Am I expecting too much of my 3 year old?

(33 Posts)
PoisonMountain Wed 05-Dec-12 07:41:39

He is driving me crazy! Every time I ask him to do anything, he just ignores me. Things like get your coat, shoes, don't touch that its hot, pick that up, you can have x after we have done y, please tell me if you need the potty etc. He also gets put in the corner if he hits DD too many times.

I started asking him why he was in the corner, he says "hug". I say to him "you are in the corner because you hit DD. why are you in the corner?" He says "hug". I ask him several times to do something but he just ignores me. I ask him to look at me (which usually involves me putting my face between him and what he is trying to do) and tell him again. Then ask him what I just told him. He has no idea. Surely by now he should be able to follow an instruction and repeat (I'm not expecting verbatim!) what I said to him several times over the past minute or so.

Argh, he really is annoying me. I know his hearing is ok because he can hear me quietly opening a packet of biscuits from the other side of the flat, his memory seems to be ok as he can remember things he wants to remember. Like that DH promised on Friday to take him out in the snow at the weekend (at 6 am on saturday morning he was sitting on my pillow thumping DH on the head saying "snow, snow" grin).

I'm actually beginning to wonder if he understands anything I say. But then I think he must understand me. Any advice?

lljkk Wed 05-Dec-12 07:58:02

Do hug when he asks, he needs to know you love him no matter what. His biggest worry is you won't ever stop being cross at him, he can't think beyond that.

Sounds like you are expecting too much. It is normal for 3yo to not be able to multitask or juggle priority of demands placed on them. Demands include all the other interesting things they'd like to be doing. 3yos are more distracted than 2yos were.

When you want him to do something stop everything else you are doing & make it clear he must do it now, ask him to do one thing at a time and see that it's done, gently but firmly. Make eye contact when you are giving instructions (as simple as possible). Help him get away from his distractions.

Like this: "Put your coat on. Tom did you hear me? Look at me. Look at my eyes. What did I just ask you to do?... No, put down the car, it's time to go. Look at me. Good boy. Now, put your coat on, can you do that?... Good Lad, off you go.... Good Boy. Look at me, please. Now put your shoes on.... Well done!"

Bearandcub Wed 05-Dec-12 08:01:58

Ask him to repeat it back?

PoisonMountain Wed 05-Dec-12 08:12:02

I do ask him to repeat it back. He looks at me blankly and says "aeroplane" or some other random word.

I don't give him a list of things to do because he has absolutely no concept of 'let's do this and then we can do that.' I try to give him ample warning and keep things simple but he only listens if it coincides with what he wants to do. Anything else is met with a blank stare and if I insist, then either a tantrum or outright refusal to do it e.g. When I ask him to put his coat on or put his puzzles away.

My DS is doing the same thing. And it is clearly a power play! He ignores me when he doesn't want to do something or can't be bothered to make a choice. It is so infuriating.

I'm working along the lines of removing what he is doing/watching and making sure he does do what I have asked. Then I tell him it's not ok to ignore people. If be any be bothered to make a choice then I make it for him and ride the tantrum.

It's definitely deliberate, as if its something he wants he can hear/ understand or choose easily.

Sorry, very poor english there. Trying to get DS dressed!

PoisonMountain Wed 05-Dec-12 08:17:44

That sounds a bit contradictory! The only times I say to do x then y is when he desperately needs a nappy change or he has loads of toys out and wants to get more out and I tell him to put some away before getting more out.

RibenaFiend Wed 05-Dec-12 08:23:50

Lots and lots and lots of positive praise when he follows your instructions too. The "hug, hug" could also be him wanting a "good" moment of 1:1

JellyMould Wed 05-Dec-12 09:01:54

How is his spoken language? If you think he doesn't understand your instructions (and this can lookalike naughtiness) then I'd consider asking your hv for a speech and Lang referral.

I would speak to the HV about it. It sounds like maybe his language skills are a bit behind and so either he can't understand what you are asking or he can't express what he thinks about it and so you get a massive tantrum. When you talk to him, do you speak as you would an adult or simplify it a bit? With my DS I would say "coat on please" rather than "please put your blue coat on now DS as otherwise we are going to be late" as if I said the second he would not get the message and would ignore it.

That's not to say that there isn't some selective hearing going on as well though! To deal with that I tend to do 1 2 3 magic! So I ask him to do it nicely, I ask him one more time then I count to 3 and if he hasn't done it I do it. If I ask him A or B and he doesn't choose after two times I choose. It tends to speed things up and he knows what will happen if he doesn't play the game.

Re the hug, hug thing, my DS did this as I told him what he had done wrong and why it was wrong then we had a hug, so when he was 2ish he would go straight for the hug bit to avoid the telling off! But I would probably expect a three year old to be a bit further on.

Just ask the HV and out your mind at rest, if he is a bit behind you can help him catch up again, it's not a major issue. There are lots of hints and tips they can give you to make your and DS's lives easier.

coppertop Wed 05-Dec-12 09:40:24

If he can't generally follow instructions, I would speak to the HV. He may need an assessment from the speech & language therapist just to make sure there are no underlying issues.

PoisonMountain Wed 05-Dec-12 10:00:26

Thanks for the replies. His language is improving rapidly at the moment. He's starting to have proper little conversations (very repetitive!) he says things like "there she is" when DD crawls round the corner. If I ask him what he did at nursery he says things like "DS play X, DS play Y, DS push X, DS hit Y" blush. At least he's honest! If we're out and about he points things out "bus/buggy/car got wheels, bus/train got doors, doors are closed, lights are on" that kind of thing.

I try to organise it so that we do something nice together whilst DD naps, but more often than not he refuses to do things, throws a tantrum or deliberately wakes her. He has a cold, so I've just had to leave DD alone and crying for the past half an hour so I can get him to sleep (he won't sleep unless in my arms). So it's not like he never has time alone with me.

Ineedpigsinblankets Wed 05-Dec-12 10:04:09

Apologise if this has already been said but i would reduce the amount of language you are using, 3 word instructions are far more effective than 6 word ones.

Always say his name before the instruction so that he knows the information is for him.

So say his name, pause for 2-3 seconds to give him time to proccess then the instruction "Shoes on".

Try using a sing song voice so it doesnt sound like a sergeant major. I know it doesnt sound very polite but believe me it does help.

In the meantime see you HV or GP about a speech and lang referral. There will be a long wait so if he improves while on the waiting list you can just phone them and say he no longer needs to be seen.

Good lucksmile

TeeElfOnTeeShelf Wed 05-Dec-12 10:07:49

The positive parenting parade is about to flame me, but with my nearly 3.6 year old, I can't use positives to get him to do something. He doesn't want a treat. He wants to know what will happen if he doesn't do something.

"If you don't do Y, you won't get to X." And follow through.

He usually isn't interested in a treat. He wants to avoid a punishment.

And do give hugs when he says 'hug'. Nothing is more important than that!

Ineedpigsinblankets Wed 05-Dec-12 11:17:33

I have to use that technique with my Dd3 tee she has ASD and doesnt get reward based behaviour strategies at all.

I say very plainly "Do xxxx or xxxx wont happen!"

Very mean I know but we have loads of positive stuff going on it just doesnt work with demand avoidance.

TeeElfOnTeeShelf Wed 05-Dec-12 11:52:45

Exactly, Ineedpigsinblankets.

He gets tons of praise when he does do something, obviously, and tons of love and affection, but to get him to actually do anything, there has to be a consequence if he doesn't.

"Do X and you'll get Y." Gets me nowhere!

lljkk Wed 05-Dec-12 16:45:47

What PigsInBlanket said may backfire, though, I am convinced that DC language development has been the poorer for me doing too simple instructions ("Tom: shoes on") etc.

Does he easily follow instructions if it's something he's keen to do?

PoisonMountain Fri 07-Dec-12 20:52:21

Right, I've been trying to objectively see when and what he does if I ask him. I've come to the conclusion that he does what I ask him about 50% of the time, not necessarily the first time I ask him.
He always take his socks off inside (why, I have no idea, he has freezing feet). He picked them up and brought them to me. I asked him to take them to his bedroom. He looked blankly at me so I told him to put them on his bed. I later found them on my bed.
Me asking him "What did I say?" When i asked him something results in a parrot "what I say". (But this is new, only in the past day or so)

I tried to make some Christmas decorations today, which went surprisingly well, but he still didn't listen when I was trying to tell/show him how to make them and so we gave up in the end.

MrsMushroom Sat 08-Dec-12 12:52:09

Reading the whole thread it seems to me that he is having a language delay perhaps. Have you asked his keyworker at nursery how she thinks he's doing with his communication?

TeWisBeenNargledByTheMistletoe Sat 08-Dec-12 13:00:45

I think he needs a hearing test and to been seen by a speech and language specialist. I am no expert, but it's possible there's something a but more complicated going on which needs addressing.

swanthingafteranother Sat 08-Dec-12 14:30:20

Sounds to me like a hearing issue too. Isn't the rustling thing ( I mean the biscuit opening) a different kind of sound to consonants and vowels? Have you tried visual cues to show him what you want him to do...like a picture of coat or shoes when you want him to put them on? Another way to do it is to always talk about what you are doing, as you do it, so" Tom is putting his shoes on" helps him to link words with actions. That's if you think he is isn't linking words with actions.
I have an ASD child of 10 who has no hearing issues, yet you can say several times to him, put your shoes on, and he will look at you blankly, until you pick up the shoes and offer them to him, at which point he will put them on with alacrity. He literally doesn't seem to grasp what I am asking, although will discuss very sophisticated ideas with me. So it isn't intelligence, it is what professionals might call a processing disorder. With my child he is thinking about other things, and can't really focus on what he considers unimportant!

Not saying that is your child's problem but worth checking out whether it is physical lack of hearing or the way you are telling him that affects his comprehension.

It is very sweet that he says "hug". He really wants to please you.

swanthingafteranother Sat 08-Dec-12 14:36:37

Btw, I would crack down on the hitting of dd though. I wouldn't wait till he has done it several times before removing him. I would immediately act, comfort her, talk to her, ignore him when he is hitting, if necessary remove him from area, but don't react to him in a way that might make him think that hitting gets loads of attention from you (ie: don't tell him off vociferously, get angry, make it up etc etc)

Also remembering things like the snow is consistent with not taking a lot of lesser things. My son has an incredible memory for some things yet fails to remember much more obvious things that you would think easier to remember. That it is because they are less interesting, although obvious.

My DD is 3.7 and I as advised to start whispering my requests. Wow what a difference, took about 36 hours and she no longer ignores me - well at least most of the time.

PoisonMountain Wed 12-Dec-12 12:52:52

Right, I've spoken to his group leader at nursery/crèche. We're not in the UK so he doesn't go to pre-school and won't until mid 2014. She said that she'd not really marked it out as being a problem, but yes he should be able to do a bit more than he does. She also doesn't think there's anything wrong with his hearing because he does seem to listen, but doesn't always process what he's being asked to do. She says that he's not always very clear when he speaks to them and she was quite surprised at how clearly he speaks when he talks to me (I've been spending a bit of time there recently as DD has been having problems settling in) but he is improving dramatically at the moment. One of the students who works in the group has just been given a list of things that children should be able to do by a certain age like how they walk down stairs, can they draw a face etc. She's going to ask her to bring it in and they will look at the list and see what he can and cant do over the next few weeks. She suggested I mention it to the paediatrician at the next check up (which isn't until next November, so I might take them both to DD's 1 year check in a couple of months) but she doesn't think it's anything worth worrying about at the moment, but to keep an eye on it.

We have been managing with lots of hugs and I've discovered that he will willingly come and get his coat and shoes on so long as he can cuddle Barbapapa at the same time. I've been trying to simplify instructions and explanations to him and think I am guilty of re-phrasing things when he doesn't do what I ask the first time. Probably because I think he hasn't understood me so I try another way but maybe this is the wrong way to go about it.

He has surprised me today with some new sentences so it seems that he is actually learning something when we look at books together. I'm trying to encourage him to draw but he's more interested in putting the lids back on the pens.

Re the hitting. He gets three warnings then has to sit in the corner. This is the same system they use at crèche so it seems sensible to carry it on at home. Except he then gets no further warnings. He has been a lot better recently, he didn't have to sit out yesterday and he has been a bit more accepting of DD playing with her toys.

gourd Wed 12-Dec-12 15:19:46

Have seen others recommend not giving a toddler choices as they don’t always cope well with too much choice, maybe between A and B but no more than that. If it is something important I don’t give ours (2.3yrs) a choice, it’s just we are doing this now (going home from CMs after long day at work) etc. Small compromises such as a different hat or choice of coats can work as a distraction when the real issue is having to get up and get ready to go out to childminders so I can get to work, not which hat/coat she wants to wear (getting ready in the morning is extremely inconvenient for a busy toddler who likes to stay in her pjs, so she often complains about it). If the small choices don’t work as a distraction on that occasion I don’t provide more choices though, we just have to get on with it. Think selective hearing or ignoring is likely to be a choice not to hear something they don’t want to do/accept/isn’t convenient for them. It’s just a stage, or so I am told!

gourd Wed 12-Dec-12 15:22:54

Agree you need to hug your child if your child asks for hug. You still need to show them you love them even if they are being infuriating! We always give hugs after ours has had a trantrum, even if she doesnt "ask" for them, as she shows signs of sadness/tearyness after a tantrum and she needs reassurance.

NoNoNoMYDoIt Wed 12-Dec-12 15:44:08

i think you aren't expecting too much. when was he 3?

you mention you aren't in the UK? is there another language being used around him as that may make things slightly different for him?

my 3yr old understands absolutely everything i say to her but will often not repeat back to me what i have just told her, if she doesn't like what it is i've said! however, if she likes the instruction, she will follow it. and if i asked her to put something somewhere and she was in the mood to do it, she would get it right.

PoisonMountain Wed 12-Dec-12 20:43:01

He was 3 last month. He does speak two other languages, but English is his main language and by far his most fluent. He's only just putting words together in DH's and I'm not sure at crèche because as soon as I turn up he switches to English. I've only really heard him say words. He doesn't mix languages as such. He only ever speaks to me in English. He's worked out though that DH understands him so if he wants to say something to DH he says the words he knows and fills in the rest with English. We have made a point of never correcting him, DH will just repeat what DS said correctly and then answer appropriately.

I do let him have a fair amount of free will about things, but I never offer him open-ended choices. I always say Do you want/shall we do X or Y (mainly to save my sanity!).

I'm not sure what to do to help him. He's terribly impatient by nature and if things don't work immediately he gets frustrated and throws a tantrum just like DH He won't listen if I try and show him how to do something he wants to do, he just throws a tantrum instead. I'm not a very good mum and I'm a bit worried that he's missing out because I don't know how to teach him these things, especially when he wont listen. I've been trying to teach him how to get himself un/dressed but if things e.g. socks don't come off immediately he just cries. I try to be patient with him, but its so easy to get frustrated with him, (especially when I'm running on very little sleep at the moment) because just being a little more patient, listening instead of seemingly switching off at the first sign of difficulty and he'd be able to do it himself.

dietstartstmoz Wed 12-Dec-12 21:01:34

I would take speak to a doctor about your concerns about your sons language delay. If you were in the UK i would say see your GP/HV. Our youngest son had speech delay, at age 3 he had some words and some phrases, he would repeat things back to us(a coping strategy to give him more thinking time), he has sensory processing difficulties and always has bare cold feet as well. He also has a diagnosis of autism. I'm not saying i think your son has asd but from what you have outlined you should definately seek a referral. Dont be fobbed off, he may just need some monitoring and in 12 months may have caught up with his peers, but please do seek a referral for him. Your description of your son sounds so much like our son was at age 3. Good luck.

Littleorangetree Thu 13-Dec-12 13:10:59

Lots of good replies here. I also have an infuriating DS (3) who has amazing selective hearing! It drives me up the wall when I have to repeat things 50 times and he still ignores me. I've started giving him 3 chances and if he still doesn't do it I take away a toy/switch off tv etc. It works quite often but you have to do what you say you will to make it effective. Also removing distractions can help e.g. switching off tv, making him look you in the eye.
I know how tiring and infuriating it is and how it can turn into a power struggle. Try not to let it get you down, which I know is especially hard when you're tired.

flubba Thu 13-Dec-12 13:21:15

Becoming trilingual may well be having an impact on his speech development and it does sound like he's still struggling with finer things like pronouns (when he put the socks on your bed instead of his), so it may be good to use the word mummy and Bob iyswIm, so 'put the socks on Bob's bed' for example.

FWIW my DDs are 4 and 5 and still ignore me when they're engrossed in something else, and also my DS is not quite 2 and gets very cross if I try to take his coat and boots off when we come inside (the opposite to your son and his socks!), and I can only do it surreptitiously when distracting him with 'ooh, look at the cat!' type things.

NoNoNoMYDoIt Thu 13-Dec-12 16:23:55

i agree with flubba that the trilingual aspect may account for some of his apparently lack of understanding, although not sure how much (not experienced in these things). i think seeing a GP or paed is the way forward here - if nothing else, just to rule out concerns. i think if he was just not speaking much but understanding everything it wouldn't be such a concern. but the misunderstandings / not following what you are saying does possibly indicate another problem.

Yes, I would say you are expecting to much of him. Not exactly because he is 3 but because my guess is that the route of his problems is not a lack of development or ability, but a cross between jealousy for your attention and the fact that with two small children and little sleep your patience is probably not what it might be. There is also an expectation gap that because he seems so much older and bigger than his sister you think to yourself, 'can't you just do that, just get your coat and make my life easier, I know you CAN do it so why don't you??' the answer is probably partly subconsciously because he doesn't want to, he wants you to do it, like you do everything for his sister etc etc.

I look back on my 3 children now and can so see this pattern. My DS is now 3, he can do all the sorts of things that you are describing (most 3 year olds CAN.... the question is WILL they), and he does do them, because his mission in life is to be as old as his sisters, to be grown up, to be as quick as them to keep up. When DD1 was that age I was tearing my hair out, exhausted and stressed with 1 yr old DD2 I expected so much from her, I needed her to behave, not to act up, to do what she was told as I was finding it hard to cope if she didn't. The result of course was that she did none of those things and drove me insane. With DS, I don't need any of that stuff. I am relaxed and happy, to me he is still a baby in a way I didn't see either DD1 or DD2 as babies at that age. I give him much more time and leniency probably and the result is much more compliance and ability.

If I could go back to DD1 at that age now I would be much more slack with her, much more forgiving, many more hugs.

I don't really know what advice to give as i found this stage really hard with my children. All I can really say is allow more time for stuff. Lower your expectations - don't compare him to other 3 year olds and how they behave - it is not an indicator of how he will turn out, more and indicator of your current circumstances - e.g. if I compared DD1 at 3 to a child like DS at 3 I would have been mortified as DD1's behaviour was so awful in comparison, but that behaviour was fuelled by jealousy and the fact I had two younger ones to deal with so didn't have the time, patience or energy for her. Yet she has turned into a super bright, confident, adorable 7 yr old. DD1 and DD2 now love each other more than you can possibly imagine (despite DD1 spending most of the early years trying to bite, hit and generally torment DD2)

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