I stay at home with my 3 year old. We spend our days together. He is also very social, involved in activities, likes playing with others/being apart from me or with a babysitter etc. He's very social/independent and also very attached in a good way, so nice balance there.
My Mom and sister live around here and we see them weekly. He's known them since birth. He loves hanging out with my mom at her house or with my sister when she babysits. Recently whenever he sees my Mom or sister, he doesn't want to greet them, tells them to go away right when they have just showed up, or says things like "I'm not sharing with you" or "You need to go away" or "No Grandma" etc. in a very insistent voice through out our whole time together. He just acts like he doesn't like them and says 'rude' things.
At first I didn't really take note of this or do much to correct it because I'm so used to different moods/stubborness as the mom of a 3 year old, and I don't like to force issues (that usually gets me nowhere). I just figured, eh, he's three.
However my mom and sister get very offended when this happens, and they say that I allow him to act "like a brat" and they even tell him "You're being a brat." This really affected me because a) They think I'm raising my kid wrong and b) I don't want them to feel so insulted and c) It makes me feel like I am raising my kid wrong!
I've started reminding him before we see them how we treat our family "Greet them, give them a hug, tell them you missed them." This has mixed success. If he says a rude thing when they are around, I have started saying "That's not how we talk to Grandma, you need to be nice" or "We're not doing x until you apologize to [Aunt]." This doesn't really change his attitude, it just gets him to say one quick nice phrase.
My family says I don't discipline him enough when he acts like this -- I don't know what they expect. It seems extreme to put him in time out or something over this, and beyond what I'm doing I don't really know what 'discipline' would work/be appropriate. They seem to think that I need to just *make* him act polite/good.....I don't think they realize it is not that easy.
Last thing - my son came up to me when they weren't here and said "[Aunt] says I'm a brat." It made me wonder if the fact that my Mom and sister call him out on being rude and have such a strong reaction reinforces his behavior.....i.e. he believes he's a brat to them/sees how upset they are and so keeps doing it.
Is this developmental?? Advice/similar experiences? Is my child really a brat with no manners?? How do I get him to be polite and loving?? So frustrated with myself, my child, and my family members......
Mothering my sweet preschool boy and my new arrival
It is developmental, but it should be addressed. Not in a punishing way, but a teaching way. Whenever my ds does this I put on a very sad face and say, "ds, you hurt my feelings, can I have a hug and a kiss to make it better?"
After much repetition, he is learning that he doesn't like hurting peoples feelings, so maybe you can ask your mom and sister to help you teach him that. Have them put a hurt look on their face and tell them how sad it makes them (make sure to tell them that if they get angry it will not work - they have to display the proper emotion, which would be sadness). Then you can tell ds, "It's not nice to hurt peoples feelings, can you give grandma a hug and a kiss to make her feel better?"
Then they need to accept the hug and kiss and move on - use this type of method for things like sharing too. I have found that it really helps teach ds empathy, which is something that is really important to me (his dad is a narcissist - I need to prevent ds from becoming one!).
ETA - my ds is also 3yo, almost 3.5 and I've been doing this for quite a while now. It does take time to sink in, but once they start to get it, it works great. When I first started ds thought it was funny sometimes, so I would do my best to actually cry to get my point across.
He's three. It's developmental. Three year-olds are all about discovering how they're separate from other people, and how to enforce their own boundaries. The tools they have for doing that are telling you to back off, and making you crazy. They can be really startlingly effective at that latter, but my experience is that if you *do* back off when asked, they will often then come to you themselves. They still want love. They just need to be assured that they also have some control.
I refuse to tell kids that they have to hug and kiss anyone. If someone asks for a hug and the kid says no, I say "okay", and we move on. The less fuss made over physical contact, or the lack of it, the better.
My general strategy with "I'm not sharing!" and "I want you to go away," is to be a little (a very little) obliging, if I can. "I can see you want to play alone. I'll be in the kitchen." (Five minutes later, I can safely bet that the three year-old will also be in the kitchen.) Or "I can see you don't want to share your rocket ship, but Grandma came over specially to hang out with you. Why don't we think of something fun that you can do together?"
Your mom and sister absolutely need to stop telling your son that he's a brat. I'd try a speech along the lines of "Experts say that three year-olds go through phases where they experiment with enforcing their autonomy. They're often very clumsy with this, and they can say hurtful things, but you have to remember that if he can't say no to us, he won't be able to say it to strangers, or to people who make him really uncomfortable. It's not a good idea to take some of the things he says too much to heart. He's very young, and tact and consideration take a while to develop."
I like what the previous posters said, but also, to me it sounds like he needs some space from them. Maybe they did something to upset him a little? At this point, he can probably tell that they think he's annoying/ "a brat" or whatever, I can understand him not wanting to be polite to them. I wouldn't like someone who called me a brat! I would still work on him being polite with them, but he shouldn't have to play with them if he doesn't want to. Also, I'm a big fan of now making kids hug if they don't want to. I think it's important that they can say 'no' to hugs & kisses if they don't want to give them. IDK, it sounds like he just needs some space.
I do not force hugs/kisses, but I do encourage them. If hugs/kisses are not an option, asking a child to say they're sorry is a good compromise.
I think he has every right to protest to anyone's attention. His "no" should be respected just as much as yours would be. But, he should be taught a better way to express his dis-interest in them. And your family should learn how to react in a more adult manner. I would say it is developmetal but there has got to be some reason he is reacting this way.
I agree with most posters here about his right not to say a word to them. He probably will when he is ready. If someone was calling me a brat, I wouldn't want to greet them either! I especially agree with MeepyCat and RStelle. My wonder is when he is with them while they are babysitting... What are they talking about with him. KWIM?
Is their parenting styles like yours? Everyone in our families have the thought that we give too much attention, hold too much, listen too much.. etc. Not the same wave length as ours.
Wanted to add.. our nearly 3 yr old sometimes will not say goodbye to Dad when he leaves for work but will wave, pushes him away when Dad wants to kiss goodbye. Loves his Dad wholeheartedly.
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I try to teach my children to trust their instincts about people no matter what, and I am sure your sister and mom are very nice but maybe he doesn't like how they treat/talk to him? My son is 3 this month and I never make him talk or touch people he doesn't want to.
I may also be some sort of attachment thing. At 3, a good little friend of ours behaved much like this to her father, who worked a lot. He'd come home from work and she'd be all, "I don't want to see Daddy. I don't want to play with you." She was so rude to him that it was kind of hard to be around her during that phase. It had everything to do with the fact that he left her every day. I think she felt like he chose to be away from her, and she felt hurt by that and wanted to make him feel bad. I wonder if he's at an age where he's not quite sure where he stands with these people that he loves but only gets to see once a week?
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