Knowledgeability Clarity of Response Politeness
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Comment: Thank you Ms Keller for the prompt reply. Your response was one that I had not thought and was not told about either. I did not realize a lot of the things you mentioned I was doing. I am going to try some of the ideas you mentioned. I will also contact his pediatrician about his throwing up. Once again thank you.
Subject: 2yr old son cries so hard that he throws up every time
Question: Hello Ms. Keller,
I am writing to you regarding my 2 year old son. He seems to be very stubborn in everything.
We were told to let him cry for a while, and he will finally give in. He is so stubborn, that he will keep crying at the top of his lungs until either we let him have his way or he throws up. The throwing up is what usually ends up happening.
I also have a 4yr old daughter, with whom we had no problems until the stubbornness of my son started affecting her. She has to give in to all his demands just so that he doesn’t cry and throw up.
Also, he hits her a lot, and when we try to discipline him, again the crying and the throwing up occur. We have tried explaining things to him in a loving manner, giving him hugs and kisses to explain wrong behavior, giving time outs, but nothing seems to work.
An example of his stubbornness was when he was throwing a book on the floor. I tried explaining to him that he could not do that and that he has to pick it up. He picked it up, but then right away threw it down again and looked at me. Again I told him nicely, to pick it up, and again he did so, but to throw it down harder this time. I then told him that he was going to get a time out if he threw it again, which he did. He did get a time out for 2 minutes, and had to pick the book up, and once again threw it.
This went on for another 10 times till finally I was fed up, and picked the book up myself and put it away. And now he wanted the book back, for which he cried and kept crying till he threw up because I did not give the book to him. I was explaining to him during his crying that I was not giving it to him because he kept throwing it, but the explaining did nothing for him.
Is there any other way of teaching him so that he doesn’t cry and that he learns not to be so stubborn? Is it normal for a child to cry so much that he throws up (He cries and throws up within 3-5 minutes of starting)? I would really appreciate any advise on this matter.
Answer: Dear Joana:
I hope whoever told you to let him cry it out for awhile did not share this advice with you when he was younger.
First of all let’s deal with your perspective of him. Stubborn is such a NEGATIVE label. He is strong willed and strong wills are a good thing in a child. When he is strong willed he will not be influenced by others who make bad decisions and are easily swayed by popular opinions.
Please drop the negative labels now while you are ahead.
Next, any child who throws up when the don’t get their own way needs to be seen by a GOOD pediatrician or a child therapist. This is not okay and you should be concerned about his health more than whether or not he is getting his own way.
NOW let’s deal with the interaction between you and your son. You are both engaged in a POWER STRUGGLE and it sounds like he is winning. The solution is simple, LET GO!
Stop focusing on how “stubborn” he is and just get down to being the adult in the relationship.
Set up three rules. He may not hurt himself, he may not hurt anyone else and he may not destroy things. These three rules cover the essentials in life. Anything else is negotiable.
This brings me to point number two. Sometimes parents engage in negative power struggles with their children over everything. Pick your battles wisely. Give him more choices so he feels some power in his little life.
Let him choose which cereal he wants for breakfast. Let him choose which clothes to wear for the day, which story you read, which toys he will play with etc…start by giving him two choices between two items you can live with (this is how you stay in control). CAUTION never, never give a child choices you do not want him to choose. They have little radars that will naturally gravitate towards the choice you do not want them to make.
FINALLY: When a child and a parent are engaged in negative interactions it becomes a situation where there is all negative and very little positive.
When he does something wrong let him know it was wrong, why it was wrong and then MOVE ON. The more time he spends in time out etc…the more he will do what you do not want him to do.
FOCUS your attention and your energy on catching him doing “good” behavior. Let him know with more energy and more attention that his good behavior is good than you do with the “bad” behavior. If you do this successfully you will both get through this time.
Also, he sounds frustrated. Find books and games which help him develop a wide range of feeling vocabulary. He needs to learn to use his words versus acting out. This is particularly important to his emotional intelligence.
That you posted here shows how fortunate he is to have a mom who cares so much about him!
M Kay Keller