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Ideas needed to help manage 3 year old's behaviour. Getting worse.

(13 Posts)
bluecake Fri 30-Sep-11 15:52:02

DS is 3.6yo. He was an alright 2 year old but has recently become a rather marvellous example of a threenager hmm. In the last few weeks he has gone through a lot of change - his 3 best friends at nursery have started school and one of his favourite staff members left, we then went on holiday for a week so he had a week playing with daddy and is struggling with daddy being back at work, and then he came back to lots of change because of it being the start of a new term and me no longer working - starting at preschool 2 mornings, switching to nursery 3 mornings rather than 3 full days, starting gym class and swimming, spending more time with me. He has been having a lot of poo and wee accidents in the last month (potty trained 7 months ago, first major regression) although that is improving (no poo accidents for a week and only wee accidents maybe 3 days this week) His behaviour has been terrible and we have been going easy on him given all the changes and because we were focusing on righting the potty training regression, but it is getting worse and it is time to manage it better before we have a real problem.

Problem is, he has been a pretty easy child to discipline. Any discipline issues have generally been able to be managed by distracting him or by being quite playful in how we manage it or explaining how/why his behaviour is wrong. However he has started to get more physical - doing things like screaming, shouting no in my face, raising his hands as if to hit me, getting rough with his 12mo sister and just generally niggling her and not leaving her be. He has just drawn on a door - first time ever he has defaced anything in the house (we really have had it easy so far, haven't we? smile) His table manners have completely gone to pot (varying things including throws cutlery on floor and eats with hands, smears food around, knocks drinks over for a laugh, says all the food is disgusting etc). Basically he is now pushing at every single boundary he has.

DH and I are going to come up with our strategy this weekend for dealing with it and we could do with some input - ideas of how to discipline bad behaviour and how to encourage good behaviour.

We are not generally naughty step type people, we prefer to praise rather than punish and don't like to sweat the small stuff, but at the moment I feel we need to really define boundaries and stick with them and be a bit more assertive with him about what we expect from him. I'm open to any suggestions short of corporal punishment!

EmilyBarton Fri 30-Sep-11 16:27:09

Hi - A couple of tip: firstly, I'd say don't worry so much about the potty training - that will come. It's classic regression due to insecurity. My son frequently had occasional "accidents" at night up until he was about 7 or 8 years old, almost always when something was stressing him in some way. He's fine now. My friend's daughter was still in nappies for night-time when she started school - she's not now of course. Both are clever, sociable, normal children. They all get there with it.

Secondly - being playful about discipline is not an option. Your child has to know limits and that you set and enforce these limits. You must use a firm and serious tone of voice when he's done something wrong, otherwise your child will think that you are not serious or not in control. Often just using an assertive tone and meaning what you say will work. DO NOT LAUGH AT OR GIVE ATTENTION to bad behaviour (sometimes I have to bite my lip because I find some things my son does or says so funny, but you just have to be serious or it encourages them). Time out also works well with this age-group and is not too harsh. Just put him in his room and make him stay there. Don't talk to him during time out except to tell him it's time out and once to make him stay there. You will find that he is happier once he's secure in this, again, especially when he's feeling insecure due to lots of change. Use this in conjunction with loads of love and positive praise when he's being good and you're right...pick your battles, don't nag him about every single thing. Just make sure that he's safe, polite to the standards you expect for his age and you have to go down hard on violence cos he's getting to the age where he can probably hurt you if he hits or kicks you. If you don't act now he'll reach an age where you can't physically move him very easily and the other problem with distraction on its own is that as he gets older, you won't always be there to distract him.

I have two rules to myself on disciplining the kids, because it didn't come very naturally to me either. Firstly, I always explain what they have done wrong and why it is wrong. Secondly, I try not to back down. Having these two rules for yourself generally means that you are logical about what you punish and you maintain your authority. Please try this - I've asked my kids about it now and they say that I'm really kind most of the time, but I'm strict when they are naughty. I'd say that we are good friends, but they also know that I'm the adult.

bluecake Fri 30-Sep-11 16:48:24

Thanks - that's really helpful. Partic reassuring about potty training - it was so hard getting him trained that this regression has been really depressing for us so nice to know it gets better again smile

By playful, i meant that I try to turn situations around before they escalate into full on tantrums or naughtiness. I prefer to avert an escalation rather than deal with it later - so i might tickle him to ease tension or speak in a silly voice to remove his focus from whatever bad thing it looked like he was about to do. Certainly don't joke once I'm having to discipline ( although like you say can sometimes be hard not to!)

The thing I'm struggling with is immediate consequence for an action particularly when out and about - e.g. He was vile on way to car after gym today - threatening to run in road, sitting on pavement and screeching - but hard to punish then and by the time we were home he was happy again. So couldn't then do time out or remove toy as he wouldn't have a clue why. Often carrying dd so very hard to physically carry him away in those situations too.

Anyone find removing favoured toys work even if the issue is nothing to do with the toy? Or does this just confuse/upset further?

Rowtheboatashore Fri 30-Sep-11 16:57:17

Hi - you sound like you have quite a good sense of discipline already (this is me again but I changed the name because someone pointed out that was the name of an author, who I am not!). Good to avoid escalation - you're right and it works. 3 year olds are pretty awful at times. You have to discipline at the time it happens - you're right. Not much option apart from to tell him off and then drag him along! I suppose just try to plan in as much time as you can for stopping and telling him off. When my daughter was 2, I use to take her on the bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow every day (over a hour each way) and back to go to Uni for 9 months. mostly OK - she was (and is, now 14) a sweet child - but occasionally she cried for almost the whole journey and I was the dreaded 'woman with brat' on the bus!

nearlytherenow Fri 30-Sep-11 21:43:26

I am also the proud mum of a threenager and could have written your OP. DS was such a great 2 year old, I was pretty smug about it all, he got to three never having had a tantrum, and we'd never had to impelement a discipline strategy. Then it all went wrong....

I'm still muddling through but the 2 things that are working well for us are:

1. a "time out" technique (we call it "Time to Think") for any violence / threatened violence / rough behaviour with his little brother. I'm not generally a fan of the naughty step either but in these situations I immediately remove DS for a minute or two (no warnings, I think he's old enough to understand that hitting is not ok), then once he has calmed down we have a chat, he apologises, and it's back to normal. The aggressive behaviour has all but stopped since we started this;

2. a "bricks jar" (like a pasta jar) - we fill up a large plastic jar with his old megablocks - one in for good / kind behaviour, lots of positive reinforcement (sometimes I just put one in because he is being lovely / good company / having an easy day, it doesn't need to be for something specific), one out for bad behaviour / excessive whingeing etc. Once the jar is full (approximately once a week) he gets to choose a small treat.

I think these are basically what Rowtheboat is recommending - that's the approach I'm trying to take, but it's hard to keep the focus on bad days! It's definitely circular though, the more upbeat and cheery and laid back I can be (or pretend to be) the better DS behaves (generally, anyway), and if I really lose the plot he tends to as well.

TarkaLiotta Fri 30-Sep-11 22:05:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Petisa Fri 30-Sep-11 22:30:46

I have a 3.6 year old threenager dd1 and 13 month old dd2 and I feel your pain. I have a sticker chart which we complete every day and little toys as a reward for getting all the stickers. 4 goals in our case - be good when putting on clothes, help mummy tidy toys, be kind and gentle to sister, and be kind and gentle to family/babysitter. Stuck photos of her clothes/ toy boxes / all of us on to make it clear. Rewards are little In the Night Garden figures I'd been meaning to give her all at once with the Ninky Nonk but am stringing it out giving her one at a time and she LOVES them.

The change in her behaviour has been striking. On the first day she got her tombliboo but she went on to hit her sister and after a warning pulled her hair so said tombliboo was confiscated to be won back the next day. Virtually no problems since! I also do explain each time about being loving and kind and about hitting etc being hurtful so it's not just all about the toy. I also give her other options to replace the bad behaviour so eg if she hits her sister because she touched the toy dd1 was playing with we discuss how she could: move the toy away; hit her doll/teddy instead; move dd2's hand away gently; give dd2 another toy; tell dd2 not to touch the toy; come to me and tell me dd2 is touching the toy. So all alternatives to hitting. This has worked really well and I really praise her when I see her stopping herself from lashing out and using her words instead or taking her frustration out on her teddy instead.

The naughty step we used for a while but I never liked it and in the end it just escalated everything and ended in high drama with lots of crying and no real lesson learnt at all. It just seemed to make her worse.

Minor offences I ignore as much as possible as otherwise I'd be on her back all day and it's tiring enough! If she was naughty when out walking I would try to make the walk as interesting as possible and would threaten to take the latest toy she had "won" away for a day if behaviour v bad and would carry out and remind her why. I think it would mean something to her and she would remember.

For messing around with meals like your ds has I would get him to clean up after himself, at least a bit, while explaining why. The most naughty thing dd1 has done was push her granny who has a broken leg nearly causing her to fall. Of course she is too young to understand the implications, but the lack of respect I felt I had to come down hard on, so no TV or treats for 2 days and I reminded her several times why.

HTH a bit maybe. It's hard isn't it! Most of the time I end up shouting and feel shit afterwards - I think I'm too strict and horrible sometimes> If only I could get a bottomless pit of patience from somewhere sad

Petisa Fri 30-Sep-11 22:32:29

We did the jar but it was empty for days! We had minus bricks!!

Petisa Fri 30-Sep-11 22:35:26

Sorry I'm going on and on but I had potty training regression v recently, after 5 months of not one accident. Suddenly we had up to 5 accidents a day. Well you might not think much of my solution, but it was.... chocolate buttons! One for each pee and poo in potty. Much praise for dry pants. Went to loo every time with her to admire her poo/pee. Worked a charm, accidents disappeared on the first day, phased out choc buttons after about 4 days.

Petisa Fri 30-Sep-11 22:38:00

Oh and dd1 was an absolute dream until virtually the day she hit 3! Right I'm going to shut up now!

We have a threenager in this house too!

We are mostly using toy removal, and it works really well. Even when the naughtiness is nothing to do with the toy.

I use it when we are out, or at home - and we have always carried it through. He cries sometimes when we take things away, 'but Mummy I LOVE it' is a common yell. I try and keep my voice really calm, and just say 'yes I know that DS, but I told you that they would be removed if you did X, and you did it so they have gone'.

I like it as a discipline method, because it is a small thing, and can be used repeatedly.
He only ever loses a toy for a day, and then whatever it is comes back out again. I never keep on removing more and more things, it hasn't been necessary tbh.

On the flip side, we have made extra effort to give positive attention, and heap the praise when he is behaving well. It really is beginning to reap rewards.

Consistency is definitely the key. They are searching for new boundaries at this age and nothing is more scary than not finding any!

bluecake Fri 30-Sep-11 23:48:30

Have just got in and read through. All hugely helpful - thank you! Will respond properly tomorrow as need bed but v grateful for suggestions and solidarity. Instinct is toy removal - specifically train set - will work better than a naughty step type thing. Will be back to post tomorrow. Night all - and thanks for the wine grin

AnxiousElephant Sat 01-Oct-11 00:13:42

We also have a threenager grin love that phrase btw!
Our tactics are
1. logical reasoning and consequences i.e.Me 'dd2 put your knickers on please' dd2 'no', ok well you will have to go to school without them on and get cold bits then'. Ignore for a few minutes while she thinks then 'ok its time for school now, we are going' dd2 'I want my knickers ooon!'
2. Warn first by counting to five. 'I will count to five and then if no response time out, usually I get to 3 and she complies smile now!
3. Rude/ aggressive/ defacing property she gets 'you do not x,y or z, sit in the hallway and gets picked up and put there. I ask her why she has been put there and she has to answer, if not she stays in for defiance, then once she answers me and looks me in the face she is told to apologise to whoever she has upset, cuddle and back to doing whatever.
4. Try to pick up on all the good behaviour i.e. queuing nicely in a shop, sharing well, eating well and lots of praise. You are being a really big girl helping me, thank you for taking your cup out to the kitchen, putting clothes in the washing machine etc.
5. Giving children tasks they can do makes them feel self worth and useful which improves self esteem. It also shows them you trust them to do things and they rise to the challenge smile

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