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HelP desperately needed with 3y.o.

(19 Posts)
chocolateyclaire Tue 31-May-11 13:36:26

I am completely at a loss here and desperately need someone to either tell me I'm doing this right...or point me in another direction. I've posted on a different forum before and been slated for "not being understanding enough" - which is why I left and came here. I like the snark here too.

I've had 3 weeks from hell with ds. He has just turned 3 and his behaviour has turned. He has started spitting, he is over-rough with the cat, he screams and yells and argues like a teenager. He's verbally advanced but behaviourally was held back by his nursery by a) totally being the favourite and being allowed to have his own way, and b) not transferring to the next room, so being in with children some of whom were 12 months younger. I'm a sahm for a bit whilst awaiting a crb for my next job, then he is going to a different nursery. I know this is a massive change for him, but I also don't expect the behavioural extremes I'm getting.

I'm going to give a snapshot of today - please tell me if, in your opinions, I'm doing this right - or what I should be doing.

We watched a film this morning (his choice). Half way through he hit me with a toy - when he gets over excited the limbs flail and this was a result. I told him that he had hurt my face and asked him to apologise (this has been standard practice since he was a baby). He refused, screamed (proper blood curdling scream) and tried to hit me again. I sat him on the time out stair, and told him he had to stay there until he had calmed down. a few minutes later he was quiet, so I went to him, explained again why he had been put there and asked him to stand up and say sorry. He mumbled a refusal, so I told him I was going to leave him there for another few minutes. I walked away - banshee screams. Repeat story for 25 minutes. Eventually he stood and apologised, we hugged and sang some songs. Then I let him watch the end of the film.

Then we took the dog for a walk. Towards the end he asked to go home - I pointed to where the car was parked and said we would be there soon. As we crossed into the car park he started screaming that he wanted to go round again. I said he couldn't because it was time for dinner, but that we could take the dog out again before tea time if he wanted to. As I was getting him in the car we had screams, hitting me, spitting. We drove home and I said he had until we got home to calm down, or he would have to go in time out again.

Naturally, he ended up on the stairs again and I cooked dinner. He had calmed down so I gave him a cuddle and asked him to do his job (laying the table). He refused, so I did it, at which point he kicked off again and told me to throw his drink in the bin. I took the drink back to the kitchen, stepping over screaming and rolling child who was yelling he wanted his drink back again. I then put dinner on the table and started to eat ignoring the screaming snot ball on the floor. He eventually got up and started pulling on my clothes and yelling he wanted his drink - I told him I couldn't understand him and wouldnt be able to until he calmed down and asked nicely. Eventually he did, so I got him his drink...which was then shoved back at me. He stormed upstairs screaming that he wanted a nap - and then eventually came back down when he realised I wasn't following. I got an apology and he ate a little of his dinner. He asked for a nap - I gave him the choice of my bed with cuddles or his bed. He's currently sparked out next to me.

I'm not sure I'm doing it right. I'm not sure how much longer I can carry on with this - I just want my sweet boy back. It doesn't help that I'm 13w pregnant and exhausted - sure he's picking up on this too. And if you got to the end - thank you!

MrsJamin Tue 31-May-11 13:43:55

He's probably going through a testosterone surge from a growth spurt if it came on suddenly and is aggression related. How horrible to be all of a sudden especially as you are pregnant with #2. We do time out a lot for when DS1's emotions get out of hand, be it anger or sadness etc. We've also taught him to control his breathing when he's losing it so he can learn to calm himself down. If he's tired that will make a big impact. Does he know about the baby? If he does, it might help to channel any concerns he has by buying something for the baby (even if it is early days) or talk to the baby? YOu're doing the right things - make sure you stay calm and you're understanding if he's getting overly upset about things. Hopefully this will go as quickly as it came but you have my sympathies! Lots of exercise will help him use up extra energy or testosterone he may have!

SenoritaViva Tue 31-May-11 13:47:48

Yes, these tantrums are difficult, aren't they?

You sound very calm and measured. You also sound like you are doing good things, like going for a walk, exercise etc.

In my experience, once a child is having a tantrum they are difficult to reason with, they stop listening etc. Removing him from the situation (time out or whatever) is good and gives you some time off too.

The only piece of advice I might have is now taking a consequence further. I find counting helps (either to 5 to get hem to do something, or 10 to calm down). But I might have stopped the film you were watching. I have days where I ban television or take something away and then they can earn it back. Sometimes time out is good for calming down but they don't really care as afterwards everything goes back to normal. I wouldn't advocate this with every child but my DD is very strong willed and you have to be firm.

chocolateyclur Tue 31-May-11 15:31:21

Thank you both.

SenoritaViva - calm is NOT a word for me! The above was all done through gritted teeth, fingernails in palms - I think I was just trying to be as bloody minded as he is and not showing a reaction!

We took some toys yesterday as a consequence for hitting the cat over the head. He knows he has to earn them back by doing "jobs" for me and behaving well - funnily enough I don't think that's going to happen today!

MrsJasmin - no, he doesn't know about the baby. Well, I say that, but he announced to my Dad before Husband and I knew that "Mummy is having a baby" - and when we went for our scan on Sunday he glanced at the screen, said "oh, it's a baby", and went on drawing. I'm not planning on telling him until I'm a lot further on, as I think that he would imagine it would come immediately.

He's just woken up from his nap. He was doing lots of shouting in his sleep too (he historically has had night terrors) so I think there's possibly something in the testosterone theory. He was very weepy when he woke up but calmed down when he was awake properly - and is not happily munching an apple and a banana. Praying for peace this afternoon.

ninedragons Tue 31-May-11 15:48:30

Hmm. It does sound like a lot of your relationship is adversarial.

I try to distract or divert DD if she's heading off into a tailspin, even if she's done something naughty. We can return to the subject of the bad behaviour once the situation has been diffused and everyone is calm again.

I notice this tends to work better than my DH's approach, which is pick her up and carry her screaming to her room. That always leads to half an hour of increasingly hysterical wailing.

It's not something as simple as low blood sugar, is it? Do you keep him really well topped up with low GI foods all day?

lollystix Tue 31-May-11 21:20:41

Tbh I think you're doing fine. Gritted teeth and nails in the palms of your hands is understanable. You seem to be giving a consistent message with time out. Ds1 was an amazing tantrummer from 2-3. We had 4 or 5 45 minute tantrums a day - SO wearing. However once we reached 3 and a half he turned into an angel. Now ds2 is starting the same a little later (almost 3). I honestly feel so much better equipped this time round. His tantrums aren't a patch on his brothers or maybe I'm just calmer. Weather it .... It will pass honestly.

cwtchy Tue 31-May-11 21:30:14

I've just gone through about 3 weeks of similar behaviour with my 3yo DD. It seems to have mostly subsided now though. It came after a bout of chicken pox followed by a nasty stomach bug, so I think it might have been linked to that. She also gets like that when she is tired - do you think your DS is getting enough sleep? Especially seeing as he took himself upstairs for a nap!

skybluepearl Tue 31-May-11 21:57:51

It's hard having a 3 year old isn't it! The only thing i can think of is that maybe you are giving lots of extra attention insisting on an appology. Does it take a lot to get an appology out of him? He seems to be getting alot from turning the talk through/apology after time out into another play for power and attention. I've also read that kicking off in realation to time out is a childs last min attempt to gain power when he feels he is losing control.

Tell him from now on you will time him out (without warning) if he uses violence. Simply/calmly/firmly pick him up and say nothing except 'hitting hurts me' and stick him in time out for 5 mins. Say the same after time out and give him only 3 seconds to say sorry (you can count up to 3 after stating the expectation) and if he fails quietly/calmly put him in time out for much longer. I found increasing the length of time out really worked for me - like you i have a 3 year old is really very bright and verbal. When he has apologised change the subject quickly and don't bang on about the issue. Quickly find something new to praise him about. Enjoy his company.

I also found being really upbeat, playful, attentative and positive with son helpful. Seeing him as a well behaved boy and simply expecting good behaviour from him helped. I think we had got into a rut but dr Christopher greens toddler taming book really helped me change our relationship.

skybluepearl Tue 31-May-11 21:58:37

also agree with the sleep thing. is he getting enough or is he coming down with an illness?

Tgger Tue 31-May-11 22:32:07

Hate to tell you this, but he sounds really normal for a 3 year old going through a bad patch. He probably is picking up on your pregnancy too.

Yes, I agree that any violent behaviour is time out/whatever punishment straightaway. Zero tolerance on this stuff works really well (well did for me).

I would try to do the punishment at the time and move on as quickly as you can. If stuff lingers then it escalates and everyone stays grumpy smile.

I found it helped seeing other people/get out of the house as much as possible.

Again Tue 31-May-11 22:48:15

He hit you by accident when he got over-excited.

mumfromspace Wed 01-Jun-11 14:16:37

Sounds just like my 3 year old. Ignore, ignore, ignore is all I can say, I find that any kind of attention, good or bad, towards attention seeking behaviour just makes it ten times worse. Be a cow like me and read a book whilst he's flipping out. Xx

petisa Wed 01-Jun-11 16:06:53

Sounds like a normal 3 year old to me too, on a bad day, that is. Like someone else said, was it a sugar dip? One of my dd's most massive tantrums was on an empty tummy after a biscuit. Overtired? Coming down with something?

Isn't a film a bit long for a 3 year old? My dd would get bored and listless and twitchy half through a film and would probably start acting up. Maybe try to limit screen time a bit and make sure he gets loads of running around outside and one to one activities? Apologies if you already do this! My dd sees too much tv as I have a 9 month old too, and I find too much tv and not enough attention and running around makes her behaviour so much worse.

With bad behaviour, tbh I'm finding personally that ignoring works sooooo much better than telling her off, or the naughty step, which seems to make her worse. If I say "stop doing that/don't do that again" about anything atm she smiles and does it again, so then she ends up on the naughty step and there's a big scene and then she does it again half an hour later. Soo much attention focused on the bad. So now I ignore and distract and try to be breezy and patient (not easy!). If she hits me hard (not often) I tell her it hurts and to stop and walk away, but if it's just a small hit or kick (designed to get me riled, which it mostly is) I ignore it and distract or walk away.

exoticfruits Wed 01-Jun-11 16:16:57

I think that you are doing very well on the keep calm bits. I would try and avoid confrontations -e.g tell him in advance what you are going to be doing-as on the walk. Give lots of attention when he is being good (it is so easy to leave alone when all is going well) and ignore when not. Don't give him attention for bad behaviour. I'm afraid that it is fairly normal 3yr old behaviour-he needs to learn to deal with his own frustrations. It sounds very much as if he was overtired.

exoticfruits Wed 01-Jun-11 16:18:19

It is easy to get into a negative spiral.I used to go into a different room, count to ten, go back with a fixed smile and find something positive to say-it often worked wonders!

BornToFolk Wed 01-Jun-11 16:28:58

I started a threadhere about my 3 year old DS and got some excellent advice on it.

We were getting into similiar situations where he'd do something, get put on the naughty step, scream and refuse to apologise and the situation would just escalate. I stopped using the naughty step for a while and instead tried harder to defuse situations. I stopped insisting, or even asking, for an apology.

We do use the naughty step now for really bad behaviour like hitting but it's very rare. DS will sit there for 3 mins and then say sorry and his behaviour is better afterwards, so it's working now but it certainly wasn't working when I started that thread!

chocolateyclur Wed 01-Jun-11 16:46:15

Thanks again everyone.

He sleeps 7pm - 7am every night - sometimes longer as I'm currently not working after redundancy so a lot of it's led on his needs. I will give him a choice about a nap usually (unless I can see that he really needs one) - he will sometimes have an extra sleep for an hour or so.

He had a stomach bug a week ago, and I am wondering if some of the behaviour is a result of that - it's his first illness in way over a year.

With the films, he can sit through them (we've been to the theatre too and he will happily sit through) though generally we intersperse watching with drawing pictures, talking about what's going on, etc.

I know that a lot of the issue is mine - because he is very forward verbally it is difficult for me to remember that I am parenting a 3 year old - I'm used to working with 8 year olds - teens and he can out-talk some of these - so I know that often I can have high expectations of him. In the last week I've really tried to think about these and narrow them down to what I think is really important.

I think I'm going to have to work more on diffusing/ignoring rather than my current approach. I'm also thinking that when he goes back into nursery part time he will be better because I'm not "stretching" him socially - which is something he thrives on. We do a lot of play outside (walking nature trails and playing football/frisbee in the garden) but I feel like I'm letting him down.

exoticfruits Wed 01-Jun-11 16:48:55

Stomach bugs can take a time to get over, they can still be 'crabby' when they seem fit.
Can you get out to toddler groups or somewhere where you meet other DCs?

confusedperson Wed 01-Jun-11 19:49:06

If you think your 3yo sounds bad, you will be pleased to know that my 3yo is much worse! He can go hitting, smacking and biting me, and if I dear to hold his hands preventing myself from hitting, he would attack me with teeth as a wild animal. I found that time out didn't help at all - he would scream and be aggresive repeatedly for an hour or so. Also I found that the more I try to discipline him, the more he gets aggresive. Try it with soft approach - ignore where you can, or turn it into game where possible. I just hope this terrible stage will pass....

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