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Disobedience / non-cooperation at nearly 3 y.o.

(23 Posts)
AngelDog Tue 01-Jan-13 21:21:00

We are having a bit of a difficult time with DS1, almost 3 y.o. He's always been a very compliant child, and easy to reason with. However, he's now often refusing to do what we ask him. An example might be, "Stand up so I can get you undressed" (rather than him lying in a huddle on the floor).

When we give an instruction he almost always asks, "Why?" or, more often, "What if I don't do x?" If I say I'll take away a toy he's playing with, he wants to know where I'll put it, how long for, what would happen if I didn't take it or if he could get it again himself.

This gets into a negative cycle. I've tried turning it around and talking about what will happen if he does co-operate, or telling him I'm confident he will co-operate but he just goes back to asking what will happen if he doesn't do it, and often not doing it.

We phrase instructions in a positive way (what we do want him to do, rather than what we don't want him to do).

I try to use How to Talk strategies but they don't seem to work. He takes no notice or gets crosser when I acknowledge his feelings. Praising or thanking him for co-operation just gets him asking what would have happened if he hadn't co-operated.

I can 'make' him follow instructions by e.g. dragging him upright and hauling his clothes off, but that's difficult and it doesn't seem to help.

Our parenting philosophy is that we are in charge (and have taught him explicitly so) but we would fall broadly into the UP/AP/not much use of punishments or rewards camp rather than a more Supernanny approach.

This behaviour is the same with DH and me. He has been adjusting to a new brother nearly 3 months ago, but this is new behaviour in the last few weeks. He adores DS2 and struggled to adjust at first but now seems fine in other ways.

I struggle to give him much one-on-one time, but when I do try, (eg whenever I bf DS2) he doesn't seem very interested and often keeps on playing with his toys rather than reading with me (he loves reading). He gets good quality time with DH every day. He gets a reasonable amount of sleep / exercise.


TravelinColour Tue 01-Jan-13 21:24:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AngelDog Tue 01-Jan-13 21:29:33

Yes, I've tried that, and he just mimicks me back again, saying, "Clothes, clothes, clothes!" I do tend to use shorter instructions e.g. "Come here please" or "Stand up please".

AngelDog Tue 01-Jan-13 21:30:29

I think the frustrating thing is that these were all things he was doing happily and co-operatively until very recently. confused He is also doing a lot of shouting and wailing.

housesalehelp Tue 01-Jan-13 21:41:38

my ds is similar age and had been very compliant until recently - so I think it could be an age- pushing barriers thing - sometimes a game can help so I don't think you can stand up that kind of thing - have to say the "naughty" or other name step does help for somethings - although its more for us things like hitting - and if you threaten a consquence then it might help to see it through

Zimbah Tue 01-Jan-13 21:53:42

Have you tried the counting to three/five approach? Either he does it before you get to three, or you will do it for him (put toy away, physically undress him etc).

You can do this in a fun way too e.g. "let's put the toys away before I finish this song" and then you start singing, preferably a song that you can drag out for a while if necessary to ensure he's successful. Clearly if his response is "No" then you might skip straight to the counting to 3 strategy.

housesalehelp Tue 01-Jan-13 21:57:17

oh we do that too - ask once and if ignored then count to 3

tazmo Tue 01-Jan-13 21:57:54

Hi sounds like he's trying to get some attention. Easy to say but reward his positive behaviour and ignore the bad. I have 3 children. 5 months, 2 yearsand 4 years old. The kids loved baby when she first arrived but it wears off and they finally start jostling for their own position in the household. Keep trying to spend time with him and it will improve. Take it in turns to put him to bed even if he says he just wants dad. I tell him that I want to have my turn at putting him to bed and makes him feel special. Try taking the baby and lying him beside him saying how much baby loves him. Kids constantly go through phases where they test the boundaries, be firm but consistent of what you expect, but keep working at it. My relationship with ds1 really deteriorated while I fully bf dd2 - but doing the above, we are now really close again.

Hope ur pack settles down.


Iggly Tue 01-Jan-13 22:03:17

Hello, how is all going?!

With DS, I ignore him unless I really have to get it done. So, I'll say "DS can you put your top on now?". He might mess about etc etc. so I ignore him. He'll try and talk and I'll tell him that I want him to get dressed. After a minute or two I'll do something else and he'll start getting dressed shock as soon as he does, I heap on the praise. Doing this a few times has really helped and he gets dressed no problem. I will add that he struggled to get dressed and sometimes likes me to do it for him as its a cuddle opportunity too grin

Another tactic is counting to 3. So I make sure ds can hear me, and tell him that mummy will count to 3 then do x/y/z for him. Or tell him he has to do it by 3. He treats it as a race and does it then. The former works better if he's in his "why?" phase. I try not to get sucked into the whys as its his way of delaying.

I also give him some control at times which helps. Giving two choices doesn't work anymore (as he now answers "not any of them!") so we negotiate. Eg tidy up in two mins, he'll say 5, I'll say, 4, he'll say 3 and we agree. He doesn't know what 3 mins is but it gives him control and I'll count down to 3 mins.

Like you we don't like super nanny etc but we've had to be more firm with him. He also took a long time to adjust to dd. as for one to one time - he tends to want me at specific times eg bedtime, when tired and hurt/ill so I really make the effort to do that as opposed to one to one playing. Again, so it's on his terms more. Ds needs rules and firm boundaries. We've been talking about rules - he responds well to it. Eg you get dresses to go outside, wash your hands after the toilet etc etc.

No idea if that makes sense!

AngelDog Tue 01-Jan-13 23:13:59

Thanks, all. Counting definitely doesn't work - I've tried it in a 'count to 3 then a sanction' way, and as a challenge - 'can you do x by the time I count to 3?' Every time it has resulted in him not doing as we ask unless I count (and this was when we tried it during his more co-operative phases).

DH and I have concluded that we need a consistent sanction for non-compliance - I think he does need more firm rules at the moment. For the last couple of days we have been much firmer than usual about the food on offer at mealtimes, and after an immense screaming tantrum last night, he has eaten loads of things (eg veg) which he normally wouldn't even touch.

Iggly, we are coping much better than I expected in many ways. DS2 is a fantastic sleeper grin though day & evening sleeps are all in the sling still.

However, I'm really struggling to keep afloat of the basics of household management though. We keep discovering more allergies / intolerances (including for DS2) and we have just run out of food in the freezer, so feeding everyone is a real headache.

DS1 is wonderful with DS2. He cuddles him, kisses him, finds things to show him and talks about what he'll do when he's older. He's even (for the first time!) started talking to other children by interacting with them like he does with DS2. smile He's much more confident with other adults too which is lovely.

Iggly Wed 02-Jan-13 06:39:14

Try counting as a race? Would he respond to competition? So count to 3 or mummy will do it. So no sanction and when you get to 3 you do it instead? Or challenge him to who can do it faster.

We've introduced time out for some things. Not a naughty step but a way of calming him and. I go with him if I can and it's not a specific place eg naughty step. We don't say naughty anyway.

Yes ds is lovely with dd but he still missed me. So I got the brunt of it!! He would ignore me when upset.

Glad it's working our but I feel your pain re intolerances. Luckily ds has outgrown his mainly but dd just doesn't eat much beyond avocado and hummus hmm

Iggly Wed 02-Jan-13 06:50:24

Try counting as a race? Would he respond to competition? So count to 3 or mummy will do it. So no sanction and when you get to 3 you do it instead? Or challenge him to who can do it faster.

We've introduced time out for some things. Not a naughty step but a way of calming him and. I go with him if I can and it's not a specific place eg naughty step. We don't say naughty anyway.

Yes ds is lovely with dd but he still missed me. So I got the brunt of it!! He would ignore me when upset.

Glad it's working our but I feel your pain re intolerances. Luckily ds has outgrown his mainly but dd just doesn't eat much beyond avocado and hummus hmm

Iggly Wed 02-Jan-13 06:55:18

Sorry phone is rubbish at times on MN.

But while I'm here, I'll add that even though ds is great with the baby, what a pp said about the novelty wearing off is true. And it's not necessarily that they take it out on baby, they can take it out on mum/dad as you're the one who's around less.

And as for household management... We've basically written off the last year and just kept ourselves afloat. Now dd is 1, it feels more manageable (!) but she was a dreadful sleeper

diddlediddledumpling Wed 02-Jan-13 07:04:52

I agree with tazmo, even though on the surface he gets on great with ds2, I think it's the adjustment to not being the only one to get your attention. In my opinion, lots and lots of positive attention is the key, rather than discipline and sanctions. I've seen this twice now and 3 months really isn't enough time for a 2 yo to adjust to such a total change in his life. He needs reassurance and attention, the attempts to discuss what will happen if he doesn't do as he's told sound like he's trying to get your attention for a longer time than what it takes you to just tell him what to do and he does it. Maybe he's noticed that you are willing to get into one of these discussions and it gets him your full attention for as long as he can keep thinking up questions!
I know it's hard and frustrating, but I would try to ignore the bad as much as possible and praise the good.

Iggly Wed 02-Jan-13 08:56:23

Yes agree diddle. Ds loves it if I treat him like a baby sometimes too - pull him into my lap to get him dressed, cuddles, singing etc. stuff he sees us doing with dd. I don't indulge him as such - he's very good generally and we're just coming out of the hardest spell (he's 3.3 now, 2.2 when dd arrived).

I will say the worst time was when dd started crawling and grabbing his stuff. He got very possessive! And started lashing out (hence time out). Now he's used to dd and wants to see "his baby" if she's elsewhere. Not all plain sailing though when they both want to sit in my lap to read stories at the same time or both have hurt themselves grin

diddlediddledumpling Wed 02-Jan-13 09:58:17

Iggly I know what you mean, you sound very wise grin. Both ds1 and ds2 love it when I take them into my lap and strike their head or something. And ds1 is 6! He was 2 when ds2 was born and while on the surface he was fine, it manifested itself in toileting issues. Ds2 was 3 when ds3 was born (ds3 now almost 1) and with him it was quite different: he became quite clingy to ds1 and also started telling me he loved me a hundred times a day and climbing on my lap for kisses. Ds1's toileting issues were definitely harder to deal with, but it made me realise their feelings can come out in lots of ways

diddlediddledumpling Wed 02-Jan-13 09:59:40

Obviously I stroke their heads, rather than strike them. As if new sibling isn't hard enough to deal with, it would be crap if your mum then started that.

3smellysocks Wed 02-Jan-13 15:22:54

I think you are having long discussions that shouldn't be happening at all. He is getting attention when he should be getting none for negative behavior or arguing. You know he knows the answers to his questions and he is just manipulating you. Why not try 'I'm not discussing this with you' and ending the conversation. Walk off and ignore further questions that are posed just to get a reaction/negative attention form you.

You could try playful parenting route and make getting changed fun and silly.

Or you could go down the counting route - ' coat on now please'...1, ....2, ....3, OK time out.

Or you could just accept he is wearing his PJ's and take him to playgroup etc like that.

I do think you need to have some quality one to one alone with him. Can you ask him if there is something he would like to do/go/make? Maybe you could bake treats together?

AngelDog Wed 02-Jan-13 20:52:22

Thanks, all. We have instituted a consistent sanction so the answer to "What if I don't do x?" is always the same. It's helped - if nothing else, it helps me to be calmer. We've not actually had to use the sanction so far (though I'm sure we will eventually, even if only a couple of times).

Time for fun things is what I struggle with. DS2 has digestive issues & soils nappies constantly plus weeing through his clothes repeatedly. We use cloth (can't afford disposables) and I have to do a whole machineload of nappies each day plus normal laundry.

Food is taking ages to work out what I can make & then prepare - we're gradually working our way towards a diet aimed at healing the gut (which has really helped my IBS so far) but because I'm tandem bf'ing I have to avoid things each of them is intolerant to as well as things which upset me. I'm off dairy, eggs, gluten & all grains, soya, peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame, coconut, cucumber, melon, squashes, banana, tuna, oranges, tomato, dried fruit and all processed food. hmm

Today was DS1's birthday so I spent a lot of time telling him about how he was born, which he loved. smile

NeedlesCuties Wed 02-Jan-13 21:28:27

OP, thanks for posting this thread.

My DS will be 3 next month and for the past fortnight he's been like this. He would argue the sky was red and the grass was pink sometimes, he's just so contrary!

Some good tips on here, will give them a try smile

Iggly Wed 02-Jan-13 21:54:15

You don't have to do "fun" stuff - try involving your eldest in things? Mine loves that! So he helps me cook hmm helps me clean etc. bedtime routine, getting him dressed basically caring for him is very important and maintains the bond. As will the BF.

I have some cloth nappies going spare if you like too! Nt sure of size though.

AngelDog Wed 02-Jan-13 22:18:40

I don't know whether I think that housework is dull and therefore I assume DS will think so, or whether he actually finds it dull. He doesn't seem that enthusiastic, but I suspect I probably need to muster more enthusiasm. smile

Iggly Thu 03-Jan-13 04:00:26

Ds doesn't like to do all housework but he loves spray bottles and water. So I let him "wash up" or clean (with water in a spray bottle). He doesn't like the vacuum though! Or washing - he's not bothered by the washing machine anymore.

How about baking together? Can you eat polenta? Maybe polenta biscuits (I'm guessing they exist)

Failing that, what does your ds like doing? Splashing in muddy puddles? Garden? When dd was tiny this time last year, we'd spend time outside. Ds would do digging/road building etc in the garden while I watched or helped him.

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