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Curb Behavior With Alpha Speech

Question

My son is 3-years-old and is a sweet boy and had a pretty good first two and a half years. Three months ago he started bluntly saying "No" to us and being more aggressive towards his brother, and whining a lot. Our 4-year-old was aggressive with him before trying to compete for our attention (which we are already in the process of fixing with your advice including kicking him out of the Garden of Eden with the three strikes). Anyway, I wonder if the same technique can be used with a three-year-old, such that he stays in his room for the whole day, or what other advice you would recommend so that these behaviors don't increase with age.

Answer

Thank you for your question and concern about your son. Let’s focus on curbing these behaviors that are unacceptable so that as you said, “you could have a more pleasant three-year-old.”

In Mr. Rosemond’s book, The Well-Behaved Child, it references that the starting age for the ticket system and getting kicked out of the Garden is about 3.5 years old. Do realize that this can swing either way a little bit. Also, you referenced you are already using these systems with your older son. Remember one of Mr. Rosmond’s points is to not ‘bite off more than you can chew’. Meaning if you have all these systems and behaviors for multiple children it can be overwhelming for everyone and then nothing gets accomplished. So stick to what you have in place for your older son until those behavior(s) are under control. Once they are then you can focus on one or two of your younger son behaviors to get them under control; if there are any. Mr. Rosmond also, points out that if you have 10 behaviors you want to be corrected, when you focus on 1 or 2, soon you only have 6. Meaning that some behaviors get corrected during this process without you focusing on them. As the parent, you need to stay focused on one task and complete it before you move on to the next.

In the meantime, my recommendation for your younger son is to stand your ground on behaviors you will not tolerate or that are unacceptable to you. Using “Alpha Speech” (calm, direct, authoritative speech that leaves the child with no doubt as to what you expect and that you mean what you say) can be powerful and effective. You will not see improvement until your son realizes that his behavior will not be tolerated anymore. Alpha Speech and consistency is key.

When your son ‘bluntly says no’ turn to him and using Alpha Speech say something along the line of, “You will not say no to mommy. From now on you will reply with yes ma’am and do what is asked.” Then, walk away - don't turn around (this is so that it sinks in that you mean business and that he doesn’t have an audience to do one of the gazillion things 3yrs do when they don’t get their way. Hence if he does something, ignore and don’t give attention to it.)

Regarding the whining, you can do something similar as referenced above. When your son responds with whining you will respond using Alpha Speech: “You are 3 years old and know how to talk. You will TALK to me. I do not whine to you and I will not accept you whining to me.” And then walk away or turn around. If he gets loud and disruptive tell him to go to his room immediately; you may have to escort him yourself. If so, make it swift, short, and sweet.

Regarding the aggression towards his brother, I am not sure what target goals you have for the older brother and if ‘aggression’ or ‘aggression towards brother’ is one of them. If it is you could have it apply to both boys. I do want to point out that aggression can be broad in definition, try and be more specific i.e. no hitting OR no pushing OR no snatching toys. Whatever it is that they are specifically doing to each other that is unacceptable and you want to be stopped. Then I would inform the boys that whenever ‘aggression towards brother’ happens BOTH of them will lose a ticket. Regardless of who started it, who is crying, whining, etc.

You got this! It can seem tough with two boys at times, but be diligent and stay determined.

Amy Timberlake
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach

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