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Help me to survive another day with tough 3 year old!!

(27 Posts)
houmousandcarrotsandwich Fri 05-Apr-13 09:13:30

DS has been going through a spell of unprovoked violence, anger, shouting for about 18 months and it's getting worse. It's got that I'm not socialising because he refuses to share and will attack other children for no reason (example I attempted playgroup last week, used to go a lot but because of his behaviour not been for a while, as soon as we walked in he ran up to a girl and pulled a clump of her hair out).
It's also aimed at me and his younger sister (11 months) and DH sometimes.

I have tried, playing with him one on one in playgroup environments (obviously we do at home), positive praise, time out/naughty step, taking toys away or just walking away.
We talk about what is expected of him and he even says "I mustn't bite or hit or push other children", "must be kind to Dsis".

Have spoken with HVs and someone is coming out Tuesday.

It's really getting me down. It's sooo tough (I knew being a parent wouldn't be easy, but this is so unbelievable hard).
So, I'm asking the people of mumsnet for....something?! Just feeling isolated and need some pointers,advise, lifelines to keep us going until Tuesday.

Teachercreature Fri 05-Apr-13 10:39:01

My DD also went through a very bad phase when she was younger and my marriage split up - really sorry to hear how you're struggling.

You've pretty much already done exactly as I'd have suggested anyway, especially the HV - they helped me a great deal so I shall keep my fingers crossed for you!

One suggestion - saw something on the BBC the other day re children with similar issues, and they suggested something which I already used as a teacher: a "sliding scale" of small punishments. When my DD had her bad patch I often used to feel as though I didn't know what to do next! The "sliding scale" thing puts you in control again.

So basically, set simple rules (very simple for a three year old.) Like these three, "Be nice/polite to everyone, don't harm any one or anything, and do as you are told first time." Also spell out both the rewards you will give him and the consequences he will suffer if not, so he is crystal clear.

Every time he keeps a rule, say so and make a fuss of him - immediate rewards with a three year old, so whatever you think he likes. (Sticker? Marble in a jar that when full he gets a big toy? Small plastic toy? Star on chart? Anything!)

Every time he breaks a rule, remind him first that is breaking the rule. (Calmly if possible, but I know just how hard that is!) If he continues, do first thing on scale. (Like, time out, or whatever you have chosen.) Always keep to the same order - put them up on the wall even, along with rules. Consistency and "calm assertiveness" are key.

If this sounds like a load of rubbish or something you've already tried, you could try this book (I haven't read it but another MNer recommended it and I want to!)

I hope something in there is of some use, and wish you all the best!

houmousandcarrotsandwich Fri 05-Apr-13 11:11:15

Thanks, will look into book. Also sliding scale, do you remember what BBC program was called?(maybe able to find on iplayer)

How is DD now?
Glad to hear HV helped, I'm really hoping they can, I've found them abit hit & miss in the past.

Thank you again

Teachercreature Fri 05-Apr-13 11:45:50

The sliding scale on BBC didn't mention which things they used unfortunately! But here is the link in case it is helpful, as I think they mention training being available for parents too (and you could ask HV about it):

For me, I found with both teaching and my DD that it's about using small things your child dislikes, getting progressively bigger. She is seven now and we use lose a "point", then go to room for ten mins, then favourite toy away for 24 hours and so on. I found it was more effective than just time outs, BUT I have also watched Supernanny and I know for the younger ones she swears by them, so maybe you could have a look at her website too?? I have also seen her use a child's room for a time out. Here are the links for her too just in case:

I think mainly though it's about finding a system that works both for your child and you, and then sticking to it. It helps you and your DC to know what's going to happen - whatever that may be.

And DD is now fine thank you! She started the real tantrums at 3, and I think would have grown out of it quite quickly if not for the split. I think she did it initially for a reaction, then after the break up from insecurity. She hasn't had a tantrum in a couple of years now, thank goodness, and although still headstrong is easily kept on track with small rewards and so on.

I hope the HV is a good one - if though they are no use, you could try someone like and ask them re getting support and training? I think the right backup is key, as it is very hard to live with.

Hope all goes well, fingers crossed for you!

cloudhands Fri 05-Apr-13 12:30:10

Good advice about dealing with aggression here, Helping Children with Aggression

houmousandcarrotsandwich Fri 05-Apr-13 17:52:57

Thanks cloud, will read that when DCs are in bed.
Actually had a better day, couldn't tell you why! Although still had outbursts, not as many.
Teacher I have reserved 123magic book at library, thanks for tip

cloudhands Sat 06-Apr-13 06:10:41

glad you had a better day! Hope the article helps, and you get to socialise more soon!

Teachercreature Sat 06-Apr-13 11:22:00

Great news houmous smile

houmousandcarrotsandwich Fri 12-Apr-13 16:29:59

Update...things are not great sad

DS has been very up and down. Some days pretty good, others like today, awful (I've been bitten twice and lost count of kicks and whacks!)
HV was useless! Told me it was to be expected as he's a boy and he will grow out of it!

My local childrens centre run parenting courses and I've managed to get on one , so hoping that helps.

Have got a birthday party at play centre tomorrow & really don't think I can face it. I just know he'll terror some poor child and hurt somebody. It's a shame because he actually gets on fairly well with the birthday boy. But after the last party where I was given lots of death stares for my appalling parenting by his victims mothers, I think I will be pulling a sickie.

I've also noticed he doesn't cope well with door ways for example, If someone is kind and opens the door for us, he goes bazurk. I've tried explaining people are being kind and we should say thank you. This isn't just once or twice, this is every time.
I wonder if he's got personal space issues? Any ideas on this would be welcome.

Just picked up 123 book from library, so an intensive reading session for me tonight!

sedgieloo Fri 12-Apr-13 16:42:29

Hi houmousandcarrotsandwich that sounds rough. No ideas on the personal space thing. But I came on to rec 123 magic. I'm having success with my headstrong 2.5 yr old. Hope it is helpfu to you too.

Finney2 Fri 12-Apr-13 23:41:21

Hi houmous. I have a little boy aged 2yrs, 4 months who sounds exactly the same as yours. He is very, very violent to other children for apparently no reason. His baby brother also gets the brunt of it, and I've been punched in the face tonight sad

It's been going on for a year now and our HV has basically said the same as yours. I hope she's right tbh.

We also have 'doorway' problems, funnily enough. I don't have any solutions but I wanted you to now you're not alone. It's a really shitty position to be in and I truly sympathise. Will be watching your thread x

yadiyadiya Sat 13-Apr-13 02:20:42

Hi there

I can completely sympathise with you. I know how depressing it can be, luckily many of the other parent's I know understand so they may not all be as bad as you think. My son is 2 yrs 4 mths and is exactly the same.

I find my sons behaviour is much better if we go out and play, have a run around and burn off some energy. We live in South East Asia and the temperature regularly reaches 35 degrees. As soon as I have dropped my daughter and husband off at school, we come home and we go out and play until it gets too hot, then after dinner, we're back out until 6.30, in and straight to bed. He is out like a light after playing.

A friend if mine has 2 boys who are now 9 and 10 and they are such kind and considerate boys but they were just like my son at his age so there is hope.

Don't be too hard on yourself, I am sure you are doing a fantastic job.

houmousandcarrotsandwich Sat 13-Apr-13 10:59:16

THanks for letting me know I'm not alone! It must be the other children in our area who are odd right?! Only joking, I know each child has there own 'issues' along the way, fingers crossed I get a delightful teenager after hellish toddler years!

Started 123 book, sounds promising. I didn't get far enough to start practicing (exhaustion and need of sleep).

Despite yesterday's message, I am going to party (talked into by host). Used some bribery, DS knows if he is good he will get a new little toy car (bad mummy I know!). DD is going in the sling so I can always be close to DS & have put him in bright pink t shirt so I can track him easer! Think of me in an hours time wishing Id pulled a sickie!!

Teachercreature Sun 14-Apr-13 12:20:13

hi houmous I hope the party was ok.

The HV - gah! Sorry about that - had high hopes she might help. The door thing in particular sounds slightly curious to me. Have you explored issues like autism already?? Don't want to scare you and it could absolutely just be "normal boy behaviour" but if it continues once you've tried different strategies how about ringing CAMH? They should be able to advise you if it IS just normal and not to worry if so. Or, they might be able to advise on behaviour management courses? Sorry not to be more help but pre-schoolers not my area of expertise!

My other quick thought - have you considered trying something like looking at his diet? A friend of mine said her kids were having behaviour troubles and she almost totally cut refined sugar from their diets and got them eating low GI - it made a massive difference very quickly. My DD naturally eats fairly low sugar as I do myself and I noticed the other day after she ate a load of chocolate at Easter she had a mad half hour of shocking behaviour straight afterwards!

Also might be worth keeping a diary to see if you can spot any patterns of things that set him off - food, sleep, friends, anything.

Hope you're doing ok anyway, sorry I can't be more use!

houmousandcarrotsandwich Sun 14-Apr-13 20:57:56

Party was actually ok. Had a few 'near misses' but I stuck to him and stopped him making contact. So party was tear free (him, other children and me!)
I have considered autism, or similar ASD issues. I can see certain traits, but wonder if I'm looking too hard IYSWIM. Surely HV would recognise signs?
Hadn't thought of diet. I am lucky that he eats like a Labrador, so I can easily get him his 5 a day. I do try to cook from scratch when I can, but busy family life does mean that some meals are helped with jar sauces and such like. His diet is generally low in sugar (I'm pretty strict on sweets/chocolate, he even only drinks water not squash) but low GI maybe worth looking into, such as cutting down on bread.
He has always been a fantastic sleeper, 12-13 hours a night. Never argues at bedtime.
I have been keeping a diary since he broke up from preschool, as they also suggested this. I have yet to find a pattern.

Someone else at party mentioned personal space (their own observation). I did abit of Internet research and found lots on children who are space invaders but not much on who are over sensitive on the issue.
Had doorway like issues today at farm, going through open gateways (as in you couldn't close them). This surprised me as it's obviously more open environment. Also noticed in the car, if road if narrow and need to pull over or go past a car closely he goes crazy.
I have contacted a local play therapist to see if they think they can help me. Has anyone any experience of this?

Well off to bed to charge up for another 'eventful' day!

Cherriesarered Sun 14-Apr-13 21:13:28

I really struggled with my DS at this age. He is older now (7) and brilliant. I still have to make sure he doesn't get into fights at soft play etc. though.

I was aware that his behaviour was more extreme than other children and he did tantrum, kick and bite me. He actually had glue ear so was deaf and I and many others didn't realise as his speech was really good. I think health issues are worth looking into.

I think all of the things you mention work with fairly compliant children but with more challenging children they don't work. Parents with more compliant children don't understand. I have a compliant child now and the difference is amazing. Life is so easy now.

What worked for me was just being very firm, so if there was a tantrum, I wouldn't react just say, "we will just calm down and wait here until you listen and behave". I also wouldn't look him in the eye, I would look away after I said above which bizarrely seemed to work. Letting him watch TV helped, but as well as that making sure that when not chilling, doing ALOT of physical activity. Trampoline, swimming, cycling, den building etc..

Talking about behaviour and social skills and getting some social skills books and reading them to him helped.

Also routine, everything is organised and planned. Clothes are chosen and put out, meals are on the dot, routine, routine, routine. I think boys need this.

Teachercreature Sun 14-Apr-13 21:54:48

hi houmous I'm so glad the party was ok!

HVs (like teachers!) can be a very mixed group, with very different experiences. You'd hope they might recognise signs of an underlying condition, but not necessarily - I guess it would depend on how much they knew of those specific issues personally, and also I know that with young children the first step always will be the things we've all covered so far - so, reading the books, diet etc etc. I also agree other health issues worth exploring.

In all likelihood, it will be either a bad phase or some small issue you will be able to sort though the above.

That said, I've done a bit of reading about autism recently and that also may be worth ruling out, mainly because of the proximity issues you mention. Here is quite a handy general checklist (although of course everyone is different!):

I've also read that although invading personal space is more common with people with autism, that they can also go the opposite way - also, it may not in fact be autism at all, but a form of sensory processing trouble in isolation. This might be useful:


I don't know much about play therapists, but I guess a good one might well be able to help and you could discuss your concerns with them? Or perhaps ring the National Autistic society and have a chat with them - they should be the absolute experts and might be able to say "oh definitely not" and put your mind at rest immediately on that score?

Anyway I hope you find a solution to make life easier for all of you soon, whatever it is! smile

Cherriesarered Mon 15-Apr-13 06:56:24

He might have sight problems or problems with depth perception. It's worth having a eye test with an ophthalmic optician. (Free)

houmousandcarrotsandwich Sat 20-Apr-13 20:33:25

Me again!!

Briefly since last time... DS first morning back at preschool was AWFUL! Bit 5 children, lots of anger. It made me feel so sad (selfish?), and took him to GP (out of desperation!)who referred us to developmental paediatrician. Have been told appointment will prob be July.
He then went to preschool Thursday morning was an absolute angel! It's like living with a hormonal teenager, I never know which DS is going to wake up in the morning.
So I looked into play therapy. I saw therapist today for a consult, with just me. I'm going to give it a go (despite DH thinking it's a load of rubbish and I'm being ripped off), we have our first one on one next week.

A few questions/opinions about what she said..
-transitional object. DS has never had one. I never made an effort to introduce one and he's never 'picked' one. Therapist think I should introduce one now. My gut feeling is that this is going backwards in his development, but would be interested in others thoughts.

- apparently we going to do something called "Filial therapy", has anyone any experience of this? If so, did it help you?

Thanks again everyone x

tumbletumble Sun 21-Apr-13 09:06:45

My feeling is that you can't introduce a transitional object to a child if they don't want one. My DS1 has never had one despite several attempts (as we thought it might help with his sleeping).

HotheadPaisan Sun 21-Apr-13 09:14:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

houmousandcarrotsandwich Sun 21-Apr-13 11:24:48

Yes of course the special needs section would prob have a few people who have done therapy (my brain ain't it was!)

As to what's going on...I have absolutely no idea! I have assumed the door way thing is a combination of the personal space thing & lack of patience. Preschool equally miffed by it all.

No family history (that I am aware of)

I will be very surprised if he takes to transitional object tbh.

Am starting to think I am the cause of it all. It's bringing my mood down and it feels like it's making him worse.

HotheadPaisan Sun 21-Apr-13 12:21:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LightAFire Sun 21-Apr-13 15:12:07

hi houmous have name changed mid conversation sorry! (was teachercreature).

Why do you say you feel you are the cause? You sound like a really lovely and concerned mum so I don't think you should be blaming yourself!

I don't know anything (sorry!) about therapy for children, but it seems a good idea to me just the same. With any luck the therapist might be able to offer you some insights and support, but if not then it's really good that you have that appt booked for July.

googlyeyes Sun 21-Apr-13 19:11:27

Just to say, please don't expect health visitors to have any knowledge re autism or any other special needs. Not to say that none of them do, but on the whole they are not trained to a level that would enable them to even come close to being able to diagnose, especially if the issues are more subtle.

My son was diagnosed at 24 months, but only after 3 different HVs and 4 different GPs had said there was absolutely nothing to worry about. It was only my gut feeling (and google!) that spurred me on.

NB I'm NOT suggesting your son has any special needs at all, just wanted to make the point that it is only community/ developmental paeds who are qualified enough to diagnose or rule out certain conditions

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