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My Threenager has no respect all of a sudden

(12 Posts)
MalteserVella Tue 04-Jul-17 07:12:56

My little girl is going to be 4 in August, She has been an absolute treasure from day 1. Never had any sleeping or eating issues, she is adorable with everybody, has fantastic manners and is tidy and caring.
However, suddenly, in the past week perhaps she has been hitting me, scratching me, growling at me and yelling at me as she cannot stand being told off. She was never like this. She tells me she doesn't love me and that she wants to go and live with her daddy. A bit early to start getting all that surely.
We've been separated for over 2 years, so why now. He says she is not like that with him and I'm reluctant to tell him as he's quick to patronise. But that's a different story and a different topic all together.
I have been crying myself to sleep the past 2 nights as I just don't know how to react to her. Nothing works....if I raise my voice she raises hers and hits harder, if I walk away she follows me, if I try to cuddle her she fights back. Then in an instant she turns into an angel again but by then I am broken inside (not that I show it).
She is not like this at all in nursery, don't know if she's like that at her dad's as I'm sure he would never tell me!
I work part time and spend a lot of quality time with her, we do everything together, dog walks, camping, picnics, fairs, arts, crafts, swimming..and her piece de resistance...she yells that I hit her!!!!!! What has happened to my angel?

corythatwas Tue 04-Jul-17 08:27:05

Three is a tricky age; I found it the hardest age with both of mine, far harder than teens or preteens.

They are getting old enough to want independence but really haven/t got the sense or maturity to handle it, their emotions are enormous but their self control is still limited. Many respond by unbearable whingeing, but some do take to hitting.

What you need to do here is to be her calm unshakeable rock. Try not to raise your voice, deepen it instead, sounds more impressive.

You don't need to stand around letting yourself get hit; it is perfectly ok to catch her hands and hold them- as long as you can do so calmly. Or to lead her to her room. Just stay very calm (outwardly) and repeat in a deep voice: No, we do not hit.

My dd was a hitter (and a biter, and a kicker). But she never got more than one hit in on any one occasion. And she has grown up into a very pleasant person with absolutely no violent or antisocial tendencies.

Ignore anything she says: while she may sound very deliberately hurtful she absolutely does not have the maturity to understand how her words come across. From that pov. she might as well be saying Waaah, waaah, silly mummy! My dd at a slightly younger age once told me gleefully that when she was grown up she wouldn't have to have me for a mummy because I'd be dead by then! She had absolutely no idea of what my death or anybody's death would mean in terms of emotional impact. She had the words but not the maturity of imagination.

The correct answer to any variation of "I hate you, mummy" is "never mind, darling, I love you". Repeated in a calm and confident voice what this tells her is that there is somebody there who is strong enough to deal with all the emotions that are bubbling up and frightening her. And that is what she needs now. It will also help you: the more we act confident the more we feel confident.

But don't assume there is anything wrong with her, or that this is too early: ime (large extended family) this is prime time for exactly that kind of behaviour. If she is about to start school, that may add to her confused emotions.

You may be able to help her by thinking about how you tell her off; is there any way you could avoid triggers/hurting her feelings, while still maintaining the same level of discipline? It's an age where they start becoming very aware of their dignity. But some tantrums will probably be unavoidable; just stay calm and remember it's a phase and that mummy is strong enough for the two of you.

MalteserMania Tue 04-Jul-17 08:55:44

Thank you so much for such a reassuring reply. I feel so broken inside. Keep doubting myself as a mother. What if she's not like this with her father and only me? She's with him 3 nights a week. Maybe she misses him and in her mind that means to misbehave for mummy?

corythatwas Tue 04-Jul-17 09:01:33

"What if she's not like this with her father and only me?"

Then that would be a perfectly normal sign that you are the most important person in her life, the one she needs to stand firm against absolutely everything that is happening inside her. You areju8 the one she feels safe enough with to let it all out. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that that is precisely what is happening. Though she doesn't realise it herself, it's a measure of trust in your strength. Hold in there, OP.

MalteserMania Tue 04-Jul-17 12:25:55

Thank you so much for all your support. Thank you

lovehoney69 Tue 04-Jul-17 18:56:02

My adorable three year old turned into hell on wheels when approaching four, it's called a period of disequilibrium if a fancy name will help. It basically means that they're ready for a big developmental leap but not quite there yet which frustrates them massively!!
You sound like you're doing a great job with her, she'll come out of it!

WombOfOnesOwn Wed 05-Jul-17 19:01:55

I could see this as a child who's decided to see if she's really wanted. If she worries that you'd only love her as long as she was being very grateful about having you as a mum, or whatever, she might want to test out that worry with some "I hate you" to make sure everything will be okay no matter what her emotional situation is.

Bettercallsaul1 Wed 05-Jul-17 21:13:21

Some excellent replies here! Lots of insight.

BellyBean Sun 09-Jul-17 08:37:03

Is she starting school in sept? Big changes on the horizon are likely to make her feel unsettled and act out.

wapphighwood Mon 10-Jul-17 08:25:55

Place marking as tackling some molar issues and some great suggestions

UnaOfStormhold Tue 11-Jul-17 09:10:31

You might find ahaparenting.com useful - lots of great tips on dealing with children with big emotions. www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/communication/conversations-kids . Here's a sample:

I know it's hurtful to have your child say [I hate you]. But it doesn't mean to him what it means to you. He's just trying to get what he wants so he's using the nuclear option -- saying the worst thing he can think of to you. In six months, he'll be telling you that he won't let you come to his birthday party!

So just remind yourself not to take it personally, and empathize with the feeling. Not with what he is expressing, but with the reason for it. So, "You're saying that you hate me....Ouch!....You must be pretty mad at me to say something like that....I guess you are very disappointed that you didn't get what you wanted...You were really hoping for that, I know....I'm sorry, Sweetheart, but I can't say yes to that right now. I hear you're sad and mad about that. You can be as mad as you want at me, but I will always love you, no matter what."

NooNooMummy Wed 12-Jul-17 12:48:10

Cory and everyone -great advice Thankyou!

( I just posted on another thread about my threenager who's being exhaustingly stroppy and also dealing with her daddy not being around)

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