with them while in time out .give plain answers and short answers and when they earn the right to be out take a moment tell them why they went their and ask if they think they can do better and dont forget to say i love you .

michiel923's picture

I never wanted anyone other than myself or my husabnd spanking her. i mentioned this to my mom and she said that since I do it they figured it was ok to spank her. Thanks for sharing the informative post.
Jack - positive discipline for preschoolers

brandylee's picture
my daughter is 6 and she hits,bits,scratches and she says meanful things to me and she trys to hurt me i don't know what else to do i took toys from her and i tryed putting her in time out that don't work i know how you fell she do's the samething in school and crawls under the table
Pocaps's picture
What I've seen and learned is never get "too angy" meaning, don't go all crazy just send him away, and ignore him unless he leaves his time out, but say nothing else to him. He may just be trying to pull our stings and want a reaction out of you. If that fails, when he does that send him in time out and when he's calmed down a bit talk to him. (You don't want to be talking to him if it only makes him angrier.) And ask him nicely why he's saying such things. If necessary tell him his time outs will extend if he keeps doing this. If all else fails, seek professional help. Regards, Atty. Angel, Tampa personal injury attorney
tadamsmar's picture
"Kazdin Method" is a good book to read and use. But, the dad's behavior may sabatoge things even if you improve your skills, not sure. Some parents are spoiled, there is no turning them around. So-call "spoiled" kids are often easy to turn around, so they are actually not spoiled in the true sense of the word. It's typically the parents who can't or won't learn the more effective skill and stop doing counterproductive stuff, so they are really spoiled for good.