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Controlling behaviour in a 3.5 year old- need some help

(8 Posts)
amalur Tue 18-Oct-11 11:33:49

Hello, I hope someone else has similar experience to ours and can give some advice. Our 3.6yo DD2 needs to have lots of control over everything and gets really upset when things do not go her way.

I know it sounds like typical terrible twos tantrums but it goes beyond that and she has always been like this (since she was nine months old). She needs to decide by herself which glass she is going to drink from, how to pour her milk, where her chair needs to be, how her bread has to be cut, etc, etc. These needs change every day because it is not about things being in a specific way but about her making decisions.

I don't think we are dealing very well with this. Where possible we try to let her have choices but inevitably there are times where she has to go with what everyone else is having or doing. We are firm with her but she gets into a right state. She tends to ask for everything in a whiney voice or crying from the outset. If you offer her something, an apple, a drink, etc, she will probably say no and turn her face but as soon as you put it away she starts crying and asking for it. I tend to say tough, you had your chance but I just realised this morning that I have been having these fights with her for over two years and there don't seem to be getting easier. Hunger and tiredness are huge triggers but then anything can set her off.

So, I wonder whether there is some kind of help we could access, we have requested parenting classes from the borough but it has been six months and nothing is coming. I am not thinking supernanny, more a child psychologist but I can't find anything locally (London South west). Anyone in a similar situation who can give some advice on course of action?

thisisyesterday Tue 18-Oct-11 11:42:12

if you think that she has a behavioural problem then definitely see your health visitor or GP. explain your concerns and ask to be referred to the community paediatrician. they'll be able to do an initial assessment and decide whether it needs to be taken further.

in the meantime I would stick with letting her have choice, but limited choice.
I mean, i would go so far as getting rid of all the cups and buying 3 or 4 identical ones so she simply CANNOT fuss over it.
otherwise you get 2 cups out and say "which one do you want". when she has chosen one then give it to her.

if she then fusses over it just leave the cup out (don't take it away, just leave it there) and say "when you can speak to me nicely I will talk to you" and IGNORE. I cannot abide whining. my ds2 is a horror for whining at me and now I just refuse to talk to him unless he is speaking properly to me.

she will tantrum. I am sure of it. But be firm. I've found that generally the first couple of minutes are the worst, but they soon get over it and accept it and after a few days she will realise that she can't just keep using tantrums and screaming/whining to get whatever she likes

BertieBotts Tue 18-Oct-11 11:43:35

This really really is normal, definitely common to this age - my DS does it, his CM's DD does it, almost all of the other children in our NCT group do it. DS has done it since about 18 months and the others from varying times. Some of them only seem to do it intermittently but for a lot of them it's been pretty constant. I think it's more about managing, than trying to cure it - she will eventually get to a stage where she realises that the world isn't going to end if something doesn't get done exactly how she imagined it in her mind.

For whiny voices I usually get DS to ask nicely for things before I will listen to him. I don't take things away for whining, just give him a chance to ask nicely. I try to remember myself as well blush if I'm shouting or I can get a bit wheedly/whiny at times when I'm trying not to shout but getting frustrated with him.

For the decisions which she can't make and trying to manage these, pre-empting and pre-emptive explanations as much as possible, and then saying things like "You got to choose last time, and you'll get to choose next time, but this time it is my turn to choose."

If you know she will deliberately say no to what you offer even if she does want it, could you try a different approach e.g. put the apple in a bowl, on the table but not right in front of her and say "There's an apple here for you DD, if you want it."

Does she go to nursery? Have you asked her teacher about it?

elfiro Tue 18-Oct-11 12:34:44

She sounds like a normal, bright and spirited little girl. I have one very similar, who is now 10 and mostly fine (if a little stroppy and hormonal at time, but hey....), but I remember finding her really tricky at age 3.

I would say stand your ground and put up with the tantrums for important things, and pick your battles the rest of the time. With the cup thing, I would just ask her to go and bring a cup from the cupboard then you will put a drink in it, or even let her pour the drink.

I still try not to ask my dd too many questions, and just keep the show on the road. If I ask her how school was, she could go straight into a mood if she remembers something negative about the day. I've learned just to stand back and let her make her own decisions where possible. I remember when she was about 4 and we were at a party with a bouncy castle, which she loves, in theory. Everyone was trying to persuade her to go on it and the more they pushed, the more she refused. Eventually once everyone left her alone, she decided to go on and allow herself to have fun!

3 year olds whine but if you're consistent about it now, she will learn that you only listen if she speaks nicely. I counted 1-2-3 for each time they whine then put them in time-out if they continue. I have friends whose 7 and 8 year olds still whine, because they are allowed to.

If you have other children then she will have to learn that she can't always have things her way. I encourage compromise with my dcs by asking them to decide together which DVD they will watch, and tell them when they have decided I will put it on for them. Sometimes it takes them 20 minutes!

amalur Tue 18-Oct-11 14:01:17

Thanks all for replies. I think we do most of the suggested stuff, like pre-empting situations, and limiting choice and standing our ground. It is just that sometimes she seems genuinely upset rather than just pushing boundaries. It seems to me that we are fighting who she is rather than what she does. Sometimes we don't have a window though to preempt anything. She may get up in a mood and that's it. It doesn't help that our mornings are busy although we have started choosing clothes the night before which she likes doing and it is one less fight in the morning.

We don't think there is a behavioural problem. We went to children services locally and they told us to keep a diary. It did not give us solutions but reassured us that there is no problem, just a very strong personality. She goes to full time nursery and she behaves well there, she has strops but they seem to be in line with everyone else. We have an older DD who was nowhere near this challenging, even if she was a handful too (more ants in her pants than angry though).

She does the resisting thing, if you tell her to do something she will say no, but when you stop she does it.

I am a bit more reassured reading your replies that we are not going in the right direction. Maybe we just need time, patience and some wine in the evenings...

BertieBotts Tue 18-Oct-11 15:44:18

They do say that 3 is way more terrible than 2! Apparently there is a hormone surge at this age too which means that, like teenagers, they can be really stroppy, but also that really little things can upset them (imagine having PMT constantly AND being small and having to do what the big people tell you)

amalur Tue 18-Oct-11 16:18:00

Bertie I know, I think that a lot, I don't always like doing what other people tell me, it must be a pain for a child!

thisisyesterday Tue 18-Oct-11 17:00:38

i was thinking about this earlier while I was driving along ignoring the wailing from the back seat of the car wink

and I think that sometimes, for some children, you can offer too much choice.
This is certainly the case for ds1 who is now 6. Sometimes children can find it too much to always have to make the decision iyswim? even when it is little things, and we have had meltdowns in the past from DS1 simply because I have asked him what he wants for breakfast rather than just making something.
that isn't to say that not giving a choice will necessarily stop tantrums immediately, I just think that sometimes they need you to take the lead and say "here is your drink" without even asking if they want one, what cup they want it in, whether they'd like milk or juice etc etc... it's easy to give too much choice

does that make sense?

i think bertie has a good idea with just maybe placing a drink/snack on the table and saying "this is here if you want it" and then maybe disappearing into the kitchen or somewhere so you don't provoke an immediate "but i don't want THAT" lol

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