I must have looked pretty worn and frazzled Saturday afternoon because the first thing my darling friend said when she came over for a play date with her two and four year olds was, “Are you okay? Tired? You look sort of…stressed?”
That might have been an understatement. It was late Saturday afternoon, and I’d been alone with four year old triplets for 24 hours.
I had some serious issues with them as two year olds. Crazy kids. But everyone told me that if they’re ornery at two, then they’ll be GREAT at three.
Well, then they turned three. And they were hard. Super opinionated and stubborn (I don’t know WHERE that could have come from….). They were doing more by themselves but we had some serious attitude.
Now, they are four. They’ve been four for three months. Everyone said: FOUR IS THE HOLY GRAIL. They turn into angels. Four was always my favorite stage.
Four is not my favorite stage.
They can dress themselves. Put on their pajamas and brush their teeth. Buckle themselves in their car seats. Recognize all their letters and numbers.
But attitude. Oh do we have attitude.
My husband says there is always one angry, one happy, and one going from one of those stages to the other. He’s probably right. Except he left out sad. Like bursting into tears verclempt sort of sad. And that’s the boys not even little lady.
They are really good at school.
And precious when they visit their grandparents at the farm.
And delightful when they have play dates.
But when it’s us….hang on to your hat.
We’ve tried everything. The old tried-and-true time out seems to have no impact now. I take away “privileges” like getting a few minutes of television or a lollipop after dinner or similar. But when something is taken away they flip out so much that it turns our house into mayhem. And if one is being bad or flipping out, another one is bound to follow because they want their share of attention. Triplets!!! My hubby has tried spanking a bottom if someone is disrespectful to him or me or our nanny. Nothing. They’ve been known to shout, “that doesn’t hurt!”
I know that there are a zillion books I could read. I have some. I’ve even read a few.
I also know that discipline and parenting tips are SUPER SENSITIVE and everyone has their own opinion.
Regardless, I’m going to bravely ask the question anyways: What worked for you? Was your four year old remarkably transformed after the terrible two’s/three’s? Multiple moms – ANYTHING?
I’m really not looking for book recommendations because I have four on my nightstand I need to read. I’m just curious. Your down and dirty, based on life experience, insider tips. Yesterday, because I refused to yell at my kids like I had on Saturday after coming to my wit’s end, I tried a new trick. We kept a sticker chart for actions taken based on our house rules (Be Kind, Listen, Share, Be a Helper).
Stickers were crossed out if they exhibited bad behavior, and stickers were earned if they exemplified one of the rules. It worked by and large. Behavior improved. Stickers were added and crossed off. The end of day winner was able to either select a treat from the treat jar, choose the movie to put on for movie night, or pick one place they’d like to go in Houston.
I don’t know that’s a practical every day solution though. We do have a chores chart. But that is to remind them to make their bed and load the dishwasher and say please and thank you. So I don’t know that it’s the right vehicle for discipline or behavior redirection. I also know we have triplets and inevitably it’s going to pile on a little. ALSO, I fully realize that they are FOUR and not fourteen. But it is critical for us to teach them respect and boundaries now or we’ll have a mess on our hands when they are teens.
All I ask is that you don’t criticize anyone in the comments. Everyone does it different. But I would love to get some parenting insight, friends. Because we’re getting worn down over here. So go for it – give me your best shot!
Molly Huggins says
Well, friend, I don’t have any answers for you …. I’m going to lurk around the comment section and hope to get some good ideas too! I do have prayers for you though …
At least we’re all in this together right :$
I had one who would respond to the competition of stickers and a reward system and another who would say can’t you just spank me and get it over with. I think different things work with different kids at different times – that’s a lot of help, right? The best thing always is if I can just get calmer and calmer – I learned that from their first grade teacher! I have set a timer and sent them both to their rooms, I have locked myself in the bathroom and stayed while they cried outside the door, and I even tried praying out loud while they are fighting or screaming at me or whatever they are doing. All of it works sometimes. I don’t have multiples so I know it is even more complicated. Sometimes I would make them go outside and run back and forth across the yard 10 times – get that energy out. Sometimes, even as teenagers, when they are fighting – yes, they still do it – I make them put on their shoes and we walk around the block. Hang in there – seems like you are doing great. It is hard to help them grow!
Boy – I am struggling with the “calmer”!! I need to lock myself in the bathroom. And they definitely respond differently to punishment but luckily are all super competitive with the sticker game 🙂
I had to laugh as I read this. See, when I had all little ones (mine are now 10,13,15,& 17) everyone always said it gets easier as they get older. They were wrong. The struggles and issues are different, but not necessarily easier. You seemed to have noticed, now they can dress themselves, and buckle themselves in, but with that is more opinions and say so. The days become less physical work, but more emotional and spiritual work. You and Bray have great family, great foundation to start with. Keep enforcing those boundaries, no matter how worn out they make you. What you sow now you will reap when they are older. We have great kids, amazing kids. The Lord has truly blessed our efforts. BUT, they still argue with one another, and leave messes, and aggravate, and just wait till your boys hit puberty and become what I like to call a rooster! 😉 on the other hand, they can work together to make a meal for someone in need, they are old enough to babysit to give a young mom a break for a few hours, they serve in our church, and work hard and know how to serve and encourage, and be a blessing. We are all human. I find encouraging good behavior, and just a “thank you for being kind to your sister, that was a nice thing to do.” Is a real motivator, catch them being good. And I know you said no books, but there is a blog I read by Sally Clarkson called Mom Heart that really encourages me. She doesn’t spank, and we did, but she has so much wisdom and perspective. We also love http://www.nogreaterjoy.org but he has quite a bit of controversy. I learned from them, and used common sense. We pray a lot. Lol God is faithful.
Oh yes to all this Janee – thank you for the wisdom. Some days you just feel like you’re climbing uphill!!!
Christine Wright says
No help here. My four-at-the-end-of-the-month year old has gotten better the last couple of months in some ways but in other ways, it just terrible. A LOT is b/c of older siblings at our house. (He picks up on everything they do – and you know, something a high school senior does might be funny but then just terrible coming from a preschooler!). Ugh. My only advice is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I promise.
Christine Wright says
“I know that there are a zillion books I could read. I have some. I’ve even read a few.”
Love that line, btw. (We’re supposed to read them??)
Yes, sigh, I know, a zillion!
Deb Weaver says
I can’t imagine multiples. I don’t have a lot of advice, but I’m here empathizing with you. This Mama gig is the hardest thing ever! At nearly every stage! (((HUGS)))
Thank you Deb!
Rebecca Scott says
You may laugh at this, but I have found when they feel loved (& understood/heard) that they take instruction better. Have you ever read the 5 Love Languages for Kids?
I haven’t read it – but love the one for adults!!!
Elizabeth @seasonswithsoul says
Oh, yes, I just read the five love languages for kids…! I’m really trying to learn and use my kids’ love languages. It was a really good book. Four might be a bit young, but, Gindi, try to think of the major love languages and see if you can perceive a pattern with your triplets of what they seem to crave this most — gifts, quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation and acts of service. The overarching concept of the book is that when kids’ love “tanks” are full they are less likely to misbehave. That said, this parenting gig is HARD! And, multiples… well, that triples the ante!
I’ve started thinking through it – it’s so hard at this age though b/c it seems like ALL the love languages are theirs! Time? Um, YES! Touch? Definitely! Gifts? Again, yes… Well, you get the picture….sigh.
Raising children is nonetheless challenging especially in our ever changing world and society. My quick prayer is Lord…”I can’t, but you can, please do, thank you!” Our goal is not to raise children to be kids rather children to be happy Christian adults and productive in their lives and society which means tough parenting. Although it is difficult, individual discipline has worked best for our 3 children even when I’ve heard “it isn’t fair”. We’ve tried all of the suggestions above too; they work sometimes for us as well. Nothing is 100%. As a parent of a 13, 10, and 4 year olds….many things get easier yet lots of things change and get harder. Best advice I received from a well seasoned and wise mother; Don’t compare yourself to other Mom’s because every Mom has good days and bad days as well as her strengths and weaknesses even when it looks otherwise. And raising smart gifted children will forever challenge you! Many Blessings to you, my friend!
Yes, yes to all of this Amy – the comparison and the raising them to be wise adults…
Kimberly Crumby says
I had a strong-willed, sassy 4 year old…I started a system I read about in a John Rosemond book. She started the day with so many tickets on the fridge. When she was disrespectful, threw a fit, etc she had to take a ticket off. When she lost all tickets she was in her room for the rest of the day. This was so hard for me- spent several days listening to her scream at her door- but it didn’t take long before she figured it out. I know what works for one doesn’t work for all- good luck!
Yes we did something similar, but with dimes. They started the day with 10 dimes. Breaking the rules and attitude cost them a dime. They had to have 5 by 3 o clock to have screen time, and when you lost them all your day was over, but whatever you kept was yours to spend. Since I do not buy many snacks, sodas, chips, etc this worked well. Thanks for the reminder!
Elizabeth @seasonswithsoul says
Love Rosemond’s book!
This idea of tickets is really wise and not one I had thought of, I probably could implement it with stickers too which is very engaging for them at 4!
I never had multiples but I did have 2 boys. My youngest was a handful – if you looked up strong willed child, there his cute little face would have been right next to it! lol Some days, I would lay in bed before getting up and just ask God for the strength to win the battles I needed to and the wisdom to know what those were.
One thing that helped was a ticket system Being home all day with littles,consistency was an issue for me. So, I bought a roll of blue tickets, a roll of red tickets and 5 jars. Red tickets were for bad behavior. Blue tickets were for good behavior. Each kid had a “red” jar and a “blue” jar. We came up with some basic rules and then I explained that if they broke our rules, they would get a red ticket. If I caught them doing something good, they got a blue ticket in their jar. They got 2 red tickets and then so many tickets equaled a consequence. One of the most effective ones was having to go to bed early – we did 5 minute increments. The boys sleep in the same room, so it was torture to go to bed earlier then his brother, kwim. They earned blue tickets and after so many, I let them choose out of the reward jar. We had sat down together and come up with some fun rewards – some bigger and some smaller.
It took the emotion out of the correction. It was straight forward and matter of fact. The blue tickets also made me look for good behavior during a time when I felt like all I did was correct, correct, correct. It was a sanity saver for me. 🙂
Rosanne, that is so interesting, I hadn’t thought of that. If one of mine had to go to bed 10 minutes earlier, it would KILL THEM! I need to cut the emotion for sure – for all of us, I’m sure that my emotion and their emotion is what’s making it all so explosive on some days….baby steps, right?
bonnie clowney says
Love reading all the comments! I can SO relate. Not only do we have triplet 4 year olds, we have two with the same name. I will never get over that. Anyway, I have read a ton of books, too. Some just don’t seem to apply to multiples, but I guess there are helpful hints in each book. Anyway, all I can say is that I was losing my mind around Thanksgiving, and by Christmas it seemed better. Then the new year came, and it got worse again…not as bad as Thanksgiving. Ha! So, maybe we are taking two steps forward and one step back. I don’t have one method that works, but I try everything–bribes, treats, lost privileges, and now I may start the tickets on the fridge. Ours love to be busy, too. They have just started getting better with entertaining themselves and playing make-believe with their toys. Ahhhh–those are happy times. Before, they wanted me for EVERYTHING, that I definitely had to hide out on occasion, for sanity’s sake. I take one day at a time, and I try not to be too anxious about their potentially bad behavior, but can I be honest? I am anxious about their potentially bad behavior! All the time! Ha!! It is something I am working on, and I feel much better knowing I am not alone. 🙂
Oh friend, I know, we’re right there together. I feel like we have SO MANY of the same struggles you and I. And I do feel the two steps forward one step back constantly. I’ve definitely gotten from these comments I need to disengage more. Lock myself away for 5 minutes. But aren’t you terrified they will color all the walls and cut their hair when you do that!?!?! Sigh.
Kimberly A. Vogel says
Let me just say – wonderful advice!!! I would only add a few things:
1. Whatever “program” you use, do it consistently.
2. Kids try to “rule” the house however it’s when parents are in control that kids feel safe and comforted.
3. this time is critical in setting a tone for respect in the house. If you loose it now, it’s that much harder to gain it back and keep it when they are teens.
4. Give grace to your kids and even more to yourself.
5. Their misbehavior is not directed To you or About you or to Purposely hurt you. Don’t feel offended by their behavior. They are misbehaving simply because they are kids with a sin nature.
Hang in there mama! You are doing a great job!!
Oh consistency, yes Kimberly we are really really working to do that. And to follow through on what we say. But it not being about me or us is so important to remember and so often it feels like a direct attack – I need to remember that – like make myself a sign remember that!!!
I don’t have experience with multiples, but when you mentioned their need for attention, it reminded me that when my daughter was 3 and her brother was born, we would have a way better day if I could just find 30 minutes to be alone with her during the day and do something she wanted to do. 30 minutes probably sounds crazy to you, but I bet just 10 minutes for each with 1 parent would help. I also found that her bedtime ritual was really important to her so if my husband was out of town and that meant leaving the baby in his crib to cry while I spent some time with her, that’s what I did and it paid off. I’m not saying do a bedtime ritual, but I mean find out what is important to each one and try to do that. Also, if they’re doing great everywhere but at home, then they’re doing great — they just have to let it all hang out somewhere. But I know you need some peace in your time with them. I’ve heard the John Rosemond system can work wonders and it sounds like you’re onto something with your sticker chart. Prayer will help get you through it, and before you know it, you’ll be on to the next child-rearing issue to solve!
I’d never heard of John Rosemand, so thanks Lori. And yes, totally time. I do bedtime with each, now that we’re in big kid beds I can crawl into their bed and visit with only them but you’re right, it’s just 10 minutes…
Melissa Aldrich says
Oh, girl. Multiples… 4. Yikes. My multiples are both girls (and only twins… but I have a 2 year old boy too… so I know the chaos that one child loosing it creates for the other two). They’re 4th birthday was in September which I think is really close to your kiddos.
2-3 was the PITS with B. B is my strong willed girl whose motto during those years was “Oh, yeah?! Watch me!” She’s turned around significantly since then.
4 might be living HELL with A. She’s my people pleaser… but she’s also hard headed. The attitude. THe language. However, her love language is quality time… so when we start getting into a rough patch, someone takes her on a date ASAP. That heads off a lot of her will to disobey.
I know you said no books… but we’re a “Don’t make me Count to Three!” coupled with “Give them Grace” family. Which means we are always preaching the gospel and we spank for the 4 Ds: Disobedience, defiance (fits!), Dishonesty, and Willful Destruction (i.e. writing on the wall with a crayon for the 200th time since they turned 2…sigh) I think there is a 5th D too… but we haven’t dealt with that one yet. Ha!
So what happens in the disobedience category, for instance, is that I tell them to do something (Pick up that toy, put your plate in the dishwasher, “STOP” when they’re running into the street). They make it clear that they’re not going to obey. I tell them that we need to discipline. Now I tell them to go sit on my bed… but when they were littler or now when A is pitching a fit, I just carry them to my bed. If they’re pitching a fit, I let them finish it. Or if it was a lie I let them sit there until they’re ready to tell the truth… which is different for the extroverted twin (on my bed) than the introverted twin (on a chair in the middle of the room, ha!). If i’m boiling angry… um… I sit in time out until i’m calm enough to apologize and deal with their hearts. Once we’re both calm we talk about the sin, how Jesus died for that, why it hurts people, the good news that the holy spirit can help them to obey if the repent (gospel). Then I lay them across my knees and spank the same number of swats as their age (4 right now) regardless of offense (all sin deserves the same punishment: death). I use an object and always on the squishy parts of their bottom. A hand just doesn’t hurt enough to make the point. We have friends who use a piece of rubber like a whoopee cushion, but I use a 12″ hot glue gun stick. Always practice how hard you’ll hit on your own leg first, I hit hard enough to sting and leave a temporary mark. It has to hurt or it’s NOT effective. We used to do bare bottom at 2-3 (because of the diaper) but at 4 we’re moving on to over the clothes because they’re not liking having their pants down (and it’s awkward to do that). After their swats we have a snuggle time where I remind them that I love them no matter what and I pray with them and for the sin in their hearts and that they would turn to Christ. It’s not something that works immediately (crayons on the wall… still fighting there…) But with consistency over time those areas that were once weak improve. I really can’t believe B is the same kid who peed all over my lap screaming at me during a discipline session at 2 now that she’s 4 and pretty solid. But the change was soooooo slow there were days it seemed like all we did was discipline… all… day… long….
That said I’m not all spank spank spank. We do take away toys (we have a toy time out bin: if it gets fought over… it’s gone for a week… no anger and all prisoners get released on Mondays). And the biggest thing I’m learning in year 4 is that by identifying their love languages and loving them in the way they love to be loved, I can head off a lot at the pass. Taking A on a date (seriously… just to the gas station when I need to fill up… nothing major!) helps the attitude a lot because some time it really is about getting the attention she wants (the cuddles and chat at the end of the spanking). Hugging on B and holding her in my lap, heads off a lot of her junk as well.
That said… I’ve walked that long lonely road at 2 so I know what you’re going through! Let me know how I can partner with and support you!
Loved this wisdom. The book “Don’t Make me Count To Three” is on my all time favorite parenting book list!
That book scares me, does it mean I can’t count to three anymore 🙂
Oh the people pleaser that’s hard headed, yes friend, I have that! And I guess b/c of my own childhood experience with the misuse of spanking I’m just incredibly sensitive to doing it. I love the date idea, b/c solo time is so super hard with multiples. I do solo time with each of them at bedtime, but that’s not more than 10 minutes each….
First, I would like to say…I AM NOT AN expert and what works for one child doesn’t always work for the other. I have one HUGE rule follower and one who pushes her limits daily. I also teach and have tried many tricks over the 18 years in the classroom. To start..awesome job on the sticker chart, but I would not cross off. I would focus and give attention to the positive behavior. So one minute they may get a sticker and then the next minute they could be doing something naughty. REALLY REALLY play up when someone gets a sticker and state exactly why they got the sticker. Also, I would focus on one thing. They are little and cannot remember every single thing they are supposed to do so pick ONE thing that needs the most work and go with that. Once that is under your belt go on to the next and add something else. Make sense? So right now my youngest is 3 and she is working on keeping her hand and feet to herself so in the mornings we discuss and I will even praise her for keeping her hands off her sister when things don’t go her way. Kids LOVE positive and really want to do the right things….they just sometimes get caught up in their emotions and aren’t always sure how to handle them!
That is really helpful Courtney – four things probably is too many too tackle, but we’ve been learning those house rules for two years so I was hoping that it would at least be things they were familiar with – albeit pretty vague on the execution. And yes, when I looked them in the eyes last night and told them HOW good they were they just lit up!!!
Do you try to warn them about changes. Mine would flip out about changes so I would say in 5 minutes we clean up, always giving warning. It really help. Also note time of day when they flip out or melt down, could be low blood sugar. When people told me this I said, Yea, right? Well, it did help to give protein snacks, string cheese, nuts, peanut butter and apples. Stay away from carbs and sugar. Try it. I think you will be surprised. I only have 1 child. I knowe how hard it can be and still is as they grow up. Remember to take Mommy time outs. Also children like praise..they do not care if it is positive or negative so try to give positive praise instead of negative. Praise the one who is behaving(hope one is) ha! Good Luck. Remember to pray! You will get thru this stage of life just like all the others.
That’s a good thought about changes, we’re pretty scheduled and if things are going to be different (like school or trip) we do tell them in advance, but there might be small things I could be careful about. (And yes – LOW blood sugar & exhaustion!)
Linda Lamb says
Of course, I had all boys. This age is when they began some sports- soccer specifically. Now there is the gymnastics or tae kwon do or other. All reacted to discipline differently, so finding what mattered most to them to use for removing worked great. Also, if can sit down individually and see what they believe is good behavior or bad behavior just to make sure they know what is expected. You can also ask them what consequences they might give themselves for X and rewards, of course. You will be surprised how hard they can be on themselves and also get some insight on how the little minds work. I had one who always thought about consequences and weighed it before doing something, therefore, punishment was expected and got the” that didn’t hurt”. So, had to find something that would make an impact for him. Another would just react, so had to adjust his to where he would learn self- control. Still another was a bargainer, so had to watch myself that I didn’t get “played”. It is a challenge, but you sure learn a lot more about that individual child and how they think. It is rewarding getting to know the person inside that little body. God gave these to you and know exactly how you would be as parents, the achievements and the flaws, so let Him help you tailor something for each of them. That is what He does with us, right? I know you will come up with something that works perfect for your family.
Oh I know – and it’s so hard to tailor it individually when they are all the same age, like nearly impossible to figure out what works and how to not just end up with the group suffering right along, sigh….
I didn’t read the other comments, so forgive me if this is a repeat. In our house, ‘attitude’ was a discipline issue unto itself. If I heard a tone that was disrespectful or got a look that was disrespectful, there was a consequence. If they had a fit when they were told ‘no’ or a privilege was taken away, that added to the consequence. For example, if they were told they couldn’t have something and they had a tantrum because of it, they were informed that until they could accept a no answer graciously, no would be the only answer they received, because clearly, they needed to practice. You’d be surprised at how well that works once they know you are serious. Four is old enough to understand that. If they complained about a privilege being taken away, I took it away longer or took away an additional privilege. I like real-life consequences as opposed to ‘punishment’. What happens if you get a parking ticket and refuse to pay it? Bring those consequences down to child level. The thing is, they know they have you outnumbered, so you have to outsmart them. Stickers and charts usually lose their novelty quickly. I used role playing a lot to give them a chance to practice how I wanted them to behave. And if they didn’t follow through when the time came? You guessed it, more practice. My kids still remember having to practice pushing a chair under the table without damaging the furniture. Ah, good times.
This is great Sandy, I do have to remember not to be so adult sometimes and to make sure they know that respect is not something we negotiate.
If your kids are saying “that didn’t hurt” when you spank them, then you aren’t spanking hard enough. You shouldn’t spank for every little thing, but when you do it needs to be memorable. When we spank our 3 and 5 year old we take them to a private place and discuss what they did wrong while we undress them. We spank them naked because when we started (at around 2) they were in diapers and spanking through a diaper is pointless. We use a small strap that stings on the bare bottom but doesn’t bruise. Spank them hard enough and long enough until they are truly sorry for what they did. I promise if you try this pretty soon you won’t need to spank them at all.