How to Deal with Limit-Testing Behaviors

 

Dear Kid Whisperer,

How do I react in this situation? My daughter was flinging a toy around and I asked her not to, but she had to do it juuust one more time. She pulls this stuff constantly. What do I do?

Jeanine, Chicago IL


Jeanine,

My first suggestion is to stop telling your kid what to do in the first place.

“What?!?” you say.

“I’m serious!” I say.

I am going to suggest that instead of telling her how to live her life, I am going to suggest that you tell her what your expectations are and then, if she doesn’t live up to your expectations, I am suggesting that you take immediate action. She is doing a normal, healthy thing: figuring out who is in control in this situation. In other words, she’s finding out if she is in charge of toy flinging, or if you are. I would deal with it like this:

Kid Whisperer: Feel free to keep your toy as long as you aren’t throwing it.

Kid immediately throws toy. Kid turns and looks at Kid Whisperer as if to say “How ‘bout them apples?”

Kid Whisperer: Oh, no. You may have your toy back when I know you can play with it the right way. (Kid Whisperer takes toy, silently puts it away in a high cupboard, and sits back down to read his book)

Kid: BWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HATE YOU! IT’S MINE! YOU ARE MEAN! THIS IS WHY YOUR FRIENDS FIND YOU TO BE TEDIOUS AND EXHAUSTING!!!!

The Kid Whisperer: (not looking up from his book) Thanks for sharing.

Kid: When can I get it back?

Kid Whisperer: When did I say?

Kid: BWAAAAAHHH!!!

That’s it. Your kid has learned that mom means the things she says and that mom is in charge of whether her kid is allowed to throw toys. This can still be used if you use your unenforceable statement (“Don’t fling your toys”), but try using my enforceable statement instead. It’s more powerful and effective, and it will allow you to be calm. THIS IS NOT DESIGNED TO MAKE YOUR KID HAPPY IN THE SHORT TERM!!! Go in hoping that she loses it. If the tantrum starts to bother you, simply say “Oh, no.” and walk to another room! This tantrum and her inability to not throw toys are HER problem, not yours! Good luck, and I can’t wait for her to test again! Let me know how it goes!