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3 1/2 year old spirited boy behaviour......arghgghgghghgh

(22 Posts)
thegasmanswife Sat 25-Jul-15 20:11:48

The last few weeks/months(?) have been tough with our 3.5 yr old son. He has never been a particularly easy child but the latest behaviours are hard to take. If he doesn't get his way (and I make a point of making sure he doesn't always get his way!) he spits, hits, refuses to leave, etc. Sometimes says really nasty violent things to us. I've got the book 'raising your spirited child' and he definitely fits most of the descriptions in the intro...I'm yet to read much further) I think he is permanently tired and his behaviour is definitely worse when he's tired but he rarely goes to sleep before 8/8:30 and is woken most mornings by our 15 month old at 6am sharp. We have a small flat so it's difficult to stop him being woken by our v noisy little one. He still naps at lunchtime (he is hideous if he doesn't) but I have never managed to get him to nap at home so it is always in the car (and yes, I go out in the car solely for that reason if I have to!)

We're a pretty laid back couple and our household is nearly always calm - we don't shout at each other and never used to shout at the children, though that is changing with sheer frustration (and tiredness). I've been told by many people that I'm v patient - I'm now wondering if I've been too patient with him??! We're not precious about our belongings and I'm quite up for kids being allowed to be creative rather than putting too many restrictions on them - but now I think we're wondering if we've not implemented enough 'rules'.

My closest friends with children have girls who sit down and do colouring in so I frequently feel like we are getting it wrong (and remind myself these are boys here and I shouldn't expect nice calm activities)

Finding it tricky to know how to entertain them now. I'm home 3 days a week with them and try to be out of the flat as often as possible but when indoors, DS just wants to run around the flat, pick up kitchen utensils/other random items that he shouldn't be playing with, hit things with sticks if at all possible or dress up as superheroes. Happy to get stuck in with my boy now and then but finding it difficult to do all blooming day long! argh!

I suppose I'm just after some 'me toos' so I don't feel completely inept at this parenting thing. And if anyone has lived through 3.5yr old boy behaviour and come out the other side...please reassure me that it gets easier!!!

Sorry long post - many thanks for reading!

Lndnmummy Sat 25-Jul-15 20:24:48

Sorry just a quick one as am in the middle of getting my IDENTICAL 3 1/2 to bed but yes "ME TOO"

thegasmanswife Sat 25-Jul-15 20:33:20

thank you Lndnmummy - I already feel better smile

TerryTheGreenHorse Sat 25-Jul-15 20:35:23

Me too absolutely. He's calming down a little bit now, he's just Over four.

Florriesma Sat 25-Jul-15 20:39:00

They're 9 & 11. Much much calmer and actually sit down and do quiet activities. There is hope.

I spent those years jealously eyeing up little girls who sat down and coloured. Mine wanted to climb bounce and run riot. We have a deaf neighbour thank god.

Ubik1 Sat 25-Jul-15 20:43:25

closest friends with children have girls who sit down and do colouring in so I frequently feel like we are getting it wrong (and remind myself these are boys here and I shouldn't expect nice calm activities)

You talk a lot about 'boy' behaviour and how 'spirited' he is etc. none of that matters.
He needs to behave himself and that means you must assert yourself enough to have proper control. That is summoning up proper mummy fury. I can do it without shouting. It is effective.

Strategies which helped with my three were:
• 'I'm going to count to 10...' Is surprisingly effective. Usually the counting gives them time to think it through and decide to do as they are told.
•five minute warning -' In five minutes TV goes off,' it gives them time to get used to an idea.

I think it's great that you are patient but there are times when they simply need to do as they are told, tired or not, and you have to have the authority to make it happen.

Also age 3 is challenging- they become much more amenable aged four. Good luck.

UniversalBagel Sat 25-Jul-15 20:49:44

Me too. My 3.5 yo was like this. He has calmed down massively in the last year. 2-3 was unreal. He'd go to nursery all day and I'd still find myself out on a marathon bike ride at 6pm yo tire him out. We lived somewhere tiny too. We now live somewhere much bigger and it makes so much difference. And he will sit and colour for hours now or do LEGO. I think it changes with age but also about finding something that will engage them. LEGO has literally changed my life.

Wolfiefan Sat 25-Jul-15 20:53:00

I agree there is too much emphasis on him being a boy. Boys can be calm too.
Spirited doesn't mean spitting at you when he can't have his own way.
You need clear consequences and clear expectations. If you do x then y happens.

thegasmanswife Sat 25-Jul-15 20:59:06

thanks - I have read a million parenting books (probably too many - sometimes I wish i hadn't read a thing and I'd be more confident about what to do!!) - I use counting a LOT and yes it definitely helps. And he never, ever gets his way after bad behaviour. I've been much more consistent lately on consequences - "if you do x again then y will happen" - I guess I'm just wondering why he's taking so long to get the message!!

Wolfiefan Sat 25-Jul-15 21:04:24

Because he's three! And the eternal optimist. grin
Stand firm and calm.
Chant inwardly "this too shall pass!"

captainproton Sat 25-Jul-15 21:07:41

My son and daughter can both be like this, and they can both sit down to colouring. I try to think of toddlers being a bit like springer spaniels. They have to be exercised, and if we didn't have a garden I would go insane so my hat goes off to anyone raising small children in a flat.

I think they are worse when over tired and it's hard when others disturb them.

thegasmanswife Sat 25-Jul-15 21:11:55

Ubik1 and Wolfiefan - could you give me some ideas for consequences you'd use? Currently we have:
*take a toy away
*no more tv for rest of day (though I hate this one as our tiny kitchen is set away from living room so trying to prepare dinner while both boys are unsupervised - and most probably climbing things - is tricky without the tv to 'babysit' - I do it when I have to though)
* loses stories at bedtime (also hate this one as think reading to them is really really important - yes I'm also a teacher......of boys.....)
*sent to room (we have a stair gate across door - he will throw out toys or climb over gate when sent in an angry mood so I have recently started using a sand timer app on my phone - 3 mins - if he throws anything or climbs out the timer starts again at the beginning)

If we are out, I now (try) to be firm on 'if you carry on/don't do this then we will go home' - but a) I am getting sick of being the one that has to leave everywhere (!) and b) if we are already on our way home, I don't have a consequence!

Also sometimes use - 'tomorrow you won't be allowed to wear your outfits' (he absolutely loves dressing up) but I'm not sure the time lapse for the consequence is working with him yet - possibly needs to be a bit older before he gets that kind of thing??

I do struggle with all this as trying to deal with the 15 month old at the same time - and the guilt that his big brother is getting a lot of the attention.

And I don't think he has any real behaviour 'problems' as such as nursery seem to think his behaviour is ok.

thegasmanswife Sat 25-Jul-15 21:13:01

Wolfiefan - Gin is helping a lot ;)

Wolfiefan Sat 25-Jul-15 21:21:08

Haha. Mine are older now. Try to make consequences as immediate as possible. I'd avoid go to your room or anything that makes you suffer dreadfully!
My DD is good with positive consequences. bribes if you do x nicely we will go to soft play later.
Offer options. If you x then you can watch y on TV now.
Try and get a yes first. Do you want to do x tomorrow? Then I need you to go to bed nicely tonight.
Praise all good behaviour.
Watch for signs of tiredness or hunger. Tired or hungry kids find it much harder to be reasonable!
Allow take up time. Don't fall into the trap of threatening something then immediately following through. I will sometimes make a request then walk away or turn my back for a second.
Issue a challenge. I bet you can't tidy up before I run the bath!!
Feel free to post vague scenarios.

RandomMess Sat 25-Jul-15 21:26:01

I'd be tempted to have a good clear out of toys and put lots away (loft if you have one) so he has a few toys that he enjoys playing with. The an immediate consequence could be putting one of the toys in time out - on a high shelf so can be seen but not played with! Good behaviour to earn them back???

Florriesma Sat 25-Jul-15 21:32:39

I remember that lots of praise for the behaviour you like worked well. (Sometimes that was a challenge)

Artandco Sat 25-Jul-15 21:33:29

It's not a boy thing, just a child thing. I have two boys who love sitting colouring for example.

With mine I have never really done the ' go to room' , 'on stairs' things.
I'm probably seen as slightly hippy but I will sit them on my lap as ask them to think about what they have done, so they recall what isnt allowed. We then ask them what they can do about it, why it isn't allowed, and what they will try and do in future. Takes longer at first ( we started from around 18months before they could talk properly), but we have found they need to be told a lot less what not to do.
Now they will tell us straight away if they have done something they shouldn't even if we didn't see.

For things like cooking we have always taken ours into kitchen area to 'help', as only 1 year between them and didn't trust them alone together when small. Tiny they sat on floor with pan and dried pasta for example, gradually increasing help. Now at 4 and 5 they help chop and mix ingredients and lay the table so occupied.

thegasmanswife Sat 25-Jul-15 21:34:29

thanks - you've given me a few new ideas there - i use the challenges a lot as have recently discovered how competitive he has become (it usually works brilliants though not always)
and you're right about following through immediately - he definitely takes time to sort himself out even when he's decided to do the right thing (though this one is not so easy when I'm knackered and fed up I find!!)

will try more 'if you do this then you can have/do that' - I used to use this a lot and then got worried that I spent all day bribing him to behave and wondered if he'd grow up expecting to get something for every good behaviour!!

thanks for the suggestions

thegasmanswife Sat 25-Jul-15 22:29:39

Just thought of a scenario in case anyone fancies telling me how they'd deal with this one...

Went to a play centre and park with both boys all morning. both were very well behaved all morning - no problems. Had a great picnic in the park and played some 'football'. Feeling quite chuffed with myself for getting through a positively enjoyable morning with them.

Then go for long bike ride around the outside of the park - I knew the 'leaving' issue could be tricky so I pre-empted it by explaining several times that when we reach the park gates we would be leaving and getting in the car. Got him to repeat it back to me so he knew what was expected......we get to the park gates and he clearly wasn't ready to leave (or just felt like pushing the boundaries??? for fun??) and cycled off in the opposite direction at high speed leaving me running (trying desperately to hold up my jeans that are now too big for me due to the daily chasing I do after him in parks!!) pushing my youngest in pushchair (he had a great ride!) after him.

So - what would you do next? I knew if I showed him I was really cross and told him off - most likely he'd do exactly the same thing again - cue more running by me. Equally it was too far back to the car for me to pick him up and drag him out (I have been known to do this over while pushing a pushchair over quite some distance!) I didn't want to bribe him at this point as felt that'd be wrong after he had just done the opposite of what was requested.

I actually can't remember what I did to get him in the car in the end (ignored it? Asked him to race me back to the car? something like that) - but I do remember panicking and wondering how to handle it. And wondering how to avoid it happening again!

A pearls of wisdom?

Wolfiefan Sat 25-Jul-15 22:34:41

You can't ignore that or turn it into a game. It's dangerous.
Catch child. Hold on to child. Wait for calm. Get onto their level. Explain that was a dangerous thing to do. Remind him you had said you were leaving. Ask if he remembers. So is is ok to run off? No. No more bike.
at this point I'd have to drag DD kicking and screaming to the car!!!

MamaMotherMummy Sat 25-Jul-15 22:53:29

What I would do is have a 'rules for the park' in a visual format. I would introduce it in the morning and take that to the park to reiterate in the car.

Things like 'Leaving nicely when we are at the gate'
'Wearing your helmet'
Plus some fun ones that reflect things he likes to do

I would tell him that if he does all of them successfully, he can do X when we get home. If he does not, not only can he not do X, but Y will be taken away as well.

I would take it on the walk and show it to him any time a potentially bad behaviour crops up.

If it goes really well, I would take that as a clue that he likes structure and expectations and needs more of them day to day. If it went badly, I would assume it is purely a power struggle (i.e. he finds the game of power struggle more fun than the rewards).

If he did run away again, I would do what wolfiefan recommended.

As an aside, I would try to enrol him in some sort of club/sport where he could run around endlessly for hours and hours, because that is clearly something he is driven to do. Alternatively martial arts and ballet can be good as they direct the physical activity into a highly disciplined form. Have to find a competent, no-nonsense teacher, though!

BellaOfTheBalls Sat 25-Jul-15 23:04:49

I too have a spirited 3yo actually four very soon and no of course I'm not panicking about him going to school and being expelled one bit...

A reward chart has helped us massively, plus clear now, next, later plans e.g "next we are going to post this parcel, then later we will go to preschool but that means now you need to put your shoes on" etc.

My DS1 was (and still is) for the most part a dream. I thought people who said their child was "spirited" we're just shit parents who couldn't control their child. And then I had a spirited child and realised exactly how wrong I was.

On the worst days I tell myself that he is challenging, inquisitive & independent; all the things I want him to be as an adult. and then I drink gin

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