To not know how to cope with my 4 year old son?(65 Posts)
I have a 6 year old DD, 4 year old DS and 2 year old DS. I am a SAHM.
My 4 year old is driving me slowly insane. For the record my other 2 children are perfectly normally behaved and rarely naughty.
From the moment he wakes up, to the moment he goes to bed, he finds things to moans and cry very loudly about. Examples, if I say go into his room and say good morning, give him a kiss and open his curtains a little bit, he will throw a tantrum because I opened the curtains, or on other days it might be because I opened his bedroom door to come in. Even if I then close the curtains, it's not good enough and the screaming and crying continues.
At meal times, he will refuse to eat. Every single mealtime. Often, about an hour after we have all finished our meals, he will go back and eat something from his plate because he realises he is hungry.
Every mealtime usually begins and ends with him crying. I serve his food in his favourite bowl, and he will have a tantrum because he did not want his food in his favourite bowl.
What I'm trying to say is, no matter how I do things, he will find something to cry and create a big fuss about.
Almost every day at nursery pick up I have to pull him along while he screams his head off because I have bought the wrong snack, or brought his umbrella when he didn't want me to bring his umbrella for example.
I am so frustrated and angry as I am writing this. I just don't know what to do anymore. I wake up each morning hoping and planning for a smooth, calm day, and every single day I end up shouting at him, or having to put him in a different room because he is making such a racket screaming and crying.
I don't know how to deal with him anymore, and I'm scared my 2 year old DS is going to mimic his behaviour before long.
Can anyone offer me some ideas, methods that have worked for them? Thank you in advance.
Have you had him tested for any sen at all? Could he be autistic do you yhink?
I should add, this isn't new or recently developed behaviour. He has always been the same. As a baby, he cried unless I was holding him, it was a very very difficult first year.
While he is at nursery or at a friends house playing, he is 95% of the time! perfectly behaved. Perfect manners, engaging, interesting to talk to, plays happily with his friends. He is very confident.
He changes almost as soon as he sees me or his Dad. When I collected him from nursery today he was sitting beautifully joining in with an activity, and as soon as he saw he he started being silly and refused to say goodbye to anyone.
No, not tested for anything. He is only just 4 years old. His nursery teachers don't think there is anything to be concerned about.
He is very clever and has a high understanding of everything around him, and a very good memory.
Those are traits of autism I think, but I honestly know very little about it.
Do you think you have got into a routine of fighting with him and he is anticipating that?
Maybe you need to do some of that 'love-bombing' thingy with some intensive 1:1 time?
Caveat: no expert
Poor you. It sounds bloody awful - I would be at my wits end too. I really hope someone here can advise you.
My only thought was (after SEN), that he is acting like kids do when they are really tired. However, as he behaves in other environments I am at a loss.
I hope someone can help you.
I can relate as my 4 yr old is hard work, but he was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 and is now,in a special needs school, so I know why he behaves as he does. I knew something was 'wrong' just after he turned 1 - what do you instincts tell you? Would it be worth trying to get a referral to a paediatrician or do you just feel he's got a different, less calm personality to your other kids and just needs different parenting strategies? Sorry, I can't think of any other advice.
Oh OP I know exactly what you are going through and it's horrible. Can I just reassure you that it WILL get better. My DD (middle of three DCs) was exactly as you describe. I couldn't do anything right and the day was one long tantrum. We tried everything, including behaviour support from the local children's centre: we were at our wits end. We began to think she had Asperger's or OCD or some other problem. And then, without us having to change anything, it slowly began to stop... she tantrumed less and less...she whined less and less and by her third birthday she was barely doing it at all. She is now nearly 4 and people who knew her then don't recognise her as she is such a different child. I firmly believe she just needed to mature.... time was all she needed. She is now a thoroughly delightful child. Just ride with it if you can. Take breaks away from the kids if you can (I exercised a lot) and it will get better. I'm pretty sure your DS doesn't have a "problem": he just needs some time to grow and mature a bit and this behaviour is normal, believe it or not, for dinner children. In 6 months time I'm sure he will have improved. Hope that helps and gives you something to cling on to!
Just to add, being able to behave and control behaviour in a nursery/school environment then letting out all the frustration at home is fairly common among autistic kids. I have no experience of this personally as my son is badly behaved in all environments!
Poor you :0( that sounds exhausting. Afraid I have nothing constructive to add but wonder if a trip to the gp to get checked out/assessment by a sen expert might be helpful? Even if there is nothing wrong just talking it through with experts might help?
You sound like you are doing brilliantly and trying so hard don't beat yourself up for days going wrong!
We are definitely in a rut of being at loggerheads with each other so maybe he does anticipate it in some way.
It is worse when he is tired or starting to come down with a bug.
My friend's son was a bit like this. Perfectly behaved at school etc (scared of getting into trouble) but a nightmare at home. Do you all tiptoe around him, constantly think about what he can/ can't tolerate, generally make allowances all the time?
Anyway, son of friend diagnosed mild Aspergers at around ten. It has helped them to understand and manage him. He's 14 now and doing well. The early years were very difficult, though.
Can you involve your GP or health visitor? Also The Explosive Child by Ross Green (I think) is meant to be fantastic.
Good luck. Hang on in there.
Honestly, I don 'to think he is autistic. I just don't feel like something is really wrong in that way. I feel like it's a battle of wills. He just seems completely unable to accept the rules of our house even though his siblings are fine with them.
Thank you everyone for your responses.
Yes we do tiptoe around him on occasion, because we know what will send him into a tantrum.
Does it help if you disengage slightly? Obviously not letting him get away with murser but generally letting him get on with it..eg puting tea out and letting him help himself, letting him get up in the morning/get clothes etc? Obviously none of these things can be done if you are on a time limit to get to school etc but am just wondering whether he responds better to more or less attention iyswim?
My sympathies. I have a 5yr old who is wonderful but hard work. Also very bright but only realised that since he's started school. I have recently looked at autism but the nursery and school have said no.
Might be worth looking up 'highly sensitive child' on the internet.
Does he do better if he has some control e.g. "what snack do you want after school today?" And then you take what he says.. Or giving options?
I have found focusing on the things that he has done well and congratulating him. At the end of the day we have a chat about how great that was etc. And sometimes we do a kindly how to handle things better (my child is very self aware is yours?).
It is tiring (my child was very hard work as a baby, never slept for more than 20 mins until 18 months but we have food allergies and intolerances that didn't help.
Do you think he's playing you up? Do you change things to accommodate his moods or demands? Like for example if he doesn't want you to open the curtains do you shut them to see if it will change his mood? They can pick up that you're on edge without you even realising it, that you're trying to head off a tantrum before it's even started by being too accommodating, it become a a pattern if behaviour for both of you.
But is he ever happy? Not just it seems like he's never happy because of all the crying etc but are there any tines at all that he's not moaning/crying etc?
My slightly older ds does this but not as frequently or for as long as you described.
He'll come out of school and ask 'what's for dinner', pasta your favourite, 'I DIDN'T WANT PASTAAAAA'.
Have you tried just ignoring it? So if he has a strop because you've opened his curtains/door, just smile and cheerily say 'never mind'.
If he strops over what snack you've bought him just smile and say 'well that's all I've got you don't have to eat it'. And repeat, ignore anything that comes after that.
If he won't eat his dinner just don't show that it phases you, shrug eat your meal and leave the table when you've all finished.
I imagine it's an attention thing being one of 3, so keep reassuring him with lots of love and praise even if he is being a pain in the bum. And maybe some one to one time doing an a giving he enjoys if you get the chance.
Sometimes you can also distract/tickle them out of a tantrum. I've been known to copy ds and do his angry face stomping feet, he usually laughs so much he forgets.
Could he feel over looked? The middle child of 3 is neither the responsible eldest nor the babied youngest...and gets relatively less parental one to one than the others did/do? Id go with love bombing or whatever its called!
Not to say he doesnt have a high need personality too. My eldest does and is hard work! But imagine being a high need child but the middle one ie no special status as oldest or youngest.
I was going to ask, does he miss being the baby of the family since DC3 arrived, but see you say he's always been Mr Grumpy.
How about when DS starts moaning about something, try to ignore the complaining and leave the room, not in a critical way just don't acknowledge the whinging, go and carry on elsewhere with something else.
Regarding meals, stop worrying, he won't starve himself. If he doesn't want to eat his food then and there, let him go. If you don't mind a bit of mess, stack a couple of plates and don't assign him one, let him pick one and serve himself from a big dish.
I know it's shattering but try not to give his outbursts attention. He needs to learn that kind of behaviour doesn't work. Small comfort but glad he hasn't progressed to aggressive physical behaviour. Cuddles and soft words when he's not playing up.
If you said DS has hyper sensitivity issues I'd wonder about aspergers but from what you describe it sounds as if he simply thinks all-powerful Mum and Dad are responsible for making his world a better place, (kind of flattering but exhausting). Well that's great but you have two other DCs and other things to do!
Have a look at familylives.org.uk/ (formerly Parentline Plus).
My DS has gone through spells of this too and I don't think he has autism either. I do think that being 'contrary' becomes a ritual or a game. I second the advice about trying to appear unruffled (hard I know!) and letting him adjust, rather than opposing, coaxing etc. Easier said than done of course.
I have to say that my two are excellently behaved in public and at other people's houses. The moment we get in, shut the door and it's just me and them, they turn into whining, bickering, demanding nightmares. Particularly my youngest, who is 3. Some days I think my blood pressure must be through the roof.
So maybe it's not that out of the ordinary?
OP - my youngest child sounds a bit like your son. She is now 6 and much. much easier and tbh she was an easy baby. It was when she hit 2+ that it became difficult. She is bright, extremely strong willed and has a very strong sense of how she wants the world to be. Obviously this causes clashes.
A star chart worked very well for her. Lots of availability of stars, lots of praise, lots of quick wins for her. She used to get a star for getting dressed without arguing for example and another for putting her coat on without arguing. You start small and support their self esteem. If you make it too hard they'll just get angry.
Stuff like bowls and curtains - he's 4. He can do that himself. Show him where things are, don't sweat the small stuff 9if the bowl gets dropped it gets dropped - meh) and praise him to heavens when he does things well.
Give him cues and plenty of time warnings when you plan to do something. I use the cooker timer sometimes 'when the alarm gies off it's bedtime' . That works for her.
Mealtimes - don't ask him to eat. Food is there and he eats it whenever. If you make an issue of when he eats or what he eats he will make an issue of controlling that. (This is VERY hard to implement. Sometimes I've been chilled mum not provoking conflict. Sometimes I've coced up properly and forced us both in to a row which makes neither of us feel good)
So praise the good behaviour and ignore as far as possible the bad.
A lot of these type of strategy are ones that can also be used with children with SEN. If you think you need assessment then look in to it but the simple fact is that some children are more challenging to parent than others. That doesn't mean they can be diagnosed with something. Nor does it mean you've made mistakes up till now.
Sympathy here. My middle niece (of 3) was just the same. She's 7 now and a delight, though still pretty sensitive. What worked for her was a withdrawal of negative attention, for example, ignoring crying at meals and chatting about non-food related things. This was coupled with plenty of 1 to 1 time, middle kids can get a bit lost.
Can I ask, why is his food still on the table an hour after dinner?
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