3 year old son out of control...

detty

PF Regular
Aug 12, 2009
66
0
0
We are having problems with our 3 year old son. He throws these incredible tantrums that my wife and I don't know how to respond to. It's getting out of control.

For example, the other day my wife dropped him off at his day home and he had one of his typical fits. He didn't want to go. He screamed, he cried, he struggled--which is normal for him--but this time he wouldn't stop throwing a tantrum even after my wife left. She went to school (she's a teacher) and got a text message a little while later from the day home saying that our son was out of control and that the care giver didn't know what to do. So my wife had to call her mother and get her to pick up our son and take him for the day. So essentially, our son threw a tantrum and as a result, he got what he wanted.

For another example, today I took my son to swimming lessons. He threw another one of his typical tantrums--he did not want to go--and it was a struggle getting into his car seat--he kicked, called me "stupid," he even hit me, and every time I managed to get one of the seat belt straps around his arm, he'd take his arm out. But I finally got him strapped in. He calmed down a bit on the way there, but when we finally got there, he went into a fit of rage again. I didn't want to give in to this--take him back home just like he wanted--but I had no choice--I <I>can't</I> take him swimming when he's like that. So we went home; he got what he wanted.

Nothing really phases him, nothing teaches him not to misbehave; we give him time outs, we take away treats for bad behavior, we give him treats for good behavior. We try to make an example of his older sister--when she behaves well, she gets rewards. I've tried taking away his toys, or not letting him watch movies that his older sister gets to watch--all sorts of things. The problem is we're competing with an incredibly powerful reinforcement: he gets <I>exactly</I> what he wants if he throws enough of a tantrum.

His sister went through a similar phase when she was his age, but it wasn't nearly as bad. She never <I>hit</I> her parents--and I try to be stern with him when he does that; I raise my voice and say "NO! YOU DO NOT HIT!" but he just does it again. It's almost as if he has oppositional defiant disorder. I've heard that boys are worse than girls during this phase, but I wish I knew it was a phase (if it is) because, if it's not, it's only going to get worse. What if he starts breaking things? He's already banging on his bedroom door really hard when we give him a time out. What happens when he learns to unbuckle his seat belt? How are we going to convince him to keep it on?

It's getting to the point where he's controlling us more than we are him.

Has anyone else had to deal with this kind of behavior? Is it a phase? Do we need to be more harsh with our discipline (I don't know how we could without turning it into child abuse)? Is there some kind of reward system we can use? If so, how would the rewards compete with the reward of getting exactly what he wants just by throwing a tantrum?
 

akmom

PF Fiend
May 22, 2012
1,969
0
0
United States
Let's back up a little. I have a three-year-old right now, so I'm familiar with the stage. My daughter knows many phrases, but is for the most part unable to communicate complex statements. I know there is a huge range in child development, but it is my understanding that boys tend to develop this skill more slowly than girls. Would it be safe to say that your son cannot really communicate a complex problem to you?

Throwing a fit at daycare long after you left would signal a concern for me. I would highly suspect that there is a significant problem at daycare. It could be a provider, but more likely another kid terrorizing him. It's very sad, but also very common for kids to harm other kids in a daycare setting, and sometimes they are very shrewd about hiding it. Just seeing some of the hidden camera footage on Facebook, and hearing complaints from other parents with children in daycare, it is heartbreaking. One of my friends' children was getting bitten daily by another kid, and the daycare staff were unable to prevent every occurrence. Even getting bit once a day is traumatic. Getting bit once a week is traumatic. Knowing that the staff aren't 100% vigilant would put a child in constant fear of getting bitten again. I don't mean to alarm you, but I think there is a high probability that something has happened or happens in daycare that is traumatic for him, and he can't communicate it to you, so he pleads his case the best way he knows how: by escalating his resistance.

Perhaps he doesn't yet know where he is going when you buckle him, and is constantly in fear of going to daycare. It might be time to have a serious conversation with staff about how he interacts with the other kids. Maybe ask to install a nanny cam for your own peace of mind. Or just find another daycare. Did he behave at his grandmother's house the day she picked him up?

You have to remember that if your system of punishment is less brutal than whatever happened to him at daycare (or that he fears happening), it isn't going to be effective discipline. That doesn't mean escalate the discipline, so he has no sense of security, but rather find the problem.
 

Emily92

PF Regular
Mar 20, 2014
40
0
0
37
This 'oppositional defiant disorder' that you are talking about, my personal guess is that 9 kids out of 10 go through this when they are between three to five years old. I have faced it myself though it gradually phased out as they grew a bit older. Tantrums were a regular occurrence at our place those days. We have always been against corporal punishment, so we tried the same tactics with the kids when they were howling - TV time cut short, not going out for ice-cream over the weekend and the like. Sometimes it helped and at other times it failed miserably. My suggestion to you would be to just try and calm him down and let him known sternly what is right or wrong time and over again. He may not listen to you the first 9 times but maybe the tenth time he will; eventually he'll probably grow out of it. And if in a couple of months or so you still feel that his behavior is showing zero improvement and he is getting worse day by day, then I feel you need to seek out a child counselor and take his advice.
 

sofysmom

Junior Member
Jan 12, 2015
6
0
0
Try all the soothing activities you can during your day. My daughter and I started mommy and me yoga at home with a gaiam dvd and I swear it helps her. I've also started taking a class about mindfulness in parenting, do my thoughts are in that area, and I understand how bad the tantrums can get but it will get better.
 

DrRonRogge

Junior Member
Apr 4, 2015
6
0
0
54
Rochester, NY
I agree with MamaLama, tantrums are a bit par for the course at that age. I would humbly suggest the book "Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood." You can find it on amazon and those authors offer some really good basic advice for managing difficult behavior like tantrums.