Sorry folks, this is LONG. Please bear with me. I could use some help.
So I am in need of some perspective as well as some tips on how to deal with my difficult 3.5 yr old boy.
He has always been a bit difficult. He was always this high energy, squirmy, resistant to sleep/naps, always-doing-the-opposite-of-what-you-ask-him-to-do kind of kid.
[He can also be super sweet, intelligent and thoughtful when he wants to be...]
Back to his behavior: Some of this is typical 3 year old stuff...some of it isn't (at least I don't think it is). Here are a few things he's done in the past few days (or just does frequently throughout the day) that drive me crazy...
-he will go up to his 16 month old brother and hold him by the neck (from behind) and essentially makes him fall down - kind of like a loose headlock. I don't think it is entirely mean-spirited but I have told him many times in the past to not hold his baby brother's neck because he will fall...he continues to do it.
-When he is walking or running, about 50% of the time, he will plow through other kids or his little brother, he won't go around them. The other 50% of the time, he will make some attempt to move out of the way, but it still won't be in time and he ends up bumping into other children. He is a solid boy so that usually ends up with the other child/ren crying.
-He screams for fun and when we ask him to use an inside voice, he disregards us. Sometimes he will make an attempt to be quieter, but a minute later, he is at it again. He thinks it is funny.
-When he gets upset, he throws things. Today I was reading him a bedtime book and he was playing with a balloon and making all kinds of noise. So I told him I wasn't going to read the book if he was making so much noise. He continued so I ended the book early. He was upset so he grabbed the book and it ended up hitting me in the face. I think he meant to just throw it but I was right in front of him so it landed squarely in my face. This did not go over well with me and I ended up swatting him on the butt and sending him to bed without any books or snuggling.
-During bathtime today, he was sitting down in the tub while his younger brother was standing next to him. He grabbed his younger brother by one leg and started pulling. I told him to stop and explained to him that his little brother could fall and get hurt. He yanked one more time.
-He constantly leans on people. He doesn't know how to sit in his own chair. He has to lean on the person next to him. He does this with teachers, classmates, myself, his father, anyone. When he was younger, it was a cute quirk but we still always tried to tell him to sit in his own chair and not to lean. Now that he is bigger..the leaning is just obnoxious.
He attends a Montessori school 5 days a week. We just had parent-teacher conferences and the teacher mentioned this as something the he does to the other kids...that we should work on.
I think the biggest thing that upsets and worries me is the fact that he is always doing the opposite of what we ask him to do. By always, I mean ALWAYS. We make it a point to ask him nicely but after the umpteenth time of asking him...we have to resort to threats, which I hate doing. But it seems to be the only thing that works...Is is normal for a parent to ask a child to do something and have them either completely ignore you or outright be defiant?
Almost everything from putting his socks and shoes on to him feeding himself dinner, to just simply saying HI to somebody (all things I know he CAN do, but he won't) have become such a battle...I hate admitting this but for the past year, I LOVED my son but I didn't really like him.
Can anyone provide any insight on this age group? I know the "threenager" period isn't fun, but i just want to make sure my son isn't borderline in need of some sort of help.
grapefruit / 4731 posts
How is his communication skills?
I found this book helpful
Having a spirited boy is tough. Our 2.5 year old definitely pushes his limits but so far it's been manageable... though I think it will get tougher when little brother comes around his 3rd bday.
pomegranate / 3791 posts
He sounds a LOT like my nephew at that age who, to be honest, I really think my SIL needs to take to a behavioral pediatrician or something like that, because the older he gets the worse it has gotten and the more physical harm he is causing to others. Although in his case he is more intentionally mean (hitting old people for saying hi to him, for example...yeah, it's bad.)
I may be projecting a bit here based on the problems I've seen with him, but just in case it applies here I'll say that for her the biggest thing that is lacking seems to be consistency when he is acting up and letting him basically be in control instead of her.
I only have an 18 month old, but I've been reading Love and Logic, and it has some really helpful strategies that I think could help with some of these things. Some examples would be showing him a clock and explaining that when it says X time, dinner is over and no more food until the next meal, or you're leaving the house and if he doesn't put his coat and shoes on he's going to get cold, or he has until then to pick up his toys or you'll pick them up for him and then they get put away for one day where he can't play with them, etc. Basically, letting natural consequences occur.
Another thing it talks about I'm already finding useful is that kids don't always need a warning - he knows that pulling on his brother's leg could hurt him, that throwing things is wrong, etc. if my son throws a toy, he loses it for the rest of the day. If he does something that he knows could hurt his little brother he is immediately taken to his room for some alone time since he isn't playing nicely. Same goes for yelling when it's extreme. If he plows through other kids, grab his hand and make him wait for the other kids to go first since he can't go through without bumping into them. Basically, just be really firm and consistent and stop giving him the many chances and warnings that he is clearly taking advantage of.
That was long and I hope it doesn't sound too harsh! It was just done stuff from the book that I filed away in my brain for future use.
admin / watermelon / 14210 posts
i found raising boys to be helpful:
The whole book isn't great, but there are some really interesting points in it so it was worth reading for me. Also the techniques in the book raindrop linked to really do work. I was constantly threatening Charlie and raising my voice, and that always has the opposite effect. Lately I've made a huge effort not to raise my voice at all, and it's really had a dramatic impact on how well Charlie listens (of course it's still a daily challenge for him). He has to feel super bonded to us in order to behave better. They say you should have 15 minutes of quality time every day (one on one) where you do what they want to do.
When he was three, he had explosive tantrums where he would throw things against the wall. He is actually a really sensitive little fellow. Now he is almost 5 and he never does that anymore. The 3's really were tough... I hope that your son grows out of it like Charlie does. I sometimes wondered if something was wrong too, but it does get better.
apricot / 456 posts
Why fight you on things that are painless for him to do, or even benefit him? Because it's not about what you're asking him to do. He isn't weighing pros and cons and choosing what's in his best interest. And in a way, that's sort of a relief--odds are that he isn't trying to hurt his brother, for instance. I think a lot of parents misdiagnose the problem by thinking, "He's doing what he wants to do, and his will just happens to be contrary to ours." I think that's projecting more rationality...more responsibility...onto the kid than is deserved.
He isn't acting out. He is reacting. It doesn't matter what you ask or how you ask or when you ask. It doesn't matter if he completely, totally understands your request. This all comes down to a power struggle. On some subconscious level, he needs to know who is in charge. Because if YOU are in charge, he can feel safe. He can feel taken care of. But if you aren't in charge, somebody has to be, and he assumes that somebody is him (and that's not a healthy thing, for a variety of reasons). This struggle manifests itself in acts of defiance. He's a rebel without a cause, and he will defy you just to defy you because he's testing the fences. You may say, "I'm the parent. I'm responsible. I'm in control," but actions tell the real truth. He doesn't want to be in control, to be honest. It's a huge psychological burden and he actually wants someone in his life to take that on. But he can't express those feelings because he doesn't even understand them fully himself.
Your kid gets what he wants most of the time, right? Anything to stave off a meltdown or give you five minutes of peace for your own sanity. So you would think that a person who gets what they want all the time would be happy. But your son isn't happy, is he? This highlights something that is counter intuitive about parenting a young kid--the more you give into them, the less happy they become. Conversely, becoming more strict and denying him more things will actually put him in a healthier frame of mind and give him greater happiness. So you need to make some serious changes here, NOT just because you need to protect your younger LO, not just because it would make your life easier, but ultimately because your son's behavior is self-destructive and hurts himself most of all.
Now, if you accept the armchair psychology I just told you (or you at least want to test it to find out if there's any truth in it), the first thing you need to sit down with your husband and ask yourselves, how are you going to assert your dominance? Think about Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer. He treats dogs based on the natural social hierarchy that goes on in their packs. Because dogs are social animals. But guess what? Humans are, too. And there must be a hierarchy in your family. If you don't know who is in charge, it's not you. If you don't FEEL like you're in charge, it's not you. So you and your husband need to find a method of training. I say training and not discipline because discipline implies a very short-term goal and can be administered in a very isolated kind of way. But what you want to do is think about the big picture. If you don't use an ACTION to back up your words, your son is not going to respond. And in a way, it makes you into a kind of liar when you say, "Put your shoes on," but both of you know that a) you don't actually mean that he must do it the first time you say it and b) nothing of any real significance will happen if he defies you. Along this vein, I would try to dial back the yelling. Kids aren't deaf. Yelling does not help him or you. I would actually use a lower tone of voice than normal, to keep yourself from yelling and to grab his attention. Speak softly and carry a big stick, as the saying goes. Let the consequence for his actions be what motivates him to obey you. Stay calm. Expect first time obedience and do not repeat yourself. Dole out consequences when he disrespects or defies you.
So, what are the consequences? Personally, I'm a big believer in spanking. But it can't just be a swat. You have to spank calmly, without any anger, but hard enough to cause some pain, and continue the spanking until you hear the defiance leave your son's cries and see a real change in his attitude. Not all parents can do this...they either can't keep their own emotions out of the equation or they break down and don't spank long enough and consistantly enough to make a difference. So if you want to be a non-spanking parent who uses time outs, you can try that instead. I get that. But if you do time outs, you are still going to need a hell of a lot of resolve. You are still going to need to buck up and not use time outs as a "Okay, you've spent three minutes in the corner" ridiculousness but instead use REAL time outs. That means keeping him in time out (restraining him if necessary) until you see a genuine change in his attitude, where his anger/defiance/sullenness has disappeared and been replaced by a submissive/kind/relaxed demeanor. Spanking or time outs, the same rule goes: if you are not consistent with giving them, or if you end them prematurely before you see a complete change in attitude, the behavior will just get worse instead of better. Because you haven't really established your role as the one in charge. There was a test of wills, of who could win out in end, of who is really in charge of this pack, and you lost. So the spiral continues. You must show this rebel without a cause that you are made of stronger stuff. You will withstand the screaming, hitting, or whatever else he throws at you in a last ditch effort to hold onto this unhealthy dominant role he has seized for himself. You will win. Because you are the parent, and you being in charge is what is ultimately in his best interest.
Here comes the hardest part. To do this, you have to shift your entire mindset. You've lowered the bar, you see. Things have gotten so bad that you only react when his behavior is really terrible. That's completely understandable, but to change his behavior, you have to go back to what is CAUSING it. You have get to the root of it and stop it before it manifests in an action. And what's causing it? Defiance. Attitude. The moment you see him shifting into an unhealthy mindset, you need to administer consequences. Watch him like a hawk. Keep him close to you throughout the day. He's created an unhealthy emotional cycle, and with a little practice, you'll be able to spot the warning signs. Maybe it'll seem like his behavior has clouded over; he might be looking this way and that, as if searching for something to do that would cause a reaction from you; he might narrow his eyes and start breathing heavy with the power of the defiant emotions he's feeling. All of this happens BEFORE he speaks angry words or does hurtful things. You need to say, "______, that attitude is defiant and hurtful to the people who love you. I want to play with you, but I can't do that until your heart is kind and gentle." Or however you want to say it. Then immediately give him the consequences, not reintroducing him back into your family until that ugliness has fully dissipated. Every single time.
Never let a disrespectful word or disobedient action go without consistent consequences. Especially at first, which why I'd start this process when you have a few days to yourselves at home. You may feel like you're a mean mommy who is not getting any results by punishing him all the time--don't give up! He didn't build up this emotional cycle in a day, and it isn't going to go away overnight. I'd say two weeks minimum before you start to see results, maybe even a month. And let's say you've been sticking with it for a while and things are drastically better...if you get to that point, please don't fall into the trap of thinking you'll be able to stop doing this and keep these results up. It's like dieting--fad diets don't work, you have to change your lifestyle. Even if he gets to a really wonderful point where he's doing what he's asked the first time most of the time, etc. he's still going to test those fences, because that's only natural.
The final thing I want to say is this. You might be thinking, "My son is never going to obey me the first time, it's impossible to hold him to that standard and punish him when he doesn't obey." I understand why you might think that, but please consider that you may be underestimating your son. You are undervaluing what he is capable of. If he really is as smart and loving as you know him to truly be, he will rise to the occasion. At this time he is incapable of calming himself down or doing what you ask the first time or what have you because he is under the spell of an emotionally damaging cycle that arose from a certain set of environmental conditions. But if you change the rules of the game, if you raise the bar, he will adapt. He will react differently than he has a million times before because you have given him new parameters to work with. And that's really an amazing prospect.
cantaloupe / 6017 posts
I have found Janet lansbury's work (her website and her book) to be extremely helpful. My perspective is generally that children are just constantly testing boundaries, and in at way asking us to be clear about where the boundaries are.
The phrase I use is "I know you are having fun making that noise, but it hurts my ears. I'm not going to let you make that noise." If he makes it again, I would remove the balloon. And say "I'm not going to let you make that noise, would you like to finish our book?" Then maybe "you are sad that I took away the balloon, but I'm not going to let you make that noise while we read."
Honestly, for me the hardest part is my own self control and regulation. All of that boundary testing can feel like they are intentionally pushing our buttons. But the goal of "discipline" is to teach boundaries, and help children learn how to develop internal discipline. I'm not a believer in punishment at this age, rather in teaching.
Good luck, I know it can be hard.
wonderful pear / 26210 posts
I had a long talk with my son's teacher about a week ago about the very same thing...the leaning. My son will be 4 in a few weeks, and it's one of those things that kind of came out of nowhere.
What worked for one situation was actually assigned seating. At dismissal, my son couldn't handle the random seating, so once he was assigned a seat, the problem resolved itself. He used to lean on or sit on the other person that tried to sit on the same bench as he did, but now, he knows he sits next to L and it's not a problem any more.
He also leans on the person before or behind in line, we're actively working on that...it seems that happens when they have to go somewhere that he isn't interested in.
wonderful grape / 20453 posts
Have you checked into any of the Love and Logic concepts? People rave about them (including my therapist, who works with a lot of families since it's her specialty) and I've been reading the book for future battles with E. I like the approach a lot. It's hard to do a 180 on how you treat and raise your son, but it can be done and he will change, too You got this!
persimmon / 1458 posts
Sending you a virtual hug because we are dealing with some similar issues with our 3 year old. I don't have advice because we are struggling to find something that works but I do know our lack of consistency is a problem and my husband and I have different philosophies and we are trying to come together but it is hard. Being a parent is really tough! I thought the newborn stage was tough but the threenager years have proven to be the hardest!
grapefruit / 4800 posts
Eye contact while you say things helps a lot. That way they have to stop what they're doing and actually come and talk to you. I do believe in warning kids because kids are kids and they have mistakes to make it and sometimes get overexcited and need reminders and a chance to self correct. But after a warning or two there has to be some kind of consequence. Whether it's a timeout or stopping playing with friends or going home or taking away a toy there needs to be some consequence for not listening to you. And he might cry or yell or be frustrated but he's just going to get bigger and it's good if he learns to listen to you now. We just do a short time out it's something that's still gentle she's not scared of it so she doesn't have any fear of exploring in the future but it does give her a chance to calm down and regroup. My lo is 3 and a half too so I sympathize with the boundary testing. We cuddle lots too bc some days I just felt too much like her adversary and they still are little ones going through lots of change.
persimmon / 1178 posts
I would recommend talking to your pedi for two reasons:
1) so you can discuss your concerns with a professional who hopefully will give you objective advice that makes you feel like you know what is going on. For me, worrying 'what if' totally influences everything else and I feel better when I stop wondering and start working a plan of attack.
2) some of the stuff you described is/could be normal or *could* be indicative of sensory differences. If that is the case, it could be as simple as getting a sensory diet that meets his needs so he doesn't seek sensory input in ways other people find disruptive.
grapefruit / 4923 posts
folks have given you really good advice. i just wanted to second @lizzywiz: that it might be worth checking out any sensory issues. regardless, it definitely sounds like you're not alone. sending lots of support and hugs.
kiwi / 567 posts
I don't have much advice in general but specific to the can't sit still/leaning issue, I know people who have had really great luck using a Hokki stool: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005IRLZPY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B005IRLZPY&linkCode=as2&tag=wwwjasonstorc-20&linkId=QHSQT5NM2L7YXO3J
It allows kids with the urge to fidget/lean/stand up to satisfy at little bit of that need while remaining sitting and focused on the task at end. I would think a Montesorri classroom would be pretty receptive to the idea as well.