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3 Year Old With "Behavior" Problems

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm at my wits end and need some advice.  My son was an extremely bright, charming little person until a couple of months before his sister was born 12/2012.  When she arrived our family was sent into turmoil.  She was born not breathing and between 3 days old and 10 weeks old had to have 3 surgeries.  We'd get her home, she'd get sick and have to go back to the hospital.  Our family was divided, and little mister had the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He was truly a rock and held it together until just about March, 3 months after she was born.  Then he began to fall apart.


At day care he started having "behavior" problems; hitting, spitting, biting, defiance, screaming, throwing things, you name it.  My husband and I did everything we could to redirect, instruct, give choices, discuss, and overall try everything we could to break him out of this cycle.  His day care used to adore him but when they discovered he was willful many washed their hands of him and labeled him a behavior problem.  


When he gets into a bad mood it seems to ramp itself up - it'll start off over the tiniest thing and then he'll continually do things to make himself get more and more upset to the point where he blows his top.  The only way we've found to break this cycle is by removing him to his room for "quiet time" where he is left for a few minutes and he can get on the other side of his tantrum.  Then we talk it over, think about how we could have done things better, and regroup to continue our day.  Lately that's not been working as he stands at the top of the stairs screaming/shrieking at the top of his lungs and he refuses to calm down.  At day care he has problems around 9 and 11 each day.


We've spoken with our family physician as well as a child psychologist (behaviorist) and both said that it sounded 100% normal for everything he's going through.  It is now 6 months past his sister being born, and we've seen a ramp up in his behavior once again.  We have noticed changes at day care (friends moving to different rooms, teachers leaving and new people appearing) and as of late our bad days seem to outnumber our good days.  I can't seem to get connected to him.  He refuses to listen even in dire situations (like hopping around in the bathtub).  He's starting to backtalk, he spits in your face, and overall is becoming a very offensive kid.  I've tried everything I can think of to get re-attached to him but every good experience we have turns into a bad one.  I've tried planning around naps, gearing things to his likes and tastes, trying new things, talking to him about what he'd like to do/eat, limiting television and screen exposure.  I've had absolutely no luck and nothing seems to change.  


I wish I could get better care for him but we live in a rural area where there are very few accredited child development centers.  I am planning on bringing him (and his sister) home an extra day so he's only in there 3 days a week.  I plan on trying a bit of homeschooling with them during this time to supplement his education, where he's so bright and perhaps the problem is "idle hands."  Still, who knows if this will even work.  Help!

post #2 of 7

Any mamas have some advice for this mama????? Bumping your post!!

post #3 of 7

Is it possible any of his outbursts are blood sugar crashes? If you sense it starting what happens if you give him a quick pick-me-up snack? If he calms and doesn't escalate it's possible that was the cause. Obviously not when he's doing something you disapprove of, but if you sense the mood coming on before it goes anywhere.


Do either you or your husband get any alone time with him?


Does he respond well to being given tasks (when not in a bad mood)? Something that might make him feel important and useful perhaps.


Is it possible the behavior is to get attention? If you suspect so, perhaps trying to ignore the difficult behavior as much as possible and acknowledge and discuss the good behaviors might reinforce those good behaviors more. I find that calmly dealing with the situation as necessary without rising to it, and calmly walking away like it's no big deal helps to discourage attention seeking problem behavior. I try to acknowledge the behavior I like whenever possible, even if just to point it out. "I'm really glad to see you shared some with your sister." or whatever is important to you.


Also, I find it useful to remind myself to pick my battles. Is it really important to me to get what I want, or is it OK right now to let them have their way? That way when you need to fight the big important battles you have the mental energy (I'm sure you already know this too).

post #4 of 7

Sounds like a poor adjustment to the changing family dynamics for sure.  Doesn't help that he's also three--that's kind of a challenging age to begin with.

The fact that some of the incidents happen at regular times make me wonder though if there's something else going on too.  What time does he eat breakfast?  What are the routines like at daycare?  Does the exact same thing happen at home too?  Is there something about daycare that's exacerbating the problem?  Honestly it sounds like you're trying all the right things.  If he's highly intelligent, it's not going to be easy. 


Definitely keep a record of the behavior (frequency/duration and triggers if you know what they are), and keep involving his doctor/appropriate specialists if you feel that's appropriate.   Sometimes writing it all down will help you find patterns/clues that might help you find new things to try.   

post #5 of 7

I really have no experience to a similar situation myself but I just finished reading "Simplicity Parenting" and there was a story in it about a girl going through something similar to what your son is going through. Long story short the recommendation was to simplify her environment and schedule and make them predictable while simultaneously filtering out the "adult" world of problems from her.


Your son sounds very angry and he's probably extremely anxious about all the random events in his life that he has no control over. I wouldn't ignore him, I think it will only exacerbate the problem because he's most likely scared.   If I try to imagine what it's like from his point of view, it really is scary and unnerving. DD has consistently acted out whenever we went through a major change (but they were never as difficult as what you guys went through).  Our response was to re-establish a firm and very predictable routine and take as easy as possible for a while. We'd also talk to her about the major event (if she were involved) and ask her to recount her version of it. It helps.


I wish you the best of luck and hopefully it will pass soon! hug2.gif

post #6 of 7

I remember the early days of breastfeeding, having fussiness issues and everyone saying, "did you try eliminating this, that, and whatnot."  I ended up feeling like in the week it took me to test out each theory and food, I couldn't tell if things were improving/worsening due to my actions or simply the changes in development and I should I start all over.....anyway, point being: it sounds like you have tried a million things and you must be getting really frustrated.  And he is probably changing so fast that you can't tell what is normal developmentally, and what things you might be able to influence.  


Here are some thoughts:  are the triggers all different and the one thing that is constant is the hitch in the coping mechanism?  Has the daycare done any work to help you lay out what happens around 9 and 11 each day? (or better yet, 15-30 minutes earlier?)  Two ideas that have come up in our circle of late that you might add to your arsenal:  first, protein.  Sugar crashes are a good thought too, but protein seems to be another one that can influence how my kids are able to manage their emotions and behavior.  Not enough protein = less control and more reason to need control!  I see the effects about 2 hours after a meal in my 2.5yo especially.  Second, quality alone time with them can make a difference.  But I have found that the more mundane, the better.  Meaning: an extra special date out together somehow results in worsened behavior--not sure why.  It's like they are all amped up and can't dial back down.  But just some quiet time at home doing the normal things, just without the distraction of a sibling, seems to help promote better communication and behavior in the time that follows.


Anyway, I'm sorry if I am just adding to the daunting list of things to try.  You must really just need some good support, some good help, and lordy a break right now, so I am hoping your family has the reserves after the challenges with your daughter's birth to rally around you (and him!) on this issue.  And that you have the reserves as well.  You certainly are not alone in feeling overwhelmed by how hard this all is at times.  Sounds like it's been an especially hard year and a half for you all.

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your help! We talked with his doctor and are pursuing an evaluation. We are also seeking other day care arrangements because it seems that administration is more concerned with building a case rather than helping a child to grow and flourish.
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