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3.5 year old hits and kicks us in temper and hits himself in the head too

(9 Posts)
rainbowontheway Wed 09-Mar-16 10:04:47

My son is generally a pleasant, loving and happy child who has excellent language skills for his age and is very sociable with other children. Generally 'well behaved' but despite this has the usual tantrums which sometimes end in him hitting or kicking me or DH, or him hitting himself, usually in the face / head. I find it hard to deal with this physically (he's strong!) and emotionally and I am especially worried about him hitting himself. I try to stay calm, explain why we need to do the thing he's tantrumning about, tell him that he shouldn't hit or kick others or himself because it hurts, ask him to calm down and offer hugs, and then try to get back on with what we were trying to do that caused the tantrum in the first place. It doesn't always work...!

The triggers for his tantrums tend to be things like having to get dressed or undressed (he hates this, hates being 'naked' but also hates getting un/dressed) or being told there's no time for TV or that it's time to turn the TV off (we don't watch TV in the mornings due to the tantrums but he does watch 30mins-1hr after school most days), all exacerbated by tiredness. I'm finding that since starting school nursery last month he is extra tired, and more so than he was doing the same overall amount of hours at his other nursery. (He now goes to school nursery 2.5 hrs a day every day and also continues to attend another nursery for 3.5 hrs a day on the 3 days a week that I work, with me taking him between the two in my lunchtime). The school nursery class is big (over 35 kids) and he's started partway through the year with one or two others, whereas the majority of the other kids have been there since September. Together with the new environment I guess the whole thing is tiring him out.

Sleep-wise, he naps (with some encouragement) one or two days a week, and regardless of this, goes to bed around 8. We stay with him until he falls asleep (usually takes about 15/20 mins) and then occasionally he'll sleep through but usually wakes and calls for us at least once so we get up to settle him which is usually quick and then most nights, later on (not sure when, can't face looking at the clock!) he ends up in our bed where he sleeps but is incredibly wriggly and so disturbs me and DH. He'll wake around 7 usually. Our tiredness makes it harder to deal with these tantrums, and I'm 31 weeks pregnant so need sleep. We've tried putting him back into his bed but he cries and says he wants us, is cold etc.

I'm sure that the school change has been unsettling and tiring and this is partly why his behaviour has changed but we've had the same issues previously, bascially more or less since he turned 3. Any thoughts please? We have baby #2 due in May so more change ahead...!

IsItMeOr Wed 09-Mar-16 10:45:02

He does sound tired at the moment, and potentially affected by the coming baby? Have you talked to him about that? There are some good books, I think (DS is an only!).

For staying in bed, we found a gro clock helped with that.

DS also has a hottie that goes in his bed during the winter and keeps him warm. Is your son's duvet thick enough?

Good luck - that can be a tough time when they're just starting school nursery.

rainbowontheway Wed 09-Mar-16 13:22:06

Thanks! We tried a gro clock with no luck. We have some books about the new baby and have been reading them. He seems quite excited about the baby actually, although the reality of a newborn will no doubt not match his expectations of an immediate fun playmate! smile

I do think he sometimes wakes as he's cold as his room has two external walls, so will try a hot water bottle and warmer pjs and bed socks.

IsItMeOr Wed 09-Mar-16 14:35:23

Sounds worth a try.

Hopefully this is just a passing phase. If it persists and you are worried, you could ask your GP for a referral to rule out any underlying health conditions.

Have you tried a countdown timer for TV time?

Elisheva Wed 09-Mar-16 14:54:51

It all sounds like completely normal 3 year old behaviour to me. DS2 used to hit us and himself at that age. It was because of frustration rather than malice iyswim so it didn't seem appropriate to punish him as such. We would hold his hands and firmly say 'we don't hit in this house,' regardless of who he was hitting.
We had the exact same thing with sleeping, going to bed okay, resettled once then came in, which we didn't mind but when I got pregnant with dd we thought it was better to sort it before the baby arrived rather than 'evict' him when she did. We just gritted our teeth and sent him back to bed regardless of the (many and varied) excuses. It took four days.
I think sometimes we can over explain to toddlers, and when they're tired they aren't arguing for any logical reason. Time to get dressed=get dressed, no discussion or reasoning, do it quickly and with minimal fuss, and move onto something more fun. I do sympathise, I remember being exhausted and trying to deal with a small, irrational shouting person. It will get better flowers

rainbowontheway Wed 09-Mar-16 22:00:03

Thanks so much for your replies. We use a timer on the phone for the end of bathtime as he hates that ending. Hadn't thought to try it with the TV too but will.
I made him nap after nursery today and am ready to put him back in his own bed tonight as DH and I are both knackered and need more sleep and you're right, when baby comes it'll have to change so better now than then.
I do try to keep instructions simple and emphasise 'once you're dressed we can watch TV / go to gymnastics / go to the park etcetera but still find myself repeating myself over and over and getting angry reactions from him. Sigh!

IsItMeOr Wed 09-Mar-16 22:20:47

If you're finding yourself repeating over and over, try counting to 6 in your head after you have said something before you say anything else. Say DS's name first, so that he knows you're talking to him. Keep sentences short, and simple statements, e.g. first this, then that.

Try to make sure that the thing that is happening immediately after the disliked thing is something he actually likes - it might be worth building in a 10 minute activity you know he will enjoy that also has a natural end. Better to spend 10 minutes doing something pleasant together (e.g. reading a favourite book together) before getting on with your day, rather than 10 minutes yelling from him/you.

rainbowontheway Wed 09-Mar-16 22:33:17

Good points Isit. I'll try that approach, thanks.

IsItMeOr Wed 09-Mar-16 22:44:45

Good luck! It's wearing, but I'm sure you'll find it gets easier.

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