My 3 and a half year old son is being such a challenge. Let me preface by saying that I just had a new baby 2 months ago, so I know the adjustment to not being the only child anymore is probably part of this. But seriously he is so difficult every single day. We have had some discipline issues for a while, even before the baby was born, but they have gotten worse. I think it's partly my fault, as I didn't really nip the behavior in the bud, but I didn't know what to do. I want to discipline gently, but I think I have been to lax, I don't think my son believes that I mean what I say. I am ashamed to admit that I have slapped him a few times out of sheer frustration, and yelled at him, which I do not want to do and is totally ineffective. I want to teach him how to handle his emotions, and I want to motivate him to change his behavior, but I have no idea how. We have tried time outs, and they do not seem to be very effective, I try natural consequences as much as possible but seem to be struggling to implement that. I know I need to remain calm, and firm and consistent but am struggling. I am really having a hard time enjoying my little boy, and he used to be the sweetest little boy, and now he seems like a terror and he doesn't listen to anything I say. I still try and give him as much attention as I can, while the baby sleeps I read to him, I still take him to the library, the playground, etc. He goes to preschool three afternoons a week and is doing great there.
Our problem behaviors:
1. He has been taking off and running and won't come back or stop when I call him. He was doing this when we would walk out to the car and scaring me as our car is parked on the street. I have had to run after him and grab him, and have explained countless times how dangerous this is. I now will not let go of his hand any time we are getting in or out of the car or walking anywhere.
2. He hits and kicks DH and I. He does this when we say no to something that he wants, or when we are trying to dress him or brush his teeth and he doesn't want us to. Or really anytime he gets upset. He has been hitting the baby. I have told him more times than I can count that hitting hurts, that we don't hit when we're upset, have tried to ask him what he's feeling, to tell me with his words. We have been using time outs when he hits, and then asking him to apoligize afterwards. This has been a continual problem for awhile. What is a natural consequence for this? I have slapped him back out of sheer frustration and lack of control on a few occasions when he kept repeatedly hitting me and smiling as he did it, but I am determined and committed to avoiding doing that ever again. (and I felt awful for it as soon as I did it).
These two destructive/dangerous issues are the top two concerning me, but there are more. In general, he does not listen to me, with pretty much everything right now. I try to not use "no" a lot, but there are things that he has to learn he cannot do, and that when I say no I mean no, and he has to listen. I feel like it's becoming a power struggle, he keeps pushing and pushing to see what his boundaries are, and who has the power in the relationship, and I don't want to physically overpower him, or have him behave because he is afraid of me or DH or punishment, because I don't believe in that kind of discipline, but I am truly stumped and challenged with what to do. I feel like such a pushover, like such a clueless parent, and embarrassed that my child walks all over me.
Okay, more problem behaviors.
3. He makes deliberate messes. He throws clothes around, makes messes with his toys. I have decided to start the rule that he needs to clean up one toy/project before he takes out another, but he resists this. I know I have not been consistent enough with this in the past, but when he plays with everything at once, our small house looks torn apart. After he makes a mess, I tell him his consequence is that he needs to pick it up. He refuses. I tell him after he picks up we can do this fun thing, (go to the park, I'll read him a book, etc.) Sometimes this works and sometimes he just says "I don't want to do that". How does a natural consequence work then? He plays with his food at dinnertime, throws his food on the floor. When he starts this I take away his plate and say dinner is over. He still continues this behavior.
4. He was doing really well with potty training before the baby was born, and now he refuses to go sit on the potty when I remind him, always states that he doesn't have to go. He has peed and pooped in his pants, on the floor. I know he is perfectly capable of going. I am not pushing the potty training right now, as I know regression is common in an older sibling once a new baby is added to the family, but I am really eager for him to start toileting independantly.
There's probably more, but I think those are the major issues. I have been trying my best to reassure him and show him that I still love him, spend as much time as I can with him, (putting the baby in a sling and reading to him, still doing some of his bedtime routine some nights). I try to give him choices, and involve him in things, let him do things on his own. When he does have positive behavior and listens well, I praise him and hope to encourage more of that behavior. But he is so challenging right now I am frustrated and finding myself dreading the long weekdays when I am alone with both kids. What am I doing wrong? How can I do it better. I would appreciate any advice from more experienced moms. Sorry this got so long.