My son is 4 in October and our relationship just isn't what it used to be. I'm having many less-than-proud Mommy moments because I just get worn down by it in the end. Having said that we do still have days when it's all flowing harmoniously - but they have become the exception rather than the rule. Basically he is just very defiant, doing things deliberately (I can see by the look on his face and by knowing his genuine abilities) to annoy me like making a mess on the carpet or at mealtimes, throwing things really near my head, hitting and pinching me when he's not getting what he wants, etc. He has many, many tantrums per day, every little thing setting him off - and he used to be the kind of child people commented about 'He's so even tempered for a two year old' etc... I have heard that some children bypass the 'terrible twos' and have the 'fiesty threes' instead, but does anyone have any insights or tips for me? He seems to be swinging between being really dependent - wanting to breastfeed a lot (I stopped nursing on demand a year ago but continued at bedtimes, and he's now asking a lot) and being very clingy and seemingly insecure - and acting as if he hates me. He gets plenty of attention as he's an only child but because I'm a single parent I do sometimes have to just get on with cooking etc b'c there is no one else there to do it, which he gets totally furious about, no matter how I try to negotiate/make it fun for him/etc.
I Unconditional Parent (well, as well as possible!) and don't do time-outs or any other kind of punishment - have never found it necessary even - and we've always had a good respectful communication. But now most of the time he is shouting at me rather than talking to me and talking in a very disrespectful voice, so I have started to point this out and be quite firm about the way I expect to be spoken to. Sometimes I'm just bursting into tears because of the forceful way he is acting, I feel hurt and I know I shouldn't - he's just a child - but I'm pretty sensitive to people being angry with me and find it hard to take even from a little one. Until recently, validating his emotions and just hearing his 'storms' out would 'work' and he would calm down, but lately if I try any of that he just screams over me and shouts 'Don't put your mouth like that! Don't put your eyes like that! Don't look at me! Go away!' etc. Nothing seems to get through, and sometimes i have to take myself on time-out to calm down!
Bit of background: he goes to preschool 15 hours a week (two 6-hour days, one 3 hour day) and is a very sociable, well-adjusted child. When he started preschool I did notice that his ability to play alone drastically declined and he started to want to play with me ALL the time, which was very draining (I'm not a natural 'player'), and he started to show some signs of separation anxiety, but only recently has it become severe. We often go out and see others and are not cooped up in the house all day on the days we are together, but equally I try to make sure we have a reasonable amount of one-on-one time. His dad and I have been separated since he was two and he sees him regularly and seems to be enjoying that. But just recently he seems to have noticed for the first time that other families have parents that live together, and has often been saying 'Can't Daddy come with me to x?' or role playing that his dad is there, which has been really sad to see. If you've made it to the end of this, thank you so much!