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Calling all UP parenting types - I need help (oh boy do I really need help)

(52 Posts)
Lazycow Thu 18-Sep-08 12:25:14

OK - Ds (3.8yrs old) and I are knocking heads again. I really am trying to see things from his point of view unfortunately my own emotions and my need to get stuff done does get in the way.

This morning ds was fine at firs, then at the point where it was nearly time to leave he was watching some TV and I explained that we would have to leave (I work and ds was going to nursery) after the next episode of Charlie and Lola he wanted to watch (was taped off the TV).

Unfortunately the taping process hadn't worked properly and the programme stopped a couple of minutes before the end. Very disappointing I know - Cue for ds to wail and gnash that he wanted another one. We really didn't have time as I'd have been late for work.

I then tried to be sympathetic (not too hard as at this point I felt quite sympathetic). 'I know it is diappointing etc'.

The problem is this sort of approach usually drives ds wild with frustration and anger and he starts shouting 'DON'T SAY THAT, DON'T SAY THOSE WORDS, I'M NOT DISAPPOINTED etc..' I know this just means he is diecting his anger towards me (not unreasonably really as I am the one saying we have to leave).

So I try again ' I know you really wanted to watch that programme.' The programme finished before you wanted it to, you really wanted to watch it etc..'

At which point he then started hitting and kicking me. Not incredibly hard but hard enough nonetheless.

At this I'm afraid to say I saw red. I picked him up and told I did not like him kicking me and uncermoniously put him in his room I then walked away saying 'DO NOT KICK ME, I DO NOT LIKE IT'(well almost shouting really though more in a firm discipline way than screaming harridan IYSWIM)

This is a bad approach with ds as me sounding cross (which I most certainly did) makes him even more frustrated and angry at me for a while. Then he starts to say 'Mummy don't be cross, don't be cross' and I end up on a complete guilt trip.

We sort of made up but Ds was obviously still upset so made every effort to avoid coming down the stairs to the car - thus making me worry I'd be even later for work which started another power struggle.

So we had yet another morning where I found myself walking away from a crying (screeching really) 3 year old saying
'Right that's enough - are you coming or do you want to stay here on your own?' or some such thing blush.

This always leads ds to come running in an absolute panic that I'll leave him and usually results in yet more wailing and upset and I end up feeling guilty at mishandling yet another situation.

This is very long and is really just one example of the sort of conflicts ds and I have every day, usually several times a day.

How do I do this, I am completely lost really?. Getting cross and using more a more 'discipline tyoe approach just doesn't feel right to me and seems to make him so upset. Also I end up feeling terrible even when he complies.

However empathy and validation just seem to send him wild with anger at me which I find very difficult to deal with in a loving way.

Dropdeadfred Thu 18-Sep-08 12:36:46

It would appear that your boy is quite smart and when you come out with the 'I know you are disappointed etc etc' he feels patronised.

Think of how you would feel if you were livid and frustrated and someone was calmly saying 'I can see you are disappointed, shall we talk about your feelings blah blah blah'...sometimes you have to let them be cross and frustrated without trying to talk them round imo

Sorry not much help

mumblechum Thu 18-Sep-08 12:39:12

Buy him a punchbag.


As DDF says, he's too smart to be taken in by the "how to talk" stuff, so let him take his frustration out physically on something.

Lazycow Thu 18-Sep-08 12:44:01

Maybe you are right. I have thought that maybe he is feeling patronised but I really end up at a loss as to what to say to him maybe I should say nothing and offer the punch bag or just say nothing and wait.

The main problem is time really. - Isn't it always?

mazzystar Thu 18-Sep-08 12:47:29

This is exactly the kind of thing that my nearly four year old would get really upset about, especially if he didn't much fancy going to nursery that day for whatever reason.

I think that you have to accept that sometimes he's going to be pissed off. And you just have to let him be pissed off. You can't always make the world alright for him.

What has worked for us is
- ditching the cajoling and mollifying completely;
- trying the casually asking and walking away approach. ask him to - say - turn off the tv and come when he is ready - usually ooh about 45 seconds, but because he feels he's in control of the decision he's happier with it;
- being bright and firm and matter of fact about stuff
- and getting up a bit earlier to allow for a less get up and out the door approach to work/nursery days

cory Thu 18-Sep-08 12:54:17

Agree with Mazzystar. For a smart child it is probably kindest not to fuss and not to patronise; you do what has to be done; he has his tantrum- it's not really a failure of any kind. Lots of 3yos have daily tantrums. I know dd did at this age. Try not to mind too much. He will grow out of it, it is normal, you don't have to feel guilty every time he is upset- life is upsetting a lot of the time when you're 3 and struggling to come to terms with it.

(P.S. I also hate all that I-hear-what-you're-saying stuff; my dd's headteacher used to use that all the time to bully me; as far as I was concerned, it basically meant 'and I'm not going to take a blind bit of notice'. Now as a parent it's fine not to take a blind bit of notice- but it's also fine to be honest about it).

Dropdeadfred Thu 18-Sep-08 12:55:38

I guess he wants you to acknowledge that he is fed up and frustrated...but not to try and pacify him with key phrases all the time, it almost belittles his feelings ifykwim

Sometimes you just have to agree that something is not fair, he's been short-changed and you will make it up to him later (if possible) or that next time you will try and make sure he gets what he wants, but these things happen...

Lazycow Thu 18-Sep-08 12:56:01

I like the idea of casually walking away and to say 'come when you are ready' I have doen that in the past but haven't tried it recently as I'm usually to wound up by that point to think of it.

I'll also work on the bright, firm and matter of fact. I know that is best really and sometimes it works but oh so hard to do sometimes.

Othersideofthechannel Thu 18-Sep-08 12:58:59

As others have said, he is entitled to be cross and to show it.

I don't think it's a question of being 'too smart to be taken in' by the empathising. It's probably just that the empathising comes at the wrong moment for him.

Perhaps try talking about later when he has stopped feeling cross so that he can see your point of view and knows that you see his. It should help in the long term.

clarinsgirl Thu 18-Sep-08 13:07:34

My DS (3.5) sounds very like yours. I did buy the "How to talk" book, but found it a load of religious twaddle that would never work in our family (sorry if you love it). I don't believe that there is any silver bullet. Basically your son is old enough to know what he wants, but has not yet developed the social skills to deal with them (I and guess we have to wait some time yet for thatwink).

I find the best way is a practical approach, set the rules (as you did) and then follow through. Charlie and Lola finishing early is a pain but I would have carried on regardless and probably said something like "Mummy will record you some more" and taken him to the car anyway.

Its maddening when they kick and cause a fuss and I'm always stern and clear about this - but would have still marched him to the car.

gagarin Thu 18-Sep-08 13:11:11

TRy and find a phrase which can mean "life's a bitch" for a 3 year old!

And when he gets angry because life doesn't go his way just say it and walk off or offer a hug?

I don't think it's the language that makes him feel patronised - more that when you get the earnest "you must be disappointed..." look on your face he knows he's not going to get what he wants however loud he yells - and that is REALLY annoying!

And what is wrong with losing your temper when you are kicked? You are not perfect. And when you talk about it afterwards in the "mummy was SO cross wasn't she? And so were you - didn't we have a BAD morning? Shall we try not to do that again?" conversation you are helping him understand that people can be wild with fury and very scary - BUT they talk about it afterwards and sort out any problems. An excellent lesson in life IMO ( I have a very bad temper too hmm)

mistlethrush Thu 18-Sep-08 13:15:53

Ds is 3.5 - and I can relate to this. Morning TV - I make sure that he knows the parameters - ie after x has finished, we need to go and clean our teeth and get ready to go out. If I am in the room he gets the option to switch the button if he wants - gives him some control. We still get the odd day when its as though the sky has fallen in, however, we're much more likely to get happy cooperation (at least in terms of TV) and he has even been known to switch it off when required and come and find what I've been doing elsewhere in the house grin

I also find the approach of 'Mummy doesn't want to go to work either, but if Mummy and Daddy don't go to work, we would have to sell the house and get a smaller one with a small garden and we wouldn't have enough room for all your toys and books' quite a good line when really exasperated - at least it distracts him onto a completely different whinge (I'd don't want to get rid of my toys) instead of anything else <evil grin>

Lazycow Thu 18-Sep-08 13:17:15


You are right. It is the fact that he knows he isn't going to get his way no matter how much he wants it that seems to drive him wild. In retrospect I see where he is coming from.

I can see how combining the 'life's a bitch' type phrase (good one by the way!) with a more breezy (less ernest) attitude could be a better way forward.

Thanks for all the tips/support I'm already feeling a bit better. It was a bit difficult to talk about this morning as he went to nursery but I'll talk to ds about it tonight when we get home. I'll keep it light.

cookiemonstress Thu 18-Sep-08 13:20:17

I agree with all. My DD1 exact same age and responds like this . I have tried the whole 'how to talk' approach but to no avail. I think their emotions for everything are too close to the surface and they're just not yet capable to 'reining it in'. In a way (and some may not agree) better to be a bit breezy about it and teach them to learn to accept that things don't always go to plan but it's not the end of the world than try to over explain it at this stage.

What I do try and and explain as much as they can understand, that it's all about doing things together and everyone needs to do their bit. So in my house, mummy has to go to work because of X reason and on work days I need you to be ready to go when I say so. It's not a negotiable. On weekends etc, they know now there is more room for negotiation. It doesn't always work but it helps me maintain consistency. Don't give yourself a hard time, even if you have a screechy moment, you are only human and they know which buttons to push. Life is pressured and stressful and it's impossible to be top of the game all the time.

TrinityRhino Thu 18-Sep-08 13:20:41

why can you not just sayoh dear that sucks

do a little comedy grrr
and then right time to go

and make him leave

he is 3

'i'll talk to him tonight, I'll keep it light'!!!

he has forgotten it
be the parent

TrinityRhino Thu 18-Sep-08 13:22:31

I'm with cookiemonstress

Zazette Thu 18-Sep-08 13:36:11

Had similar dynamics with my dd2 when she was 4 (i.e. I suspect it's partly to do with his age), and broadly agree with the 'life's a bitch, time to get on' approach. BUT also I find that when I use the 'how to talk' approach, it's crucial NOT to say 'I KNOW it's disappointing' but to say the kind of thing I would say to an adult expressing frustration/disappointment - i.e. to put it either more neutrally ('oh that's so disappointing') or to own the feeling ('I feel really disappointed when that happens'.

'I know how you feel' is just a red rag phrase at any age, IMO!

Lazycow Thu 18-Sep-08 13:39:24


Well doing a comdey thing for ds in that mood also makes things worse. I know I've tried.

I am not planning to discuss ds's disappointment with not getting what he wantts I am planning to to talk to him tonight because I shouted at him and scared him and I'd like him to know I'm sorry about that. If you think that is not the right thing to do then we have to disagree on that.

The fact is I spend my days saying 'come on we are leaving' and of course he comes sometimes more easily than others' he is 3 years old, he has no control over what I do.

I was just looking for some tips on how to make it a bit less fraught and for how to keep calm during the process.

Lazycow Thu 18-Sep-08 13:42:32


You know now you have said that I can hear the difference and one does sound more patronising than the other.

HonoriaGlossop Thu 18-Sep-08 13:45:53

maybe you need a less emotion-centred approach and a more (dare I say) male, solution centred approach.

Instead of the 'how to talk' "I know you are disappointed" etc which as you and others have found, can just wind them up so much, why not try more negotiating next time. Something like "that finished two minutes early, so you can have two minutes of another episode". I'd say always look for practical steps you can take and negotiate with him.

Because basically once you've done that, you have tried your best and you've tried to tailor it to his male way of thinking, and you simply can't do more. So if he gets cross and tantrummy, don't torture yourself; as others have said, daily tantrums are very, very common with this age group and I don't think there is one parent on MN who would say that they had completely avoided all tantrums!

Lazycow Thu 18-Sep-08 13:57:21

HG - Dh would so agree with you so maybe you have a point, Ds is afterall male even if very young grin.

MN is very good isn't it though? I've had a load of new ideas, been reminded of some I'd forgotten, been reassured that this is all normal and even reminded that I sometimes take things too seriously and need to be a bit less 'up my own a*se' so to speak. all good things IMO grin

dashboardconfessionals Thu 18-Sep-08 14:02:27

Message withdrawn

mumto2andnomore Thu 18-Sep-08 14:03:30

For this reason we dont have any tv in the mornings ! They can watch it later but when we have to get ready and go out I find its too much hassle,they always want to finish watching the programme before they clean their teeth,get dressed etc. Since we banned it in the mornings its much calmer.

Leoloopydoo Thu 18-Sep-08 14:05:58

Loads of good tips here!

I am rereading the 'How to talk book' a tthe moment and maybe.... 1) you are not getting his emotion right - he sounds angry, frustrated not disappointed. 2) the book say to say 'you are disappointed..' or 'you must be very disappointed...^' and not 'I know you are disapponted..'. SUbtle difference maybe but...!

My ds is the same age and I have had similar things with him, I also tell him my feelings which I think helps - the other day I had a similar thing and he really made me angry and I told him (very angrily) that I was angry, i didn't like to be angry and I don't think he likes me to be angry.... a mix of things from the book and my own slant on it that satisfies me and seems to work with him.

I think you need to vary how you deal with it so it always comes up as a bit of a surprise to him.

My biggest advice is NEVER, NEVER have the tv or dvd on while you are preparing to go out somewhere, its always a nightmare to drag them away. Make him sit down with a book instead, its easire to drag him away.

TrinityRhino Thu 18-Sep-08 14:09:19

I thought you meant that you would discuss his dissapointment and subsequent tantrum

soryy I should have realised you would do nothing so laughable

of course talk to him about being sorry for 'fishwifing' at him

I'm sorry, I seem to have misunderstood your op
it sounded like everytime anything needs doing or goes wrong you try to have a big, lets talk about it' approach with your ds

and it sounded fomr your op like you have kept doing it even though it seems to anger him

also at nearly 4 he knows not to hit you

how are you disciplining the hitting???

are you ignoring tantrums or are you trying to talk him down?

I would ban telly in am. and see if that helped
or do you just need to give him more warning of the need to leave

can you make a game of getting out of the door/shoes on first?

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