My toddler does not understand or recognize authority.. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 11-09-2013, 08:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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  I am so very at the end of my rope right now. I love my little boy to pieces, but he is definitely a case of "when he's good, he's very good, and when he's bad, he's very bad." He just turned 3 on Oct 25. A lot of times he is sweet, cuddly, and eager to help me and my husband with little task. But more than half of the time, he has a really bad, uncontrollable temper.

 

  Me and my husband are pretty calm people, he doesn't observe this type of behavior from us, or other children, or anything. Simply telling him "No" sets him off into an uncontrollable state. He kicks/punches/bites/headbutts anything and everything around him, including me and my husband. Just recently he's also started attempting to choke us. At that point there's nothing we can do outside of giving him what he wants, which we do not, to calm him down. He doesn't not understand that he has to mind us. I've read every article I could find on how to deal with this behavior, and different types of discipline, but none of the methods worked. Everything makes him angrier, and he thinks that he has the right to do whatever we do to him, to us.

 

  He is my first and only child, but I have been a fulltime babysitter for many different children, and didn't have any issues even somewhat similar to what I have with him. I really just don't know what to do, and his behavior is just getting worse with time. I'm worried about how this will affect him as he gets older. Has anyone had these problems? Can anyone offer any advice?

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#2 of 6 Old 11-11-2013, 07:36 AM
 
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Welcome to Mothering!!!

One of my kids was like this. It sounds like tantrums, but some kids get them worse than others. My personal feeling about tantrums is to let them run their course without a much engagement. I'd tell my daughter that I was there when she needed me, and then I'd just let her rage. I wouldn't get physically involved for sure because if I did she'd go for me like you're talking about.

At some point she figured out that her tantrums didn't change anything and she stopped doing them. I think to some extent they have to mature to the point where they can control their emotions (not all kids are the same as far as that goes) and to some extent they have to decide that tantrums aren't worth the effort.

The only kids I've seen who haven't outgrown tantrums (although it can take some time) are those whose tantrums were effective - in that they got something out of them - or those whose parents were really physical. I don't mean abusive, but I've seen a few kids whose parents get pretty physical and kind of erupt emotionally too, and their kids often seem to keep the tantrums going as well. I don't know if it's genetic, like the parent has that trait and then the kid does as well, or if the kids don't have a calm role model, or some combination. Oh, and kids with ADHD or on the autism spectrum can have a hard time regulating their emotions as well. However, I do think most kids, if you remain calm and are kind of an emotional rock to steady them, will outgrow them if you let them get their tantrums out of them.

Now my other child never had tantrums at all, and I have been the same with both of them. I say that to show that a child's personality has so much to do with this. My older one, who had tantrums when she was young, is still moody and emotional, but she can regulate herself and doesn't become explosive anymore. She's a pre-teen though so I'm seeing the moodiness picking up a bit again for that reason. But she is overall a happy and really well adjusted and charming girl. Her horrible raging tantrums have not hurt her in the long term.

I don't think everyone agrees with me, so I'll bump this up and see if you can get some other responses.
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#3 of 6 Old 11-13-2013, 03:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, it's good to know I'm at least not the only one who has gone through this, haha. For awhile I cut out all spanking with him, and stuck to timeouts and taking away privileges when he would start acting this way. His behavior started improving for about a week, and then all of a sudden it got much much worse than it was before. If I put him in time out, he doesn't stay there, he throws things and tries to break things, and attacks me even if I'm not involved. 

 

I really think I need to find some sort of professional help with this, but I have no idea what type of help to seek. Any suggestions??

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#4 of 6 Old 11-13-2013, 09:10 PM
 
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I'd consult with a child psychologist. Three is a tough age, but this may not be typical behavior.
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#5 of 6 Old 11-14-2013, 11:59 AM
 
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There is something in the behavioral realm known as an extinction burst and could very well be what you experienced after you changed how you dealt with the explosions.  You stopped spanking, the behavior began to dwindle, but then resurfaced ten fold - this generally occurs when a behavior is about to end, it's like they need to get it all out of their system before they commit fully to the new routine.  The more attention a tantrum gets, negative positive or otherwise, the stronger that behavior becomes.  Like mamazee said, ignore it, remove yourself from it, and let it happen (within reason so long as there's no eminent danger in doing so), then regroup afterwards.  Giving in to stop the tantrum has only served to strengthen the behavior so be prepared for one heck of a bucking in the beginning because once they become used to getting their way, they put up one heck of a fight since history has proven someone will eventually give in - the key is to not give in.  There's also a big relation between behavior and diet.  So if you haven't already, I'd seek out a naturopath to rule out any underlying deficiency or even a mild sensitivity.  My 2 yo was fine with gluten at 9mos, but tested mildly sensitive her last visit around 23mos, and in just the 2wks following a GF diet, her tantrums have been really quite mild and less frequent than they had been previously. Just something to consider.

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#6 of 6 Old 11-15-2013, 11:30 AM
 
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Hi JSari - that sounds really tough.  I feel for you!  I have an absolutely wonderful website to recommend to you.  Handinhandparenting.org.  It's Patty Wipfler's website, and it has the most amazing advice for helping children with their anger in a positive way.  They advocate a technique called "staylistening" where you set a limit kindly and gently and then stay with the child in a warm and loving setting as they work through their rage.  After my son turned 3 we noticed his tantrums getting worse, and didn't know what to do.  Someone told me I should make him go to his room by himself when he did this, and we tried it.  It worked in that the tantrum would stop for the moment because he wanted to be with me, but then the tantrums started getting more and more frequent and severe.  Then I found Patty's website and started "staylistening" with him.  When I set a limit and he rages, I take him (sometimes forceably but gently) to a safe place, usually our bedroom or his, and stay with him while he works through his rage.  I let him cry as long as he needs to and don't try to get him to stop.  I just try to convey empathy (while maintaining the limit) and tell him "I am here to help you and keep you safe while you get your angries out.  I will never leave you."  If he tries to hit me or destroy things I gently restrain him, and say "I can't let you hurt me."  When it is done and he can hear me again, I also repeat over and over "I love you when you are happy and I love you when you are sad and I love you when you are angry" etc so he knows it's safe to feel those emotions.  Within a week things dramatically improved in our house.  We definitely still have tantrums but now the tantrums work as effective emotional releases.  He seems to feel immensely better afterwards, and our connection is so so so much better.

 

I also tought him (in a calm moment) that sometimes when people are angry or sad they feel better when they hug someone they love.  Now after he has raged a few minutes, he will throw himself into my arms, and say "I want 20 hugs!"  When we get to that point I know he is almost done.

 

My decription above is a very shorthand description of what's on the website.  I really encourage you to go there.  You can get audio presentations or pamphlets, and they have individual consultations.  You can also set up a listening partnership with another parent.

 

Good luck to you!

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