Does my toddler have anxiety?

By: Dadquestions
October 26th, 2015
11:03 am

I have a 3 year old little boy and this opinion may come with come biases but he he is normally a well mannered kid. He never really throws tantrums and in almost any situation we can reason with him to get him to do what we need him to do and has always responded very well to the threat or realization of a timeout. Last night was a complete exception and I am worried that this completely abnormal behavior is because of some kind of anxiety attack or other emotional breakdown and would love some thoughts.

Like most kids he doesn't love going to bed and normally makes up some excuse to prolong getting there. (I'm hungry, I have to go potty, I need a drink) being some of this typical go tos. Last night was no exception and like normal we prepared for them by giving him a snack before bed making sure he went potty and letting him have some water. This normally speeds up the bedtime process but last night when he asked for a snack before we left the room he became hysterical when we told him he had just had one and if he went to sleep we could have a big breakfast in the morning. Not wanting to give in and knowing he had a large dinner and snack this conversation went on for 25 minutes and lots of frustration.

I then picked him up and took him in the soon to be nursery for number 2 where I rocked him and we talked and he returned to his well mannered behavior and mannerisms and completely forgot about wanting a snack until I tried to put him back into his bed then the hysteria began again when I tried to leave the room. Frustrated I threatened timeout if he got out of bed and didn't lay down and seconds after I left and shut the door he opened it and left the room. (which he has never done before and knows is a big no no) He immediately went to timeout then into bed where he jumped right out of the second I shut the door.

Now he was no longer asking for a snack he was just being honest and was telling me what he really wanted saying don't leave me while crying hysterically. This might sound like a typical tantrum for a three year old but again I can not emphasize enough how uncharacteristic and abnormal this behavior his for him.

Out of frustration I then threatened the big guns and told him if he got out of bed I would flick his head. Which he will avoid like the plague and historically does anything we ask with the threat of a head flick. But as soon as I left out of bed he came. After following through on the threat and putting back to bed he immediately came back for more. And at this point I had to assume that there was something more than just defiant behavior if he was willing to risk multiple head flicks to not be alone.

I then spent the rest of the night in and out of his bed sneaking out after he was asleep and dragging him back back through the night when he would wake up and realize I was gone.

I have never seen him that desperate to not be alone or act even close to how he was acting. Because this was so abnormal for him I am worried that he has some kind of anxiety attack or some other physiological issue. Has anyone ever had anything like this happen before? Am I overreacting and he was just afraid of the dark? Should I seek some other professional advice? Any advice or thoughts would be helpful.


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1 comments on "Does my toddler have anxiety?"

  • artmom
    October 26, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    I'm no psychologist so I can't say whether or not it's some sort of anxiety.
    I'm just going by what your telling. Head flicks? Sort of unusual punishment. I'm not accusing you of being outlandishly abusive but this should stop. It's one thing to use reinforcement tactics, it's another to use bully tactics and head flicking sounds like something a bully does to torment their victims on the school grounds. And I don't think your son seems like a child that needs any sort of physical punishment from how you've described him.

    As for his behaviour change, completely normal. Kids will change their personality and attitude all throughout their lives. I'm sure your own parents experienced shifts in behaviour with you.
    If he has been more clingy at night bedtime just think of when it first started and think back to what could have triggered it. Talk about it with your wife or whomever is normally around him. It's probably something so obvious you didn't see it right in front of you.
    If it continues or gets worse then you should mention it to the pediatrician and maybe get a referral to a child psychiatrist or psychologist (whichever you can afford depending on where you live. In some provinces in Canada psychiatrists are covered.)
    Just keep an eye on him. Watch for other changes. But it is normal for a child this age to become more protestant. As kids get older, even this young, they are vying for more freedom and say in what goes on.

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