I just don't know what to do about 3yr old DS hitting and not listening anymore (long - sorry)(20 Posts)
I don't really know where to start as it has been months of this behaviour and nothing we have done has stopped it so feeling a bit of a failure too to be honest.
Basically the problem is that DS (who is 3.5) just does not listen and he hits. Nothing we do seems to change his behaviour long term and it's upsetting me that we're in a repeating cycle going nowhere.
The not listening:
To simple instruction e.g. Come and brush your teeth please; Let's get you dressed etc etc. 8/10 times there ends up being some caper or another and our calm request becomes a "I'm going to count to 3..." or a "get over here NOW!" situation.
Also if told not to do something e.g. "Don't draw over the table with your food please" or "don't hit your brother that's really horrible". He will usually continue or repeat the behaviour or "Grrrrrr!!" at us. He just can't accept being told off.
He hits me, DH (to a lesser degree), his 10m old brother (a lot), other kids at nursery. It can be a hit, a kick, a shove or an actual balled fist punch. It can happen in response to a situation he doesn't like or he will literally just do it. I have been in tears over this behaviour the most as it is just so mean. Today for instance he was making DS2 laugh which was lovely. Then the next minute out of nowhere he's roughly moving his head about and batting him in the face. Then later on actually punched him in front of me, despite having just been told not to do that as it is a horrible thing to do and we don't hit people because it makes them sad. I wanted to scream at him so much because it was just so blatantly awful but I have done that in the past and it really doesn't make a difference so try not do it. instead I ended up sobbing in the kitchen with DS2 and the door shut.
I was once punched by him square in the nose at swimming when he kept running away from me in the changing room & it caused an almighty nose bleed (my nose is pretty weak which doesn't help) and I just openly wept in the toilet feeling humiliated and shocked and sad.
At nursery recently he pushed one of the boys against the wall and the boy cut his head on the harling. And he snapped a girl's hairband (which we replaced). Nursery have problems with his lack of listening and lashing out too. We are trying to work with them to come up with a solution to try and get more positive interactions but I am worried that long term it won't work. DH is particularly upset about the hitting at nursery because he was bullied at school and it really upsets him to think of his own son upsetting other children.
Sometimes we'll go through a good patch where it's not as bad but ultimately it never goes away.
Time Out is a waste of time (even nursery have said so). He doesn't stay in there. DH stood in front of him for a while to make him stay but long term it had no effect and DH would sometimes get hit or even bitten (luckily he is rarely a a biter!).
We've done (and continue to do) no tv/no food treats/no yoghurt after dinner/no bedtime stories etc depending on the timing of his bad behaviour. He often has a hissy fit but we always follow through on our threats.
We do the 'count to 3' thing - waste of time also as he usually just sits deliberately waiting for 3 & then when we dish out the consequences ("right, no tv") then is when he chooses to do what we asked but it's too late (we follow theough). But he doesn't learn from this for next time!!!
Did a sticker chart for a while which worked great for getting poos in the toilet but the one we started for listening didn't have any effect at all so we gave up
Sorry for v.lengthy post. I have loads more to say but really will call it a day there. Hopefully if you've stuck with me this long you might have some advice or success story for me.
I'm just so sad about it all as DS is capable of being a very sweet and funny child and I want to see more of that and less of the mean side.
Anyone? Another awful day. The nursery have now asked permission to call in our health visitor. Clearly they think he needs observation
So sorry you haven't had any response to your post - that really surprises me. It does sound like you need outside help. Have you contacted your GP? When you said about time out, I was going to say that it took ages to work with DD but eventually she complied (it was the same with putting her back into bed & I kid you not, one night she got out over 100 times & I nearly had a nervous breakdown!) However consistent you are, though, if your DS has an underlying problem then you may not get anywhere.
No advice really but perhaps give him choices, ie. We need to brush your teeth and put your shoes on, what do you want to do first (gives him some control) then he can choose.
Also I'd be looking at what HV says and also GP as you are clearly concerned about his behaviour and firm boundaries aren't working.
Hi OP. I think you have been through the mill, trying.
If there is help, don't be frightened to accept it.
There are professionals out there, who are used to dealing with situations, like yours, day in, day out.
You and your DH, are great parents, and even though you are both doing your level best, there is no shame whatsoever, in seeking outside help.
You could try a time countdown idea....OK you need to brush your teeth in 5 mins.....
Then tell him again 3 mins. Then tell him last min. Then tell him teeth brushing time. This worked with my autistic brother who was a nightmare to stop what he was doing but if he knew it was stopping soon it's not so bad. I also use it on my daughter who is 10 now and it's worked well for her too. They feel like they're getting extra time to finish what they're doing before the boring stuff.
Hopefully HV will have some ideas, he certainly won't have been the first child they will have seen with a hitting problem. Good luck
I know you said you've tried counting to 3, but have a look at the book '1,2,3 Magic' if you can. It helps take the emotion out of the situation so you can just deal with it without getting cross. Offers time out alternatives too.
Our ds same age is similar to yours, particularly with the not listening. He's only like it at home though and doesn't play up at preschool. I'm interested to see the advice you get so I hope you don't mind me hopping onto your thread.
This sounds like my 5 yo DD. I would say tackle it now because it won't go away.
Re the hitting the only thing that has worked with DD was to throw a toy away every time she hits. As in, the toy goes in the bin never to be seen again. She's gone from hitting several times a day to a few times a week - not at all in the last 3 days. Unfortunately more positive approaches didn't work for us. Worth a try maybe?
I struggled to manage my ds1 when he was 3.5. I happened to mention to the health visitors that I was finding his behaviour really difficult, and she referred me onto a course about understanding child behaviour...it was the Webster Stratton Incredible Years course. I think they run it at sure start centres all over the country. It was a weekly 3 hour session for 12 weeks, and I could put both my sons in the crèche whilst it ran. You can google it for information, but it basically changed the way I dealt with his behaviour, rather than aiming to change his behaviour, but it basically improved pretty much everything at home (he didn't actually have any issues at nursery). It was simple things, such as playing with him (sounds easy, but making sure I dedicated proper time with no distractions), ignoring bad behaviour (except violence or destruction) and praising all good behaviour, rewards and incentives, using natural consequences (such as not battling over putting a coat on...let him get cold and decide to wear one), and using time out only for hitting. It made me feel like I had some control, working towards a plan. We could talk through specific scenarios in the group and get advice. My son is now nearly 5, and on the whole his behaviour is much better. I have to remind myself to use the things I was taught, when he starts playing up. Don't worry about needing help from others, you are certainly not the only one. I strongly recommend the course I did. So many parents on it noticed huge changes! Good luck
Thank you all so much for your advice so far, really truly. I'm feeling so lost about this so it's good to have some proper advice and I will try anything! I have ordered a couple of books from the library about not hitting and also looking into that 123 magic one too.
I'll look into that course jemimabelle - thanks. I'm aware that some of the problem will also lie with how we handle certain situations. I said to DH yesterday actually that we need to start ignoring more bad behaviour (that is able to be ignored) and to start reprimanding with firm, unhappy tones rather than raised or shouty voices as I think it just excacerbates things.
A the moment I just feel like me & DH have lost our way a bit as we used to be so in tune with his needs and managing other difficult times. But this has made us feel like shitty parents.
Thanks also for saying that accepting help is ok. I have been scared and upset about the HV involvement as I'm worried about DS being negatively labelled.
Your son is showing signs of Autism Spectrum . I would strongly suggest you get him referred to CAMHS. The main issue is anxiety and the quicker the intervention the better the diagnosis.
If you look on PlanetAutisms blog page there are some great info sheets. Her FB page has some great articles about masking in school, the pressure cooker effect, explodes when they get home. I also suggest you read the PDA Society Website. It's a rare form of Autism where Demand Avoidance , extreme and Role Play are the main issues. Your child is not deliberately being naught it's the extremes they go to to avoid anxiety, it's off the scale.
Hope this helps xx
Most CAMHS have a poor understanding of AS so do your homework first.
Do not be swayed by over dramatic posters like the one above. Your son is also showing signs of completely normal 3 year old behaviour.
My DS is similar OP. Doesn't listen very well, so I have to say his name and say "mummy is talking to you, listen" I also ask for him to give me eye contact.
I think the not listening is quite common as they have decided they have a choice and can do things on their own agenda.
He also hits too, if he hits at home we are very stern, straight onto the bottom step for 3 minutes and he has to give a proper apology. Sometime she gets off but we just return him over and over until he sits still, the three minutes don't start until he sits on the step.
Have you watched 3 day nanny, super nanny etc? Helpful for me as it taught me things like use less words and a stern serious tone for their extreme behaviour, don't go high pitched, go low and authoritative etc.
Well, in this situation I think I would stop doing what you are doing (not because it's wrong but because it's not working!).
So what can you do differently? I'd be inclined to do something really out of the ordinary. So instead of waiting in the bathroom and saying come on, time to do your teeth, I think I'd get him to do the conga into the bathroom with me, or make a train, or whatever, and make it fun. Choo choo! Next stop teeth!
Saying no and not are not effective here, (I'm not one of theses that never says no, but you've said it's not working) so change to hey! Charlie, we like gentle hands, remember?
I think lots of cuddles and being told he's special but his hands need to remember not to hurt anyone. That type of thing.
I dunno, but a complete and utter break from the cycle is needed for your sanity!
My son has asd. He is 4 and a lot of this is the kind of behaviour he has on a regular basis. He doesn't understand being told off or the naughty step etc etc. He just doesn't have the social understanding to get it. I can tell him no about something till I'm blue in the face and the next second he will do it again. And again.
However, as the post above says, this can also be fairly normal 3 year old behaviour. I would have a read of the national autistic society website and see if any of it rings true. Also look at "pda" as some of the strategies may be useful, they are with my son.
Pretty typical description of our 3.5 yo as well so don't feel alone, it's incredibly hard and the behaviour from DS has pushed me to the limit recently. We too have trialled time out, sticker charts etc with limited effect. The thing which has had the most positive effect so far (although remains early days in implementing for us so who knows whether the effect will be sustained?!!) is to give a small reward every time he does something positive. For us it's been marbles which go into a jar, when the jar is full toyshop trip to choose a dinosaur. The first day I gave over 20 marbles, good eating, scooting, walking, getting dressed, teeth, into bath, into pyjamas etc. The thing I noticed more than anything was that it fundamentally changed my approach from nagging about bad behaviour to looking for good behaviour and praising it. There are still days it spectacularly fails, but that can just be a bad day which everyone has... now we need to maintain it....
Whilst some of the things you list could suggest autism they also suggest being 3.
If you also encounter speech and language issues it may be worth asking for assessment. Otherwise... try simplifying requests. "Shoes, please" "clothes, please". Ask, then a reminder, then on you go - bring shoes/ clothes to him and get on with it. Any violence is immediate time out.
You're not a shitty parent, you're just knackered and having a tough time. It does sound like if you can find a course or parenting class maybe it would be helpful? Not because you're a drastic case, just because sometimes it's easier to see the wood for the trees in discussion with strangers. And easier for you and your DH to have a consistent strategy you've worked out away from the stress of the actual situation. Good luck, you're obviously a thoughtful mum who's trying her best, I'm sure it will all come good.
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