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How Do You Respond to a Child Who Issues Continuous Demands and Hates Everything?

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  • How Do You Respond to a Child Who Issues Continuous Demands and Hates Everything?

    I have a new three-year-old who has been isolated since infancy. The child is not acclimating easily to sharing space and activities with other human beings. That's to be expected. However, what I'm dealing with is a constant stream of complaints and demands. Whether that's because the parents drop everything to cater to the child's whims, or because the child is feeling insecure, can't place the source of their discomfort, and is misattributing it to whatever the current activity is, I don't know.

    For instance, the child complains of being tired all throughout the day. The child does not nap at home and will not nap here. When the child is put down to nap, they announce "I'm not tired." They don't appear to be sleepy.

    We also have a constant steady stream of "I'm hungry," "I want to go for a walk," and "I need to go potty." When food is provided, it's immediately rejected. When the meal is over and the plates are cleared, food is immediately demanded again. We spent today's walk listening to "I don't want to go for a walk" along the entire route, then went home to play in the yard, where the mantra was "I want to go for a walk." We went inside early because of a false potty alert. As soon as we were inside, the complaint was that they wanted to play in the yard again.

    I got Play-Doh out for the child's request, put it on the table, and the child burst into tears and started yelling that they didn't want Play-Doh. I put the Play-Doh away, they burst into tears again and yelled that they did want Play-Doh. I tried to put them down for a nap and checked their temperature. No nap, no temperature. The screaming tears are new but the constant back-and-forth is just the same old thing.

    What would you do? Just stop responding entirely? Say something like, "I hear you," and move on? Repeat the child's request back by saying "I'm sorry that you're hungry," and then ignoring? Explanations seem to just bounce right off this one, so there's no point in saying "since we already ate, we are not having another snack."I'm sticking to my regular schedule without adjusting things per the demands, and I know that I am more annoyed than I should be, particularly because this child has a droning, whiny voice. That's not their fault. But I noticed today that I'm starting to snap, and I need a better response.
    Last edited by Pestle; 4 weeks ago.

  • #2
    Go. Play. Toys.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Cat Herder View Post
      Go. Play. Toys.
      OK, but this kid is worse at playing with toys than any other kid I've ever had…
      The only toy they want is the toy that another kid has. They cannot find anything that holds their interest long enough to engage with it, except for (drum roll) a wad of Play-Doh with plastic scissors. They sit and cut little snippets into their lap. That's the only activity they actually want to engage with and they usually don't want that, either.
      Last edited by Pestle; 4 weeks ago.

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      • #4
        You poor thing!

        It sounds like he wants some sort of control, maybe?

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        • #5
          I have a picture schedule that tells them what we are doing next. Centers, Art table, Circle rug, Kitchen for Meals, Play Ground, Ball Field, Deck table for dough/sensory bins, Sandbox, Water table, Creek, etc. We follow it every day.

          My toys are set up in 5 centers, each with a 4x6 rug that the child must stay on while they are in that center. Every 30 minutes, they rotate centers for two, one hour periods per day (each child hits 4 centers, per day, then begin with the one they missed the next day).

          The infants have their own centers with baby gates that lock. When there are no infants, there are 7 centers. 6 kids total.

          Every time she would ask me to do something else, I would point to the schedule and timer. At 3, she would be one of the oldest and expected to follow directions. If she refused, she would go to the quiet spot with manipulatives until she got over it and was ready to join back in.
          Last edited by Cat Herder; 4 weeks ago.

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          • #6
            "Im sorry your (hungry, tired, bored). Please go find your basket" I had this kid. I gave him a basket with three toys (that could be played anywere) a pillow, and a few fidgets. When he would kick it up, he was told to go to his mat with his basket. He would sit on his carpet square and play with his basket. If he chose to sit there and whine, fine. When he would call out "IM HUNGRY" or whatever I would respond, "Lunch is at _______ time" "outside is at _______time" ect.

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            • #7
              Perhaps your "broken record" could be reframing the child's choices into pointing out that they have a choice. For example, "you are choosing to not eat lunch, so you'll get hungry." When lunch is over, "your choice made you hungry." When complaining about an activity; eg. a walk "you are choosing to be unhappy about our walk," when child complains about the walk being over, "you seem sad about finishing our walk, it's sad that you chose to complain instead of enjoying it, you chose to be unhappy." For the playdough example, perhaps you put the playdough out and say "you can choose to play with this or not; only you have the choice to be happy about it." I like the idea of the child having a basket with items that they can use; perhaps give them the basket at the start of free play and let them choose 3-5 items to put in basket so they have control over what they choose. As to outside time, if child visits the bathroom prior, then when they want to go inside again, just tell her/him "no, everyone else wants to be outside, you can choose something to do."

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              • Blackcat31
                Blackcat31 commented
                Editing a comment
                I love the idea of stating the fact that the child's choice has created X or Y situation. I like the idea of instilling some idea of personal responsibility in regards to choices people make and that they have the opportunity to make different choices if they want a certain outcome.
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