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3yr old behaviour, Help Please - I can't seem to do anything that works.

(40 Posts)
mairimac Sun 10-Aug-08 18:04:32

My DS is almost 3 years old. He was a lovely baby and child until about three months ago when things started down a slippery slope to where we are now. He has had ups and downs mostly to do with Teeth coming through or illness etc. However this is just madness. He doesn't listen to anything, he's disruptive, aggressive, angry, frustrated and showing it in the worst ways. He's very negative and answers everything with NO, so every starts off negative. I've tried saying things where there would not be a NO answer but he still says things like NOTHING or DON'T WANT ANYTHING or NONE OF THOSE, when given a choice. I've tried naughty step, time out, counting to three, the last two days we've hit an all time low where I've been screaming shouting and threatening him with everything I can. I feel terrible and I need this to stop, I need control and I'm not sure how. Any real advice from Mum's who have been here! Please!

Janni Sun 10-Aug-08 18:18:47

Sorry you're having such a hard time, it can feel desperate.

Try to avoid using the word 'no' too much when you talk to him - he's copying, as he realises what a powerful word it is. If he's doing something you don't want him to do, tell him what he CAN do instead, in a bright, positive voice rather than an angry one.

Keep your instructions very simple, try not to talk at him all the time.

Be outdoors as much as possible - little boys can be a nightmare indoors!

Rather than counting to three, I find that counting backwards, slowly, from five is more effective and that stopping when you get down to three and repeating, calmly, what you want them to do can help them change track.

Look after yourself - it is impossible to be calm, fun, consistent or any of the other things you need to be with a child of this age - if you are strung out and exhausted. Accept ANY offers of help and don't be afraid to ask your HV what resources there are in your area. You might be able to have a homestart volunteer for a few hours, or there might be a good under-fives centre.

Good luck - it's hard!

mrsleroyjethrogibbs Sun 10-Aug-08 18:19:42

oh i do feel for you.
i would honestly say to you that you need to ignore ignore ignore the bad behaviour if its safe to do so. The other thing is that you need to have an hour or two away from him to put things in perspective. He is only 3 and at kind of this age little boys have a surge of testosterone which kind of kicks off this behaviour. it will half when he gets to 5 years old but in the meantime its dealing with the here and now.
have you tried having some one else in to help you distract him?make whatever you are doing sound so fabulously intresting that he cant help but come and see what it is you are up to. I totally ham it up with 'oh wow look at this. I LOVE doing this. It makes a funny noise/feels funny/makes a nice pattern. etc.

((hugs)) in the meantime

Marne Sun 10-Aug-08 18:21:28

Dd (4) pushed me too far today so i took her playmobil supermarket away (her favorite toy), she's been an Angel since, she's not getting it back until she stops answering back.

mashedbanana Sun 10-Aug-08 18:51:53

i'm having problems with my dd who's 3.5.her temper is's been going on for the last 2 weeks and some days i just don't know what to dh works away so i'm often on my has been a bad day it took an hour to calm her down before bed all because i wouldn't let her take something out of the microwave[as it was hot].i find myself getting angry with her which doesn't help.

mairimac Sun 10-Aug-08 19:13:57

How do you ignore? I'm not sure if I do it right, I walk away or make out like it didn't bother me and he really gets angry, he screams and screams that I'm ignoring him and he escalates into hysterics. So not sure if not right thing for him as he can't cope with it or whether it's me not doing it right. He is really very negative and even when I know he's had great time doing something and I say "did you have fun"? He shouts "NO" at me!. If I try distract him with fun and "oh wow look at this etc" he says "I don't like it, I don't want it" without looking. I have no family around, he goes to nursery three days a week while I work but it's just lately I'm unable to cope, because he's been so good up till now it's almost like I have no skills to deal with him. How do you not say NO when you are in a cafe having lunch and he jumps on the chairs, climbs on the table, throws food on the floor, pours juice on the table, yells that he's hungry at the pitch of his voice over and over! I am desperate.

Janni Sun 10-Aug-08 20:16:35

OK, the cafe thing: if I were in that situation I would tell him that he needs to sit nicely and I would have something to occupy him. If he carried on misbehaving I would pick him up and carry him outside. I would tell him that if he wants to have any food he has to sit quietly with me. If he still misbehaves I would leave and he wouldn't get lunch. If getting him to behave in public is a real issue, then make things easy on yourself and don't go to places at the moment where you need to keep him quiet. It is SO stressful when you feel others are looking at you disapprovingly; you don't need that. If the weather's nice, picnics in the play park are your best bet.

He needs to see that you mean business and that you are not just going to shout at him but then let him get away with things.

As for the ignoring, I personally never found that very effective - I agree with you that it makes them even more angry and hysterical, though I know other mums on here disagree.

I find that removing the child from the situation or removing whatever it is they're doing that they shouldn't be, along with a distraction works best. Don't be phased by the screaming and shouting - he's trying it out to see what he can get! If you work really really hard on staying calm and firm, you will get better results.

The thing about 'did you have fun?' doesn't really mean much to a child of this age as they are so in the present moment and have no notion that YOU want to be reassured they had fun! Talk about things in the present moment, describe what's happening, rather than asking questions.

Also, a simple technique is just to repeat back what they say to you - they feel heard. We all tend to talk too much and in too complicated a way to small children.

HonoriaGlossop Sun 10-Aug-08 20:37:28

agree with Janni's excellent advice.

Cafe's were difficult with ds at this age; avoid them, and shops, at ALL times with this age group unless absolutely 100% necessary! I totally agree that you CAN stop this behaviour; if DS had been shouting at the top of his voice in the cafe, I would have explained "Quiet voice in here - people don't like shouting" and of course tried to distract straight away - but if he'd carried on then yes, it has to be out the door and forget about lunch.

Often at this age words are useless if they're on a roll of throwing things on table, getting on table etc; you have to SHOW them where the boundary lies so they physically FEEL it. EG, play up = get carried out!

What worked best with my ds at this stage was not asking him things in a 'straight' way; I would still get him to get his shoes on etc but not by saying "DS get your shoes on" but usually by some silliness or other; either suggesting they were bus driver shoes, or by challenging him to get ready first etc. Also reverse psychology IMO works a TREAT with boys this age..."No, ds do NOT brush your teeth, that toothbrush is magic and will turn them all brown, EEUUUURRRGGGHH" etc etc.

Basically kids this age have a hugely well developed sense of fun, and they want to play. If you can turn the everyday stuff into fun and play you win most battles. Not all - sometimes they just NEED a tantrum grin but most, IMO.

Janni Sun 10-Aug-08 20:44:44

Yes, I totally agree with HG's ideas about making it all fun as much as possible. It can be hard to summon up the energy sometimes, but it's worth it.

barnsleybelle Sun 10-Aug-08 20:54:45

I really feel for you, you sound very upset. <hugs>.

I'm certainly no expert and i know everyone has their own way, but here's a couple of things that i found worked.

When ds was playing up i used to take toys away. i warned him first and gave him a chance of course and told him which toy would be going, but if the behaviour continued i took it away. I continued to do this, and at times there were more toys taken away than he had left to play with. I never shouted, just calmly and in a cross tone told him what would happen. I ensured the toys stayed away until his behaviour warrented them being returned one at a time. Even if it was a small flash of good behaviour, such as playing quietly, i rewarded it with a toy back. I hope you know what i mean.

I also praised every tiny little piece of good behaviour, no matter how small or silly it was. Just a simple please or thank you, or holding my hand on a street etc...

My ds also used to loves to hear how much i enjoy being with him. So eg, if he had been good i would say " what a lovely time i've had being with you today. You have been so good and i've had such fun".

I never went on about his bad behaviour, just when it initially happens.

It will pass, but i honestly think the key is consistancy and praising every little part of good behaviour. I think when they are quiet, or playing quietly it's easy to not say anything, but then they get all this attention when they are playing up.

Janni Sun 10-Aug-08 20:57:33

Another very good point there from barnsleybelle about finding any little thing to praise - makes both of you feel better smile

How is your DS at nursery? could they give you any advice? sometimes children are angels at nursery and terrors at home because they let it all out where they feel most secure.

gems25 Sun 10-Aug-08 21:11:11

omg ive found others who have the same problem, my son is 4 and is a nightmare,one miniute hes a loving,caring,cute boy and then he just changes in to some agrresive violent monster.
He will randomly go up to other children and hit them and hurt them too,i will get down to his level and ask him why, he always comes out with I DONT KNOW and then ill tell him he cant do this, tell him why and he will repeat what im saying point his finger at me and tell me off, he'll shout at me too.
I just don't understand why he's like this, it's really getting me down now and i just feel like i'm doing a crappy job at being a mum,but to top it all off he has a baby brother due at the end of october and i'm worried that he will hurt our new born. He fully understands that he has a brother on the way and talks to my tummy and cuddles it too he will lay there and tell baby what he has done in his day(ahhh bless) this is wat i mean, but then he will turn and start to hit me or shout.
Someone plz help me im at breaking point!!!!!

HonoriaGlossop Sun 10-Aug-08 21:26:58

gems I think the thing to remember with boys this age is as I said earlier they need to physically FEEL the boundary of what is acceptable.

If he hits other children, you are right to tell him no and why not, but I think he needs to be experiencing a consequence immediately too. Take him out of the room, or take him to his room, or to the hall, or anywhere else where he is realising he's been stopped from being with the toys/kids/fun.

Wouldn't bother asking him why he does it; he's too young to know why. If he knew why, he wouldn't do it, because he'd have the reasoning skills to be less frustrated and impulsive, if that makes sense?

There has been a thread on here quite recently about the aggression of 4 yr old boys, it is to do with testosterone surge and is SO normal, it does not mean he will be a violent boy - I would tell him I don't talk to people who shout and will talk to him when he can use his normal voice. If he hits you, that's a minute on his own in his room, in my book; not acceptable.

Give immediate consequences so that as I said he begins to feel where the boundaries are. He will get there, honest.

What a lovely idea him talking to your tummy. Hopefully he will carry that on when the baby is actually here, it could be lovely bonding time for them!

mairimac Sun 10-Aug-08 21:28:28

Thanks for all messages and help and I know a lot of these work just am so tired and frustrated now I'm not sure how to calm myself down. I just feel angry even now and he's been in bed for 2.5 hours. I'm terrified about how tomorrow will begin! I do praise a lot, even small things, I also tell him I love him and I'll always be here for him and that I love spending time with him and I miss him when he's at school etc. I think sometimes I escalate things by getting upset and end up making things worse and then it gets out of control before I know where I am:-( At nursery he is very good in all aspects in fact never had a bad word, he's not aggressive, he doesn't hurt other kids and never has, infact he's very sensitive on the whole. I do try make lots of things funny and silly but he virtually says NO to everything even if fun thing or a joke. He even tells me if I keep being silly then he won't play with me! I think I'm just too stressed right now and am not dealing well. I hate fighting with him and threatening him, but being nice, funny, distraction has failed to work well to ends up being the end result, but I hate it. Thanks for all suggestions, will try again tomorrow!

HonoriaGlossop Sun 10-Aug-08 21:32:17

I think then Mairi the key must be how you respond to his NO. He's obviously getting a better response to that, than anything else he does....I think you've answered your own question by saying "I escalate things by getting upset". He's just going with the BIG reaction; it's funny with kids, the reaction doesn't have to be GOOD (as in you're pleased with him) it just has to be BIG whether that's good or bad for the child!

If you can keep calm you will disempower him.

Don't get drawn in, don't get upset. Let stuff go....

see how it goes?!

Janni Sun 10-Aug-08 21:33:43

Go easy on yourself - you're having a tough time. The fact that he's good at nursery shows you you've got a great little boy there. Have a good night's sleep, tomorrow is another day. Read through the thread again in the morning when you're fresh x

barnsleybelle Sun 10-Aug-08 21:36:04

I agree, try not to get drawn in.. Be firm and consistant and most importantly calm.

Easier said than done, i know.
Good luck.

mairimac Sun 10-Aug-08 21:37:34

thanks honoriaGlossop, any ideas on how to get on with things with constant NO's? Like in the morning he wakes and calls me, I got in big and cheery and say Morning, how are you, did you sleep well, or things that are cheery anyway. I always get NO. Then I may say shall we get up or go downstairs for breakfast or something similar and I get NO. Next will be what would you like for breakfast this or that - nothing is the answer. Then when finished, shall we go upstairs, or I bet I can get upstairs before you and which point he may or may not say NO, then upstairs NO to dressing, brushing teeth, etc etc. I'm not sure how much I can ignore or how to get around it? I have only just lost it this weekend, before that was calmer, but always ended up with me having to just put his shoes on or just wash his face without co-operation. When he says no do I just walk away, or is there something better to do. Sorry just if any thoughts on this constant NO to everything.

mairimac Sun 10-Aug-08 21:38:31

Thanks everyone, I will re read in AM when fresh. Thanks for all the great input and advice. Will try get myself in order tomorrow and hopefully a better day!

barnsleybelle Sun 10-Aug-08 21:43:14

I'm sure others will have a better idea, but i wouldn't ask questions if you are going to get a no and then not know how to deal with it.

Instead, you could go in and say "good morning sweetheart, you had a lovely sleep, well done. Come on then, it's time to get up and have some breakfast, we are having cereal/toast this morning".

That way you are taking charge. If he's good at nursery maybe it's because he has structure and very little actual choices. By asking him shall we go for breakfast, you are giving him the opportunity to say no.

If you say to him what is going to happen he hasn't a choice then.

Hope this makes sense.

HonoriaGlossop Sun 10-Aug-08 22:04:12

I agree with barnsley not to ask too many questions!!! In fact I would stick at "good morning sweetheart, you had a lovely sleep, well done" Then what you do say, make it not about him so much, and try to get him dressed while you talk so that he's not focussed on it as something to say no to! As in "It's sunny today. I like sunny days. <getting clothes out> Actually though I also like rain <whipping pj's off> I used to like it at school if it rained and we could stay in to do craft <putting socks on> " etc etc, you get the picture. It might work!

Or try getting him dressed in front of the TV, I did this for ages with DS blush

Keep up the inane small talk while you present him with breakfast rather than asking him. If he says NO don't want it, to what you have presented, calmly ask "What would you like?" hopefully then he will give a positive answer and you are getting somewhere.

Janni Sun 10-Aug-08 22:44:28

I've watched nursery teachers get groups of children to do things. They don't say 'shall we do this?' or 'would you like that?' they sing a song such as 'everybody line up, just like me', along with the actions. DD (3) often sings to herself at home 'everybody tidy up, tidy up just like me' or 'everybody do this, just like me' - it seems very comforting to her. We think we're being kind by giving choices - we're not, we're asking them to do things they can't do because they don't understand all the consequences of their decisions. WE need to be in control and carry them along.

mairimac Mon 11-Aug-08 08:06:49

reading everything that has just been written, it's like reading about what I have always done. It always used to be a case of what you are saying, distraction with "it's a sunny day, great we can go outside" Like being in control, then as I said he started getting angry with all that and "leave me alone", "I don't want to" started up etc. So followed advice from another thread saying to give him choices so there was no opportunity for a NO answer but that he then had to decide himself. "would you like a blue or red t-shirt today?" - giving him the opportunity to get involved in it and possible easing tension. However that worked for a short while and now as I've said giving choices gets "don't want any of those things". So maybe back to beginning. I like these suggestions of just saying what's happening, maybe he needs someone to make the decisions and although fun to begin with, deciding for himself too hard right now? Don't know. Thanks again, going to try using a great amount of advice given!

mairimac Mon 11-Aug-08 08:43:37

Just wanted to ask another question, is it possible for a child do be despressed to be so negative? Just that the suggestions given have basically been what I've always been like. He has always slept well and is a great kids really is. So in am I'd go in and "good morning my boy, you slept well, that great". = No I didn't. So I ignore. Then I used balamory to get the weather - "what type of day is it here today I wonder", I'd open curtains look outside and say "it's a sunny day, great we can wear shorts". = it's not sunny it's raining. So a negative spin on no matter what. My question is can events in their lives cause so much misery or unhappiness that it would manifest into such things at such a young age?

He is in nursery and since June three of his very good friends who are older than him have moved up in class to the 3-5 year old class. Leaving him behind in the 2-3 yr class. He is due to move up in Sept when turns 3. However this decline definitely started when he lost his best buddy. The problem is it's getting worse and obviously me getting worse at coping! I presonally think this is the root problem, he talks about who has left him every day. Every day he questions me about who is at school today! (I think to make sure no one else has left). He has started saying he doesn't want to go to school. Although is very eager to wear a uniform and to to "big boys class". The issue is that each day he asks, he gets a "you can't go today because you are no old enough" from a teacher. I tell him that when is Birthday has passed he will go to Big Boys Room. He seems angry and frustrated! Just a thought and wanted to see if I'm thinking along the right lines?

mairimac Mon 11-Aug-08 08:45:40

ps. sorry about all the spelling mistakes - am typing way too fast here.... trying to get this out before I get yelled at about ignoring him!

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