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Thread: Challenging 3 year old

  1. #1

    Default Challenging 3 year old

    I have typed this post at least a half dozen times in the past few months, and then deleted it thinking things will get better. Girls, Iím in need of some serious advice!

    First, I want to say that DS2 can be one of the sweetest, loving little guys ever. I love him to pieces, but he has me stumped on how to correct this behavior.

    Levi has always been a physically aggressive (major biter from early age, although now he just hits, kicks, and recently picked up spitting), destructive child. Lately, things have gotten so bad that our sitter refuses to watch him except for 2 days a week, and after the first of the year sheís not going to watch him at all. (Her Dad is very sick, and watching him stresses her out.) This means that I am/will be splitting my kids up for childcare.

    I have tried just about everything regarding his discipline. Timeouts are basically a joke to him, and now, instead of him sitting in his naughty chair (that he completely disassembled into a million pieces), I have to put his nose in the corner. Yesterday, he peeled a ginormous piece of paneling off of my wall like a banana peel while he was in TO. At that point, I was so frustrated that I didnít even know what to do with him, so I made him sit there until I could calm down. He was in TO to begin with for coloring all over the walls in his bedroom (for the 1,102,123,163, 235th time) at naptime with his brotherís dry erase markers that were specifically for his studies. I find this out as soon as I walk in the door, so of course I feel like our entire evening together is me trying to discipline him for various things. I feel like Iím on him all of the time, and we donít even get to enjoy each other.

    So far today, heís kicked the little girl at the sitterís and deliberately shut her fingers in the toy box (all right in front of her Mom, btw). He had to be separated from DS1 and little girl until lunch time, and heís napping now. When heís told heís going to TO, he stick his tongue out with a persistent ďNOĒ and runs away. Itís awful.

    Okay, so, I guess Iím just looking for ways to correct my childís behavior. DS1 was not this difficult for me. I can just look at him with my ďlookĒ, and he stops what heís doing. Levi laughs and keeps doing what heís doing. Itís like thereís no getting through to him, but here has to be a way!

    TIA!




  2. #2
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    Ugh I am so sorry you are dealing with this! I sort of understand. DD2 does not have much of the aggressive tendencies but lots of the naughty ones. DD1 NEVER ruined anything of mine. I can't even keep track of what DD2 has done - dipped my cell phone in coffee, drew on the walls, drew on the computer, drew on the toilet (yes you read that right!), smeared lip gloss all over my laptop, pulled the V key off my laptop, drew with ,marker on my honeycomb blinds....the list really just goes on and on....

    She is also pretty resistant to TO and it's really not effective with her. It's like a game to her. If I threaten to put her in TO it's like she HAS to keep going until she finally gets there. So it just sets up a challenge for her and is a waste of everyone's time.

    Sadly I don't really have any advice I recently started a ticket system where I printed a bunch of positive behavior tickets from some site online (if you google 'printable behavior tickets' you will probably find it otherwise you can make your own based on your needs. When I catch her doing positive stuff she gets tickets in a jar and the tickets can be used for things like using the kindle, watching TV, etc.

    The other other thing that gets through to her is threatening to take stuff away like spongebob or kindle or whatever.

    Oh we also use a traffic light system for both girls. It worked well when we started it but now I think DD2 doesn't care anymore. I got a big traffic light cutout at a teacher's store and put velcro on each light and 2 velcro tabs with their names. When they start to act up they move to yellow. Red means either time out or lose a privilege. It's fairly effective.

    I fear for you that Levi just has hit the "evil 3s" and it's gonna be a challenge for the entire year DD2 hit it right before she turned 3 and I think she is JUST starting to ease up...she will be 4 in Feb. DD1 was awful from the day she turned 3 until the day she turned 4. It's just a brutal age!!!

    I hope that isn't the case for you and I hope you get some good advice!



    ETA: Also - what kind of behavior tactics does the babysitter use? Maybe she isn't keeping him busy enough?
    Last edited by macksmom; 12-06-2012 at 01:04 PM.
    Thing 1 (8), Thing 2 (5), Thing 3 (2)

  3. #3

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    Oh I so sorry you're having to deal with that. Some kids, for some reason just have that type of personality and it changes the way you approach parenting. I heard a phrase one time that sticks to me..."you should praise a child at least 10x more than you say 'no'". So, my advice (and perhaps you already do this a lot), is to try more positive reinforcement. Do you feel he is calling out for more attention? I see you have 3 kids and he is the middle...perhaps a little one-on-one time with him away from the others might help too...over time.

    Best of luck to you! It is so stressful...but just hang in there!
    ~Jenn~ Mom to Ethan - my heart surgery survivor - born 6/29/09

  4. #4
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    So we are not there yet with the destructive behavior, but time outs didn't work for DD. she didn't get the point of a quiet corner or time out chair. She would sit there and enjoyed it. Now when she starts to act up, I give a warning and then use vinegar. Better than spanking (I was too mad to do this one) and isn't toxic like soap. I only have to use it every month or so. When she tests me to see if I will do it. After warnings, I get the vinegar out and put a little on my finger and then on her tongue. Now that she knows what it is, I have an extra step of warning, then can smell the vinegar, then a little taste.
    If it doesn't work the first time, I have had success at asking if she wants vinegar again or a hug. She always picks the hug and we calm down and appologize if necessary.
    So the kid will probably never like vinegar dressing, but it works for now. LOL.
    Good luck!


  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by macksmom View Post
    Ugh I am so sorry you are dealing with this! I sort of understand. DD2 does not have much of the aggressive tendencies but lots of the naughty ones. DD1 NEVER ruined anything of mine. I can't even keep track of what DD2 has done - dipped my cell phone in coffee, drew on the walls, drew on the computer, drew on the toilet (yes you read that right!), smeared lip gloss all over my laptop, pulled the V key off my laptop, drew with ,marker on my honeycomb blinds....the list really just goes on and on....

    She is also pretty resistant to TO and it's really not effective with her. It's like a game to her. If I threaten to put her in TO it's like she HAS to keep going until she finally gets there. So it just sets up a challenge for her and is a waste of everyone's time.

    Sadly I don't really have any advice I recently started a ticket system where I printed a bunch of positive behavior tickets from some site online (if you google 'printable behavior tickets' you will probably find it otherwise you can make your own based on your needs. When I catch her doing positive stuff she gets tickets in a jar and the tickets can be used for things like using the kindle, watching TV, etc.

    The other other thing that gets through to her is threatening to take stuff away like spongebob or kindle or whatever.

    Oh we also use a traffic light system for both girls. It worked well when we started it but now I think DD2 doesn't care anymore. I got a big traffic light cutout at a teacher's store and put velcro on each light and 2 velcro tabs with their names. When they start to act up they move to yellow. Red means either time out or lose a privilege. It's fairly effective.

    I fear for you that Levi just has hit the "evil 3s" and it's gonna be a challenge for the entire year DD2 hit it right before she turned 3 and I think she is JUST starting to ease up...she will be 4 in Feb. DD1 was awful from the day she turned 3 until the day she turned 4. It's just a brutal age!!!

    I hope that isn't the case for you and I hope you get some good advice!



    ETA: Also - what kind of behavior tactics does the babysitter use? Maybe she isn't keeping him busy enough?
    My goodness! Sounds like our two are very similar. Levi has also colored on the toilet (with bathtub crayons, though) and has this fettish with flushing things down it. I had gotten pencil grippers for Luke in the mail, and I hadn't even had them a day and Levi flushed one.

    I cannot ever leave Levi in an adjacent room by himself...not even for a second. If I cannot see him, I'm asking where he is and searching for him. This becomes an issue when he needs to go potty, for example. I feel like a crazy hovering mother, and I don't want to be that way!!

    One thing that really gets his attention is when I take away my serving spoons (I know, so weird, but he loves to play with them). Typically, this happens because he has hit someone. Once I take those away and put him in TO, he doesn't hit with them again. Maybe not allowing him to play with Mommy's serving spoons for other things is something that would work?

    I like the ticket idea. We have so far gone through two different types of behavior charts, and neither really worked for us. I might give this a whirl and see if it helps! Thanks for the suggestion.

    Quote Originally Posted by bzjenn View Post
    Oh I so sorry you're having to deal with that. Some kids, for some reason just have that type of personality and it changes the way you approach parenting. I heard a phrase one time that sticks to me..."you should praise a child at least 10x more than you say 'no'". So, my advice (and perhaps you already do this a lot), is to try more positive reinforcement. Do you feel he is calling out for more attention? I see you have 3 kids and he is the middle...perhaps a little one-on-one time with him away from the others might help too...over time.

    Best of luck to you! It is so stressful...but just hang in there!
    I like this, and have heard it too. Good advice! I was thinking about the attention issue, too. I've been doing more with him 1-on-1. Also, we have an alt sitter for him (due to original sitter refusing his care) 3x's a week, and he's fine for her until DS1 gets home from preschool. So, I'm thinking that that may have a bit of an impact. But really, he started acting out when he turned 2 before DD came along and it's just progressively gotten worse. So, while that may contribute, I don't think that's the sole reason. I'm hoping that, when he's by himself with alt sitter 100% of the time, that will help things a bit. On the flip side, I'm worried that he won't learn how to cope with conflict with other children, and that will be an issue when he starts preschool next Fall.




  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by soniabee View Post
    So we are not there yet with the destructive behavior, but time outs didn't work for DD. she didn't get the point of a quiet corner or time out chair. She would sit there and enjoyed it. Now when she starts to act up, I give a warning and then use vinegar. Better than spanking (I was too mad to do this one) and isn't toxic like soap. I only have to use it every month or so. When she tests me to see if I will do it. After warnings, I get the vinegar out and put a little on my finger and then on her tongue. Now that she knows what it is, I have an extra step of warning, then can smell the vinegar, then a little taste.
    If it doesn't work the first time, I have had success at asking if she wants vinegar again or a hug. She always picks the hug and we calm down and appologize if necessary.
    So the kid will probably never like vinegar dressing, but it works for now. LOL.
    Good luck!
    Thank you for the suggestion! Knowing my luck, he'd like the vinegar! I'm glad that you've found an alt for TO that works for you. I hear ya on the spanking. I have tried it once with him, but I felt like complete crap afterwards and have a hard time with it anyway b/c I was physically abused as a child. Add to it his physical aggression, and I don't think that will work well for him, either.




  7. #7
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    I know the feeling and I call him my strong willed child which in turn makes me want to bang my head against the wall lol. I think these ladies have given good advice for you and I hope that you find one that works. I know that none of these will work on mine.

    Sammi(me)~DH(Troy)~DS(Kyle)~DD(Rebecca)My Blog

  8. #8
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    I would just suggest that you have to be extremely consistent. Pick your disciplining tools and every single time he does something use them. It might take a week or two before you see a significant change. Kids this age can understand loss of privileges so, yes, I would take away something that he really likes to play with or to do. He will probably decide quickly that that isn't the attention he wants from you. Being the middle child he also might just feel that the only way that he can get attention is by acting out. He needs to know that he will get attention no matter what is going on - and that good attention is way better than negative attention.
    Jessica (33) and Ryan (33). Madelyn born August 5, 2009; Malachi born December 23, 2010 and Nathaniel born July 19, 2013. Lost a loved baby 02/29/12, 05/14/12 and 07/05/12 all due a serious allergic reaction to fabric softener.
    My blog about MCAD

  9. #9

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    Hayden isn't destructive but he is VERY defiant (he's been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD). I've found that with him, punishment doesn't work AT ALL. Doesn't matter what the punishment is, it can be time out, lose of a toy or privlage, or spanking. However rewarding him for behaving and following directions works almost 100% of the time. Like homework, it used to be worse then pulling teeth; what should take him 10 minutes at most was taking an hour to do. We tried every punishment we could come up with and it just made thing worse. Then one day I decided to tell him, if he did his homework without fighting me and quickly, he could play on his DS for 10 minutes. Wouldn't you know it only took him 8 minutes that night to finish. and that same reward has work since!

    So basically what I'm saying is maybe try rewarding him for being good. Tell him when you take him to the babysitters, "if your good while I'm gone we'll go get Ice cream when I pick you up." Or whatever you think will work for him. You may have to start with shorter periods of good behavior at a time though to get him to remember. So maybe give the babysitter some candy to give to him half way through the day if he's good up until then, or something to reward him...

    *Kimberly* Mommy to Hayden (7), Alexis (5), Makenzie & Brooke (18m)!
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  10. #10

  11. #11

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    I second this book:
    Quote Originally Posted by mommabert View Post
    My 1st is VERY strong willed. Sounds alot like your DS but he has gotten older and it has gotten easy. We use the setting limits book and Love and Logic with him. As well as "Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline" By Dr. Becky Bailey. We kind of blend the 3 and have found a good fit with him. Being VERY consistent is Key. Follow through. If you say, If you blow bubbles in your cup again your chocolate milk is gone....then when they do it again it is taken away without any second thoughts. Etc.
    Sorry it does get better! I was SO desperate for a handbook on my son and thought that it was never going to end. But he is 5 now and is more mature and a combination of me knowing how to parent him better and him knowing the expectations and that I will follow through has helped.
    And my other 2 children are WAY different And easy! So I know its so difficult to understand what the difference is, but it's just how they are wired I guess!



  12. #12

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    I have also noticed that when we get in a "negative" cycle where I'm having to say NO, puttting him in Time out alot, etc he feeds on that negative and I get in a rut. So now I try and step back and regroup and change things to be positive. I know that is hard to do but it makes a world of difference!



  13. #13

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    My oldest sounds very similar to your son. He has been diagnosed with some sensory processing disorder issues which may explain why he is so agressive (he hits hard to actually "feel" it..harder than a "normal" child would-if that makes sense). TO, taking toys, etc were laughable in his little mind.

    It was getting so bad that we actually saw a play therapist. While she didn't believe my son had ODD or anything like that, in fact she said he seemed just like a "normal 3 year old boy", he is definitely a challenge! She commented that DH and I have very different views of parenting..which I knew already but it was nice to have someone else say it to DH. For example, he's a yeller and believes in spanking. I am not a yeller and do not spank. Inconsistent parenting can really confuse a child who needs limits/boundaries. The therapist also said that while some people do spank and it is effective with their child, spanking and yelling at a child who is already aggressive just adds fuel to the fire and models behavior you are probably trying to stop.

    Her suggestion was to lay down the ground rules for DS. For example: I will tell DS that he cannot throw a ball in the house or he will go to timeout. No warnings. DS throws a ball in the house. I pick him up, calmly tell him he's going into time out and set an egg timer. She suggested putting him in his booster seat (on the floor) where he can be strapped in so that he can't go anywhere and leave him alone. Tell him his TO will not start until he stops crying, yelling, etc. Once he does that, start the time and put it in a place where he can see it and know exactly when his time is up. After TO, go to him and rather than asking him why he's in TO, (in therpaist words, asking a toddler why is self defeating b/c there's rarely a good reason "why") tell him why he was in TO, make him repeat it back to you so you both know that he understands and give hugs. Rinse and Repeat. Like the other ladies have said, consistency is the key. We've been doing this for a couple weeks and he actually shapes up most of the time if we tell him he's going to TO.

    But it's still no picnic.


    I'll be honest, this 3 year old thing is for the birds. It's sosososo frustrating. Hope this helps and good luck!



  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by texaschic View Post
    My oldest sounds very similar to your son. He has been diagnosed with some sensory processing disorder issues which may explain why he is so agressive (he hits hard to actually "feel" it..harder than a "normal" child would-if that makes sense). TO, taking toys, etc were laughable in his little mind.

    It was getting so bad that we actually saw a play therapist. While she didn't believe my son had ODD or anything like that, in fact she said he seemed just like a "normal 3 year old boy", he is definitely a challenge! She commented that DH and I have very different views of parenting..which I knew already but it was nice to have someone else say it to DH. For example, he's a yeller and believes in spanking. I am not a yeller and do not spank. Inconsistent parenting can really confuse a child who needs limits/boundaries. The therapist also said that while some people do spank and it is effective with their child, spanking and yelling at a child who is already aggressive just adds fuel to the fire and models behavior you are probably trying to stop.

    Her suggestion was to lay down the ground rules for DS. For example: I will tell DS that he cannot throw a ball in the house or he will go to timeout. No warnings. DS throws a ball in the house. I pick him up, calmly tell him he's going into time out and set an egg timer. She suggested putting him in his booster seat (on the floor) where he can be strapped in so that he can't go anywhere and leave him alone. Tell him his TO will not start until he stops crying, yelling, etc. Once he does that, start the time and put it in a place where he can see it and know exactly when his time is up. After TO, go to him and rather than asking him why he's in TO, (in therpaist words, asking a toddler why is self defeating b/c there's rarely a good reason "why") tell him why he was in TO, make him repeat it back to you so you both know that he understands and give hugs. Rinse and Repeat. Like the other ladies have said, consistency is the key. We've been doing this for a couple weeks and he actually shapes up most of the time if we tell him he's going to TO.

    But it's still no picnic.


    I'll be honest, this 3 year old thing is for the birds. It's sosososo frustrating. Hope this helps and good luck!
    The bolded is totally Levi. When he wants my attention, he hits me...hard! When he's upset, he is physical...even to himself. I was giving him a bath yesterday and noticed a bite mark on his knee. I asked him where he got the bite, and he said that he did it to himself. I posted a thread not too long ago about him chewing on his fist. It's such bizarre behavior...I've never seen a child do this before.

    Over the weekend, Levi was sick so he and I spent the entire day together on Friday. I realize now that the lack of attention he has been getting since little sister came home is indeed affecting him negatively. I know what it's like to be the middle child (I am one, although I've never acted out like he is doing...different personalities, I suppose), so I'm extra sensitive to that. He's been wanting Mommy a lot lately, whereas he's typically a daddy's boy...the writing's on the wall, I'm just so disappointed that I didn't see it. Actually spending time with him alone really made me see things a bit more clearly, though, and it also reminded me of the sweet little boy he can be.

    Great suggestions above. I like the positive reinforcement idea, and totally agree with following through on consequences consistently. I'll for sure be buying that book, too, Mommabert! His Aunt bought him a monster truck over the weekend that he's totally in love with. I had to take it away after he snapped my glasses in two, and it was very affective. He was upset that his favorite toy was gone, and I explained that Mommy was sad that her glasses were now gone, too. He of course wanted to glue my glasses back together to get his monster truck back, but I told him that his truck was going to be put away the rest of the day and that tomorrow we'd work on not being destructive to other people's things or his own. He didn't break anything the rest of the day!

    Thanks again for all of the ideas! Some days, I feel so lost!!




  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by sparks3 View Post
    The bolded is totally Levi. When he wants my attention, he hits me...hard! When he's upset, he is physical...even to himself. I was giving him a bath yesterday and noticed a bite mark on his knee. I asked him where he got the bite, and he said that he did it to himself. I posted a thread not too long ago about him chewing on his fist. It's such bizarre behavior...I've never seen a child do this before.

    Over the weekend, Levi was sick so he and I spent the entire day together on Friday. I realize now that the lack of attention he has been getting since little sister came home is indeed affecting him negatively. I know what it's like to be the middle child (I am one, although I've never acted out like he is doing...different personalities, I suppose), so I'm extra sensitive to that. He's been wanting Mommy a lot lately, whereas he's typically a daddy's boy...the writing's on the wall, I'm just so disappointed that I didn't see it. Actually spending time with him alone really made me see things a bit more clearly, though, and it also reminded me of the sweet little boy he can be.

    Great suggestions above. I like the positive reinforcement idea, and totally agree with following through on consequences consistently. I'll for sure be buying that book, too, Mommabert! His Aunt bought him a monster truck over the weekend that he's totally in love with. I had to take it away after he snapped my glasses in two, and it was very affective. He was upset that his favorite toy was gone, and I explained that Mommy was sad that her glasses were now gone, too. He of course wanted to glue my glasses back together to get his monster truck back, but I told him that his truck was going to be put away the rest of the day and that tomorrow we'd work on not being destructive to other people's things or his own. He didn't break anything the rest of the day!

    Thanks again for all of the ideas! Some days, I feel so lost!!
    This is where I found the positive checks, stickers, stamps, whatever helps to have them earn back what was taken away helps...it even works with my 6yo!

    Does he like hand stamps? I also did this with my 6yo when she was 3 - they get a hand stamp for every good behavior you catch them doing. Eventually (hopefully) they will end up with stamps all up their arms and they can be reminded of how good they have been all day. A bit messy but I found it effective.

    I told myself I wouldn't let my other kids feel neglected when the baby came along but it's so hard.... It's understandable they will try for any attention good or bad
    Thing 1 (8), Thing 2 (5), Thing 3 (2)

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by macksmom View Post
    This is where I found the positive checks, stickers, stamps, whatever helps to have them earn back what was taken away helps...it even works with my 6yo!

    Does he like hand stamps? I also did this with my 6yo when she was 3 - they get a hand stamp for every good behavior you catch them doing. Eventually (hopefully) they will end up with stamps all up their arms and they can be reminded of how good they have been all day. A bit messy but I found it effective.

    I told myself I wouldn't let my other kids feel neglected when the baby came along but it's so hard.... It's understandable they will try for any attention good or bad
    The hand stamps are a great idea! I'll just have to make sure I keep them up and away, or else I'll inevitably have hand stamps all over my furniture, walls, you name it!




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