Help with 3 year old that doesn't listen... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 04-23-2010, 07:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So I know there are a lot of similar threads, I've read some of them.. but still needed some more advice.

My 3 year old DS lately does not listen to a word I say. He does absolutely nothing that I tell him to. It is very hard not to get mad and yell at him when he doesn't listen.
I have always been into gentle discipline, never want to yell at him or spank or put him in time out and things, but what can I do then? I feel like he maybe he needs some kind of punishment to learn to do what he is supposed to do. But I know that there are things the mamas on here do that work for them. I just think this is because instead of using Gentle Discipline I have just been lazy and permissive, and now that he is older it is really hard to deal with. So how can I fix this?
He pretty much just cries and cries whenever he doesn't get what he wants. Like lately he wants ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, cries for soo long when he doesn't get any, and ends up eating nothing at all.
And he refuses to hold my hand when we cross the street (just started this) so I have to grab his wrist while he is screaming for me to let go as we're crossing the street. Oh and also, whenever we go somewhere lately to have fun, like Chucky Cheese, gymnastics, rides, etc. we have such a good time, but then it doesn't even feel like we did when we get home because he has huge tantrums when it's time to go home.
I know this is all mostly my own fault for being too permissive with him all this time, but I want to have a happy boy that's not crying for things he can't have every 2 minutes.

I know this is kinda long, thanks in advance for reading and replying!
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#2 of 18 Old 04-23-2010, 09:05 PM
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My DD self regulates her food so if she wants ice cream for breakfast and we have it she can have some. The way I make sure her diet is healthy is by only buying stuff I want her (and us) to eat. So ice cream is bought in very small amounts every once in awhile. With the under 3 child redirection and physically helping them do things safely are two of the best discipline methods. Having a snack for in the car or the walk home can help shorten the "I don't want to ever leave tantrums". I don't think punishment is needed, but then we don't use punitive discipline at all. If we don't want our DD to do something we don't let her. We tell her not to whatever it is, give why (it's dangerous or that's too fragile) and then if she tries to continue we pick her up and move her to another part of the room. We've taught her manners and respect by modeling the behavior we want her to use. Another thing that helps is telling a child what they can do instead of using the word don't.
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#3 of 18 Old 04-23-2010, 09:25 PM
 
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Since there is a few things you want to work on I would take the one that is most important to you and work on it first. To me the holding hands while out is for safety so when my children were that age if they weren't in a stroller I said you must either hold my hand or be carried to be safe. Let him decide and it may take the edge off. When speaking to him get down on his level and gently touch him, make sure his eyes are on you then say what you want. Most times kids are listening they're just not wanting to do what you're asking/telling
As for tantruming when leaving a fun place have you tried giving him a heads up say 10 mins before and then another when he has just a couple mins. left? It may get his mind ready and make an easier transition.
For the ice cream issue you could say something like ice cream is good isn't it but then go on to say that the choices for breakfast are x or x. If there are no medical issues, he won't starve himself and will eat eventually

Cathy mom to 13 y/o DD, 10 y/o DD, 7 y/o DS

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#4 of 18 Old 04-23-2010, 11:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks mamas. I have done all of what you guys suggested and still it doesn't help us. I always let him decide if he wants to walk across the street or be carried. And I always get down to his eye level and look at his face and talk to him. I don't want to punish him for having a tantrum about leaving a fun place at all, I mean I understand he's having fun and doesn't want it to end, but I don't want it to be such a negative experience any time it's time to leave. I will start giving him more of a heads up, and see if that helps, Thanks.

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If we don't want our DD to do something we don't let her. We tell her not to whatever it is, give why (it's dangerous or that's too fragile) and then if she tries to continue we pick her up and move her to another part of the room. We've taught her manners and respect by modeling the behavior we want her to use. Another thing that helps is telling a child what they can do instead of using the word don't.
If I don't want my DS to do something I don't let him either, and I tell him not to too, but he still does it. And then if I pick him up and take him to do something else, he screams squirms out of my arms and freaks out about it. So of course I can stop him but not without him doing that. I would like an alternative way to help him not do things he shouldn't be doing, that doesn't cause tantrums. We've taught him manners and respect as well, I'm not sure what manners and respect have to do with this and if you were just trying to answer my questions a less offensive reply would have been to say HOW you taught her manners. I'm sorry, but what you said makes it sound like I haven't. I only said I was permissive because I never really let little things that don't matter get to me, I let him have fun and tried to have as little battles as possible, but I think that has hurt us now because he doesn't get it now when I do say and mean no.
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#5 of 18 Old 04-23-2010, 11:23 PM
 
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Have you ever read the book Playful Parenting?

I have a 3yo boy who sounds a lot like yours. And I know it's not my parenting, because I also have a 4yo who is very compliant and cooperative. But my ds2 is just a nightmare sometimes! I totally understand your frustration. I suggest that book because I have the most success when I lighten the mood and get silly and creative with him. That book will give you lots of ideas to help find the way that is right for your ds.

For the crying for ice cream thing and other times he cries for what he wants. I have started just plain insisting that ds speak in a proper tone when he wants something. Ds tends to go straight to crying/whining when he needs help with something or wants something. So, during calm times I talk to him about it and I'll ask him to say something in his whiny voice and say it again in his big kid voice. Now, when he goes straight into a tantrum over something, I tell him that all he needs to do is ask. Please use your big kid voice to ask me for help. Even with the ice cream, I might just say, if you would ask me in a nice voice, I might consider it. Please try again. Obviously not for every meal, but you gotta pick your battles, right?

And yes, I give 10,5,3 and 2 minute warnings before we leave a fun place!

Good luck, it's a rough age!

Heather-- I'm a <>< SAHM of two fabulous boys 8/05 and 2/07
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#6 of 18 Old 04-23-2010, 11:40 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mommy22boys View Post
So I know there are a lot of similar threads, I've read some of them.. but still needed some more advice.

My 3 year old DS lately does not listen to a word I say. He does absolutely nothing that I tell him to. It is very hard not to get mad and yell at him when he doesn't listen.
I have always been into gentle discipline, never want to yell at him or spank or put him in time out and things, but what can I do then? I feel like he maybe he needs some kind of punishment to learn to do what he is supposed to do. But I know that there are things the mamas on here do that work for them. I just think this is because instead of using Gentle Discipline I have just been lazy and permissive, and now that he is older it is really hard to deal with. So how can I fix this?
He pretty much just cries and cries whenever he doesn't get what he wants. Like lately he wants ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, cries for soo long when he doesn't get any, and ends up eating nothing at all.
And he refuses to hold my hand when we cross the street (just started this) so I have to grab his wrist while he is screaming for me to let go as we're crossing the street. Oh and also, whenever we go somewhere lately to have fun, like Chucky Cheese, gymnastics, rides, etc. we have such a good time, but then it doesn't even feel like we did when we get home because he has huge tantrums when it's time to go home.
I know this is all mostly my own fault for being too permissive with him all this time, but I want to have a happy boy that's not crying for things he can't have every 2 minutes.

I know this is kinda long, thanks in advance for reading and replying!
Same exact boat, in fact I could have written this exact post, even the ice cream thing. Tried everything listed, playful parenting didnt help. I am lost too.
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#7 of 18 Old 04-24-2010, 01:15 AM
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Thanks mamas. I have done all of what you guys suggested and still it doesn't help us. I always let him decide if he wants to walk across the street or be carried. And I always get down to his eye level and look at his face and talk to him. I don't want to punish him for having a tantrum about leaving a fun place at all, I mean I understand he's having fun and doesn't want it to end, but I don't want it to be such a negative experience any time it's time to leave. I will start giving him more of a heads up, and see if that helps, Thanks.

If I don't want my DS to do something I don't let him either, and I tell him not to too, but he still does it. And then if I pick him up and take him to do something else, he screams squirms out of my arms and freaks out about it. So of course I can stop him but not without him doing that. I would like an alternative way to help him not do things he shouldn't be doing, that doesn't cause tantrums. We've taught him manners and respect as well, I'm not sure what manners and respect have to do with this and if you were just trying to answer my questions a less offensive reply would have been to say HOW you taught her manners. I'm sorry, but what you said makes it sound like I haven't. I only said I was permissive because I never really let little things that don't matter get to me, I let him have fun and tried to have as little battles as possible, but I think that has hurt us now because he doesn't get it now when I do say and mean no.
I did say how we taught her manners. It was by modeling. I wasn't trying to be offensive or suggest you hadn't taught manners, I was just listing a few ways we discipline and modeling a behavior we want is one of the main ways we discipline. Manners were one of the easiest things to teach by modeling. Being helpful and cleaning up stuff was something that took a lot longer to teach by modeling, but it's finally starting to kick in at 4.5. For example my DH and I use please, thank you, your welcome, I'm sorry, no thank and a few other polite phrases when talking to each other and her, and always knock on her door if it's closed before entering. DD picked up thank you and your welcome really early. With the helpful behavior DD asks us if we want stuff, dusts, empties canvas grocery bags as I put up groceries .... etc. just from seeing us be helpful to each other and her.

3 year olds still have a lot of difficulty with impulse control. So it's pretty normal for them to not do what we ask them to do. It's not your DS doesn't understand he just can't resist. Also tantrums are still pretty normal for many 3 year olds too. Just because you're getting this behavior doesn't mean you've done anything wrong. Kids go through phases of annoying behavior regardless of what we do as parents. Fortunately they grow out of it. With my DD once she could say "I'm angry!" most of the tantrums were gone. This happened about 3 months after turning 3. Some of her friends from preschool still aren't quite there.

Do you tell your DS why when you ask him to stop doing something? My DD listened better if she knew why, for example 'that's dangerous' or 'throwing that could break the TV ... we like the TV, it's fragile'. Another thing that helped was not taking the normal annoying preschooler behavior personally. They can't help not having much impulse control or having trouble with dealing with big emotions. It's just part of being that age. Staying calm and not letting myself get upset helped my DD calm down sooner.

As for books; Parents, Kids and Power Struggles by Mary Kurcinka is good. Science of Parenting By Margot Sunderland is good for understanding cognitive and emotional development.
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#8 of 18 Old 04-24-2010, 05:05 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I did say how we taught her manners. It was by modeling. I wasn't trying to be offensive or suggest you hadn't taught manners, I was just listing a few ways we discipline and modeling a behavior we want is one of the main ways we discipline. Manners were one of the easiest things to teach by modeling. Being helpful and cleaning up stuff was something that took a lot longer to teach by modeling, but it's finally starting to kick in at 4.5. For example my DH and I use please, thank you, your welcome, I'm sorry, no thank and a few other polite phrases when talking to each other and her
Oh OK then, I guess it just seemed like that's what you were saying to me because manners had nothing to do with my question, my DS has been saying please and thank you, yes instead of ya, your welcome, etc. for about a year now, so I'm not worried about his manners.

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It's not your DS doesn't understand he just can't resist. Also tantrums are still pretty normal for many 3 year olds too. Just because you're getting this behavior doesn't mean you've done anything wrong. Kids go through phases of annoying behavior regardless of what we do as parents. Fortunately they grow out of it. With my DD once she could say "I'm angry!" most of the tantrums were gone. This happened about 3 months after turning 3. Some of her friends from preschool still aren't quite there.
Thanks, I know I haven't done anything wrong. I just wanted some suggestions on Gentle ways to address this behavior. My DS does already say he things like "I'm angry" or "I'm sad" when he is too.

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Do you tell your DS why when you ask him to stop doing something? My DD listened better if she knew why, for example 'that's dangerous' or 'throwing that could break the TV ... we like the TV, it's fragile'.
Yes I have, when I say things like "throwing that could break the TV" he says "I want to break the TV" LOL!
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#9 of 18 Old 04-24-2010, 05:09 AM - Thread Starter
 
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For the crying for ice cream thing and other times he cries for what he wants. I have started just plain insisting that ds speak in a proper tone when he wants something. Ds tends to go straight to crying/whining when he needs help with something or wants something. So, during calm times I talk to him about it and I'll ask him to say something in his whiny voice and say it again in his big kid voice. Now, when he goes straight into a tantrum over something, I tell him that all he needs to do is ask. Please use your big kid voice to ask me for help. Even with the ice cream, I might just say, if you would ask me in a nice voice, I might consider it. Please try again. Obviously not for every meal, but you gotta pick your battles, right?!
Thanks so much for the great ideas, I will try these for sure. I haven't read Playful Parenting, I just ordered it last week though, so looking forward to getting and reading that now!

2cutiekitties: hugs to you too! hopefully we can get some more suggestions!
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#10 of 18 Old 04-25-2010, 06:40 PM
 
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FWIW, I totally relate to this. My DD also says things like, "I want to break it!" etc. She is hilarious and high spirited and has incredible stamina and is really challenging me to be a better, more patient human being. I feel like I have allowed her to be high spirited and nurtured that w/o stifling it too much, and now she's letting it roll, so to speak. I'm just trying to hang on.

Also I am 36 wks pregnant. This is becoming increasingly hard for my DD, and she is having tantrums, regression, and really showing that she is hurting at times. This is breaking my heart, and I just try to get us all through it a day at a time.

BTW, it's easy for me to sound all centered about this because we've had an awesome afternoon. Now this morning, when she was biting me and yelling at me, I didn't feel so zen.

Crunchy mama to my beans (11/06 and 6/04): and with DH since '02. Expected a May flower and got a June bug!
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#11 of 18 Old 04-25-2010, 10:57 PM
 
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Oh man, my DD is a lot like this! I have not read the responses so sorry if I repeat anything!

Playful things (like from the book 'playful parenting') SOMETIMES works. It was an easy read and it gives me some things in my toolbox to try instead of yelling. Like, getting dressed can be a game instead of a chore, or racing to the bathroom to see who can get their first for teeth brushing time (which can be hard to get her to do otherwise since she knows she goes to bed right after she brushes her teeth). Or I'll have the baby brush her teeth- she thinks that's pretty funny!

For the ice-cream thing. That JUST happened to us for dinner today. She wanted some ice cream cake since we had some for my birthday yesterday. I just said, "no, sorry, we can't have ice-cream cake for dinner, we need to eat something healthy" and left it at that. She told me she wasn't hungry so I just saved her dinner and ate mine. At about 7:30pm she decided she was hungry and sat herself down and ate all her carrots and chicken! And didn't even ask for ice-cream cake! It's really hard for me, but I think if I just give my 3 yr old a little bit more control over things, it helps. I always try to ask myself if I really NEED to be enforcing everything I enforce or say no to. I am really into good nutrition, so that one DOES need to be enforced at our house, as do some limits with TV and computer, and obviously hand holding while crossing the street is necessary. Maybe offer that he either hold your hand or you will carry him. He may scream either way, but I find if I really just get down at her level and explain to her WHY she needs to hold my hand (maybe not in the moment, but some time when you don't need to cross the street)- because it's dangerous and I want her to be safe from cars. I think 3 yr olds are able to understand a LOT more than I know I give mine credit for sometimes.

What REALLY has helped me put it all into perspective is what someone told me- kids have 10% impulse control per year old. So a 3 yr old still only has 30%. That means only 30% of the time can they really do what they know they should do. People act like 3 yr olds should be perfectly behaved, and that's just not developmentally appropriate. We still need to explain things to them over and over and over, but they aren't going to be perfectly behaved yet. (unless maybe they are really well behaved because they are scared of some punishment- like the case of a girl my daughters age who is really well behaved whose parents spank/slap hands/demean.... at WHAT COST, right?!?!).

Anyway, your son definitely sounds spirited, as is my daughter. I tell myself often how wonderful a trait that will be when she is out changing the world someday with her strong spirit. But that doesn't make them very easy to parent! LOL!
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#12 of 18 Old 04-26-2010, 12:09 AM
 
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He sounds a lot like my DD. For the ice cream issue, can you involve him in meal planning and preparation? Maybe if he gets more say in what there is to eat, he'll eat it. DH and I also don't interrupt our own meals for petty requests...if DD doesn't like her fork or suddenly decides she wants soy milk with dinner, she can either wait until we are done or get it herself.

For holding hands...DD loved to pull tricks like this with getting into carseats and stuff in the past and what I did was pick a convenient time, then tell her that if she wasn't ready to do X, I would wait for her....then I read a book or texted on my phone or played with the baby until she decided she was ready. She tested me on this maybe twice, then decided it wasn't worth making an issue out of it and now consistently cooperates.
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#13 of 18 Old 05-02-2010, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much for all the helpful suggestions and comments Mama2Bean and lindsayjean and nina_yyc!! I will try what you guys suggested. I didn't know that about impulse control, that does make sense though!
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#14 of 18 Old 05-02-2010, 06:55 PM
 
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For holding hands...DD loved to pull tricks like this with getting into carseats and stuff in the past and what I did was pick a convenient time, then tell her that if she wasn't ready to do X, I would wait for her....then I read a book or texted on my phone or played with the baby until she decided she was ready. She tested me on this maybe twice, then decided it wasn't worth making an issue out of it and now consistently cooperates.
That can really work, waiting like it's no big deal for them to be ready to cooperate. Of course it works better when you are home or somewhere convenient rather than exiting a store with your hands full. But it helps, definitely!

I think part of the time they can't help themselves and another part of the time they are pushing limits to see how far they can take it and both are totally normal for the age. I don't know that punishing will help at all, so don't feel like you have been too permissive and now you have to put your foot down, because that can really just escalate the battles.

I find that if I can act as if it's no big deal, then it can (not always) diffuse it and DD will give up the fight. When she draws me into it and I start getting aggravated, it just goes down hill.

With the tv thing. DD will do that sort of thing occasionally and I just continue the explanation (with few words), and maintain my "oh, it's not a huge deal, you are not dragging me into your battle" and it can really calm things down. Or I change my tone, "Well that would be silly, if you broke the tv we couldn't watch any shows!" (using an exaggerated voice of how ridiculous that would be.

Playful Parenting can really help (again not always). I used it last night, when DD was refusing to get in the tub (including hands on hips and a no-way look on her face). I felt like screaming that I would put her in there in her clothes, but didn't, I did start giggling and joked with her that I was going to put her in there in her clothes, was that a good idea, etc, and she changed her mood completely and complied.

Another great book for all ages is How To Talk So Kids Will Listen.
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#15 of 18 Old 05-03-2010, 02:41 AM
 
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My 3 year old is similar. Throw in a new baby and dropped naps and I'm tearing my hair out! I just hope it's a short phase. I feel like I'm treading on eggshells all the time because anything can set him off. For instance, this morning he had a meltdown because I peed before him! I think some kids are just this way and all the parenting tips in the world will only help so much. I have to say that some of the responses on this thread made me roll my eyes because I do all those things too and they don't really work with my kid.

Having said all that, I am going to read Playful Parenting because I have been able to head off tantrums a few times with silliness. Also, I try to make sure he is well rested (hard with the no nap thing) and try to remember to get a quality snack in him every couple of hours.

I don't really have any advice except to try to remember that at some point it WILL get better. Good luck.
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#16 of 18 Old 05-03-2010, 04:04 PM
 
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I highly recommend "kids, parents and power struggles"... it is so helpful.

I would just add that for my 3 year old, explaining what is coming next really helped my DD out. ie if we are going to the park, i will say on the way there, "mommy will let you know when we have 10-5-3-1 min left. i do not want you to scream or give me a hard time when it is time to leave.

Also, following through. It's hard to do. I had to leave a storytime once when DD was about to tantrum. I only had to leave that one time. As for crossing the street, btdt, i have said, you can hold my hand, my pant leg, my purse... your choice, otherwise I will be carrrying you... and that has cut down on those protests.
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#17 of 18 Old 05-04-2010, 01:31 AM
 
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First of all, props on being gentle and picking your battles with a 3 year old. I have had a rough month or two with my son who is 3 years, 10 months. I am sure there are developmental things going on in 3 year old boys. Someone today told me that as they near 4 they have a surge in testosterone...anyway this is what I do.
Holding Hands: my kids have never wanted to do it (I have a 2 year old dd too) and I have never enforced it. I just make sure there are no cars. But lately I have come to realize this isn't safe in parking lots. So now I tell them each that I love them and that is why I want to hold there hands, then I make a game of it: Is that our car? No, it's headlights are too big. Is that our car? No, it is too white...from that book series. It seems to work. Once in a while my youngest (2) screams and flops around. At that point I pick her up, and continue to hold my sons hand. My son is very much into being old enough for everything...so I have to tweak what it is about...

Ice Cream: We just don't have that kind of food in the house, or we hide it. Or if we do have it, we say: Ok, I will get a bowl of ice cream and put it right next to your toast and eggs, a bite here and bit there, and it works. But generally we don't keep it in the house.

Leaving fun places: I have been blessed thus far in this area....my kids are great with transitions. But I do give 10, 5, 3, 2, 1 minute warnings...and I give them ample time to explore, and I sometimes have some also fun waiting for them. "Let's leave this park and get some gelato." "Hey, daddy is home for lunch, lets meet him and work in the garden." Or you can have a special snack waiting in the car, a fruit leather.....

It honestly doesn't sound like your son is that different than most 3 year olds. My son is all about being so big, and therefore feels like he rules the roost. He thinks he can demand things rather than ask nicely. And gets very upset when certain things don't go his way. My challenge is to acknowledge his feelings, ignore certain behaviors (like when he calls me stupid) and maintain my calm. Because the more aggressive I feel/act, the more crazy he acts in return.
I am hoping 4 is easier.
Sounds like you are doing great.
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#18 of 18 Old 05-06-2010, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so much for the replies, I've gotten some really good ideas from you all.

The day I started this thread was after having some friends, who do spank and yell at their children, over for a weekend. Their children listened right away to them after only being told once, didn't whine, argue nothing. And then when my son didn't, it made me feel like the other mom was thinking "that's why you need to spank". She would YELL at her daughter for the same thing my DS was doing. So I guess that got me thinking that maybe my DS did need some kind of punishment for not listening, (not spanking, I would never feel comfortable doing that). But now thanks to all of you I realize that this is normal 3 year old behavior and when my DS is ready to, I want him to listen to me because he trusts me and wants to, not because he is scared of me or a punishment.
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