When my daughter was 3, I really struggled. And even when I had such a hard time with her, I was cognitively aware "this is normal, age appropriate behavior, and she is probably even on the easy side of normal" I knew a lot of it was "its me, not her". I had ppd, which I sought help for. She turned 4, I noticed her behavior improving, and with it our relationship. She became delightful to be around again. By 5, absolute dream child! 5 is such a wonderful age! (We won't discuss some of the attitude that comes along around 6-7, but still, manageable!
when my son was just turning 3 and was difficult, I sighed, did my best, and reminded myself that 3 is a really tough age and he'll outgrow it, and I looked forward to 5 when everything would be perfect! As he neared 4, I thought, "wow, where do you draw the line between normal pain in the butt 3yo, and outside the range of normal issues?" I still held out hope for 5. On his 5th birthday, I cried. BEcause he has not improved. I have nothing. I've pretty much given up. I have no good ways of dealing with him when he gets out of control, which feels constant. I've tried to observe what triggers him and when he's at his best.
A major one is presence of siblings. He can sometimes play nice with one or the other, which is lovely, but when he has one on one time he's at his best. He's so calm. He'll play nicely with toys, or just talk to me. But the fact is, he has 2 siblings and in a couple months, there'll be a 3rd. Big sis goes to school, but the little one is weaning off naps so there's no guaranteed break time from him.
Whenever I try to google advice for dealing with a difficult child, a big thing mentioned is tantrums, as though tantrums is the only issue a child could have? Tantrums are no problem here. What I observe in him is that something starts small and it quickly escalates. Tell him to stop doing something and he'll seem so pleased that he's found a way to bother someone that he'll do it more, and ramp it up, and laugh. Holding the cat on the couch too tight and I can hear it crying, "the cat wants to go, you need to let him go" and when I go over to save the poor cat, he'll kick him off, yell that he hates him, blow a raspberry at me, the go find something else obnoxious to do. When he plays with his brother, its usually very rambunctiously. In and of itself, a little consensual rough housing as long as everyone is having fun is fine. I step in when I hear the little one saying "no" or fussing. Then he'll escalate, do whatever it is more (lay on him, hit, kick, whatever) and turn on me if I physically separate them. I now cringe when they start laughing maniacally and chasing eachother around because I know there's literally only seconds before the happy turns into screaming
He's also prone to just attacking one sibling or another with no provocation whatsoever.Like walking around the grocery store as a family, both parents present, and just grabbing his sister's hair and yanking it really hard. wth? Or taking my exercise bal and chucking it right at his brother from a couple feet away and knocking him down like a bowling pin. And from the look on his face when he does things like this, he knows its wrong and he is pleased with himself for doing it.
In the car (and thank goodness we finally have a van instead of cramming them all in the same row) its really typical for him to deliberately do something to irritate one of his siblings. dd gives him very satisfying reactions that I need to work with her on, but a kid should be able to say in a normal voice "can you stop?" without that being the magic word that makes him explode into obnoxiousness (and then her reactions get bigger, and on and on) With the youngest, who he can't physically reach, he'll do something silly (hit himself in the head, make faces, whatever) because it makes his brother scream. he's not "technically" doing anything wrong, but he's doing it because of the reaction he gets.
I feel like I have no tools to deal with him. time outs "sort of" work. In that when he's in his escalating "i'm making it my life goal to run around like a tornado pushing every button i can find and tormenting my siblings" after a time out he might actually act normally for a few minutes before starting again. But omg getting him there in the first place! His room is upstairs, and he won't just go. If I'm at the end of my rope literally *screaming* not yelling, *losing my shit screaming* he might, this is a big maybe, MIGHT run crying to his room. But usually I have to drag him there. And he's getting bigger, stronger, and I'm getting, well, bigger and more pregnant and somewhat less strong! Meanwhile he's hitting, spitting, scratching, kicking, doing everything possible to make the process miserable. And often smiling about it. He will often calm down in there, but he seriously needs that alone time. I can tell he's a kid who needs his space. Its so much trouble to get him to time out that there's often times that I just ignore it even when he's being awful. Its just too much work. And I often avoid telling him to stop doing something, or giving a simple instruction, simply because no matter how I say it it just escalates him to make him worse, and, since I know he won't listen it just gives him an opportunity to disobey, and just further demonstrates how much power he has, and how little I have, and its so demoralizing I just can't bear it.
There are some things that may be in the range of normal, but are just one more obnoxious thing that he seems a little old for, or just seem sort of borderline in general. Like begging and freaking out to be carried. He knows I won't (can't!) so he won't bother with me, but when we're as a family he'll freak out of dh doesn't carry him, which is especially hard because sometimes the 2yo just really needs to be carried, and its hard for me. so he'll walk for me, but not his dad. I've tried telling dh to just stop, he'll throw a fit about it for awhile but eventually accept that he has to walk within a few weeks. It just seems like something that, developmentally, he'd outgrow by now. He's even freaked out over being carried just from the car to the house, so its not like he's tired. And bedtime, he still needs someone to lay with him till he's asleep. The boys share a room and it takes 2 parents to get them asleep, a parent in each bed. We really need to transition this to one parent, in a chair, but dh is just taking the "easy for right now" way. I can sit next to ds2's bed sometimes and he handles that better than ds1. Ugh. There's some things that point to sensory, but I really don't think he fits for full on SPD. he gets upset over loud noises, like fireworks and movie theaters (had to leave during previews once to walk across the street to the store for ear plugs) and really likes light gentle tickles, or being brushed with the therapressure brush. Another weird thing is it is he refuses to wear short sleeve shirts. most of his long sleeve ones are getting too small, and i've bought him some new short sleeve ones but he justs won't. We had 85* weather a couple weeks ago and I couldn't get him into a t shirt for anything. He also lies. Tons. His brother did it. Or the cat. Even when the evidence is airtight. Even when he's not in trouble at all and I'm not approaching him in any way that is expressing disapproval. Sometimes HE is the one to bring it up (something broken, whatever) while insisting he didn't do it.
I think he does have some anxiety too. He'll be excited for birthday parties and play dates, but when I come to pick him up, there's no "no, i want to stay longer!"..ever.. he runs out the door and grabs onto me. I arrived a little early while the party was winding down planning to just relax with him a little, but he just wanted to go. At another the mom said for the last little bit of the party he was asking for me. New fun places, like a trampoline place, he clings or wants me to jump with him, won't just let loose and PLAY and let me sit. (I don't think its necessarily overwhelmed by noises/crowds, because he's on cloud 9 at certain very noisy/crowded places that require constant parent contact)
He's fine at preschool. He's been going for 2 years so its a familiar place. His teacher has no concerns. There was some problems last Dec where mornings were really rough. I had to drag him from the car kicking and screaming, and the teachers had to hold him back when I left so he wouldn't chase me out the door. After a couple weeks of that (and knowing he was having fun at school) I did some soul searching and had to decide that I was okay with whatever choice he made. I talked to him and gave him the choice of whether he wanted to keep going to preschool or if he wanted to stop. He chose to keep going, and our drop off problems immediately stopped. There was one more incident recently, triggered by me insisting he washed his hands immediately upon arrival because he'd been eating something with peanuts in it in the car and there are a few allergic kids. And then I remembered that last Dec when he was doing the same thing, I also made him wash his hands for the same reason! Very strange trigger.
His absolute best behavior is at my sil's house. No idea what exactly it is, but its probably the one place we can go where he doesn't beg to go home. He's definitely comfortable there. When she babysits she never has any problems with his behavior, and I think finds it hard to believe that he's so horrible at home. He seems to fit all/most the criteria for ODD, but then wouldn't he demonstrate that at preschool, or with my sil?
Today was the last day of preschool. I'm so scared. There go all my breaks till Sept
The only time i get any peace is if he's glued to a screen.