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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this, but I think it is related to my son's giftedness, so I am putting it here.
My youngest son turned 3 at the end of December, and is gifted-- he can read easy readers, add, subtract, and is physically advanced. He's also out of control behaviorally/emotionally. He throws tantrums where he hits, kicks, and screams at people "get away from me, shut up, I hate you, I'm gonna kick you in the face!" etc. Although reminding him not to threaten people has moved him from actual threats to threatening to threaten us.

When he is disciplined (verbally) he'll say things like, "I'm so dumb/stupid." "I hate myself." and "I feel like you don't love me." He also says those things if he does something less than perfectly, like yesterday when he was playing ping-pong (at 38" tall, very hard to do). Of course I say, "You're not stupid, I love you," but I don't want to reinforce the behavior if he's doing it for attention. It's disturbing in any situation and in public, mortifying.
Any BTDT, insight, advice to run screaming to a child psychiatrist?
 

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I wonder how he is exposed to these sorts of ideas. I know a few times DH has let my 3-year-old DD watch violent kids movies/cartoons and she has been violent almost immediately afterward, with lingering effects. We have also found that refined sugar often results in violence. And, somehow, both boredom and over-stimulation lead to meltdowns in our house. We try to avoid situations in which DD is likely to lose it and when she sometimes loses it anyway, we remove ourselves or herself from the situation and wait for her to calm down, then discuss it very gently. I think that has really helped.

As far as the comments your son makes about being stupid, my DD would never say that because (AFAIK) she's never even heard the word. We don't talk like that in our household and we are not around people who do. She does sometimes say that I don't love her, but just when she's being contrary and disagreeing with everything I say. And I can't imagine her saying that she hates herself, much less meaning it. So I guess the real issue for me is whether he is repeating something he has heard just to get a rise out of you or whether he understands what he is saying and is saying it because he means it. If he is saying it to push your buttons, maybe ignoring it when it happens and discussing it when he is calmer is the way to go. If he really means it, I think some serious thought should go into finding out why he feels that way and how you can address it. And either way, perhaps you could find a way to keep him from being exposed to such negative ideas. Poor kid.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
He's in preschool, and he has a 6 yr. old brother with 6-7 yr. old boys around all the time, so I'm not at all surprised he's heard the words before, since I've personally heard "stupid" and "hate" both at school and the playground. He knows what he's saying, I'm just not sure if he means it or is just trying to get a rise out of me. I don't know where low self-esteem would come from since he's good at pretty much everything (for his age). As a youngest child, it's pretty much impossible to shelter him from normal kid talk. He knows those words are unacceptable to us.

We are fairly liberal with media and he's seen Star Wars, Narnia, etc, which might be uncommon on MDC but is pretty typical for an American 3 yr. old. I haven't noticed a correlation between media and his outbursts, but I will pick gentle movies for a couple weeks to see if it improves.
 

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WOW, hard one here. If he is hearing those things from school and older siblings (although I would sit his older siblings down for a frank talk) there is not much you can do to keep him from hearing them. Have you sat down with him to talk about what he's saying and why he feels this way? If you honestly can not get anywhere on your own try his doctor. You might find this odd but try some extra DHA from fish or other source (I use Dr. Sears' chews) it's good for their fast moving brains. Poor little goy is right. I so wish I could offer up something more.
 

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I've read that for kids saying "I'm stupid" and other things like that you can validate their feelings "I understand you feel stupid", and then be free to disagree with them "I do not agree that you are stupid, though. I believe that you are very capable and are frustrated right now." You could also give an example of a time they showed they were thinking well, or you could just leave it.

Tjej
 

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hi,

I feel for you. We went through almost the exact same thing last year and I did finally run screaming to a child psychologist.

In our case there were a few issues I wanted answers to - tantrums/ explosive anger, low self-esteem, and general disinterest in everything. His personality changed quite drastically over the school year.

The child psychologist proposed a few things - a love-hate relationship with me, fear underlying his anger, and poor educational fit.

The first two came as a huge surprise to me, but it made me realise that the way I was handling his tantrums was making things worse, not better. I had to find a way to show him that while his tantrums are unacceptable to me, I still accept HIM. There were things he said during that period of time that indicated that he hated his own behaviour (and himself) just as much as he felt the people around him did. And the more he felt that, the more he disliked himself, and the worse the tantrums became - make sense?

Understanding that and actively changing how I manage his tantrums made a big difference. At our lowest point, leaving him alone was the best, and just allowing him to calm down on his own was the best. After he had calmed down he would meekly ask for a drink and I will give it to him calmly and after that, offer to do something with him - e.g reading/building something or go for a walk. Addressing the issue would reignite everything.

I also took him out of school and basically we just decompressed. I made a list of all the things he enjoyed doing and did them on a regular basis with him. As things calmed down, I was able to talk to him about his feelings and behaviour. I wanted to tackle the love-hate feelings first (obviously!) and made clear to him that he is loved. I had to run through my mind to find things that could have been mis-interpreted, and apologised for them. He accepted that and said I had hurt his feelings. After that, I discussed how his tantrums are unacceptable to me, and I need to have a way to show him that. He said that when I glared at him he felt as if I hated him (didn't realise I was doing that), and I apologised and said I will find another way to tell him, but I would make an effort to stop the glaring because I most certainly do not want him to think that I hate him. After that we hugged and made up.

At the same time, I limited visits from my mother, who conflicted with me on many child-rearing issues and is very possessive over my younger child.

The tantrums have ceased completely. While he is sometimes still up to oppositional behaviour, it is definitely much more manageable now. I have brushed up on the art of calm discipline, and make an effort to reconnect with him on a daily basis.

We are still out of school. He needs a faster pace of learning and a feeling of going somewhere and progression, which he was not getting in school. At the same time, hs is probing big-picture questions (religion, war etc) and not getting good directions in school. We prefer to have him where we can keep an eye on the information he is getting and to address questions and fears as they arise. (He is a very secretive 4yr old.)

The psychologist said DS1 was rationalising things too much in his head, and recommended non-rational activities to help him cope with issues and fears that cannot be rationalised eg. art, music, clay etc.

A very long reply. I hope at least some parts are useful.
 

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Oh yes and regarding those statements - I'm so stupid/ I hate myself etc, DS1 said all that as well. As well as things like - I'm so angry I want to destroy the whole universe, I'm going to go to another planet and take off my suit so I'll die there! etc.

In his case, it's more a sympton than a true expression. Once the underlying feelings were addressed, he simply stopped saying all that.
 

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A few thoughts. We finally starting taking DD to a play/art therapist (a really, really good one) at 9 and I wish we'd done it a lot earlier. I'll echo a PP, I think it's important to reflect what you think they're feeling "Wow, that was upsetting!" [I actually find 'upsetting' to be a very useful word - it's not about sad OR mad OR scary, it's a good catch-all].

As for his media, I'm not so much on the kids repeat what they see in media (ie wrestling to wrestling correspondence), but I definitely think kids can be upset about things they see and don't understand. Personally, I wouldn't be exposing my three year old to Narnia or Star Wars etc and wouldn't use the US standard of appropriate viewing (
). There appears to be a huge rise in social/emotional/behavioural issues in young children, and I can't help but wonder what is happening for children's brains and psychology when they're experiencing all these intense, emotional and dramatic scenes. Particularly when they're developmentally working through the difference between fact or fiction. Potentially a kind of PTSD-lite. It's definitely hard to keep the younger from the stuff the older child likes.

Have you read up on sensory processing disorder? I'm not suggesting he has it, but there could be some real strategies in there for you. A lot of our kids' "tantruming" behaviours were actually either anxiety (DD) or SPD (DS). No higher order thinking happening, just reactivity and attempts to regain control. DS verbalizes to self-regulate. Two tips: when he's winding up, try to make physical contact and give him sensory input - firm back rubs, bear hugs etc, while speaking plainly, calmly and clearly "You're sure upset! Let's have a hug!" Second idea: ask him to try to make the room bigger (pushing against the wall) or to push hands against yours while you resist. You have to try this when he's not over the edge so he knows what you're doing when you try it and he's on full-on melt, but now DS will come up to me and say "push hands!" when he needs help bringing himself down.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by hottmama View Post
I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this, but I think it is related to my son's giftedness, so I am putting it here.
My youngest son turned 3 at the end of December, and is gifted-- he can read easy readers, add, subtract, and is physically advanced. He's also out of control behaviorally/emotionally. He throws tantrums where he hits, kicks, and screams at people "get away from me, shut up, I hate you, I'm gonna kick you in the face!" etc. Although reminding him not to threaten people has moved him from actual threats to threatening to threaten us.

I do remember that kind of behavior being part of my son's terrible 3.5's, which started when he was about 3.25. Being strict about the behavior did seem to help make things less frequent / shorter, but I think it would be grown out of by now (approaching 4.25) either way.

Quote:
When he is disciplined (verbally) he'll say things like, "I'm so dumb/stupid." "I hate myself." and "I feel like you don't love me." He also says those things if he does something less than perfectly, like yesterday when he was playing ping-pong (at 38" tall, very hard to do). Of course I say, "You're not stupid, I love you," but I don't want to reinforce the behavior if he's doing it for attention. It's disturbing in any situation and in public, mortifying.
Any BTDT, insight, advice to run screaming to a child psychiatrist?
I would get the book Mindset by Dweck. I think her work applies at any age.

My daughter is the one who will say this kind of thing more often (has not to the extent of your son but will throw up the despair "I'll never do a cartwheel, I am SO BAD at cartwheels" or be looking for sympathy with the "I don't feel loved" stuff. So for the first, I lecture on that there are either skills that you are working on or skills that you've mastered (or some other work-based lecture). Frankly I feel that launching into a lecture in and of itself may discourage the behavior even if it happens to fail to change the mindset, and curbing negative self-talk is probably beneficial in curbing self-defeating attitudes.

As for the "don't feel loved" angle, it's a trigger he's figured out how to push and it's a pity-party he's enjoying. If he's like my kids, it is a reality I don't know how to do differently that my world revolves around them as a SAHM, they are cuddled, nurtured, invested in and by and large I am both full-time staff and mother. And my kids are less indulged in many respects that almost all the kids in our peer group in terms of me expecting them to do X, Y and Z on their own. I will say on the gifted forum, your 3 year old may not fully appreciate what manipulation is, but MY son, who did not have as many academic skills as your son at that age, was and remains very adept at things people will say that 3 year olds can't do (lying and manipulating). I don't judge it of course, the way I would an older child or an adult. But I would tell my child (at this point) that he is not to say that he doesn't feel loved because that's just nonsense and hurtful and just deal with it as a negative behavior, like nose picking or pulling someone's hair. Ignore it, or come up with some natural consequence.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Wow! There have been so many great responses!
deminc-- I do think he feels that he is unliked when it is his behavior we don't like. I'll try some of your ideas for managing tantrums. I've been trying hard to empathize with his feelings the past couple days and always say "I love you" when I'm trying to calm a tantrum, and pay enough attention to be able to step in *before* he tantrums. I do think that, like pigpokey said, he is being a bit manipulative when he says he feels like I don't love him. But just needing that reassurance is understandable, when he's feeling so unlikable.
joensally-- I don't think he has any sort of sensory issues. My older son is a bit sensitive to rough textures, bright lights, and loud noises, but this little one hasn't shown anything like that. I usually say "upset" but I don't think I've been empathizing enough. It's sometimes hard to understand how things that seem so minor to us can be a big deal to a 3 yr. old!

Two days ago I gave him a jar with $2 in change that I take 5 cents from every time he says dumb, stupid, shut up, or hate. He has $1.70 left and the 30 cents were lost all at once. I think stopping the language will make a difference. He hasn't said anything negative about himself in 3 days. I also (and this might be a big duh) took away both boys' light sabers and ruled against violent pretend games. At this point, I'm determined to have a violence-free house even if that means limiting their play. My older son's friends are looking at me like I lost my mind.

I think this is just a phase. He's generally a good kid who just has very intense emotions, and if we can teach him to handle them, he'll be great. I've never met anyone who can be as angry, as happy, as sad, as him. It's not really fair to focus on the anger until I see him as an "angry kid."
 

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hotmama,

hm, my son never actually said that he felt unloved during our bad patch. He's a private sensitive child and the L-word is something that he can only say when he's feeling secure. And when he was really in one of his screaming I-want-to-destroy-the-universe tantrums, saying the L-word would just drive him over the edge. He was a ball of fury and the more you tell him he is loved, the more he hated it. He only wanted to be left alone. While he was at it, it was definitely not for attention - which was why I was so worried.

NOW that things are so much better, he will sometimes say he doesn't feel loved when he is being disciplined, but I'm quite impervious to it. I simply tell him in a calm but firm manner (no more glaring! no more raised voice!) that love and discipline are separate, and I make it clear that I need him to follow certain rules for the good of everyone. I also tell him that I rather discipline him at home now, than have him behaving badly in society and being shunned by everyone, simply because I did not do my job as a mother to teach him social rules and right from wrong. He gets it right away and will usually apologise.

The one thing I wished I had realised earlier during his tantrums was that in his case, it was a reflection of how lousy he felt. And the worse he felt, the more easily and more violently he would lash out at the people around him. After all aren't we all much more tolerant and forgiving of others when we feel good about ourselves? By trying to clamp down on his tantrums in all the wrong ways, I made things worse and created a rift between us, and that in turn, made him even more aggressive and explosive because I am the most important figure in his life.

It's still an ongoing process. I spent a bit of time reading up on anger management, and explaining to him why it's important to manage anger and frustration - that it clouds our judgement, and can get us into trouble unnecessarily. I also gave the analogy of how anger is akin to fire, a good servant but a bad master, and the ways in which anger can be positive. Some simple techniques like deep breathing, or what one mum said earlier - push hands etc - these really help. And I know he's listening and taking it in because now when I'm angry, he will tell me - "It's ok mum, just take a deep breath... just let it go..."


On a separate note, I'm not sure how long your child has been in school. But for Ds1, the problem only surfaced after half a year of school and things deteriorated rapidly. Taking him out was the right choice for him, and while he speaks fondly of some friends in school, he maintains that he doesn't want to go back to any school. DH wanted to send him back to school recently, and DS1 cried a puddle in the sofa. There's still a stain there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hmm. Interesting thoughts about school. I'm a homeschooler-- my 6 yr. old has always been homeschooled and I'd prefer to have Luka at home. He insisted on going to school, at age 2.5, and we found a great co-op preschool. He loves his teacher and his classmates, and I really don't think any of his issues can be traced to school. It is "too easy" in his words but if I mention homeschooling next year, he freaks out and gets very upset. He is very, very attached to the whole idea of going to school and he definitely didn't get it from myself, his dad or his brother.
I think you're totally right that his tantrums are a reflection of how bad he feels. I think that I can nurture him rather than disciplining him at these times and it will make a big difference. He has very strong emotions and they get out of control and make him feel terrible in every way. It's really sad for me to think about.
 

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Just a couple of other thoughts:

I was the youngest by 10 yrs in my family, and gifted. When you are intellectually mature enough to understand that you are way behind your siblings developmentally, you are not necessarily mature enough to understand that it is unrealistic for you to expect to be at the same level as someone 3 or 5 or 10 years older than you are. Especially if you can already keep up with them in most conversations. It might be helpful just to remind your son that he is three, and that he needs to have three year old expectations for himself. Also, make sure you are not expecting more than you should. I found three hard with my son, partially because I expected him to be more emotionally adept than he was actually capable of being. He had the language and reasoning to argue with me, but not the emotional maturity to see another person's perspective.

Also, keep an eye on your older son. I know my older brother used to say I was a stupid drug addict when my mom wasn't around, and I was probably the only kid in my kindergarten class who thought it was normal to shut someone else down by saying, "Shut up, you moron"." Just a thought.

As a parent, I am noticing that my son is very able to observe what other people are doing and compare himself to them. It doesn't really help to tell him he's doing well when he sees that he's not doing what he thinks he should be able to do. I find it easier to emphasize the fact that skills have to be learned, and that all the other people that he sees doing things have learned them. And to give him real, accurate, non-judgemental feedback on the things he is doing. For example, if he was trying to play ping-pong, I would say, "You are swinging your paddle properly and hitting the ball sometimes. That is a good start. It will be easier for you once you grow a little bit taller." This gives him a model of how to think about his accomplishments and perceived shortcomings, rather than being so all or nothing.

Hope that helps.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by hottmama View Post
We are fairly liberal with media and he's seen Star Wars, Narnia, etc, which might be uncommon on MDC but is pretty typical for an American 3 yr. old. I haven't noticed a correlation between media and his outbursts, but I will pick gentle movies for a couple weeks to see if it improves.
IME-- it isn't the movies. We are VERY picky with what our kids watch-- they have never seen anything like Star Wars. We don't say things like "stupid" or "hate" but KIDS LEARN these things. I remember, before I had kids, that my mom told me that kids who hit have parents who hit. HAHAHAHA! So not true, I've found. I don't spit or hit or call my 4 yo stupid, but that's what she does. (This a.m. she was mad at DH so she left a note: STOOID DADY.)

I think it's really frustrating when you have a child with intense emotions and people automatically assume that it is due to what the child has been exposed to, as though children are just vessels that we fill.

Oh, and also . . .when you have ONE young child, it is very easy to censor words like "stupid" in books or whatever. (We did and our oldest learned it eventually anyway.) Different story, IMO, with more than one and/or a child who can and will read everything.

Anyway, getting back to this . . .I don't know if it will help, but i was thinking about how frustrated my 4 yo (tomorrow she is 4!) has been . . .I took stock of the day, and realized how often I say "no" or put her off, and how rarely I say yes. I am changing that! Finally . . .I have found, with both DD, that 3 is an intense age, far more than 2 was.
 
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