My son can be a very sweet, caring, bright and funny 3.5 year old. He's always been very agreeable (even the terrible 2s weren't that bad! I thought I had luck out!) and though he is not always perfect, he's always been a great little guy to be around.
Except in the past few months, he has a tendency to be SO, SO, SO contrary! We could come back from the best day at the playground, playing with friends, getting ice cream and I ask him "did we have a fun time" and without even thinking, he'll say "nope" or "no we had a bad time!" and then grin at me. I can play it off sometimes but goodness, it's so grating to always hear negativity.
If baby sister is napping, he'll come up to me and say "I'm allowed to be LOUD! i'm a bad boy!" and then I say that we're not and he says we are and tries to scream on purpose to wake her up. Randomly in the day he'll say "I'm bad! I don't love you, you're a bad mom!" and I'm just shocked where this is coming from??
Or if aunt/grandma/grandpa ask "Can I read you a book/can I take you to the park?" or something that he usually loves, he will say "No, I don't want that" and make a face or something equally rude :/ It's embarrassing sometimes because I can tell they think we aren't strict enough with him and that's why he "gets away" with this behavior. But honestly, I don't know how to convince him to be nice to someone. I tell him over and over that we must use kind words and if we don't want something we can just say "no thank you" and rarely he'll remember this but mostly he won't.
On the other hand, there are times he can be very sweet and come up and hug me and say "i love you, mama" or "I love my sister, that's why I want to wake her up" or "I am sorry" for something he did an hour ago. and I try to remember that sometimes bad attention is better than no attention but I try so hard to give him attention all day long! I just want my amiable and sweet son back! the other day I was putting him to bed and I thought we were having a sweet moment when he said "I don't love you" :((( I almost cried but I just asked him if that was kind thing to say and he said "yes" and I just didn't know what to say and asked my husband to put him to bed.
This was a ramble but my questions are:
Is this a phase and normal 3/4 year old behavior?
Should there be some consequence for the rude behavior toward me? I am inclined to think if it's a stage he will grow out of it, but I don't want it to be a habit and I don't want to be constantly disrespected. He knows it makes me feel sad because I tell him and he still doesn't care. Is this is situation where I should "nip it in the bud" like some are telling me or is there a different way to handle this?
mama to a beautiful baby boy born dec '08 and a sweet new baby girl born nov '10
Oh no, I'm so sorry! That must be hard to deal with. My younger son went through a phase (still sort of in it) of being contrary. I think it's about control. They are at that age when they are more realizing how little they are and are upset that they don't have that much "freedom". I've heard from many parents that the threes are much worse than the twos for that reason. My son has said things or has done things that have hurt me and he doesn't seem at all phased and that hurts. His older brother was never like that, so it was a whole new world for me.
What I did is tried to (as calmly as I could) explain to him why that hurt mommy. If he didn't care, he didn't care, but at least I said something. FYI my kids are complete angels at school/with everyone else and they save their worst behavior for home/for mom and dad. My mom has told me and that my sister and me were the exact same way. She said that this means that the kids are so loved and comfortable with us and that's why they save that behavior for a safe space. I think it's a good way to look at it. My younger son has been rude to my parents, though, and I think it's also a testament to their good relationship that he feels safe to do this. I would let it ride for awhile. If it was a 5 or 6 year old behaving this way, I would say it's time "to do something" (no idea what that would be though!) but for now, just consider it a phase and try not to take it too personally.
Jean, feminist mama raising three boys: W (7), E (5) and L (2.15.13)
I have 3 slightly rude kids. And they are 7, 5, and 4. It all started with my 5 yr old learning some potty talk about school this school year and started calling his younger brother a poopoo head. So now my almost 4 yr old calls people that, or some version of that(banana head etc). He really likes to test limits and I think that is mostly what this age is all about. Finding out just how far he can take it and how people will react. My 4 yr old is a clown and so he loves getting a reaction. So we try not to give him what he wants(though his 2 older brothers laugh or continue with name calling and it escalates.). Sounds to me like your son is asserting his independence, realizing he has a choice in what he does/doesn't do and it testing those limits. He absolutely has the right to say no to something he doesn't want, so I would not make a big deal out of it and just say "ok, maybe in 10 mins you will change your mind and would like to go to the park then." Or if he had a great day and he says he didn't, don't take it to heart and just don't worry about it. Or phrase it a different way like "what was your favorite part about the zoo?"
Cassie, mom to Alex(7), Aidan(5), Andrew(4)
Totally normal behavior. 3s and 4s are very much into control and they're experimenting with what exactly they can control of other people's behaviors.
When he's rude, call him on it. I don't think you have to "nip it in the bud" but there's no reason to wait to teach him how to be polite. He may have wanted to be rude, or he may not know the social niceties of how to decline an offer gracefully. Whichever it was, when you call him on it, you have an opportunity to model the behavior you'd like to see. What I did for my kids at this age was say "Oh, that sounded rude. I think you meant, "No thanks, I don't care to read a book right now." After awhile, when I knew they had heard the language from me enough, I'd say "that sounded rude. Please say it more politely." If they refused, I'd say "I think you meant "No thank you." My kids are older now and I simply say "that was rude. Try again." I have also sent them to their rooms to cool their heels until they can be polite again. "You're being very rude right now. You need to take a break in your room until you can be civil again."
For general contrariness, I really like to use techniques from Playful Parenting. Ham it up and agree with him. "Did we have a fun time?" "Nope." "Oh, you are soooo right. There was that awful awful slide that went so fast I'm sure you were scared out of your wits. And the play structure? It was completely and totally awful." (Say it with a grin on your face.) When you start to agree with him, he'll start to point out that it wasn't bad or the things that were fun. I could say to my kids things like "Oh, you're so right, we should never go to the park again." and they'd understand it was a joke.
For being loud, try reserving some really special stuff to do while the baby sleeps, to help him get positive attention. Or, if he says "I can be LOUD NOW" respond with whispering things like "I know you could be loud, but I bet that you can't be really really quiet." Reverse psychology works wonders for about 6-12 months until they catch on! I also made it a point to say things to the baby like "I know you want me to pick you up right now, and I'll do that as soon as I finish helping your brother." when she first started to fuss. It helped ds see that he wasn't the only one who needed to wait for attention sometimes. (My kids are 3 years apart.)
Whatever you do, I think it's important to remember that they're taking their first stabs at independence, but that they don't have the social skills or the language skills to do so gracefully. Don't get upset about his lack of social skills, even if others think he "should know better". He doesn't know better. You can deflect a lot of that by visibly talking your child through what he's supposed to say, when you're with people who are getting judgey.
It's CRUCIAL that you not take this personally. He's THREE. He doesn't care that it hurts you, not because he's a budding sociopath but because three year olds have a really hard time understanding that your feelings don't match theirs. If he's not sad about what he said, why should you be? He just doesn't get it. Remember, this is the age group that plays hide and seek by hiding their eyes and thinking that you can't see them if they do that! That skill/developmental milestone comes in sometime the 4s for most kids. It's also a slow process. Even my 8 year old has a hard time seeing other people's points of view when she's emotionally upset. (When she's calm, she can, but when she feels she's been wronged, watch out!)
Thank you so much for your suggestions! I will try the Playful Parenting suggestion and I think I need to seriously, seriously not take it so personally.
It also helps to hear that there are other mamas going through it <3 Makes me feel less alone.And as for the moms who have gone through this and are reporting back, makes me thankful there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
mama to a beautiful baby boy born dec '08 and a sweet new baby girl born nov '10