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At my wit's end with my 3 year old boy's behaviour - HELP

(23 Posts)
Knackeredallthetime Tue 29-Jul-08 14:54:28

Despite repeated efforts to stay calm, I just totally flipped and threatened to spank my son's bottom with a spatula (I whacked it on the table hard). I did not do so, but was driven to it. I am finding it beyond difficult to deal with his behaviour.

He is aggressive with other kids and adults; he is exceptionally rude; he has frequent tantrums and screams at full velocity; he is hyperactive and becomes overly excited (often). His behaviour often reduces me to tears too.

I have tried a variety of strategies with my son. None seem to work. He upsets his nursery too. He only goes mornings as I only work part time. I gave up full time work to spend more time with him. I am having regrets, in truth. It is hard to take my son anywhere as he so often upsets the equilibrium. He is old enough to know better now.
I have asked him why he is so sad/angry etc and he says he doesn't know. That is probably true. I am wondering if he has a medical issue and can't help his behaviour. However, I am reluctant to get him labelled at so young an age.

I love my son because he is my son, but I detest his behaviour. I am a good parent, and so it my husband. Our other child is placid and compliant and gentle. I feel awful that he has to witness these spectacularly angry scenes at least 2-3 times a day - if not more.

I used to have little sympathy for parents with 'problem kids', believing it was the partent's fault. I can now see that some kids' temperaments are to blame.

I am not the perfect parent, how horrid that would be, but everyone has sympathy for me. They don't know how I cope with such an uncontrollable child. He is so wilful, defiant and rude. What do I do? Sometimes I wishes he lived elsewhere. He would test the patience of a saint.

posieflump Tue 29-Jul-08 14:57:13

'Our other child is placid and compliant and gentle. '

do you think your 3 year old has picked up on this?

it sounds awful sad Do you have any help, family nearby etc?

singyswife Tue 29-Jul-08 14:57:27

TBH I would go and have a word with my HV about this, If is is 'a phase' etc you need stratagies to cope (not deal with but cope) on the other hand it may ring bells with the hv and she may be able to diagnose something. Have you kept a food diary. i.e is it smarties, wotsits, cheese, sugar. It may be as simple as an intollerance. Hope it gets better soon.

Knackeredallthetime Tue 29-Jul-08 15:05:02

Singyswife, my son has an exemplary diet. He was breastfeed until 18 months old, and has a largely organic diet with hardly any sugar. He has fish oils daily, and drinks just water - fruit juice occasionally. He rarely has sweets!
I have already had the health visitor round and his behaviour was appalling in front of her. She was at a loss at what to do; she told me stuff I already knew. He saw anothe HV who said he was highly intelligent and his behaviour was probably caused by his frustrations.

Posie, of course my son knows he has a gentle sibling. He must find that really difficult......my sister lives locally but she finds my son a nightmare. He is always horible to her and understandably she doesn't want to spend much time with him. He puts everyone on edge.

I feel so sorry for my son. He says he really 'wishes' he could change his behaviour, but it 'doesn't happen'.

Books on parenting always tell you to stay calm. Believe me, it is easier said than done.

singyswife Tue 29-Jul-08 15:10:38

Oh dear, I didnt mean to upset you I was just trying to offer advice. Your HV sounds like a waste of time tbh try the gp????? If your ds is saying that then it does sound like it is outwith his control. Poor wee thing, cant be any fun for him when he is trying to be good and things take over for him. Hope you find an answer soon.

Knackeredallthetime Tue 29-Jul-08 15:32:42

You didn't upset me singsyswife. A lot of people have recommended me looking at his diet (and I understand why) but I've always been conscientious about what he consumes.

Excuse the typos. I am typing hurriedly.

Thanks for your understanding. Yes it must be very hard for my child. I do believe he is trying hard to improve his behaviour, but these impulses take over and he becomes totally unmanageable. I am hoping he will improve with age....and obviously I must try and not get discouraged. It is hard.

3littlefrogs Tue 29-Jul-08 15:36:28

Has he always been like this?
Could he be reacting to something in his life that he cannot articulate?
Is he happy at nursery?
Is he getting enough sleep?
Is he jealous of his sibling?

Any of that ring a bell?

reban Tue 29-Jul-08 15:39:15

I had huge problems with my daughters behaviour when she was 3 /4. Agression and irrational behaviour and very dstracted .. although incredibly intelligent. Her nursery teacher told me they thaught she had ADHD and they left me in tears. We tried reward charts, calming down time when she had a temper and punishment which all kind of worked sometimes but no miracle cure. Because her nursery had brought up the subject i spoke to my gp about it who thought it was unlikely but refered her to psychologist as i was so concerned. Anyway after a 6 month wait and lots of tests they determined she did not have ADHD. She was possibly reacting to any number of issues (me and her dad seperating when she was 2, her dad going to live in ireland when she was 3, my new partner when she was 3, me being pregnant when she was 4, starting school etc etc). Also she was not very good a concentrating if not genuinely interested in the subject so we had to learn how to keep her interested. They also gave us methods for coping with her frustration and naughty behaviour, and in the end a combination of those and time have made a hige difference. She is now 8 has had the best year at school with a fabulous report. I think sometimes she may have social issues as she gets older but very strict discipline and punishment towards violent behaviour has removed all traces of that. (when she was 3-4 she would violently bite when she didnot get her own way. As a last reort we threatened to take all her toys away if she did it again. She did it again so we literaly emptied her room - she got a huge shock and i dont think she ever did it again)
Sorry for long post but basically i wanted to say perserve doing what you know is right and i would speak to your gp about a referal. Good luck

Knackeredallthetime Tue 29-Jul-08 15:40:01

Hi 3littlefrogs, yes he has always been quite a 'difficult' child, since babyhood actually.

He says he IS happy at nursery. No he is not a great sleeper; never has been. He is VERY jealous of his sibling....

3littlefrogs Tue 29-Jul-08 15:47:27

Is he the older child?

sorry for all the questions BTW - just trying to get a handle on things. IME this is not uncommon behaviour.

Maybe you need to break this down into single issues:

The sleep - if he is not getting enough sleep you need to see how you can tackle this. Insufficient sleep at this age causes huge problems as you are experiencing. Perhaps you could try to analyse the reasons for not enough sleep.

Jealousy - very normal. You need to find ways of spending one to one time with him, even if you don't feel like it. Children pick up our feelings so easily. Also - introducing rewards for good behaviour in this context might help.

I used to take my eldest out for a treat after nursery at least once a week without the younger one (and I had no-one to help at first so had to pay a babysitter for a couple of hours). It made a big difference to his behaviour.( just an hour in the park for example).

Knackeredallthetime Tue 29-Jul-08 15:59:33

Thanks reban. I have a GP appt for Friday.

3littlefrogs, my son often still has a daytime nap, and sometimes it does improve his behaviour - but often it does not. He is quite a nervous child, and bites his nails, sucks his thumb and is very clingy with his security blanket. He often climbs into our bed at night as he says he is scared in his room.

I have, what I call, special time, with him when the younger child is asleep - yes he is the older child. I also got out with him on Sunday mornings, just the two of us. He is usually very well behaved during this time, and we are in a good mood at the end of it.
Unfortunately, he can't have me all to himself all of the time.

sophiebbb Tue 29-Jul-08 16:05:41

How is his hearing. Have you ruled out glue ear as this can affect behaviour???

3littlefrogs Tue 29-Jul-08 16:05:53

I understand - it is hard. But I think it is hard for the first child to adapt to having a new sibling, and I guess if they are a bit "difficult" to begin with it is even worse. 3 is very small - still a baby really.

I was just trying to untangle what was going on. Some children just need lots of reassurance that they are still loved and appreciated, that the new sibling isn't better, or more loved etc. Just trying to see things from his point of view really.

3littlefrogs Tue 29-Jul-08 16:10:10

You say that he is well behaved when you have your one to one time, and he is in a good mood at the end of it. So I don't think he has anything wrong with him - otherwise his behaviour wouldn't improve in response to that situation.

It sounds as if he is a bit overtired, insecure, jealous. Hopefully time, patience and reassurance will all help. But I know it is very difficult and frustrating when you are going through it.

sophiebbb Tue 29-Jul-08 16:10:23

You mention that he is really well behaved on the Sunday morning so it seems as if 1-1 time is key to his behaviour.

Regarding special time - my DS (20 mths) reacted when DD was born (3 mths) eg tantrums, pulling hair etc. This has been helped enormously by spending just 2 hours on a Thursday morning with him 1-1. We go to a playgym. He seems to sense that DD is out of the way ie not just asleep in another room, but completely out of the way. I know this is really difficult (believe me I have grappled with it). I have no family nearby to take the newborn but am lucky enough to have paid help twice a week and she takes the newborn for that 2 hours.

3littlefrogs Tue 29-Jul-08 16:14:12

It is easy to forget that the birth of a younger sibling is the first major trauma/world changing event in a small child's life.

I am NOT criticising - I have been there - I have 3 dcs - it is a tough time.

Knackeredallthetime Tue 29-Jul-08 16:49:06

thank you for your understanding 3littlefrogs and sophie. His nursery doesn't think there's anything wrong with him either, as he can have a few days when he is charm personified.
I am wondering if his behavious has got worse as his nursery closed down for summer a week ago. Change of routine maybe? He is significantly worse this week. I would have thought he would be happy spending even more time with me!
Yes, 1 on 1 time may well hold the key; perhaps more time at weekends and my husband can look after the younger one.

It is interesting how my son behaves so well during Mass on a Sunday morning (just me and him) and then we spend time doing fun stuff afterwards.

3littlefrogs Tue 29-Jul-08 16:57:59

I suppose the nearest adult equivalent scenario would be:

DH comes home with new, younger, prettier wife. Assures you that this will make no difference to your life, and he still loves you just the same, and you must accept and love and be nice to new wife.

By the way, you must also start a new part time job in a new place with new people, doing all sorts of things you haven't done before.

You will have some time to spend with just him - but obviously not as much as before.

The expectation is that you will accept all this with equanimity....... wink

He sounds a normal little boy to me. Hang in there, it will get better.

3littlefrogs Tue 29-Jul-08 17:13:23

Actually - 3 is a really good age to build a strong relationship with his dad. They can do lots of things together that the younger one can't do.

Knackeredallthetime Tue 29-Jul-08 17:51:24

Very good analogy! Yes, he has a good relationship with his dad, and they go off for weekends together. There are 'moments' but generally the behaviour tends to be better.

Thanks again for your advice, it is so much appreciated.

HonoriaGlossop Tue 29-Jul-08 18:49:59

yes some great advice on here.

From your posts it does sound as if you have done maybe alot of talking to him/asking him about his behaviour...you said he says he 'wishes he could change but it doesn't happen' and that he 'says' he is happy at Nursery. Also you said in your OP that he is 'old enough to know better now'

These things make me think that there is a little too much pressure on him. He is only 3, still a toddler, they are NOT old enough to know better and they are still at an age where they are very much learning both how to govern their strong emotions, and about the social rules we live by.

At this age too, they are not IME emotionally ready for talks about behaviour; they need to know exactly where the boundary lies, experience a clear consequence if they overstep it, but they don't need talks about how they behave after the event because I think this is simply experienced as pressure; they can't understand the nuances of their own behaviour after the event and learn from it - not yet.

That is why it is really helpful to have clear and strong consequences; so that afterward, you can move on straight away to happier things.

I think perhaps it feels so bad to you because you have a combination of possibly too-high expectations/dealing with him as if he were a much older child/and a child who is extremely challenging yet sensitive.

I hope I haven't seemed critical because I don't mean to be, I know how hard children like that are!

You may feel past this, but a sense of humour will be your saviour. And to be honest intelligent, sensitive and high maintenance little boys often have fantastic senses of humour which can be fantastic for diffusing situations.

Will stop rambling now!

Knackeredallthetime Tue 29-Jul-08 19:14:41

Thank you so much Honoraria - excellent advice. I think you are right that I have no idea what is/isn't normal in this age group. My little boy does have a super sense of humour, and yes I do put a lot of emphasis on talking about his behaviour to him. Thanks.

CrushedRaspberryDungarees Tue 29-Jul-08 21:37:10

I think honoria is right - 3 is still very little. I had a similar situation myself when my dd was 3. ds was a baby and looking back I expected so much of dd, just because she was the older child. She talked so well it was easy to forget how young she was.

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