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Three-year-old really contrary and doesn't understand cause and effect

(23 Posts)
chickbean Fri 31-Jul-09 19:39:30

Am feeling really depressed about my almost 3 DS1. He can be lovely, but about 90% of his time is spent being contrary, deliberately obstructive (especially to DS2, who is nearly 1) or inconsolable for very little or no reason. Reverse psychology does sometimes work - "Don't want breakfast", "Okay, mummy will eat your breakfast", (almost hysterical) "Mummy not eat breakfast" at which point he eats it. Getting ready to do anything takes forever because, even when he wants to go somewhere,he doesn't seem to realise that getting his shoes on, getting into the car seat, etc. will get him there - then when I pick him up to put his shoes on or put him in his car seat he has a tantrum about how he wanted to do it himself. Finally, threats to sit him on the naughty step or send him to bed without a story just do not work - he gets really upset when I enforce the threat and says "I don't want to hit mummy" or whatever he has just already done to earn the punishment - but I know he'll do exactly the same thing again in the future. I try to make sure that I give DS1 plenty of attention, praise and cuddles when he is being good, but seem to spend most of my time chasing him or protecting DS2 from being pushed, kicked, having toys snatched away. DS1 is a bright little boy in other ways (very good at talking, really interested in letters and numbers) but doesn't seem to understand cause and effect.

I know they call it the terrible twos, but all my friends' children seem to behave better than DS1 and I have a very smug SIL whose 2 children seem to have understood cause and effect since about 18 months old.
I am wondering whether his behaviour will ever change, or whether it's because I am doing something really wrong. Any advice or experience gratefully received.

deaconblue Fri 31-Jul-09 21:14:52

are you me? This could be me except I have a dd rather than ds2. My SIL is horribly smug about her robot children too. YOur son, like mine must be highly intelligent and better looking than most children
Seriously though I am trying to do lots of "how to talk so children listen" in order to engage his cooperation and that seems to work quite well. I also spent one morning consciously noticing how many times he did as I asked easily and was surprised it was lots more than I thought. I also give him plenty of notice eg "in 2 mins it will be bath time, you can play but then I'd like you to come nicely. I will count to 3 and then mummy would like you to come nicely or I will make you come. " counting to 3 working really well at the moment.

chickbean Sun 02-Aug-09 12:02:44

Thanks for this - any tips on how to talk so they do listen - mine seems to tune out most of the time, even when I'm down at his level, trying to make eye contact.

deaconblue Sun 02-Aug-09 19:57:07

Mine prefers not to make eye contact unless on his terms so really squirms if I try to do that. I find that the one word approach helps so I just say "ds, shoes please" rather than a big long request. The giving info one has worked well too "ds toys that are thrown on the hard floor often break" and making an observation is good too "gosh ds the puzzle pieces are all over the floor, what shall we do with this mess?" he answered "we'd better clcear it up and started tidying".
Today he pinched dd's cheek really nastily and I just said "that was mean, dd and I don't want to play with you until you're ready to say sorry and be kind" and ignored him for about 5 mins til he came over, said sorry and said he wanted to play kindly. Usually I would have ended up in a big super nanny stand off where he had to sit on the naughty step, he would refuse, scream and get lots of negative attention for ages. Was much more effective I think.
Is so so trying though, when he spat in my face today I just wanted to slap him (didn't, but nearly cried with how horrible he can be sometimes)

chickbean Sun 02-Aug-09 21:27:56

Will try the minimal chat and see if that works better - thanks. I just can't believe how quickly his mood changes - he can be fine and then something chnges and he goes into meltdown - and not just when he's tired (sometimes only a few minutes after he has got up in the morning). The thing that I find strangest is that, although I'm the one who is generally tougher on him, DS1 usually wants me to do everything for him (rather than DH) which is upsetting for DH and tiring for me (and will get more so as I'm pregnant).

deaconblue Mon 03-Aug-09 19:31:21

gosh so similar to my ds. I sometimes feel like he wants to totally control me, when it's my turn for a lay in on the weekend he screams for me until I give up and get up. Is tiring. Ds can flip very quickly too although his tantrums are really short lived and he's fairly easily distracted out of them. We're still struggling with potty training too largely due to his contraryness. Just says no to going on the potty

chickbean Mon 03-Aug-09 19:43:44

I think you ARE me. We've only had three successes on the potty so far - and last night he wee-ed on the carpet, despite knowing that he shouldn't.

deaconblue Mon 03-Aug-09 20:21:24

lol it feels better knowing someone else is suffering too

chickbean Mon 03-Aug-09 20:46:39

Even if we are the only two in the world! It has been great chatting to you.

puffylovett Mon 03-Aug-09 20:52:21

ooh you two could be me, too !

I don't like the naughty step, so trying very hard to stay away from it. I'm finding that tons and tons of positive praise for the things he does well, like telling him what a good helper he is, how much he's going to be a big help to mummy when baby arrives etc is helping. But it's really trying when you've only been up for half an hour, he's in a great mood - then you mention getting dressed and all of a sudden half an hour later you've been chasing around the bedroom threatening to remove toys ! Grrr.

123 was working well for us, but not anymore sad. The other thing I find quite good is to tell him WHY he needs his shoes on, ie if you don't get them on you won't be able to come and see xyz or take poppy for a walk. I'm usually still there a few minutes later, but I do find that saying to the dog 'come on then, poppy and I will go on our own' and then walking out the door usually works as a last resort !

insywinsyspider Mon 03-Aug-09 21:07:17

oh I'm so glad I found this - ds1 is as you have described! ds3 is 6wks so I'd been thinking its a reaction to my being preg and him arriving but I'm starting to think its him. He ranges from meltdown as you describe to a pathetic 'cuddle me' and whenever I sit on floor to play with him and ds2 he has to sit on my lap and trys to drap himself on me/round me all day, its really claustrapobic and when he's not wanting to be right with me (and actually well behaved just clingy) he's trying to control everything and everyone, he's so bossy - I feel like everything is centred on him and if not he kicks off.
Like you we really make sure he has 1:1 - ds2 and ds3 nap at 1pm every day for up to 2 hrs so I just read and play with him and at the weekend dh took ds1 swimming on their own but it still doesn't seem enough.

Am shattered with ds3 and it all feels like a battle - sometimes I wonder if I'm being ott on being positive on stuff that should be every day normal - i.e. eating breakfast without a tantrum
I'm starting to think I'm doing something wrong too!

deaconblue Mon 03-Aug-09 21:10:08

hurrah there are 3 of us!!! ds was lovely all day today. I sometimes think he pushes me to the point of breakdown then just chooses to lay off for a few days. helps when it's sunny though as we've spent 2 hours in park this morning and 1 1/2 in different park this afternoon. boys are like dogs

deaconblue Mon 03-Aug-09 21:11:37

4 of us! "this too will pass" helps me too

puffylovett Mon 03-Aug-09 21:27:46

cbeebies comes in handy too. blush

we didn't have telly for the first year ! Gosh, how things change grin

insy you're doing great ! How you manage with 3 such little LO's ... phew, you are a saint

chickbean Tue 04-Aug-09 11:42:58

Shoppingbags - glad you're having a bit of a break - long may it continue!

Insy - I'm in awe - I'll be back in touch after I've had number three for more tips!

Puffylovett - I agree about CBeebies - I'd never get any breakfast or have a shower without it. I was so adamant my kids wouldn't watch TV until they went to school - but I gave in after a year with DS1. It started with Clangers DVDs and went downhill from there. DS2 is still TV free, but that's partly because I can't really risk leaving them unsupervised together for too long.

Yesterday I had a snotty checkout woman in Sainsbury's telling DS1 off for being loud. Okay, he could be heard over the whole shop and I was telling him that no-one wanted to listen to him - but she kept saying things like "Why can't you be good like your little brother?" which I NEVER do, because I don't think it's good to do comparisons. Perhaps I should start an "Am I being unreasonable" thread about how annoyed it made me. I didn't mind the other people looking pityingly (or amused) at me - I'm used/hardened to it.

Anyway, I shouldn't whinge - DS1 does still have a nap most days (which I know is unusual and I am truly grateful for it - must go an clean the kitchen now).

puffylovett Wed 05-Aug-09 10:35:03

Everbody - if you haven't already, come join us on the 'irrational toddler tantrum' thread. You will be crying with laughter and will realise just how normal life is for us !

insywinsyspider Wed 05-Aug-09 11:51:52

lol puffy been and had a read and most of them ds does - including his food being 'broken' heaven forbid I should cut anything up!

gosh at you ladies being in awe of me, that means you def don't know me irl!
Been reading Toddler Taming (whilst feeding at night... remember the days we used to read real books smile) and think he's after 'grade A' attention, one-to-one, just me and him, reading endless books and me meeting his needs hmm looked through book and yeap as predicted no help or a chapter on how to making that work when you have 2 others that would also like/need you rattention, so I know a potential solution but have a hope in hell of achieving it, but in saying that the full on melt down at breakfast because ds2 had 'his' coco pops (one box that we all have to share like normal families) is beyond me, the day either starts well or is a tear filled screaming tantram from the word go and he slept well last night too, I have no idea what sets him off

chickbean ds1 also has one volume setting which is extra loud and untill recently napped everyday but now its about 4 days out of 7 (at 3yrs 2months) do you think they exhaust them selves battling against everything? grin its got to burn more energy than sitting and playing nicely!

chickbean Wed 05-Aug-09 21:04:56

Actually met a toddler today who made me think that DS1 wasn't so bad. Was so struck by this, I actually went to pick him up early from nursery so that we could have some "quality time" - only to find him fighting some poor little girl for possession or her wheelie suitcase - would have headed back out without collecting him if he hadn't already spotted me - doh!

chickbean Wed 05-Aug-09 21:31:22

P.S. Just been weeping with laughter at the illogical tantrums - must remember to watch out for the humour in DS1's.

deaconblue Thu 06-Aug-09 20:45:40

after a couple of days respite ds' pita tendancies back with avengeance. So my day: up at 4am with dd, ds up at 5.30. went to meet friends at country park. Ds instantly runs off in opposite direction, he did stop when I yelled but wouldn't come back so I had to trek over and fetch him. Rode his bike for 2 mins then dumped it and ran off again. When a little boy got on the same toy as him he snarled and tried to push him off. Demanded to go home so we headed back to car park when he did a runner again across the car park. I yelled like a fish wife and he stopped. got home and he peed on the carpet twice laughing while he did it. Add to that constantly being mean to dd and not going to sleep til 5 mins ago and that's my day.
This too shall pass...
(and a glass of Pimms and lemonade)

Shrod Thu 17-Nov-16 11:17:43

Chickbean did you ever find a way to deal with the contrary tantrums? My DD2 is like this at 3 and has been for over a year... and my patience is exhausted.
I've just spent the last hour with her screaming. Eventually she just exhausted herself and she's calm on my lap watching tv now. She's not a great talker, and I suspect that might have been a cause when she was younger but now she can communicate what she wants just refuses to do more than grunt point and scream when she's angry. In this last fit she spent 20 minutes screaming for me to hold her but as soon as i'd try she'd scream for me to not touch her, and as soon as i put her down she screams to be held again.
We get this most days and many nights...
My technique for dealing with it is ask her to explain that she needs to tell me what she wants, but that never almost never works, so it moves onto 'i'll help you when you calm down' which frequently escalates into naughty step treatment which still fails...
She is otherwise a v independent kid and likes to do everything herself, and on the whole i let her.
Did you ever find a way to deal with it? Or did your DS1 just grow out of it? Thx v much

Hastalapasta Thu 17-Nov-16 11:27:14

All normal, they do grow out of it! Mine are 7, 5 and 2. Tantrums get ignored as I am usually too busy to bother with them, I try really hard to stay calm and speak in a normal voice, explaining in short sentences what is going to happen. This can result in taking the littlest out wearing a blanket over body suit and trousers on the school run after whipping off his coat and shoes but never mind grin.

Shrod Thu 17-Nov-16 13:21:45

Thanks for your reply and words of encouragement hastalapasta. Unfortunately I don't think DD2s behavior IS normal though. I take normal to mean the majority of kids are like this and they are not. DD1 was not like this and we don't know anyone elses kid that was like this. Toddler books don't talk about this behavior. It's not a normal tantrum where the child isn't getting their way. It's where they somehow simultaneously want and don't want something. DD2 will scream for something, but refuse it if offered, then scream for it again, and this could go on forever if i let it. Other times she will scream for me to go away and as soon as i back off she'll scream for me to come stay. In the end i just let her scream it out.
Tiredness is a factor but anything seems to be able to trigger a fit.
One good thing at least is that she's only like this with family. At nursery school she's an angel!

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