How do you deal with a kid who does not care about consequences for their bad behavior?
Just to be clear right from the start, Marissa does understand the concepts of good and bad behavior and good and bad consequences for such behavior. She just doesn't care. It would be a totally different situation if she did not understand but she does.
She has been exhibiting "terrible two" behavior and attitude for about the last year. She throws toys and tantrums, hits us, disobeys us while looking us directly in the eyes and just generally tries to assert her independence. The most frustrating thing is when she throws stuff and hits. Drives me CRAZY!! We have discovered that, a lot of the time, she throws and hits because she is excited and does not know how to channel her emotion any other way.
For example, just this morning, Jeremy got her out of bed and she came running into our room yelling "Mama Mama!!!" like she was excited to see me. I got her up in my lap and asked her for a hug and a kiss. She hugged me and when she pulled back, she put both her hands up like she was going to slap me. I gave her a disapproving look and she did not slap me. But then, with a big grin on her face, she reared her hand back and shoved her finger into my eye! OUCH!! All because she was excited. After the pain wore off enough, I picked her up and told her that I understood she was excited to see me but that it was not OK to hurt me. I asked her to say sorry and she did. Then about three minutes later, she cold cocked me upside the head with her puppy that has big bean bag feet. I still don't know why. UGH!! I understand this behavior is a little different than her just blatantly disobeying but it is still frustrating.
So, back on topic about when she directly disobeys. This kid does not care about consequences. At. All. We have tried everything. Time out, taking toys away, not allowing her to watch her videos or listen to her music, spanking. Yes, I believe in spanking. Of course, only when it is not done in anger and only as a last resort when nothing else will get her attention. But even that does not get her attention! She will cry for a moment and then be fine and go right back to her bad behavior. She even laughs when she is in time out.
Negative consequences are given to adjust negative behavior. This kid will literally watch you as you take all of her toys away, turn off the music or video and not give a rip. She will sit in a completely empty room with no toys or anything fun and be perfectly happy to play with her fingers and toes and talk to herself. I guess I should be happy that she is resourceful and does not require things to entertain her, but it sure is frustrating when NOTHING makes an impact on her to make her change her bad behavior.
We do give her positive consequences when she behaves. For example, if she puts her upstairs toys away in the morning before we go downstairs for the day, she gets to watch Elmo or Signing Time, which is equivalent to heaven for her. If she cooperates during her feeding or her cares, she gets to go outside and play. She receives positive reinforcement all the time from us for the good things she does.
But she seems to thrive on the bad behavior. Admittedly, Jeremy and I do sometimes react in a way we shouldn't, out of frustration. We will lose our tempers with her, more often than we should. We know she likes to see if she can get a rise out of us. We understand that we are just fueling her bad behavior when we do this and it is something that we both work on every day. But what are we supposed to do when we are doing all the right things and she still does not care about the negative consequences? How will her bad behavior change if she does not care?
I have a theory that she is indifferent to negative consequences because she feels she has some control over the situation that way. I think Marissa has been negatively impacted enough by her rough start in life by people constantly manipulating her and poking and prodding her. She had no control in those situations and there are certain times she still has no control when we need to do things to her and for her. If that makes any sense? We do try to involve her in things like her cares and feedings by having her get things for us and such. But I still think she feels a lack of control in these situations, so her not reacting to punishment is her way of "being in control". I don't know if this makes any sense. ???
I mostly typed this out of my own frustration this morning (this blogging thing sure is a good outlet!! :). But I would like to know if any of you out there have any tips, advice or best practices you could share. Do any of you have a kid that could care less about negative consequences? How do you handle things?
*Edit* As I was about to hit publish, she came up to me and threw her Dr. Seuss book at me! UGH!!!