I am at a loss with my four year old daughter. Spanking isn't working. My husband and I agreed that we would spank only for lying and defiance and set ground rules and expectations with my daughter long ago for that. Here is the problem, spanking tends to make the problem worse. Example: she was told tonight that she was going to pick up her room before dinner. She responded by throwing a hard, plastic toy at me, so I spanked her. She cried, she screamed and then walked out of her room and threw the same toy at my head again. I spanked her again, again with a firm "we don't throw things". I also took the offending toy away. At this point she began to throw all of her things, pillows, blankets, toys, everything, out of her room at me. I spanked her again, feeling useless, and removed everything from her room. Everything. It fixed the short term problem, as she no longer could take her anger out on anything if she has nothing, but I am so afraid that this will not be effective in the long run. What do I do when this strategy doesn't work? She is bright and cooperative at school, deserving only an occasional timeout, so why is it that she lashes out at my husband and me?


It appears your daughter is picking up some bad habits from the daycare you are leaving her in. It is hard to establish good habits when poorer habits are tolerated or overlooked when she is in another environment.

I usually don't recommend spanking for lying because you are using the severest punishment when milder punishments can be equally effective. Many children go through a phase where they "try out" lying. Often the lies are ridiculous and transparent. They need to be punished and should be punished immediately. But a good way of handling such lying is to figure out what the child is hoping to gain from the lie and then remove the benefit. For example, if she tells you she is going to bed, but then stays up, she not only goes to bed immediately but bedtime just became earlier the next day. Just remember, though, that delayed or long term punishments aren't effective with a four-year-old. Their memory isn't that long yet.

Spanking for violence and defiance when the child knows she is being defiant is effective if consistently applied. It doesn't matter if you have to spank her ten times in a row, children are smart. If they see that each act of violence (throwing a toy) brings the same result (a spanking), she'll give up.

From your description, I'm left with the impression that you were allowing yourself to get angry, and impassioned while she was having her temper-tantrum. Thus you gave her what she wanted. She was mad and she got you to join in. You're taking things too personally. She chose to be violent. You delivered an appropriate punishment. It ought to be done calmly and firmly -- each and every time. It isn't about you, it is about teaching her to behave properly when things don't go her way.

In this particular case taking objects away for her to throw doesn't really teach her restraint. If she throws a toy at you, then spank her. Put her down and repeat your order to pick up the toys. When she does it again, do the same thing. Don't take the toy away because you then picked up the toys for her! I also notice that you let her leave the room without picking up her toys. It would have been better if you just picked her up and put her back into the room. You are bigger than your four-year-old, so I'm sure it isn't that difficult to insist that she do as she is told. Again, it should all be done in a calm, matter-of-fact, but firm manner. And when she does start to do as she is told, reward her with some mild praise.