Moms Columns & Blogs

A quiet riot? How to rectify it

Q. Our 3-year-old daughter makes a complete mess of her room whenever we confine her there for misbehavior. She has very few accessible toys, but will take books off the shelf and clothes out of her chest of drawers, and throw them all over the place. She isn't throwing a tantrum, mind you. She's just passing the time by making a creative mess. Is she too young to be told that she can't come out of there until everything is picked up? Or is there a better way of dealing with this?

This ransacking sure sounds like a form of tantrum to me. I have to believe that although she isn't screaming, that she has discovered a way of protesting her confinement, one that obviously makes you upset.

Your daughter is most definitely not too young to be told that she can't come out of her room until every single item is picked up and put back where it belongs. To make this less overwhelming, remove at least two-thirds of what is in her room. In other words, make it easier for her to perform the task.

From that point on, when you put her in her room, set a timer for fifteen minutes, set it outside her door, and tell her she can come out when the bell rings. Add, “While you're in here, you can throw everything all around if you want to, but you can't come out until everything is picked up.”

When she's picking up the one-third, put more of her stuff back in there. When she's picking up that amount, add in some more and so on until her room is completely restored. By that time, these very quiet but nonetheless rebellious tantrums should have stopped.

Mom disciplines daughter, then divorced dad ignores it

Q. My 15-year-old daughter's grades have dropped this year, and I have taken away most of her privileges. But she spends a few nights a week at her dad's, and he will not follow through with any punishment I levy. I feel like anything I do to try and discipline her is meaningless. Do you have any suggestions?

I reserve the right to respond to certain questions thus: “This is not something you're going to be able to solve; therefore, you're just going to have to muddle through it as best you can.”

You need to accept that in this imperfect situation, the effectiveness of your discipline is limited. I'm not saying that you should not give up the good fight. But when you ground your daughter, do so knowing that she is going to be set free when she's with her dad. Stay the course with humility and grace. There is some possibility that she will, as an adult, thank you for your efforts.