My son is 4 in October and our relationship just isn't what it used to be. I'm having many less-than-proud Mommy moments because I just get worn down by it in the end. Having said that we do still have days when it's all flowing harmoniously - but they have become the exception rather than the rule. Basically he is just very defiant, doing things deliberately (I can see by the look on his face and by knowing his genuine abilities) to annoy me like making a mess on the carpet or at mealtimes, throwing things really near my head, hitting and pinching me when he's not getting what he wants, etc. He has many, many tantrums per day, every little thing setting him off - and he used to be the kind of child people commented about 'He's so even tempered for a two year old' etc... I have heard that some children bypass the 'terrible twos' and have the 'fiesty threes' instead, but does anyone have any insights or tips for me? He seems to be swinging between being really dependent - wanting to breastfeed a lot (I stopped nursing on demand a year ago but continued at bedtimes, and he's now asking a lot) and being very clingy and seemingly insecure - and acting as if he hates me. He gets plenty of attention as he's an only child but because I'm a single parent I do sometimes have to just get on with cooking etc b'c there is no one else there to do it, which he gets totally furious about, no matter how I try to negotiate/make it fun for him/etc.
I Unconditional Parent (well, as well as possible!) and don't do time-outs or any other kind of punishment - have never found it necessary even - and we've always had a good respectful communication. But now most of the time he is shouting at me rather than talking to me and talking in a very disrespectful voice, so I have started to point this out and be quite firm about the way I expect to be spoken to. Sometimes I'm just bursting into tears because of the forceful way he is acting, I feel hurt and I know I shouldn't - he's just a child - but I'm pretty sensitive to people being angry with me and find it hard to take even from a little one. Until recently, validating his emotions and just hearing his 'storms' out would 'work' and he would calm down, but lately if I try any of that he just screams over me and shouts 'Don't put your mouth like that! Don't put your eyes like that! Don't look at me! Go away!' etc. Nothing seems to get through, and sometimes i have to take myself on time-out to calm down!
Bit of background: he goes to preschool 15 hours a week (two 6-hour days, one 3 hour day) and is a very sociable, well-adjusted child. When he started preschool I did notice that his ability to play alone drastically declined and he started to want to play with me ALL the time, which was very draining (I'm not a natural 'player'), and he started to show some signs of separation anxiety, but only recently has it become severe. We often go out and see others and are not cooped up in the house all day on the days we are together, but equally I try to make sure we have a reasonable amount of one-on-one time. His dad and I have been separated since he was two and he sees him regularly and seems to be enjoying that. But just recently he seems to have noticed for the first time that other families have parents that live together, and has often been saying 'Can't Daddy come with me to x?' or role playing that his dad is there, which has been really sad to see. If you've made it to the end of this, thank you so much!
No real advice, Mama, just hugs. Your son sounds a lot like my older son, who will be 4 in September. Definitely sending you some hugs and empathy, as well as subbing to see the other replies :)
Master Babywearing Educator and President of Babywearing International of Central New York
Your son sounds a lot like my 5 yr old. That's about the age he started too, although I don't want to scare you! I try to use unconditional parenting and I'm a single mom too. I am also not a natural player, sorry I couldn't help but really relate to your post. I wish I had some advice for you. Have you ever heard of or read Parent Effectiveness Training? I am reading ( slowly) through it now. It's very UP...possibly the author was one of the original UP authors? I found it more concrete than Alfie Kohn's book but there is still no quick fix or technique, as you know that is not UP. I like the active listening concept a lot. It involves acknowledging their feelings and a little reading between the lines. One day my son was tantruming about something so minor I can't remember what it was but he told me he wanted to hit me. I gave it a try. This is unconventional and I know some people wont agree with this. I said to him "you're very angry about this,so angry you want to hit me. " It caught him off guard, he looked slightly confused and then the tantrum was over, like that. That brough it to a grinding halt. Now the bad news, that was the only time it worked. You could try it out, in fact if you do I'd like to hear how it goes.
The other thing I do is ask him to take a deep breath and count backwards from five. This ocasionnally winds him down some. I am going to try some yoga poses with him, that's what I'm working on right now buying pose cards. Last night right before bed, I was tired and had enough, he started to tantrum and I had one of my own. I yelled at him and ignored him. This morning I told him, I made a mistake last night, he looked confused. I said, remember when I yelled at you, he nodded, I said, I'm sorry, I had a tantrum! He giggled, he was loving it. I said I'm always telling you to breath and I forgot, and I don't want us to talk to each other that way. What do you think we should do? He said, " you should take one hundred and one hundred breaths". He was still loving this. I said OK, he said he would count. He counted, one, five, one hundred and one hundred.
I don't want to spotlight other peoples bad moments but I think I'm going to look for examples of people young and old, having tantrums or losing their temper and talking about it. I have to be careful I don't want to do it in a way that degrades the person having the outburst.
Peace can not be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.- Albert Einstein
Thanks so much for your response,PeaceMongerMom, it's been very helpful to me. We used to do yoga together in morning but since he started preschool it's all rush rush rush and no time. i want to gently reintroduce some simple rituals like that - for a while we did blessings at my altar and thinking of things to be grateful for, and it was quite bonding. DS seems a lot more chilled right now - I think a week camping in the fresh air and him being able to have unstructured time and lots of freedom made a big difference - there were still incidents of defiance and tantrums but far fewer and less long lasting than here in the city. hopefully we can carry some of that energy with us! It also really helped seeing children of all ages with their parents at the Camp and realising that these stages pass and that there are difficulties at ALL stages.
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