I have really been struggling with my 3yo son lately. He's great most of the time, but there's a certain behavior that I really haven't come up with a good way to deal with. I wind up feeling miserable and crabby and not knowing what to do with myself while it's happening.
Here's an example. Lunch was winding down, dd, ds, and I were sitting at the table. Dd gave me a hug. Ds got up, came over and acted like he was going to give me a hug, then he went limp and sat down on the floor. Then he said, "I wanted to give you a hug, but you knocked me down." I offered him a hug, and he did it again. After a minute or two I got up and went to the kitchen to start cleaning up. He followed me saying that he wanted a hug, which I offered, but he wanted it sitting down (and I know if I sit down he will continue the same thing.) Then he started whining, and yelling about the hug, and then he hit me. I sent him to his bedroom where he continued to yell at me, but at least I had the physical space to work on cleaning the kitchen. In a couple minutes I told him he could come out of his room. He said something about the hug a couple times, but then settled in to sitting by me and drawing.
These episodes are common, and can last for a few minutes or half an hour. They pretty much always consist of him asking for something I'm happy to give and then saying he doesn't want it. I hate that I can't reason with him, distract him, or get him to change his behavior. I am unhappy throughout the episode, and I don't know what to do with myself. I can't really pretend it's not happening. In the example above, I would have enjoyed sitting at the table while they finished their lunch, except for what ds was doing. Once he's in that, I don't know if I should walk away from him, send him away from us, or what. How do you wait it out respectfully without it ruining everyone's afternoon?
Any ideas or tactics that work for you?
OK. A couple of quick thoughts (coming from a mom of a 3.5 y/o who doesn't do the same thing quite but can get on my nerves very easily).
Any way you can turn this into a game? Fall on the ground with him & give him a bear hug. Or tumble on the floor with him. Maybe he needs more of the physical rough play than a simple hug.
If not, try getting down (not on the floor but kneeling maybe) to make eye contact. And try something like: "Honey, you asked for X & I can give you X right now. But I have to go clean up the lunch dishes so if you don't take it now I don't know when we'll have the time again." Or something like that... I'm thinking that's too many words as I reread it.
Or physically lead him to the thing you're offering.
If he misses his chance, say in the most friendly voice you can muster (again getting down to eye level) & say something like "Sweetie, I'm really sorry you missed the chance for X, see now my hands are all soapy (or whatever) and I can't give you X now." And maybe add... "If you help me clean up, I'll be done faster & maybe we'll have time for X."
Those are just off the top of my head. Trust me, I totally sympathize with how a 3 y/o can push your buttons! I aim for natural/logical consequences. Sometimes it's more successful than others. Good luck!
Mama to my little busy bee.
Katie - Married to Mike 06/02/01, Mom to Sydney Anne born 11/21/09 and Alice Maeryn & Oliver Thomas born 04/24/13
make it a game... 3 year-olds like to play... my 3 year old has all kinds of contradictory opposite demands... he will put on a sweater, and then freak out and say it isn't the sweater he wanted... he will then ask for the blue sweater... I give him the blue sweater... he puts it on... and then says (very upset, crying, etc.) that it isn't the sweater he wanted!
It is like this will all kinds of stuff... 3 year-olds are interesting. :D
This MUST be a 3-year-old thing...my son does versions of this too (I want X, no I don't want X, oh wait, I want X).
I haven't figured out any magical solution to making it go away, but I keep telling myself, "This is a phase, this is a phase..."
I think it must be somehow related to the "I want to do it MYSELF" orientation that is also going on, some kind of way of experimenting with control...so I play along if I'm in the mood, if not, I just kind of ignore it, "Oh you wanted to X? You just said you wanted to Y. Oh well, that's too bad--I'm going to Z..." (and then I wander off and do something else until he moves on mentally from whatever he's "stuck" on).
I figure sooner or later, he'll grow out of it, and there'll be some new annoying thing to deal with next.
Thank you all for your responses. It is amazing how much it helps to know that other parents struggle with the same kinds of things, and to hear a few ideas about how to respond. I feel better.
Over here too!! DS will be 3 in April. He pulls the same crap. LOL!! I think it's totally normal. Definitely a phase. I'm not worried about it at all. I play along with his antics for a few minutes and if the boundary is vocalized and his silly behavior continues, I just walk away and go about my business. After a quick protest by him, he goes off and does his own thing. I love the going limp thing. He does that almost everytime I change his diaper. I pick him up to put his pants back on and he just falls to the ground. This happens a few times and then it stops. He thinks he's hilarious. He gets a good laugh at seeing me struggle.