Challenging Behaviors - In Need Of Some Good Parenting Advice (Long) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 06-22-2011, 07:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi. I am a first time mom in desperate need of some good parenting advice. DS will be 3 in July, and we are encountering some pretty challenging behaviors. Here's a bit of background. I have been a stay at home mom since DS was born. DS has always been a very active, spirited child. I have always been a very attentive mommy, always making sure DS's needs are met, sometimes to the point where DH calls me obsessive. I don't try to be obsessive, I just love my son so much, I want the best of the best for him at all times. We live in a loving home, DH and I get along well, no violence, swearing, fighting, only love and encouragement.

 

I started noticing these challenging behaviors around age 2, but they are definitely progressing and getting out of hand. Some of the behaviors are things like refusing to hold my hand while taking walks in our neighborhood to the point of throwing himself on the road in protest, yelling loudly every time I get on the phone or anytime any adults are engaging in conversation, randomly running around grabbing things off shelves/out of drawers just to toss things around or rip things up, hurling his toys across the room when I am making us a meal, writing on walls when I am not looking , saying things he knows are not allowed....like 'shut up' or 'be quiet' (not even in a conversation, just to get a reaction out of me), banging his utensils off the kitchen table all the while looking straight at me to see what I am going to do about it, yelling loudly during mealtime prayers so no one can hear the prayer, whacking me with sticks at the playground, deliberately throwing rocks in the general direction of my head when we are outside, protesting every decision I make during our daily routine....whether it's getting dressed, using the potty, going upstairs, going downstairs, you name it, if I say let's do it, he has to protest, running away from me in every public place, refusing to sit in shopping carts, demanding that I do things 'NOW MOMMY', oh and mealtimes....I don't even want to touch the nightmares that mealtimes have become.... and this is all in one day. But the pattern repeats itself all day every day.

 

He was just at our church's vacation bible study last week for 5 days, and this week, all these behaviors seem to be even more intensified. But even before that, it's just all the time, and I am so tired. I do time outs, I take toys away when he starts tossing them across the room, try to talk rationally with him as to why these behaviors are not acceptable, try to engage him in activities (but they always seem to end in some kind of destructiveness), but none of these things seem to help, send him to his bedroom for alone time. From an outsider's point of view, he probably looks like a spoiled little brat.

 

It's not like he lacks attention. Like I said, most people would say he is probably spoiled, maybe I have created this environment in my home unbeknownst to me by trying too hard to provide him with his wants/needs. But I always thought the more love and patience you show a child, the better behaved they should be. This doesn't seem to be the case here.

 

DH and I are at our wits ends. Some extended family members have already made comments about us that we 'don't have control over our kid' and we should just send him off to preschool already, and it's just breaking my heart. DH has on a few occasions stated that he feels DS has taken over our household, not in a good way. He has even compared DS to a little dictator, as DS is very demanding with both of us.

 

I love my little guy so much, and I see the good in him on many occasions, so I know this isn't 'who he is'.....I know there is hope for him. I know he is 3 yo, and the age alone could explain alot of the pushing of limits, but how, as a parent, do you stay loving and patient? How do you handle these behaviors calmly and rationally? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? How long does this last. Is this normal/abnormal? How do you handle it when everyone else seems to have a handle on their child and you are always the one that seems frazzled and discombobulated all the time?

 

We have baby #2 due in November, and if something doesn't change here, I may need to call nanny 911 in.

 

Sorry so long! Had to vent.


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#2 of 14 Old 06-22-2011, 08:18 PM
 
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I read the first few paragraphs and skimmed the rest. It sounds like he is searching for some firm boundaries and consequences. The fact that he is doing things and then looking for your reaction tells me that he is challenging you to see just what he can get away with.
I do not mean "punishment" or punitive discipline. You can try to redirect a lot of those behaviors into more positive activities.

He also sounds like he might be bored. maybe a preschool setting a few mornings a week? He can be age-appropriately intellectually stimulated and interact with other kids his age, and if you find a good center the teachers will probably have some advice and ideas for you. It seems to me that kids this age really benefit from sensory activities- sand and water tables, getting really messy with finger paints or other art projects, even a box full of dried beans and rice.

Positive attention is wonderful, and it sounds like you are a very loving, caring mother, but that is not all it takes to have "well behaved" children.

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#3 of 14 Old 06-23-2011, 08:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have always entertained the thought of homeschooling, so the thought of sending him off to preschool kind of feels defeating. But who knows, maybe that is what he needs. Maybe my family members are right. But it just doesn't seem like the real solution.

 

The real solution seems to be that he needs to learn self control. And he needs to learn that he is not the center of the universe. But I don't seem to be teaching him that very well.  

 

I can't imagine that he is bored, we are always out and about or with other kids or he helping me around the house. But maybe it's just not exciting enough for him. 

 

I am, however, only one person, and I can't possibly keep him occupied ALL day long. It becomes exhaustive. 

 

Like PP said, maybe he is looking for some clear boundaries. I obviously don't know how to set them, although I feel like I am enforcing them all day long. I never thought this parenting thing would be SO darn hard. I honestly feel like a failure at every turn with him.


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#4 of 14 Old 06-23-2011, 10:04 AM
 
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This is mainly typical 2-year-old stuff, but it sounds like maybe you're wanting a quiet calm home and you might be trying to avoid tantrums? Tantrums are normal and he will learn some of the stuff your'e talking about him needing to learn through tantrums. He is not always going to be happy, and that's OK. Hand holding in the street is obviously not optional, so just hold his hand. If he gets upset, he gets upset - that's OK. Don't take it personally, and just keep holding his hand, or take him back to the house if he can't handle it. If he has a tantrum, let him have his tantrum, and when he's done maybe he'll be able to handle going out again (with his hand being held.) Trying to avoid or stop tantrums causes many more problems than tantrums cause. I don't punish but I don't have expectations that my kids will always be happy, and if they have tantrums (the older one did but the little one pretty peaceful and hasn't yet), I very briefly empathize and then let the tantrum go, and don't take it personally. When it passes, I reconnect with some love, and we just go on.

So IMO, I would say firmer boundaries, and not trying to avoid tantrums and letting go of any expectation that he will always be happy. You and your husband don't yell and fight, and my husband and I don't either thankfully, but we are adults who chose each other and who aren't growing up and finding ourselves. Your little one will yell and fight and tantrum and whatever else, and it's OK and not about you or your husband.
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#5 of 14 Old 06-23-2011, 07:56 PM
 
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oh dear, sounds like your having a tough time! mine is two also and has the exact same stuff.. and my friends that have kids around the same age seem to have the same thing going on also. so i would assume its normal dont worry. =] its the age. terrible twos are nothing compared to threes i hear but they start coming around at 4.. my ds is going to be 3 in march and it only seems to be getting worse. i would try look at some parenting sites. whattoexpect.com is one i always seem to go back to. they have some really good advice, not only for taking care of your child's behavior but for you and your husband to learn how to distress and have some you time. and i seen that you were expecting in november. so am i!  that site also has some good advice on pregnancy. lol have you thot maybe he is getting jealous of the new arrival coming? kids act out when they feel threaten. i would see how you are bringing him in about the baby and try to maybe involve him more if you find it lacking. he might enjoy baby things and the idea of being a big brother!. =] good luck!

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#6 of 14 Old 06-23-2011, 08:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AprilM View Post

I have always entertained the thought of homeschooling, so the thought of sending him off to preschool kind of feels defeating. But who knows, maybe that is what he needs. Maybe my family members are right. But it just doesn't seem like the real solution.

 

The real solution seems to be that he needs to learn self control. And he needs to learn that he is not the center of the universe. But I don't seem to be teaching him that very well.  

 

I can't imagine that he is bored, we are always out and about or with other kids or he helping me around the house. But maybe it's just not exciting enough for him. 

 

I am, however, only one person, and I can't possibly keep him occupied ALL day long. It becomes exhaustive. 

 

Like PP said, maybe he is looking for some clear boundaries. I obviously don't know how to set them, although I feel like I am enforcing them all day long. I never thought this parenting thing would be SO darn hard. I honestly feel like a failure at every turn with him.



This is exactly what I feel like with my DS....you are a good Mama & it is so hard to remain calm & patient. I yelled so hard today my throat hurt. I am not happy about that, but every now & then I do loose it... Dont be so hard on yourself.

 


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#7 of 14 Old 06-23-2011, 08:42 PM
 
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I agree with what others have said, he is looking for more boundaries.  At almost three you could even sit down with him and talk about family rules.  What behaviors are okay, and which are not, why, and what happens when we don't follow them.  For instance, "if you want to throw something, you can go outside and throw a ball.  If you feel angry and need to hit, you can hit a pillow or a stuffed animal.  If you hit me, or another person, you will need to move or be moved away from people until you are ready to be gentle."  And then stick to it, because initially he will test these boundaries, until he feels comfortable that he knows what they are.  

 

We do "time ins" at our house.  When my DD (2.5) is having a hard time, I will say "We are going to sit and take a break together until we are ready to go back to playing".  If she were trying to hit me or something during this time, I would move away from her and say that I am here if she needs me, but don't want to be close to someone who is hurting me.  

 

We are also planning to homeschool, and I understand what you mean about feeling like sending him to preschool would be like failing.  But, I have heard of a lot of families (my nephew included) who did preschool, but homeschooled after.  Preschool is really just like a fun playgroup away from parents a few hours a week.  

 

Hugs, and good luck, parenting a toddler can be exhausting.

 

 

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#8 of 14 Old 06-23-2011, 11:00 PM
 
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I agree with firm boundaries... and also, does he have simple chores that he does, so that he feels like he is a part of the community? Sweeping, dusting, watering plants, washing dishes, washing clothes by hand?

 

I think he will feel more empowered with a little responsibility... have you read any books about Montessori in the home?  I found it to be very helpful with my kids... setting up the home so that they are responsible for it and are expected to participate--and do what they can to help our little family community.  Also, Montessori preschools often work well with homeschooling, if you can find a good one...

 

Just think "this too shall pass."  Hang in there! 


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#9 of 14 Old 06-24-2011, 12:28 AM
 
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I agree with more Montessori like activites. But I disagree with firmer boundaries, preschool and other restrictions. Call me crazy but this kid sounds like he needs to rebel and maybe you should control less.

 

Try playing a game with your son for a little while. You act like him and he will act like you. Maybe bring him back to a place where he acted up and replay the incident only let him be the mommy and listen to how he thinks you talk. Ring a bell to begin and end. Then listen to yourself. He might also listen to you. If he sees how funny you are acting like him he might realize what he's doing ... and the same for you.

 

Call me crazy but I think you two are annoying each other.

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#10 of 14 Old 06-24-2011, 02:41 PM
 
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I agree with more Montessori like activites. But I disagree with firmer boundaries, preschool and other restrictions. Call me crazy but this kid sounds like he needs to rebel and maybe you should control less.

Try playing a game with your son for a little while. You act like him and he will act like you. Maybe bring him back to a place where he acted up and replay the incident only let him be the mommy and listen to how he thinks you talk. Ring a bell to begin and end. Then listen to yourself. He might also listen to you. If he sees how funny you are acting like him he might realize what he's doing ... and the same for you.

Call me crazy but I think you two are annoying each other.


OP, it sounded to me like the problem wasn't that you were making things boundaries that didn't need to be, but that you weren't that firm about any boundaries, even hand holding in the street, because you wanted him to be quiet. But I could have misread this and this (quoted PP stuff) might be the case, too. Really, the boundaries should only be for things that are very important and not optional, like holding your hand in the street. But kids are happier and IMO have fewer power struggles when they're given as much autonomy as is practical and possible. So I would consider when something comes up if it's truly really important or if he could really do it his way or do what he wanted, and if it isn't truly important, let it go. Save your strength for the really serious stuff, and then hold firm to the boundary and don't worry if he tantrums. Tantrums are part of life with most toddlers.
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#11 of 14 Old 06-25-2011, 08:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the replies everyone! Things have gotten a little more sane since I posted this. I have been following some advice on this thread and it has helped. I am trying to wrap my head around tantrums. They are just so....unnerving, chaotic, and unpredictable. PP is right about me wanting to keep a quiet calm home, and when things get out of control, with tantrums and rebellious behavior, I just don't yet know how to handle it.

 

When DS gets out of control, I find myself subconsciously thinking 'omg, there must be something wrong with him that I am not seeing', and it brings about a lot of anxiety. My mind starts racing through all the events of the day trying to figure out what went wrong to cause this behavior.

 

My normal reaction to a tantrum usually involves me getting a bit panicky inside trying to come up with ways to hurry up and get things back to normal again. The anxiety I feel inside actually causes a physical reaction inside me. Almost like a small panic attack where I start to get hot flashes and a racing heart.
 

So I suppose the answer to this dilemma lies just as much within me as it does with DS' behavior. Maybe changing the way I look at this challenging behavior. We have #2 coming so unpredictable behavior is going to be a resident here for quite some time, I obviously need some coping skills.

 

That being said, I really feel it is my responsibility as a mom to lead DS toward self control. As of this moment, I haven't a clue how to do that. Other than modeling to him this kind of behavior, is this a teachable trait?

 

I like the idea of giving him household responsibilities. He would actually probably like that. And trying to control him less might be helpful. I am always so afraid he is going to hurt himself, maybe I am a bit overbearing at times. My own brother was run over by a truck when he was 23 months, so I know really bad things can happen to toddlers, and I probably do project this fear onto him a bit.

 

And as PP said, we are probably getting on eachother's nerves too!


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#12 of 14 Old 06-26-2011, 02:19 PM
 
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Your original post reminds me so much of my daughter that I was laughing as I read it, she will be 3 in October. She is a great, intelligent kid but quite a handful. I just wanted to say that I am right there with you. I don't have any answers either, just trying to find a gentle approach that also sets a few boundaries. Seems like some weeks are good and others are pretty difficult. I have found a couple things that help... getting her outside for some free play where she can do whatever she wants (within reason of course) and yell and run and get dirty and wet really helps. Also having some quiet, down time each day where we read or sing songs. Also I have noticed that she does much better when her sleep/eat schedule stays pretty regular. We used to be able to drag her anywhere and she would nap on the fly and have no issues but lately she does much better when we keep her on schedule. I love the idea of household responsibilities, I am going to try it! 

 

Good luck and hang in there!!!

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#13 of 14 Old 06-26-2011, 03:05 PM
 
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((hugs)) mama. 

 

Also, getting lots of physical exercise helps, too.  Running around outside if it isn't too hot.  Being outside for as long as possible helps my guys to stay mellow...


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#14 of 14 Old 06-26-2011, 05:29 PM
 
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My normal reaction to a tantrum usually involves me getting a bit panicky inside trying to come up with ways to hurry up and get things back to normal again. The anxiety I feel inside actually causes a physical reaction inside me. Almost like a small panic attack where I start to get hot flashes and a racing heart.
 

 

While he certainly doesn't fully understand it, no doubt he's picking up on that energy. When he's feeling out of control if you feel this threatened by it that's scary and confusing. My suggestion would be for the next week to try to focus only on you. Practice taking deep breaths. Practice walking away. Practice removing your energy from the situation. Make up a little mantra you can repeat in your head if that calms you down. Obviously when it comes to crisis situations like holding your hand while crossing the street, you have to take action. For some of the other stuff, I'd suggest giving it a lot less attention. Some boredom with it and ignoring it often lessens some of the attention seeking type behavior. As another poster suggested, I would work on letting go of the idea that your job is to keep the peace or keep him happy. Don't take it personally when he does this stuff. He's doing his job to become more independent and to try out different behaviors. With a baby your job was more focused on trying to keep baby happy and to avoid crying. That really shouldn't be the goal with a three year old.

 

Also, I'm wondering, how often are you getting some break from your son. Are you getting to exercise or have adult time free from him? If not that would also be a good thing to work on.

 

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