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Terrible behaviour - ds 3.5 yrs - I'm in tears and don't know what to do!

(5 Posts)
Magicrabbit Thu 25-Apr-13 09:37:42

My ds 3.5 yrs has been having meltdowns for the last 6 months. It started just before I had dc2 end of last year and I feel like it's not passing. He's had a lot of upheaval with new baby, plus we've just sorted out toileting issues he's had. I thought that was the basis of it but despite the last 2 weeks feeling better and being less chaotic, this week we have hit another low. He's become very clingy with me since I had dc2 which is not unexpected but means that I'm dealing with the bad behaviour mostly. As a result I'm struggling to cope with it, I'm very upset and it plays constantly on my mind.

In terms of his behaviour, he can get angry very quickly - it could be because he doesn't get his own way but also silly things likes he's dropped something himself but hits me out of frustration. He hits out to me, dh, nursery staff and other children. He also throws things.

He had a good weekend with only a few episodes which passed quickly, and were mainly due to tiredness. He still needs a lot of sleep both in terms of daytime nap and the evening.

The reason it's come to a head again is that he's had 2 days at nursery this week and been in a bad mood both times. He's hit and kicked staff, and I'm totally ashamed to say, he spat at one of them. I'm crying just thinking about it. We are aligned with nursery on discipline on these things but as for the spitting, I've never even seen him do this before. I'm so embarrassed and ashamed. I dread to think how today will go.

Sorry for the long post but it's so upsetting and I can't be truly honest with friends and family about it as I'm sad and embarrassed. When he's not in a bad mood, he's fun, humerous, bright, energetic and good to be around. I just want more times like that. Each day he wakes up, I don't know which boy I'm going to have - fun and well behaved, or angry and hitting. I make sure he as plenty of food and sleep but what else can I do. They help but don't solve the issue.

Thanks for reading my post as it's a long one. Will this pass, or is there a bigger issue? Do we need to see gp, hv, have a hearing test? Dh wants to see if we can visit a behaviour specialist but I just don't know.

amazingmumof6 Thu 25-Apr-13 10:39:10

it will pass, but you need to help him with the anger issues - you must find if it is due to being oversensitive, sad, scared, feeling lost or maybe a medical issue. observe what sets him off and make notes, you might see a patter emerge.

the clinging is a sure sign that he wants you to "baby" him a bit, so you could try and indulge him!

I know it will look & feel like a step back, but see it from his point of view: baby cries - you pick him up. baby has cozy cuddles, so he wants in. you feed baby - he wants to be fed too! or carried around or stay up later.
so try and think of him as if he was say only 1.5 yr old and treat him like that every now and then. I know it sounds bonkers, but it will reassure him! and trust me, soon he will want to be a big boy again, independent and in control.

now the bad behaviour - yes, he's clearly frustrated so he gets physical instead of verbal, very normal and typical of boys!

don't cry about him spitting, you don't know if a nursery worker or a child may have upset him or wound him up, so he reacted badly.
I'm not justifying spitting, he's not allowed to spit, hit, kick or scratch, but what if they are not nice to him?
maybe he hates nursery - is he happy going there? what is your gut feeling?

yes, get his hearing checked, even his sight if you think he bumps into things far too often!

but most importantly hug him and reassure him that you love him, try to spend some special time together, just a 2 of you bonding. remember, he does miss you, but just sharing a cup of tea and a biscuit and chat about something for 10 mins will reinforce to him that you still care about him and want his company!

or involve him when cooking dinner or folding clothes, anything really as long as he can be close!

I don't think he has serious problems, but if you are worried about do talk to your gp.

I hope this helps, I'm sending you lots of hugs!

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 25-Apr-13 11:35:49

If you didn't mention that DS has periods of being sunny natured and well-behaved, let alone have a DC2 under 6 months of age, I might be more concerned.

Are you worried about his hearing or sight, if so raise that with your health visitor or take DS to your GP. At this age it is as likely to be wilful unwillingness to pay heed and stop playing or follow orders. As amazingmum says, if in doubt, take him along to the surgery.

Toileting issues, that is such a landmark, every parent recognises that, if you've come through that, one hassle less!

With the best will in the world the bulk of your attention has probably been on DC2. DS suddenly looks huge in comparison. He is more mature by dint of being older but he is still only little himself. He needs to learn to be polite and unselfish and thoughtful where others are concerned. If he has become territorial or possessive he is venting aggression that could come from feeling insecure.

Make the most of any good behaviour by praise and affection. Positive reinforcement persuades your child he gains from being consistently 'good'. Don't just wait for him to start playing up to pay him attention. Something as simple as calling across the room, or just hold his hand, cuddle him, stroke his hair as you walk past, talk to him not at him. I agree (again!) with amazingmum, a bit of 'babying' can really help.

Quiet time spent feeding your youngest can also be quiet cuddle or read-a-story-time with DS. Or CBeebies or whatever. 20 minutes quality one-on-one time with DS while DC2 naps or DH takes over won't chip into your day too much but he'll get a real boost.

When he acts up, don't use a blanket term like "Don't be so naughty!" Be specific, tell him what you don't want to do. Try using sentences starting with, "DO..." instead of "Don't..." to vary the message. A good tip is to move the child from the area preferably to a quiet space where he won't get wound up being told off in front of others. If picking him up or leading him to a naughty step doesn't work, take yourself out of the room. Anything he uses as a missile, remove it. Any kind of attempt to control by spanking is going to backfire, DS will think aha that is what I'll do too, but he won't use it in moderation, he won't discriminate who he hits.

Let him know you understand when he is upset or cross about something, sounding sympathetic and acknowledging he feels annoyed or fed up, then jollying him out of it works better than telling him off or disregarding his mood.

I'm not saying, never give him an order, or, analyse every detail to death.

I have heard people say you can't reason with a child that age, they don't listen anyway. Personally I found that if I put into words something of what my DCs felt they were comforted by Mum knowing what they were cross about. Then I could suggest a way of sorting the situation out. Sometimes it was like a stuck record "I know you don't like broccoli we'll just cut up beans instead and we'll put that broccoli on another plate. Now how about you eat up the rest".

The difficulty is judging when to pick your battles. Sometimes "giving in" over broccoli is actually a tactical withdrawal so he'll eat the rest of what's on his plate.

Btw don't be too embarrassed to apologise if you get caught out doing something wrong or in the heat of the moment, little children appreciate honesty if you say, "Mummy got it wrong, silly Mummy" or "You're right, Mummy won't do it again".

Magicrabbit Thu 25-Apr-13 13:44:07

Thank you both for your responses, and the good advice you have given. It feels like such a roller coaster and I guess today is a low point of that ride!

Re nursery, he's been going for a long time and has always enjoyed it. We've never had issues with him going so I think the last 2 days when he's misbehaved is his way of showing he wants me and is angry to be taking orders from other adults. The previous week he had a few great days, so it can vary considerably depending on how he's feeling.

In terms of attention, I'm very conscious of that and we are trying harder to give more positive attention and praise as I do think that when preoccupied he gets attention for the negative stuff. We need to do it more though.

I'm trying what you say in terms understanding why he's upset and confirming this back to him, but on occasions I'm at a loss as to what the disaster is! Again, it's a case of doing it more though.

On a positive note, he is brilliant with dc2 - so gentle, kind, has lots of interaction with them and he never goes to hit out at them.

Thanks again. We'll stick with the advice and hopefully gradually we'll come through it soon. Ah, parenting - it can be a challenge!!

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 25-Apr-13 13:56:47

Honestly it is a huge learning curve for all of us and by the sound of it if he is already loving and gentle with his baby sibling he is very nearly there, you are doing a great job so don't feel embarrassed if you let on to others that he has his moments, sometimes we're all thinking that about our own but nobody likes to be first to admit it.

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