3 year old - what to do?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by tracyfm, Mar 18, 2009.

  1. tracyfm

    tracyfm New Member

    I have a 5 year old son, a 3 year old son and a daughter who just turned 1 year old. Our 5 year old was not the typical child, no tantrums, very sweet, so I got lucky with him. Our 3 year old is more the typical child & I have no idea how to deal with him. He turned 3 in November but still won't potty-train. He's very inconsistent with it, some days he wants to go but most days he downright refuses. He refuses to go at daycare & they want to move him down to the 2 year old room for a few weeks to see if he'll pick it up. Not sure what to think about that one.

    The other issues I have with him are that he will cry at the drop of a hat. If it's 10am & he wants lunch and I say, wait until lunch - cry. If I am in the other room & he wants something and I say, I'm coming in just a minute - cry. He cries about everything & immediately after saying no or just wait, he will wail. I don't know what to do about it! He also can get very mean, throwing things, biting. I try time-out but it takes an hour to get 5 minutes of quiet time-out.

    He also doesn't sleep well. It takes an hour after our normal routine for him to fall asleep. He gets put in bed & he gets up to come to my room no less than 10 times. He will get up & say he's hot, or that he needs water or that he loves me. I cover him up & leave. He gets up 3 minutes later for me to cover him up again. And he gets up in the middle of the night, 2 or 3 am, to come lay in my bed. I tell him no & he screams. I don't want him waking up his little sister! I take him to his bed & he cries and screams not to go back to bed.

    Please help! I want to think that this is normal 3 year old behavior, normal middle child behavior, normal behavior for a child who just got a new baby sister but I'm worried that I'm missing something or doing something wrong! I don't want to feel this way but I feel like I'm a bad parent because I can't figure him out. I don't compare him to his older brother but he was just a very easy child to raise & I don't know how to control this behavior.

    Thanks for listening!
  2. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Hi Tracy,

    Unless the behavior is very extreme, it's really hard at age three to know what you've got on your hands. There's a wide range of "normal" at this age. Some kids are better sleepers, some more toleratant, some more sensitive, some bossier, some with difficult personalities, etc. It makes it tough as a parent to determine if the little darlin's have some needs or are just regular three year olds with an edge.

    For me, what really matters is given all the issues, how well the child and the family functioning. When you're going through the potty training days it seems like the biggest problem ever, but in hindsight, outside of preschool, most parents find it wasn't so big after all. In the whole scheme of life, if it's come to be a battlefront, personally I'd set that one aside for now. Now crying immediately when his expectations aren't met, being mean, and not sleeping well can add up to some very difficult behavior! I'd suggest keeping a behavioral log for starters and see if you're seeing any patterns ie, do meltdowns occur on the same day that he has certain foods, or is he more difficult when he doesn't sleep, etc.

    What it does sound like to me is that you might have a child who isn't very flexible on your hands so maybe he just isn't ready for where you want him to be right now. Look carefully at your day for changes that might make life easier on both of you. For instance, many of us have found that feeding a child a healthy snack or early lunch when they're asking for food is a lot better than waiting until noon and living with a meltdown. For a lot of years I fed one of my kids according to when he asked for food and not by the clock and life was much better for it! Try playing around with bedtimes or seriously changing up bedtime routines to see if something works better. For instance, everything you'll ever read about computer games tells you they are stimulating and should be avoided at bedtime but I have a child who is settled down by 10-15 minutes right before he heads back to get ready for bed. I'm not saying to use computer games at age 3, just giving you an example that what's going on for a bedtime routine might not be serving the purpose and need to be rethought. Check out the thread about The Explosive Child at the top of this board for more ideas.

    A few questions:
    1) What's the family mental health history like?
    2) Any speech delays or differences?
    3) When he's sleeping with you do you notice a lot of jerking or kicking around?
    4) Are you seeing over reactions to things like foods, clothing, lights, sounds, etc?
    5) Anything else unsual developmentally?

    Hang in there--we're just parents so none of us can tell you what's up but I think we can give you some help.
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think your five year old is the normal one. Believe it or not, most young kids DON'T have lots of horrible tantrums. They may have a few, but not often and they stop pretty quickly. I raised five three year old and the only one who acted like yours was my autistic son--I'd say your son's behavior is atypical and I'd watch the three year old, especially his development. Are there any psychiatric problems on either side of your child's biological family tree? That can give you a good clue as to what MAY be transpiring. Any substance abuse? If it were my child, I'd at least take him for a screening of some sort. It won't tell you any surefire answers at his young age (unless it is very obvious, which is rare), and something more can crop up later, but maybe he needs interventions at a special school setting. I believe his behavior is over-the-top (and I've raised lots of kids...lol). Welcome here :)
  4. Auntie

    Auntie New Member

    I never tried to keep my child quiet in time out: it was too hard for him. 1 minute per year of age REGARDELSS of if he was fussing was the penalty. I realize that most kids can do better, but my son could not and so he was not expected to.

    And, he needed frequent snacks: I eventually kept a basket of snacks (crackers, fruit) on the table so that he could help himself. He was very proud that he could get his own snacks!

    It DOES sound like your child is inflexible, and it also sounds like he is overwhelmed. Other than that I cannot say! Heavens knows that toddlers *CAN* get overwhelmed, it is a big and sometimes frustrating world!