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Saturday, March 12, 2011

How do we...

discipline Ethan without breaking his spirit?? That is the long time question we have wrestled with. He is our most difficult and disruptive of the bunch. Rob and I look back to when they were just little babies. He was our best baby. Easily the most laid back and happy.Its funny, I can see the character traits he's inherited from Rob and me. From what I've been told, Rob was a very goofy little boy. He did everything in his power to annoy his sister. He did things like, throw a croquet ball in the air and miss it and knock himself out. He was just GOOFY! Always into something he wasn't supposed to. Ethan is the same way. He doesn't play with things like normal people. He breaks stuff or hurts himself because he doesn't play like a normal kid. He takes toys and causes turmoil and disruption. Ethan is similar to me in his lack of imagination and enjoyment in playing. I didn't like playing pretend or barbies or dolls as a kid. I was more task and goal oriented. Give me a task and I would work on it until I completed it. He is just like that. He doesn't know how to play pretend. Ethan gets bored with toys and activities quickly.

He may not have the knack of playing, but he has been given an ear for music. That is definitely a trait not inherited from myself or Rob. He can hear a song one time and practically have it memorized. He even puts the vibrato in his voice when he sings. I pray he has a good voice when he gets bigger. Every second of his day he has a song going through his head. You know how you hear a song and it drives you crazy because you can't get it out of your head? Ethan can learn anything by music. That is his niche.
So, how do we try to reign in his outbursts and disruption without breaking his spirit? He is in trouble for screaming and yelling songs, teasing and disrupting the other kids. He is ALWAYS in trouble. Its been rough, I feel like he likes getting in trouble.

This week has been particularly bad for Ethan. He was very disruptive and blatantly disobedient. He ran out in the drive-thru at McDonalds, turned around and smiled after being told seconds before to stay on the sidewalk. Stuff like that all the time. So, I made the tough decision to keep him home with Rob and me Friday night instead of letting him go with the others to Grandma and Papaw's house.

We spent the next 24 hours working with him and trying to start a new strategy. We went to Walmart and bought 5 rain gauges. They are the perfect size for pennies. So, now we are earning pennies for any good behavior. We are going to reward pretty much anything good. Once they get pennies up to the 1 they get in a treasure box. Once they fill their gauge up to the 5 they will go to Walmart to pick out a (cheap) toy. Ethan picked up on it right away.

Hopefully this will give him something to work towards. We will see!!


Amanda Katz said...

I've been following your blog for two years now and have so far been a silent reader. However, I feel like I need to come in and talk a little bit in this case. I am a preschool teacher and I have eleven 2 and 3-year-olds in my class. But enough about me.

Having a strong willed child is difficult, especially with disobedience. Rewarding good behavior may work, but it can also become difficult as some of your children will lose interest and then behavior will only be motivated by external forces, not because he actually wants to behave.

You did the right thing by keeping him home the one day. The best advice I can give is to see problems before they happen. You said you told him to stay on the sidewalk, most likely because you already knew he was going to run off. So he runs off. The next step is a natural consequence, something that matches the crime so he understands that he is not being disciplined randomly. Firmly take his hand and make him walk beside you. Even if the other kids are walking freely. Tell him "Mom (or dad) told you to not run away, and you ran away. Now you have to hold my hand until I can trust you in the parking lot." It might take a few tries, but it will be worth it.

The other advice I can give is to use the expected behavior conversation for transitions to anything. "We are going to McDonalds, I expect you to sit down and eat your food and not play around." Turn it in to a game, ask all your children : "We are going to McDonalds. How are we supposed to act?"

Using these techniques may take more time for you at first. But punishment and rewards teach them to want to behave for the reward or in fear of the punishment, not because they actually want to behave.

Sorry to ramble. Hope this isn't offensive and you can find some of it helpful.

Best of luck to you!

Suzy said...

I left a comment earlier today ... don't know if it didn't go through or if you decided not to publish it. But I've been thinking about Ethan all day, and it sounds like he is sensory seeking. The not-pretending thing plus the ability to memorize music right away is also interesting. If you can, please get him evaluated by the school district ... I think he might qualify for developmental and occupational therapy. It's okay if you don't want to publish this ... I just wanted to make sure you got my message. Feel free to e-mail me at if you have any questions about our experience so far.

Stephanie said...


I have been following your blog for a couple years.

Ethan sounds like a great kid, but it sounds like he may need something a little more challenging to entertain him rather then simple toys. It might be a good idea to sign him up for some music lessons- be it piano, drums, violin, etc.. Something that he would enjoy, and could practice all he wanted. That could help direct his behavior into something productive rather than distructive.

Hope that helps.


Anonymous said...


I came across this particular blog entry while looking for ideas on similarly-aged kids (I'm a nanny for three and one year-old children, and take inspiration from parents of multiples--figure if they can make it work, two kids should be a breeze :) and felt the need to comment.

I think you've answered your own question as to help your son; however, I'm afraid the best solution will probably have to wait until he's (at least) in kindergarten (next year?) to be implemented. It sounds to me like you should get him involved in a musical theatre program as soon as he's old enough.

He's more goal-oriented than imaginative? Learning songs and dances are a good way to encourage creativity, but spur inspiration in a more structured environment, which is useful for those to whom imaginative play doesn't come naturally. Additionally, you'd be nurturing his natural talents and providing physical activity (via simple dance/choreography) to channel some of that little boy energy. :) It sounds like an area in which he could excel.

Also, it's a good first activity for newly school-aged children, and is something all the kids could do together. It has the added benefit of providing both physical activity and artistic instruction in one class, which is more cost effective--something that I imagine would be important to a family with five kids going through every stage at the same time.

Finally, kids involved in music early on, tend to better in academic subjects. Also, early exposure to dialogue and public speaking helps to introduce/improve early reading skills, and promotes self confidence, reducing the likelihood of shyness later on.

Perhaps have them screen something like 'Annie' or 'Oliver' to see if there's an interest?

Good luck!