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Very challenging 3.5yr old
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Lillybank1 · 06/08/2022 10:53

Help,

At my wits end with our 3.5yr old, looking for any advice/help. To cut a long story short we have struggled with him since he was tiny, he was a very active baby crawling early, walking early, and being a very proficient climber he very much kept us on our toes.

Tantrums started to kick in at about 18 months old and just continued to escalate we seem to just go from one difficultly to the next. It has been a very turbulent time for him, lockdown was really hard working from home with a school age child and a very active toddler. We then moved house which all in all was quite stressful for all, and lastly i had an accident last year which resulted in yet more upheaval for him over the following few months.


As things stand at the moment things have been awful almost continuously since he was around 2, there is complete refusal to do anything I ask, he will shout and scream and make demands, he has now become very physical towards us hitting, punching and scratching multiple times per day. Every basic activity e.g. going to the loo, sitting for dinner, getting dressed, going out is met with shouting, aggression and now physical kick back against us. He now refuses to go to bed he will run circles round us whilst saying“ ha ha ha im not going to sleep” and we spend hours and hours and hours every night over many months continually returning him to bed, we have solid boundaries and always follow through but the challenging behaviour is not relenting if anything it continues to build. I don’t believe this can be typical 3yr old behaviour does anyone have any advice they can offer at this time? P.s. he does behave in the main for others but at home he treats it like a lawless state to which he verbally and physically fights against any intervention/ consequence we put in place. Clueless what to try next.

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RedHelenB · 06/08/2022 11:39

What do you do when he's physically aggressive with you?

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Lillybank1 · 06/08/2022 11:45

I will try and intercept the hit or the kick (often cant with the kick) and just say calmly and firmly that is unacceptable, you will not hit/kick me.

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dickiedavisthunderthighs · 06/08/2022 11:52

Are you always very calm in voice when you speak to him? If so, an occasional proper shout can work absolute wonders...

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Lillybank1 · 06/08/2022 11:59

@dickiedavisthunderthighs in the main i try and stay calm as experience has shown me shouting generally makes the situation ten times worse however, sometimes in complete desperation or frustration I do shout in the hope it makes him pay attention, usually it just makes him take the volume up on his side.

it’s frustrating cos its classic bratty behaviour we’re getting but we honestly do issue firm boundaries and consequences he just keeps upping the anti, we are exhausted.

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dickiedavisthunderthighs · 06/08/2022 12:15

Sounds really tough.

If he can behave for others then I wonder how much of this is just a big game to him? What happens if you just ignore him and walk away when he starts? My DSS was prone to mega tantrums at that age and we realised that we stopped feeding it, ie walking away and only engaging minimally until he had calmed down made him him realise he wasn't going to get any attention if he behaved negatively. As soon as he was 'nice' we showered him with love and cuddles.

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Parkinglotlatte · 06/08/2022 12:15

Toy removal can be useful. "If you hit mummy/ don't do X, I will put your dinosaur away." And take it away in front of him and put it somewhere. Keep doing this with toys until some consequences are learned. When he asks for it, say, no it's away because you hit mummy. Will initially cause more tantrums but learning predictable consequences can help.

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WilsonandNoodles · 06/08/2022 12:15

I'm sure you have already tried but a reward chart to earn stickers and then a prize when a set number of stickers is reached. Stickers for the problem times with initially low standards( you didn't hit or kit me!) then up the standards as he achieved the basics.

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Lillybank1 · 06/08/2022 12:24

@dickiedavisthunderthighs you have hit the nail on the head he does act like its just a big game for him, it’s very much a control issue for him. Unfortunately we cant walk away and leave him, if we leave him he takes it to the extreme and become destructive, we’ve had 2 smashed tellys from throwing and 2 wardrobe doors taken of hinges from sheer force, bearing in mind he’s still only 3 i am deeply concerned for the future.

but yeah again i feel our remained presence feeds exactly what he wants which is attention. Tried to get external help previously but it didnt amount to anything more than a photocopy about boundaries 🤦🏼‍♀️

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Lillybank1 · 06/08/2022 12:26

@Parkinglotlatte we have done this previously we maybe need to revisit this. I feel at the moment we have just got lost in what our next move is to try and deal with this as it feels like we’ve tried everything 🤦🏼‍♀️

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Lillybank1 · 06/08/2022 12:28

@WilsonandNoodles im def gonna try this when it first started i felt he was to young to understand but i am defo going to try this now, he loves praise and despite everything iv said there is the lovliest side to him He is very funny and loving unfortunately there is 2 sides to him tho, will definitely look into a good reward chart, thank you xx

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Caspianberg · 06/08/2022 12:51

Ours is 2, but always wanting to do things, has been climbing and walking confidently super early etc..

one thing that helps is following Montessori method as much as possible for independence. I find it he’s been allowed to do as much as possible himself, he’s then more responsive to to odd thing he’s not allowed.
Things like letting them get up and washed, dressed with little help, makes own bed, draws curtains, gets own things out for breakfast, helps lay table, pours own drinks, etc

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Lillybank1 · 06/08/2022 12:56

@Caspianberg defo going to look into this, thank you x

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zaffa · 06/08/2022 13:08

How is his sleeping? DD is 2 and a half, and at this stage where she is dropping a nap but not really ready to, so she is really tired and that has a huge impact on her behaviour and ability to regulate / calm herself. She ends up overtired where she has no resilience to deal with anything that disappoints her.

In that scenario I've found the best options is to do high energy activities in the morning in the fresh air to wear her out and get her to nap around lunch time, although it's hit and miss. Also, when her behaviour deteriorates distraction, distraction, distraction.

I'd say also that you need to rethink your disciplinary methods if they aren't working. Does he attend nursery? What do they do if he misbehaves?

And also second Montessori way - The Montessori Toddler is a fab book that has lots of useful tips on bringing independence to toddlers in a way that is safe for them.

Have you spoken to your health visitor? How is his communication, can he tel you why he is upset / frustrated / doesn't want to do what you're asking of him?

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Amigobay · 06/08/2022 13:19

Could’ve written this post myself- no advice only solidarity! DD will be 4 in November but the last couple of months she has become increasingly defiant, destructive and rude. Lots of dicking about at bedtime, demanding things, massive meltdowns.
I’m hoping it’s a phase but fucking hell it is tough!!!

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watermelonlipbalm · 06/08/2022 13:39

My 5 year old was extremely challenging. Whenever he felt overwhelmed or disappointed he would become so frustrated and tantrum. Everything was difficult. Nothing came easy. As he got older it seemed to get worse and I was concerned but he does seem to have come on leaps and bounds this year. I think he's able to regulate his emotions more and that's helping him when he's getting these feelings.
What worked for me was ignoring the attention seeking bad behaviour, avoiding situations which would start it, when he was kicking off od put him in his room on his own so he had the space to calm down and reflect, don't compare to other children and a lot of bribery... not ashamed to admit it!!
But the biggest one of all is to cut yourself some slack!!! Having a challenging child is SO hard and it's not necessarily your fault. Whatever you need to do to get through the behaviour then do it (within reason obviously!). Just remember it won't always be like this.

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BlankTimes · 06/08/2022 15:45

Every basic activity e.g. going to the loo, sitting for dinner, getting dressed, going out is met with shouting, aggression and now physical kick back against us.

Is this because from his point of view, you are springing these things on him like a surprise when he's doing other things?
From his point of view, are these things too unstructured, they seem to be happening randomly to him and he has no control or prior warning or agreement that these things are going to happen?

There are a few ways to make things more clear for him.

Now, next and then commentary, [now we're playing with your cars, next we will wash our hands, then you will sit and the table nicely and eat your dinner] or his own chart with these activities displayed can help him understand that whatever he's engaged in will soon change to a different activity. It's called Transitions, you can read up on different techniques to help him.

Now next and then visual aid free downloads
www.twinkl.co.uk/search?q=now%20next%20then&c=244&ca=0&ct=&r=parent&fa=1

Visual timetable
www.twinkl.co.uk/search?q=visual%20timetable&c=244&ca=0&ct=&r=parent&fa=1

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BeanieTeen · 06/08/2022 16:22

I don’t believe this can be typical 3yr old behaviour does anyone have any advice they can offer at this time? P.s. he does behave in the main for others but at home he treats it like a lawless state to which he verbally and physically fights against any intervention/ consequence we put in place. Clueless what to try next.

Sounds like he rules the roost and some of this is a tremendous game.
What kind of consequences do you give? You tell him off as such, but then what?
Are there some rewards and treats you can set up to help encourage positive behaviour?

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Fleur405 · 06/08/2022 16:30

Does sound like he sees this as a game and I’m a way is attention seeking - being in trouble is still attention.

in addition to some of the more discipliny tactics mentioned above. Could you try the following to give him a bit more of a sense of power in a positive way:

  • give him lots of choices (but within reason) ie do you want to wear the red or the blue socks? Do you want apple or grapes?
  • give him 15 minutes a day of undivided attention - play a game with him of his choice, whatever he wants

you maybe do these things already, it’s just a thought
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hiredandsqueak · 06/08/2022 16:53

Dgs can be a bit like this with his dm where he is generally an angel for me when I have him three days a week. I think I am probably more stern than dd and jump in to cut him off at the pass sooner than dd does. Take some time to perfect the cross face and tone of voice. I sometimes think dd is too willing to ask which gives him the opportunity to refuse, where I will tell and expect him to do as I tell him. I think children like firm boundaries it makes them feel safe.

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LGBirmingham · 06/08/2022 16:58

Op just wanted to say that we live next door to a just turned four year old. Over the last year we've heard some epic tantrums. Sometimes lasting from about 5pm til 10pm with her shouting and bashing stuff, refusing bed etc... her parents are so good (sometimes hear them too) they stay mainly calm and very firm. I think maybe it's just what some three year olds are like? I've not heard her for a while so maybe she's calmed down now she's four?

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zaffa · 06/08/2022 17:00

On 'discipline', I'd also recommend looking into finding a way to make natural consequences work for you and him, they can be adapted at the toddler stage (ie if you don't wear a coat we won't go outside and play in the snow, rather than the obvious consequence of letting them get cold as they are still too little for that).

But I do think unless you find out the clear driver for his behavior and rule out things like tiredness or over stimulation discipline won't help solve the problem. He may be trying to communicate something else to you.

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Staynow · 06/08/2022 17:07

Maybe what he needs is your time (or someone else's focussed time ie nursery). Maybe all this bad behaviour is to get your attention good or bad. If he's been at home a lot while you were working you aren't able to give him the attention he needs.

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