DS is 3.5 and generally a pretty good listener. However, he does have those age-appropriate moments when he can't seem to stop himself from doing what he's been asked not to do. Lately, it's been really frustrating, and he's been arguing and backtalking a LOT. (For example, he's trying out the word "stupid" and called me that the other day. I told him that wasn't a very nice thing to say, and he said, "Yes it is." I told him I didn't want to be around someone saying mean things and that he'd have to go to his room where I can't hear him if he wanted to continue saying it. Now ever since, he'll just say, out of the blue, "That's not nice. Go in your room." He's testing...)
Just now, he was playing with a toy and started banging it on the wood table. I reminded him that we don't bang on the furniture, and he didn't stop. So I said (a little louder and more firmly), "Stop now or I will take it away." Before I could even finish that little sentence, he said, "You know what? Go in your room." Then he continued with that kind of thing, refusing to listen to me, and basically digging himself a hole. It basically escalated, and of course I realize I shouldn't have engaged, but what do you do in that situation? I engaged by explaining that I simply wanted him to stop banging on the furniture, and he went completely rude and disrespectful on me. I don't take that kindly. I lost my temper, and he went crying into his room. I called him back in, told him I never sent him to his room, and to start listening to me. Then I explained AGAIN that we don't bang on furniture. End of discussion. He went voluntarily into his room. Fine, he's allowed. But then he started crying that he wanted a hug. I told him that he could come out and get one anytime he wanted, as I hadn't put him in his room to begin with. Then he ASKED if he could come out. I repeated that of course he could, b/c I never told him to go in there in the first place. He came, got his hug, and asked if he had to go back in his room. OMG, REALLY??? He has no special needs that I know of, and his teachers at preschool have never expressed any concern over his intellect or development.
What do you even say to that? I asked him if I told him to go to his room, and he nodded. I said, no, YOU went on your own, right? No.
I know better than to argue with a 3-year-old, but what do you even say in these circumstances?
Two quick thoughts:
Have you worked on telling him what to do, rather than not? Especially when they get in these oppositional phases, saying "we don't.." or "don't..." is going to inspire the "but I can..." response. So, for the wood table, if you told him -- bang it on the floor/couch/pillow, there isn't the 'don't' aspect and it helps. It also tells him what to do.
I take several approaches when my kids 'backtalk' -- sometimes it's an honest "that was rude. Please say that politely". Sometimes, I can't help myself and I burst into laughter. that's probably what I would have done if he'd told me "go to your room". It's such an obvious power play that I find it funny. If I can, I try to make it more playful. "I won't go to my room, but I will go to China! See you later..." If your child can handle it, sometimes a 'mock' argument will fill their needs. "Oh no, I went to my room last time. It's YOUR turn this time. You go to your room." If you can give him a safe space to argue, it might help.
Finally just remember that I swear 3 year olds live in an altered reality. They really have no sense that what you think is different from what they think. In the end, he probably did think that you sent him to his room. HE thought you did, so how could YOU think differently? Remember this is the age where kids play hide and seek by hiding their eyes. So, arguing about differences of opinion is useless. You can borrow a phrase from a preschool teacher friend of mine "Oh, I see we have different ideas about that."
Lynn, as usual, you are right. As much as I try to always use "do this" instead of "stop that" I haven't been doing that with the backtalking and slipped out of it yesterday as well with the furniture issue. (Usually we say, "On the floor only, please.")
Mock arguing only makes him angry. I've been pretty playful with him ever since he could say "no," but lately that routine makes him frown and swat at me. If I even argue just using words, he gets more upset. So then we end up with an even bigger issue, b/c we don't hit (yeah, I know) and if he can't be nice he goes to his room.
I just can't seem to help him break the cycle. And even with DH, if DS feels him getting frustrated, DS will just say, "That's it. Go to your room." Sometimes he'll even get up and go in himself, when really, DH simply repeated himself a second time to remind DS to sit nicely at the table. It's like a downward spiral and as much as I'm trying to stay neutral, it gets so out of hand more often than not.
(And yeah, lots of times I burst out laughing, but that only fuels the fire. I try my best not to laugh at unwanted behavior, for obvious reasons.)