When asked why he won't do what he has been asked to do, my 3 1/2 year old boy replies, "because I don't."
When asked why he stopped going pee pee and poopie in the potty, his response was, "I don't want to."
He will not come in from playing when asked to do so. We carry him into the house and he proceeds to cry, yell and throw things at us.
He goes stiff as a board when we try to put him in his car seat, if he doesn't want to go in the car.
We took him to school to enroll him in preschool and he refused to interact with his new teachers, choosing to fold his arms in disgust, sit on the floor and pull his mad face.
When at the grocery store he kicks his feet while we are trying to wheel the basket, causing my DH great pain. He grabs things off the shelves as we go through the store and attempts to take possession of everything going into the basket.
To the contrary, and positive, he is very polite, outgoing and helpful. He loves cleaning and family projects.. He says. please and thank you, apologizes if he does something wrong, laughs alot, has very high level language skills, is very independent and prefers to do things on his own. He is really good at a lot of sports. He throws a perfect spiral football, bowled a 108 his first time bowling, can hit a baseball with a bat most times, loves soccer and is wonderful with animals and is a skilled bicycle rider. He interacts very well with other children, only occasionally having difficulties with sharing and pouting.
His favorite response is, "I'll do it."
DH and I are frustrated and need to figure out a better way of working with our little one on his problem areas. We are loving parents and hugging and I love you's are a constant form of communication with him during each day. We are blessed to have him and want the very best for him, but preschool is going to start soon and he is just not where we need him to be yet in order to meet those challenges successfully.
What kind of a child is this? Any ideas on better discipline to bring him more in line. We practice GD mostly but do occasionally need to spank on issues of definance which could result in harm to himself or someone else. Any ideas on our problem areas?
P.S. He is our only child.
I saw "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen (nearly wrote Leonard Cohen!) recommended a whole bunch on MDC and bought a copy and found it's given me lots of tools to use in these types of super-infuriating and very typical kiddy-defiance situations.
Basically, he suggests using play-therapy techniques to diffuse conflicts and enable kids to work through their frustrations and difficulties, hopefully resulting in more happy and harmonious interactions. I've found when things that should be easy have become constant battlegrounds (getting dressed, leaving the house, mealtimes etc) the kids get used it being that way and it's difficult to break the habit. Approaching the whole thing (whatever the situation) in a different, playful, goofy way can surprise the kid and throw them off balance so they almost forget to protest and argue. And they enjoy seeing you be goofy and silly about something that you are usually uptight and a bit stressed or even just serious about. It's helped in a whole bunch of different situations for me.
Also was helpful in allowing my older son (5) to vocalise some problems he was having with toilet anxiety - we knew there was a problem but didn't really know exactly what he was worried about. We'd try talking about it with him but he would just say he didn't know why he was worried and want to change the subject. Cohen's premise is that while adults process their interactions with the world through talk, kids do so through play, so rather than trying to talk to him about it I started playing a silly game with some of his toys and they were all talking about using the toilet being silly about it. He loves bathroom humour anyway, so thought it was hilarious, but also got that I was subtly getting at his situation too. I steered it away when it was getting too close so he didn't clam up, but then as soon as the game was finished and he'd had a good laugh he told me exactly what his anxiety was.
In relation to the particular situations you mention, how about making coming in from playing a new game, rather than the end of fun? Cohen also suggests that you throw the tantrum before they get a chance to (in a silly, melodramatic fashion of course, and if he hasn't started yet then it's not like you're mocking him). Or give him the choice, "shall we scream and cry and get cross about it, or do you want to race me to the house, or shall we tiptoe really really quietly so we don't wake up the bugs. Whatever you do, don't let the bugs know we're going in now or they'll get really mad. That would be so bad..." etc. It kind of takes the fun out of their tantrum if you give them the choice to throw one before hand. You could also commentate if he does take that option..."wow! great screaming! I'm very impressed! You're sure good at being cross!" Maybe getting into the car seat could be the beginning of the intergalactic space mission or something - tailor to your son's particular interests. In the store, give him jobs to do to help or missions to find items, or say "I bet you can't stay as still as a statue until we get to the end of aisle" - often these things make everything take longer in the first instance, but hopefully will break the pattern of bad behaviour so make everything go more smoothly in the long run.
I will say that 3.5, even if he's a precocious and verbal 3.5, is too young to reliably give self reports about things that he feels very strongly about. If he's had an accident, or if he's decided that it's too much bother to interrupt his own play to use the toilet when he needs to, (and these are very common occurrences at his age) he doesn't really have the emotional maturity to analyze his own actions and discuss it afterward. He's really telling you what happened--he didn't want to go, and then, he had an accident.
It sounds like he has some trouble with transitions in general--coming in from play, getting in his carseat, and starting a new school are all big transitions at this age. Totally normal. Many parents give a "warning," like saying "In ten minutes, it will be too late to stay outside, so we'll have to go inside and get ready for bed." "In five minutes it will be bedtime," "Now it's time for our countdown, 5-4-3-2-1!" But please accept that even with warnings, transitions may be tough for a little while.
It's OK to have a disagreement with your child. It's OK for him to want to keep playing when you need him to be done. It's OK for him to not want to go in the car. It's also OK for you to need him to do those things, and for you to insist that he do them. But I wouldn't add spanking to the mix. He's only 3.5--you can insist, you can wait him out, and ultimately you can pick him up and MAKE him do it. But spanking only rubs his nose in his powerlessness. Try simply following through on whatever you say--when you say that it's time to go, then it's time to go, no matter what he does. After a few trials, he'll come to understand that you mean what you say.
As far as the kicking in the cart thing goes, I will say that I let my kids pick out a treat every time we go to the store. I don't mean that I buy garbage, but that they live in our household, too, and have some right to request food that they like to eat. So if they want strawberries, or granola, or cashews, they can ask for it when I ask them what they'd like from the store. But if they kicked me in the cart, then I'd pull the cart behind me from the front, and whatever they requested would go back on the shelf. I have to buy groceries. They have to come with me. We can do it the easy, pleasant way, or the hard unpleasant way. They get to choose. By 3.5, he should be old enough to understand the choices.