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My 3 year old daughter is not a morning person. I make her go to bed for 8:00 - 8:30 p.m. I have to fight with her just about every morning whrn I wake her up at 7:00 a.m. She screams and pulls at herself for hours. She doesn't give up. Sometimes she screams for so long that she is soaking wet by the time she does calm down. I tried a punish stool but she seems to like it. She asks to stay on longer. During her tantrums, she even looks scary. I don't know what to do with her. My husband doesn't have as much trouble with her as I do. I am much stricter with her. I take her things from her to punish when she doesn't listen. I don't know what to do anymore. Help!!


Sally Goldberg, Ph.D. Replied: Hi Mom, Help is on the way! This is one of those cases where you and your husband have to stop almost everything you are doing and start again. It is time to develop a brand new structure for your family life. There are many different ways to build a positive relationship with your daughter together as partners. This is not an instant cure, but it is the exact right way to do it. There are "15 Pillars of Parenting" in a book called Constructive Parenting. There are four preparations to follow at all times. "Set up for success" is one of them. There are five attitudes for handling all diffiult situations and trying to get through them. They start with "Separate the behavior from the child." Then there are six techniques to use directly with "mistaken behavior," (the new name for "misbehavior.") I can provide you with a lot more information related to all of this on my website at and on my blogs at and The more you and your family all build together new and enjoyable positive interactions, the less you will all be bothered by this currently stressful situation.
Posted On 2008-03-16 17:19:05
Pamela Waterman Replied: My sympathies! Our oldest daughter was not (still is not,at 18) a morning person. We actually visited a developmental psychologist for ideas when she was three, and she explained that our daughter did not transition well. Lightbulbs went on for us as she said that transitioning from the sleep state to being awake is one of the greatest transitions you can make in a day. Her suggestions: bring her a small glass of juice, setting it at the bedside and just saying, I've brought some juice for you. I'll turn on your music (tape-player) and be back in five minutes. A child's natural blood sugar can be low in the morning, and for our daughter it gave her that little jump start she needed. It was also important that we left her to wake up in her own way. You can go back after five minutes and perhaps turn on a little light, then leave again. Our daughter would then come out when she had had the juice and bring us the glass, but we still didn't try to have long conversations, just the basics about what needed to be done. To this day, she does not want to talk to anyone for at least 30 minutes after getting up, but she gets dressed and gets ready for the day, then is finally willing to communicate. Also, here is a brief suggestion summarized from one of my favorite resources, the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (buy it!) On pg. 30-32, there's an example of a parent coming in on her 3-year-old who is having a tantrum (and Dad doesn't know what to do). She brought over a pad of paper and a pencil, and said, "Show me how angry you are - draw a picture of the way you feel." He jumped up and drew angry circles, saying, "This is how angry I am!" She said, "You really ARE angry!, tore off the page, and said "Show me more." He scribbled, and again the Mom said, "Boy, THAT angry!" They did it again, and with the fourth page, he was definitely calmer. He looked at it a long time, then on his own said, "Now I show my happy feelings" and drew a smiley face. He had gone from angry to happy because the Mom let him show how he felt in way he could manage - with a pencil - and she simply paid attention. Many times it works to ignore them, but perhaps in this case, you can just watch. So, juice, a little soft music (favorite music tape or CD?), and some time to get going on her terms - I hope these ideas help. Remember, a lot of adults are not morning people, and they have to come from somewhere. Oh, is she heading to a daycare? (ours was) If so, perhaps setting a timer will help, if you're on a schedule. Hearing the timer go can work better than hearing you say, Time to go. Good luck.
Posted On 2006-09-17 00:41:28
Brenda Nixon, M.A. Replied: Thank you for writing. I read several possible issues in your story: temperament, tantrums, discipline, and parenting style. First, it may be her inborn temperament to be a slow-to-warm-up. If that's the case, relax and give her time to wake up. Don't talk or try to engage her in an activity for a while each morning. I feel this may be temperament because you said she likes sitting on the stool - that stool gives her private, undisturbed time and that is what she's needing each morning anyhow. If your daughter is slow-to-warm-up, it simply means she takes more time to embrace new stimuli (or situations) such as a new day. She may never be a "morning" person. For more info on inborn temperaments, see the "Temperaments" article on my website. You might also find it helpful to put her to bed earlier, thus giving her more time to relax and sleep. On page 89 of my book, I give some developmental guidelines for young chldren. A 3-year-old generally needs about 10 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. If she's giving up daytime naps, then she needs to get those sleep hours overnight. Second, it's possible her tantrums are just for manipulation. Any attention from you, even negative warnings or reprimands, are interpreted by her as attention. If you can ignore her tantrum (providing she's not injuring herself or others), you'll see her begin to calm down and realize she can't get your attention via outbursts. She does, by your own words, calm down...eventually, so she has the capabity to control her own emotions. Third, discipline is about teaching. What are you teaching your daughter? When she gets tantrums and you give attention, you are teaching her the way to get you upset is to act out. When she screams and you react, you are teaching her that screaming is another way to push your buttons. That's why you ignore it. Then you teach her that you can't be manipulated by her behavior. At her age, words should be used to express frustration - not behavior. So I'd encourage you to help her use words to tell you what she's feeling. Reading aloud to children is a marvelous way of teaching new words. There are wonderful children's books about emotions at your public library. check them out and read aloud to her at bedtime. Fourth, parenting style often resolves or reinforces a child's behavior. Perhaps when you say, "I don't know what to do" you feel helpless and cave in. This further confuses a child. Parent must be in control - of themselves and of the situation. If a child senses the parent has lost control, it is frightening. Your husband's style must be different if he "doesn't have as much trouble with her." Remember 3-year-olds like to make decisions. If possible, offer her two acceptable choices and let her choose. Don't argue with her decision. Sometimes this is a helpful way to get preschoolers to cooperate while respecting their need to feel independent.
Posted On 2006-09-15 14:09:37
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