time out question

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by whoami, Feb 11, 2008.

  1. whoami

    whoami New Member

    This is my first post, so I'm a little nervous. I have a ds who is almost 3 (next week) and a daughter who is 1. My ds is a brilliant, funny, and (sometimes) loving little guy and my husband and I are at our wits' end when it comes to discipline. We try and try to figure out how to interact well with our ds, but fail time and again. Maybe we are too strict, but I never wanted to be one of those mothers who let their kid get away with anything. Of course my primary role is to be kind and compassionate, but sometimes there are things ds does that are just not acceptable at his age: throwing food, being sassy/rude, hitting his sister, and most of all refusing to obey even the simplest of orders. We have addressed these behaviors many times, but they continue. Here's the problem: any kind of discipline makes him just lose it. (He also often loses it for no reason at all.) I hate spanking him, even though I do it out of desperation from time to time. Just like everything else, it doesn't work. And forget time outs. Being sent to his room immediately escalates even the tiniest of confrontations to a horrible scene that is out of control. I feel like a failure as a mom. . .all I want is to have a loving--and fun-loving!--relationship with my son and provide him with good boundaries. He seems to hate boundaries, but all kids need them, don't they? I often feel backed into a corner with no options and no hope of how to improve my interactions with my ds.

    by the way, none of this is true for my daughter. She is sweet and cuddly and compliant and sunny and has been from day one. Which reminds me of something else about my ds: almost nothing makes him happy. He is constantly whining and complaining. He hates change of any kind, even if it's a border we're removing from the wall (what kind of kid even notices that? Mine, obviously.) After reading a lot of the threads on this forum, I'm starting to realize that we aren't the only ones with these challenges and maybe we could get some help. I'm taking ds to the pediatrician next week for his well-child exam. Any suggestions for what to say to the doctor? (Also for what to do about making timeouts work.)
    Thank you and sorry for the long post.
  2. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Welcome Whoami. No need to be nervous here--you're among friends.

    I could have written your post when my child was 3. I could tell him a zillion times over not to do something and it didn't matter--very different than my firstborn who was fairly easy to handle. I'd suggest that you lay low on the discipline for now until you do some research and get a handle on what is or isn't going on. Focus on safety and let the rest go for now.

    We'll give you some help on how to approach the pediatrician and as well how to hopefully handle your son in a way he'll respond better to. Could you please tell us a little more--

    1) What are you seeing in your son that makes you describe him as brilliant?
    2) What kinds of interests and/or obsessions does he have?
    3) How is his speech--any delays, differences, or adult like speech?
    4) Is he throwing food out of anger or are there some very picky eating habits there?
    5) Any mental health issues in the family history--anxiety, bipolar, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, obsessive tendencies, substance abuse, developmental issues?

    Hang in there--I'm hopeful we'll be able to get you some help.
  3. whoami

    whoami New Member

    Well, maybe brilliant is too strong of a word to use. DS' memory is pretty incredible, though. He remembers events that happened long ago, jokes and phrases not mentioned for months, and words and explanations of all sorts, even if he only heard them once. He memorizes books. Linguistically, he has always been advanced, for lack of a better word. He has the vocabulary and verbal mannerisms of a much older child (teenager?) and is very sensitive to the rhythm and sound of language. He is also keenly observant of all things mechanical (machines, plumbing) and natural (plants, animals, birds). Obsessions/interests: how things work, how things work, and how things work.

    About the food throwing, it's more of making a horrible mess by coating his hands with food and flapping them around so food flies everywhere. Probably one of those things I should let go for the moment, right? He used to eat everything but now I never know what he will like or not from day to day.

    As for the last question, since young adulthood I've suffered from mild depression, which is being treated. A number of years ago, long before my ds was born, I also had a bout of anxiety. Other than that, no other mental health issues in either of our families.

    I could say tons of other things about ds, but I'm not sure what would be helpful. As you all know, it's a pretty emotional issue and right now I feel so overwhelmed I'm not sure where to start. Maybe a good place would be reading TEC.
    Thanks for listening.
  4. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    The Explosive Child would be a good starting place to help develop a new strategy for parenting since what you are doing isn't working well with him. Be sure and read the thread at the top of this board on how to go about adapting it to younger children. I've had really good success with this as have many other parents here.

    Given the behavioral struggles that you are seeing along with the description, I'm going to suggest that you do request that your pediatrician make a referral for further evaluation. We are just parents here--not diagnosticians--but I think there are enough red flags here to warrant an assessment.

    I'm going to give you a few links to research. See if anything here rings a bell.

    The food stuff could just be a three year old thing but check out Sensory Integration Dysfunction just in case.

    Resistance to change, strong memory, interest in mechanical things, difficult behaviors, adult sounding vocabulary/language use, hand flapping--these behaviors would suggest looking into Asperger's Syndrome, which is the highest functioning of the Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Children who demonstrate all of these traits don't automatically have Asperger's, but parents often describe young boys with Asperger's (or a diagnosis in that neighborhood) by including these in their descriptions.

    What parents usually notice first about their children aren't the symptoms listed on the formal diagnostic criteria which can make recognition and diagnosis difficult when the child is young. It's frequently missed in young children by professionals, which is unfortunate because the earlier the kids get help with their challenges, the better.

    Is he lining up toys or other objects in straight lines or formations?

    Again, I do want to emphasize that we are just parents here. We can't diagnose but we can point you in directions to consider, give you info about the diagnostic process, and hopefully get you some help with the difficult behaviors.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I agree with getting an assessment, and I thought of Asperger's too. His great memory reminded me so much of my son. I'm not sure, even if it's Aspergers, that it will get diagnosed yet. Higher functioning autism tends to get diagnosed later and we get the alphabet soup part of it--Sensory Integration Disorder (SID), ADHD, ODD, etc. But at least if you get as assessment, you can start to get help. At his age, I'd go for a multi-disciplinary evaluation. in my opinion a therapist won't be much help as far as figuring out what's going on. They don't do testing.
    Chances are your child won't understand or respond to regular behavioral methods and you will both just get frustrated. You'll probably need to find out what's wrong (to the best that you can at his age) and learn what works for him without setting him off. in my opinion, I wouldn't spank him. That tends to make our special kids even worse, and gives them the idea that they can hit when they're mad. Good luck and welcome :)
  6. whoami

    whoami New Member

    Thank you so much for your replies. I'm really going to try to back off the disciplinary stuff and try to just observe my ds' behavior (objectively??) for a while. Hopefully allowing the interactive dust to settle will help us both get some more clarity. More than anything, I want to do what is best for HIM.

    Yes, DS sometimes lines up toy cars (he calls it a train) or books (they're paving stones, he says.) He seems to get along well with other kids, but mostly in a toddler sort of way (running, silliness, parallel play). He doesn't like the noise of the vacuum cleaner or loud toilet flushes or any other loud noise, as a matter of fact. It seems to me, though, that at his age (not quite 3) it's difficult to tell the difference between normal and abnormal behavior--probably why kids aren't diagnosed earlier.

    Two other things that may be helpful to know about DS: first, he is extremely persistent/determined. This has been his primary characteristic since the day he was born. Secondly, he recently went through a big change. Four months ago, our family moved from Hawaii, where DS was born, to the Midwest, where we knew no one. I tried to prepare DS as best I could, but he has had a difficult time making the transition.

    I will definitely read The Explosive Child and also ask my pediatrician for a referral. In the meantime, I really, really appreciate your input. I'll keep you posted!
  7. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    You are so right, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between normal toddler/preschooler behavior and something that might indicate red flags. I went back and forth so many times I'd be wealthy if I'd had a dime for every time my opinion flipped. That's why it's really important to bring in professionals when there's a concern. My son started reading when he was 28 months of age and had other signs of being highly gifted so I chalked most of his behavioral issues up to being bright and marching to the beat of his own drum. In hindsight I wished I'd known at age 3 what I didn't find out until he was 5.

    I'd suggest calling ahead to the pediatrician's office and talking to a nurse. Tell him/her that you have a developmental concern you want to talk to the doctor about and want to make sure there's enough time scheduled in that appointment. Make childcare arrangements for daughter so you won't have to juggle her, ds, and try and converse with the doctor at the same time.

    Here's an article about talking with your pediatrician about getting an evaluation. You want to make sure you get a thorough evaluation and not just a referral to a behavioral therapist to get help for handling behaviors. It's important to have answers before creating a plan of handling behaviors!


    The medical community has only recently come to realize that they were failing in recognizing/referring children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, as in missing it over 50% of the time when parents raised concerns. Often they focus on symptoms that can't be seen in a 10 minute office visit such as peer interaction, eye contact, etc or else they are looking for extremes (kids that are in their own world and don't interact at all). Mention specifically that you are seeing some possible red flags for Asperger's Syndrome: hand flapping, lining up toys and books, vocabulary and speech far beyond his peers, transition problems, interest in mechanical things, exceptional memory, and very difficult behaviors--that should get you an evaluation.

    Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not saying that Autistic Spectrum Disorders are at work here--what I hope is to give you what you need to make a strong case so your doctor will make the referal to someone who has the expertise to give you a clear picture of what is going on.

    Your doctor may also mention evaluation through the local school district or county. That's helpful also, but not a replacement for a medical evaluation.

    You are right to let the interactive dust settle. Let the small stuff go, heck, let the medium stuff go for now until you have answers and have done some homework on how to handle a child that isn't responding to traditional methods.
  8. whoami

    whoami New Member

    Thank you, thank you. The link you included was very helpful. I would not have thought of calling the nurse first or having a written list ready for the pediatrician. Thank you also for sharing your experiences, everyone. That helps so much.

    I admit that I feel nervous about this huge new arena that honestly I never considered before yesterday, but already I feel so much more hopeful. Maybe there will be help for our ds/family. Even more importantly, I'm so happy about the new non-confrontational direction of our interactions.

    Thanks again.
  9. Lulu

    Lulu New Member

    Hi, whoami! I have no technical advice, but just have to say that time-outs have NEVER worked for us. Not for my 4.5yo and not for my almost 3yo. So we have just stopped them. The Explosive Child has given me much more to think about in terms of what behaviors I can live with, and what behaviors can be avoided proactively. I highly recommend the book.
  10. GinAndTonic

    GinAndTonic New Member

    There's great advice on timeouts in the book I consider to be my son's user's manual: The Incredible Years, by Carolyn Webster-Stratton.
  11. catldy71

    catldy71 New Member

    You are definitely not alone. My son is 4 1/2, we have been struggling for quite a while now. We are still waiting for evaluation (scheduled for 4/17, have been waitiing 6 months). I put it off when mine was 3 because I just didn't want to go there, thought it would get better, husband not supportive, figured it was too hard to evaluate at such a young age. Now, he is in pre-k and kindergarten is looming on the horizon, and I am just struggling trying to get to the evaluation, hoping for some help in figuring out what is going on, and helping him deal with it etc.
    So, all that said, I would write out your issues/concerns as much as possible and start with the pediatrician, ask for referal for evaluation. Get written input from any other caregivers you have had also, so the Dr's can have as much info as possible.