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How can I figure out what's troubling 3YO DS?

(74 Posts)
BellaGoth Wed 12-Oct-16 08:42:15

I can't seem to get to the root of it, but I'm sure something's worrying him.

He's 3.8. We had a really tough start to the year (2 deaths in the family, me with sever Hyperemesis, imminent arrival of the new baby, all mixed in with DS having Glue Ear, which we didn't realise and the poor boy was pretty much deaf in one ear). His behaviour spiralled quite badly, he became quite angry, lots of hitting and shouting etc. His baby sister then arrived early, with no warning, and he woke up one morning and found that DH and I had done a midnight flit to the hospital and grandma was waiting with him.

However, after baby DD came home, it was like a weight had been lifted and DS became a different child. Utterly besotted with the baby. He seemed really happy again so we put it all down to the stresses of the beginning of the year.

DD is now 9 weeks old and DS is starting to change again. He's bitten his nails so much his fingers are red. He's started grinding his teeth. Lots of tantrums / defiance (though this may be normal for his age). He keeps complaining of tummy aches. He says he hates nursery and battles getting dressed / ready, but as soon as he's dressed he's keen to go, runs in to his room with barely a glance back at me.

He has mentioned a few times that a particular child at nursery is mean to him. This surprised me and nursery are usually very on the ball with this sort of thing and deal with it swiftly. Parents are kept informed. DS says he's not told any of the staff because the other child "won't let him". I spoke to his key worker today, and she said she would keep an extra eye on things. DS is quite strong willed and often gets upset if another child won't do what he says (eg won't give him a toy if he demands it), so it could be that. Or it could be that's this child is picking on him. Or it could be something entirely different, I suppose.

How do you talk to a young child to find out exactly what's going on? His speech is good, but he's reluctant to discuss this with me. The nail biting / teeth grinding / tummy aches screams out that he's stressed, doesn't it? Should I take him to the GP? Any other suggestions?

BellaGoth Wed 12-Oct-16 09:44:21

Hopeful bump.

engineersthumb Wed 12-Oct-16 09:56:24

I'm a worrier when it comes to DS (3Y2M old) and have the same dilemer. If I ask specific questions it feels like I'm leading. I wss driving him home a couple of weeks ago and he looked glum and was a little evasive when talking. I leaned over at the tesffic lights and said "If anything is worrying you, you can tell me and I'll try to help" he paused, layed his head against mine and said "thank you daddy". He has never come to me with any worries, some days he is full of beans other days he's quiet and some days we'd both rather forget. At least he knows he can talk to me, and that's my only advice; makes sure he knows he can talk to you. Chin up parent I g seems to involve a few sleepless nights but they are quite sturdy really.

BellaGoth Wed 12-Oct-16 10:32:30

Thanks Engineer, I have the same problem with leading questions. How on earth do we get them to talk without putting words in their mouths?

Your DS sounds like a sweetie.

drspouse Wed 12-Oct-16 10:37:07

How much time does he get with one of you on his own? Does your DD nap a lot (please say yes!)? My DS really struggled when we had DD (smaller age gap and he struggled a lot more when she became mobile/started taking toys). We took a while to work it out but around this age he started really benefitting from time with just one of us - I tried to plan something for nap time (easier said than done I know) and one of us taking him out at weekends, too.

He is not as anxious as your DS sounds but does bite his fingers sometimes - he was very good at expressing that he was worried about starting school for example - but it wasn't that time alone with one of us helped him to tell us what was worrying him, specifically, more that it calmed him in general.

BellaGoth Wed 12-Oct-16 10:42:55

dr DD is a really easy baby, I get lots of free time with DS. He is in nursery 3 mornings a week. In the afternoon we usually play lego, go to softly etc. Yesterday we baked cakes, tomorrow I've arranged for my mum to have DD so I can take DS swimming. In fact he probably gets more time with me now than before DD arrived as I do my chores in the morning, leaving me free to play with DS.

I also give DD to DH so I can do bedtime with DS.

We have an issue with DS waking DD up, actually. She'll be fast asleep in her pram and he suddenly run up and hug her to wake her up. He says he misses her!

MrsHathaway Wed 12-Oct-16 10:43:11

I think it's usually easier for children to role play stuff than explain it.

I am not an expert so my suggestions will be clumsy at best at worst utter crap.

Is there a way you could set up to have his teddies/Octonauts/cars playing "at nursery" and observe how he has them interacting with each other? Maybe one of the cars might be called by the name of the child you think he's having problems with.

minipie Wed 12-Oct-16 11:33:40

I've seen a couple of books recommended - The big bag of worries (or something like that?) and How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk. I haven't actually read either of them bought one but haven't read it yet but saw your post and thought they might be helpful.

Also, have you tried talking to him at different times of day? I find DD (nearly 4) is most willing to talk about this kind of stuff at bedtime - I suspect mainly because she wants me to stay longer grin but also because she isn't distracted by other things she wants to do.

minipie Wed 12-Oct-16 11:38:40

By the way, we have a very similar issue with DD and a girl at nursery... and it is VERY hard not to ask leading questions!

HeCantBeSerious Wed 12-Oct-16 11:42:07

3.5-4 is a period of disequilibrium for children regardless of a new sibling. That's probably just amplifying it.

BellaGoth Tue 18-Oct-16 15:07:40

We're having an awful day today. He had a bad morning at nursery, throwing toys around, not listening, and slapping other children.

At home this afternoon, I put baby DD in her pram to sleep and sat down to play lego with DS. Within a couple of minutes he jumped up, ran to the pram and grabbed her head to wake DD. I told DS he needed to leave DD so she could sleep and we could play but he wouldn't leave her alone. By then DD was getting over tired and asking for a feed, so I sat down to feed her and DS grabbed her head and pulled her off me (which bloody hurt). I've had to shut him in his room just so I can feed the baby. I really can't keep on like this.

It's parents evening tonight and I'm utterly dreading it. sad

minipie Tue 18-Oct-16 15:42:37

sad oh dear. I've had similar horrendous days with DD so you have my sympathies.

Try not to worry too much about parents' evening. The teachers will have seen it all before, and worse, honestly. If they are decent teachers then their interest will be in working out what is going on and suggestions to improve things rather than blaming him or you. He's 3, he has a new sibling, these things happen. A lot!

Does he have "down time" after nursery - TV, looking at books for example? DD seems to need an hour or so of simply vegging out after lunch (or even a short nap some days). Only suggestion I can think of!

BellaGoth Tue 18-Oct-16 15:49:05

Thanks mini. He usually has a snack and watches TV when he gets home. After a while he'll usually ask to play something, at the moment it's usually play doh but we've got all the usual stuff like puzzles, play doh, digging in the garden etc. By 4 he's usually flagging so he goes back to the TV whilst I have a quick tidy and sort dinner.

I feel so sorry for DD, she can't even have milk in peace!

BellaGoth Tue 18-Oct-16 15:49:51

I say "usually" far too much... hmmgrin

minipie Tue 18-Oct-16 16:00:37

Well if it's what you usually say grin

Feed times are often the worse with new siblings I think ... as the older one just sees undivided attention given to the younger one.

BellaGoth Tue 18-Oct-16 16:04:38

I can understand him doing this when she's feeding, lime you say. I just CANNOT get my head around why he wakes her from naps. I always play with him whilst she sleeps but I have to stop to see to the baby when DS wakes her. It's so counterintuitive!

drspouse Tue 18-Oct-16 16:14:15

Maybe he wants attention from her as well, or maybe the fuss if he wakes her has somehow become exciting? DS does not deliberately wake DD like this but if he's noisy we get a bit cross if she wakes and he does seem to quite like the fuss.

We and a friend also found that suggesting our older one plays hiding while feeding the baby can help. So you're talking to them as they act the goat in front of you, and baby is just being quiet.

BellaGoth Tue 18-Oct-16 19:46:07

drs it's possible. Who knows? I often feed DD on a pillow at the table so I can carry on playing with him, it doesn't seem to make much difference.

Parents evening was awful. His key worker says he's streets ahead with literacy / numeracy etc, absorbs facts at every opportunity, but socially he's really behind. None of the children will play with him now and actively avoid him as he's so aggressive and unpredictable. He doesn't get invited to parties that are otherwise "whole class" ones. He will take an armful of cars, hide behind a bookcase and throw them at anybody that goes past. He apparently seems to enjoy hurting other children.

She says I need to start keeping a detailed diary (she will to) and speak to GP / HV about "taking things further" She obviously thinks he has some sort of issue.

I just keep wondering what I've done so wrong, and how do I make sure I don't do the same to DD?

minipie Wed 19-Oct-16 08:48:23

Ok. Deep breath. You have absolutely not done anything wrong. And in the broader sense nor has he. He may just have something going on that he needs some help with, over and above the average child.

If he does there are numerous possibilities for what that is. So a diary is a very good idea to try to work out what sets off the bad days. Eg is it always when he's coming down with a cold? After bad sleep? On days when the nursery is especially busy and noisy? When he's felt excluded by the other kids (he'll have picked up on the other kids leaving him out and may be reacting, so you get a vicious circle sad) That sort of thing.

How long's he been in nursery, and when did the aggressive behaviour start?

By the way, on the sibling thing, I found things really improved when my youngest hit about 4 months and started to respond to interaction from DD1.

minipie Wed 19-Oct-16 09:11:50

Forgot to ask the obvious question which is what's happened about the glue ear? as it's well known that can make kids grumpy and behave badly. The glue ear, the teeth grinding and fact his behaviour seemed better in summer (when there are fewer bugs) and worse last winter/ this autumn all make me think there may be some sort of ENT issue troubling him.

BellaGoth Wed 19-Oct-16 11:29:27

Thanks mini. It's hard not to blame myself though.

He's been in nursery since he was 11 months, so almost 3 years. He went through a biting phase when he was in the toddler room but it didn't last long.

The issues have really started since he moved up to the preschool room in January, which unfortunately coincided with lots of stressful events at home.

His key worker was also worried that they were trapped in a cycle so made arrangements for him to spend some time in their other preschool room to see if it helped. He was fine on days 1 and 2 and on day 3 started running riot again.

The glue ear was picked up when DS had his hearing checked, they said it seemed to be clearing. He had a cold a couple of weeks ago so I gave him olive oil drops. He had a gunky ear for a couple of days but that was it. Should I be taking him back to the GP?

Jackiebrambles Wed 19-Oct-16 11:37:56

Reading with interest as my boy is a very similar age!

My first thought was take him back to the GP - i think if he's had a cold his ear could be bothering him??

You sound like you are doing a brilliant job by the way. My DD is now 16 months (she came along when DS was 2.6) and the first few months with the two of them were so hard.

I need to make more effort to spend one on one time with my son, I'm just so shattered with them and she is so clingy (and non verbal of course so harder to reason with than him) so he ends up being on his own/watching tv whilst I sort her out. But you sound like you have got that bit cracked!

minipie Wed 19-Oct-16 11:58:24

Yes I'd definitely be taking him back to the doctor about the glue ear. I'd want to know if it has carried on clearing or actually come back/got worse. If it has that could explain a lot. With the behaviour stuff you have a good reason to say you need it checked again.

Also I'd get the GP to check if he has a current ear infection, though IME GPs can't always be sure... Maybe also try giving him some nurofen on a day he's being difficult and see if there is any improvement? if so there may be some discomfort bothering him. If he is fighting a low level infection it will make him tired, which is obviously not going to help his mood.

Good luck. It is a difficult age.

BellaGoth Wed 19-Oct-16 15:41:39

He's difficult every day, he'd be permanently drugged up! Don't tempt me

He's just walked up to DD as I was feeding her and dug his fingers into her face and yanked her off me again. Poor DD was absolutely howling. I've had to shut him in his room again just so I can feed her.sad

minipie Wed 19-Oct-16 16:12:31

Oh I'm not suggesting using it as a "fix" every day! More once or twice as a diagnostic tool iyswim. If you try painkiller once or twice and it seems to help, then that indicates something medical/pain related is probably going on and you take him to the doctor. (Though, I have to say I'd be pressing for him to be referred back to the ENT/hearing people to check on the glue ear in any event - I'm a bit surprised they didn't tell you to come back in X months to check on it).

Could you put him in front of the TV at feed times? (Needs must)

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