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My 3 year old's spoilt brat behaviour is infuriating! Help!

(28 Posts)
becstarlitsea Mon 15-Jun-09 08:52:41

Exhibit 1
At the seaside, DH said he'd buy DS an ice-cream 'if you're good' (I know, I know, but we've all done it, haven't we?) DS was good. DH bought him an icecream. DS ate the icecream. Then DS embarked on an epic campaign of naughtiness (including throwing a stone at a baby - I don't use the word 'naughty' lightly). When we remonstrated with him he said 'I know, but you can't reach the icecream out of my tummy now, can you?'

Exhibit 2
I gave him a surprise present (dinosaur figure) because he'd helped me with the laundry and washing up and earned 10 stickers on his sticker chart over the past few days, and he threw it aside saying 'That's a rubbish present, I want another one.' shock So I gave him a time out and told him that the dinosaur was going to the charity shop and he said 'Well, that's okay, I'll just get more presents tomorrow'. Which he did (from his grandparents) and he smashed one of the presents they gave him straightaway and said 'I don't care' when I pointed out that it was broken when I got back.

He's singing and laughing in time out, and saying 'Well you can't do anything to stop me' when I tell him off and laughing at me and DH. He knows that I would never smack him.

I'm clearing out his toys today and half of them are going to the charity shop (he has too many - no expensive ones, they're mostly from Poundland, but lots of them), and he's not getting any sweets chocolate or icecream from me or DH for a week. Does anyone have any effective strategies for dealing with this? Very grateful for any suggestions!

juuule Mon 15-Jun-09 09:14:31

I think your post highlights why rewards etc are not always a good idea. Naughty step is useless too.

He behaves until he gets the reward and then misbehaves. He isn't understanding the real reasons why he should behave and why everybody behaves so that life is nicer all round. He is keeping his side of the bargain and playing your system in a way.

For a different approach it might be worth reading through 2 books (or 1 of them) often mentioned on here.
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn
and/or
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber; Elaine Mazlish.

With the sticker chart (if you like to use one) I would have thought it better if you let him choose what his present would be.

And I wouldn't stop his ice-cream etc. unless it's accompanied by a talk of how we do nice things for each other. Otherwise it's getting into a bit of a tit-for-tat situation and doesn't teach him anything really.
Have you spoken to him about it when he's calm? Have you explained why he should behave?

becstarlitsea Mon 15-Jun-09 09:28:42

Thanks juuule. I have talked to him when he's as calm as he ever gets. When I explain why he should behave he tends to talk over the top of me (he very rarely draws breath) and starts telling me why he should behave and what he's allowed to do and what he isn't and what I'm allowed to do... One of the problems I have with him is that he doesn't listen. Not just to me, the nursery staff say that they've never come across a child who has so much difficulty listening to other people (and his keyworker has worked with children his age for 12 years). I posted on MN a while back asking if anyone had tips on how to get a child his age to listen and everyone said 'they don't listen, get used to it.' But DS doesn't listen at all, even when I'm screaming 'no, stop' when he's about to run out in front of a fire engine (which happened two days ago - I just pulled him back in time - literally inches from being squished). When I talk to him he just talks over the top of me. When we have a chat and I'm not trying to tell him something he talks 90% of the time and I talk 10% of the time. When I'm trying to tell him something he talks 90% of the time and I try to shout over him. AAAARGH!

I'll take a look at those books. Any other thoughts gratefully received.

juuule Mon 15-Jun-09 09:40:37

It is true that 3yo don't really listen that well. All you can do is keep calm and keep repeating yourself. Eventually it does go in.
Try not to scream as they get used to it and really take no notice.
If he starts talking at a hundred miles an hour, wait until he talks himself out and then quietly speak firmly to him. Make sure you have his attention. Hold both his hands (if he'll let you) and look him in the eyes. If it starts to turn into a twisty struggle, let go and try later. Bore him to deathwink It's hard to know when to persist and when to walk away and leave it while later but the more you do it the more you get tuned into when they will listen.

As regards the fire-engine episode, I would put him on reins and let him know why. Let him know that you will only let him off if he walks along side you and you can trust him to be careful. At 3yo it will probably take a few reminders before he understands.

Toddlers are hard work at times. Hang on in there. It will get better.

ilovemydogandmrobama Mon 15-Jun-09 09:46:31

I have a 3 year old too. (almost 3...)

She's been a nightmare recently, but yesterday, she got herself all wound up and was practically hyperventilating. I asked her what I could do the help and she said, 'I CAN'T STOP CRYING!!!!!'

At least this stage has some cute moments...

annoyedmum Mon 15-Jun-09 09:51:22

Does he listen to you while you read him a story?
I would add to the good advice you've already had to calm everything down,no presents[toys] ,no talks or lectures,just simple short phrases to him in a firm but calm voice.

becstarlitsea Mon 15-Jun-09 10:03:37

Thank you. That's another funny thing about him. He will not look at anyone when they talk to him - he becomes very upset if you try to get him to look at you. He will look directly at you while he's talking to you, but not when you're talking to him. Ever, ever, ever. Even if I tried to get eye contact to say something he wanted to hear, like 'DS do you want an icecream?' there is no way he would look at me while I was talking to him. I asked a child psychiatrist (who I know socially) about this as it's been worrying me for some time, and she said that I shouldn't push him to look at me when I'm talking or try to make too much contact since it's obviously so traumatic for him. Said child psychiatrist has seen DS and says he is definitely not SN and definitely not autistic, but is extremely advanced for his age in most things, but not emotionally, where he's probably a bit young for his age, which can be destabilising. So he can grasp complex things like maths (I didn't teach him, he figured out how to add up from observing me) and swimming (without armbands, whole length of olympic sized pool, and he only turned 3 last week.) And he has an amazing memory, vocabulary, and story-telling ability. But he finds it very difficult to grasp how other people are feeling, or to understand that other people have feelings at all. In fact, I think that's just way off his radar developmentally, I don't think he can understand that I have feelings.

The psychiatrist-friend's assessment makes sense from what I know of DS. DS can hear perfectly well. If I whisper 'chocolate' from the next room, he can hear me, no problem. DH and I joke that all DS hears when we talk is 'Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, chocolate, blah, blah, blah, swimming, blah blah blah.' But it's not really a joke, it's pretty much true.

becstarlitsea Mon 15-Jun-09 10:08:02

Hi annoyed mum. He memorises his stories after I've read them twice and 'reads' them to me. Which is funny, because he's talking the whole time that I'm reading the story the first two times, so it's amazing to me that he can hear them well enough to memorise them while he's talking about something else the whole time... But after he's got them 'down' he 'reads' over the top of me (doesn't matter how long they are. He's memorised a 60 page book that we got from the library last week. It isn't word perfect, but he has got most of the words at the end of lines, and shouts them out while going 'blah blah' over the top while I'm reading the rest) I had a photographic memory as a kid as well. I also talked all the time just like DS. I asked Mum how she coped. She said 'Do you remember I went away for a bit? I had a nervous breakdown and had to go to hospital. Then we got you a nanny so that I could have a break from you sometimes. Then you learnt to read, and we didn't hear from you again until you wanted a lift to university'

savoycabbage Mon 15-Jun-09 10:08:31

Does he he listen to or behave well for other adults like at nursery or for one of your friends?

He sounds bright as a button grin

juuule Mon 15-Jun-09 10:10:28

My now 9yo looked past me for years rather than make eye contact when I was speaking directly to her. But I learned to know when she was actually listening. As she got older I pointed out to her that she wasn't looking at me when I was talking to her and reminded her about it when she was doing it. In about the past 12m she now mostly looks at me when we are talking but still has a tendency not to.

savoycabbage Mon 15-Jun-09 10:11:01

Have you tried 'stretching' him in other ways like playing the piano, chess, tennis etc. Perhaps he is doolally with boredom.

juuule Mon 15-Jun-09 10:13:32

When you say a 60page book, what kind of book? Lots of lines per page? 2 or 3 lines per page? Toddler book?

becstarlitsea Mon 15-Jun-09 10:22:57

It's 2 or 3 lines per page (about 20 words), with a big picture on each page. I haven't started him on JK Rowling just yet grin

That's interesting about your 9yo, juuule. I guess I can tell when he's listening, but it's infuriating because I can see him switch off when it's something he doesn't want to hear. Which is basically anything that isn't about chocolate (oh, how very like his mother he is sometimes...)

He has a piano keyboard in his room and plays tunes from memory on that. I tried to teach him some more tunes but he didn't really like learning from me, he likes playing alone, and I don't want to push him. I think he might well be doolally with boredom. On the days where I make sure that he's been swimming and done a couple of lengths without a float, played a few hours of football and learned something new, then he is much better. In fact he's adorable when some of the energy has been burned off. Ah. I'm now realising that I've been a bit lazy the past few weeks as I've had flu, and I haven't done enough with him. That may well be part of the problem. I guess it's hard for him to listen when his brain is going faster than he can keep up.

mistlethrush Mon 15-Jun-09 10:25:02

You might also find that you can have much longer-term 'goals' - my ds is a handful - although in different ways by the sound of it - we could focus on things that were going to happen in eg one week's time - going to a party, going swimming etc - and say that we didn't want any sillyness until then or he would not go. This worked with my ds as he knew that we would carry through. But we also didn't expect perfect behaviour - he would still need to be reminded - we just wanted to avoid the really bad stuff!

This morning, taking him into nursery, he (he's 4.2) got himself all wound up, in a silly mood, silly voice, jumping, noisy, (etc etc etc) (oh, and rude angry) - he found that we didn't go in immediately we were allowed to with all the other parents that were waiting with children - he had to sit (nicely, upright, feet not on the seat) and calm down before we went in. He was actually quite upset by this - but cheered up and agreed that he would try to be calm like that today. We'll wait and see what happened! grin

amisuchabadmummy Mon 15-Jun-09 10:31:27

try not talking over him. if he interrupts you or talks over you or shouts blah blah blah, just stop talking until he finishes.

i know this may take a while, but it worked with my DS - eventually he realised it was pretty boring talking to just himself and the period that he would waffle on and on and on gradually got less and less.

i have also taught him to say "excuse me" if he's interrupting someone (or usually two people) talking but he's nearly four so your DS may not be old enough to grasp that just yet.

i also agree that the naughty step is counterproductive. i've never used the naughty step with DS, i just tell him im cross, tell him what he's done and wait for him to either stop doing what he's doing or apologise before playing again with him.

muffle Mon 15-Jun-09 10:43:22

I think some bright children get positive feedback when they're clever and it can tip over into this smartarse argumentative behaviour that is incredibly rude. But at such a young age it's much harder for them to learn the emotional/social rules about how to interact - that takes a lot longer to master. My DS can be a bit like this and I do spend a lot of time saying "you do not talk to me like that/that is not a good thing to say because it could hurt xx feelings/ you are right, but it is still not nice and talking like that is not allowed." It does gradually sink in but it takes a LOT of repetition.

Also, if you haven't already, get the "How to Talk" book [http://www.amazon.co.uk/Talk-Kids-Will-Listen-Child/dp/1853407054 here]] - especially relevant for you as you have a problem getting him to listen. It has helped me loads.

muffle Mon 15-Jun-09 10:44:06

oops link

CarGirl Mon 15-Jun-09 10:50:04

Just wanted to end you some sympathy, he sounds like hard work!!!! Perhaps try teaching him to read - I'd never usually encourage parents to be "pushy" but perhaps he needs the brain stimulation and once he's learnt you may well get some peace grin

becstarlitsea Mon 15-Jun-09 11:03:38

Thanks for the sympathy CarGirl, that means a lot. I feel a bit bad asking for sympathy for having a bright child who is a bit of a smart alec, but he really does wear me out and I do get pretty tearful and self-recriminatory about it all!

Muffle, you're right about the smartarse thing. He gets a lot of people marvelling at how good he is for doing things that come very easily to him and that aren't actually 'good' behaviour, they're just things that he can do earlier than most children can do them. The 'How to Talk' book sound good, I will buy that.

I'll experiment with not talking over him this afternoon. It will be interesting to see if I say anything at all grin And I'll make a bit more of a plan tomorrow so that he gets enough activity and brain-work. To be honest I am itching to teach him to read and have been holding back because I didn't want to be a pushy parent. He knows all his letters by sight but doesn't know how they fit into words and I've been careful not to tell him... Maybe we'll start doing a bit of phonics every day after his exercise. I know he'll love reading. He loves stories and language anyway.

CarGirl Mon 15-Jun-09 11:18:59

it's fab when they learn to read, sometimes it's the one activity that stops me throttling them!

MatNanPlus Mon 15-Jun-09 11:26:26

How about walking away when he interupts you talking?

A music class he can do with other children and a teacher (parent free)

Kumon for reading and maths?

More exercise like biking, scooter.

becstarlitsea Mon 15-Jun-09 11:50:46

Those are all good ideas - I'll have a search online to find what we've got locally (everything, probably, we live in London!).

I feel a bit more confident now and can see better where I've been going wrong (basically sitting watching CBeebies with him for too long, not enough exercise, not enough stimulation for his brain, and I've been locked in a battle of wills with him as well. Probably partly because of being groggy with flu). I will make a plan and execute the plan. Thanks so much all who replied, you really helped.

MatNanPlus Mon 15-Jun-09 11:57:38

How about cooking / meal prep.

Indoor games like snap / match it for memory and concentration.

Searching games like giving him a list of things for him to find in the house / garden and collect in a basket, maybe with a timer?

Jigsaws.

online games on cbeebies.

MatNanPlus Mon 15-Jun-09 11:58:43

Ah London, a bazillioon and 1 things to do

What about sport / team games to help with peer interaction and turn taking?

mistlethrush Mon 15-Jun-09 12:17:26

Physical tiredness (not exhaustion) definitely helps with my ds - the number of words per minute definitely drops, so there is a chance to get a word in - also helps with being able to concentrate on something for a reasonable length of time - otherwise he just has to get up and run around or at least fidget which doesn't help with concentration.

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