Really struggling with 3 and a half year old


New Member
Hi there,
I've been searching for days and finally found some parents who might understand. I can't tell you how comforting this is. It has been a very difficult three and a half years for our family. I had a pretty uneventful pregnancy (despite struggling the second time around) with our son and although we were scheduled for another c-section (our first was an emergency and we didn't want a repeat), I actually went into labor the night before, which was reassuring because he was ready to meet us! From the very beginning, our little guy was a fussy baby. Smiled VERY late (our doctor was super concerned about this) and even when he did smile, he was never a very giggly, smiley baby. Very stoic. We always described him as wise beyond his years--almost like baby Stewie from Family Guy--as though he were a mini-adult in a baby body. Never interested in toys, always went for wires, electronics, remotes, boxes, anything that wasn't a toy. Seemed pissed that he weren't a grown up almost. Great sleeper though, which has been an absolute life saver, especially now with all the challenges. As a toddler, James was extraordinarily clingy to me. I couldn't talk, cook, work or anything else without him crying or needing to be held. He had a random cough that lasted the entire first year of his life--literally couldn't get rid of it. We thought it was asthma, allergies, pneumonia--and we tried everything to get it to go away. Inhalers, breathing treatments, steroids, etc. Nothing worked and eventually it just stopped. Doctor visits were terrible because James always freaked out moreso than normal so my pediatrician has always been a bit concerned about him. She could never get him to smile, he was a late talker, etc. I always figured he just hated the doctor's office. These days, I'm struggling with hyperactive, defiant behavior. He's a ping pong ball, unconcerned with bodily harm (although sometimes very cautious--for example, will NOT go into the water for swimming lessons) but will sprint away from us at the airport (despite being on a leash backpack) and climb the turnstile and almost go through where the luggage dumps out. We can't get him to sit through a meal, he says NO to literally everything we say or ask, he is very difficult around our seven year old daughter (not that she's always peaches, but still), ruins her things, breaks toys, rips papers, etc. He has a wubble ball he got for Easter that he loves (one of the few toys) and I found him down the basement with his plastic screw driver trying to pop it for some reason. He's destructive--rips books, colors on clothing and furniture. Today in church he coughed on my daughter on purpose. We typically avoid places like church because I leave feeling so defeated. I've noticed some sensory type issues--he smells everything before he eats it, always has--and also smells clothes, me, people's breath, underwear. Yep. He hates when I vacuum and complains about the pool water being freezing when it's somewhat warm. Hot water is burning when it's normal. Last weekend was a real low because he kicked the back of a man's seat the entire flight home from Easter. I was humiliated and felt powerless. I cried silently trying to figure out what to do. He's a great sleeper though and was very easy to potty train. He also talks a mile a minute and always has something to say. Loves to be outside. Loves to be read to--but the same books over and over. Loves the iPad--if we let him on it. In my heart of hearts I know he's a more challenging three year old than most. He seems very unhappy the majority of the time. We've been waiting for him to grow out of all of this, but it just seems to be getting worse. Oh, and you would think we've never disciplined or given positive reinforcement in his life the way he acts. All I do is read parenting books, try different strategies and attempt to be patient. I feel like a complete failure. Phew. I needed to get that all out.


Well-Known Member
Autistic spectrum disorder is my guess. Get him evaluated by a neuropsychologist. He has classic symptoms but pediatricians often are not too up on it. If it is something else a neuropsychology (not to be confused with a neurologist) should still be helpful. They test kids in every area of function. Good luck!


Well-Known Member
All I do is read parenting books, try different strategies and attempt to be patient. I feel like a complete failure
Hi, and welcome.

First... this is not your fault.

This isn't a "parenting" problem. It's a child with major challenges. You are not wrong - there is more going on. Doctors won't usually acknowledge that. But...

Has he ever been evaluated by someone other than the pediatrician or family doctor? A comprehensive evaluation would be best - the kind that take 6-10 hours of testing, often across more than one appointment. These kinds of kids need very different handling, and early intervention is almost essential.


New Member
He is scheduled to be evaluated at a private Neurobehavioral center in July--there's a waitlist--the one through our insurance was even longer! In the meantime, I've asked his preschool teachers (he goes four half days) about his behavior and they're not overly concerned. I do believe though that it's such a controlled environment that perhaps they don't see everything I'm seeing? He listens and participates for the most part there though. I think he struggles a bit with focus, but they said no more than any of the other children. But this has been going on for three and a half years. We always just assumed he was spirited or difficult, but it's only getting worse. It is so hard not to blame myself. What should I be doing until July? Any tips? Every person in our family is struggling right now. I think we're all trying to be so patient, but it's patient, patient, patient, patient, NOT PATIENT.


Well-Known Member
Start reading up on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Try some of the parenting tips that so with that disorder. If they work - even a little bit - try more tips. We didn't read to find the label - that was the job of the doctors - but we read up on all sorts of disorders and diagnoses to get ideas. The more ideas we tried, the more we found our child fit a certain group of approaches... and we turned our focus to parenting "as though he had XXX". It was the only thing that helped at all, especially in the early years.

The most severe cases of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) rarely get missed. But there are a lot of kids that "sort of" float along - teachers and caregivers not noticing anything in particular, parents worn out. Eventually, it really catches up with them and the world falls apart. The sooner you can catch it, the better.
Go to (formerly called childbipolarfoundation) There is a support group specifically for the parents of the very young. There is a lot of information about pediatric bipolar. Even if there is not the diagnosis, the information will be very helpful in dealing with the behaviors you describe.
I totally understand where you are coming from. The avoiding taking your child places, feeling defeated, worrying, etc. I have tried so many different parenting/discipline techniques. I always just thought I was a bad parent. Dont blame yourself, you obviously love him very much and are doing your best, sometimes it just takes extra help to get a handle on things. I can't give you much advice, I'm new to this too and we are just starting on our journey to find a solution, but I can tell you that I understand what you're going through, and that you are not a bad parent. Try to take it easy on yourself (easier said than done).


Crazy Cat Lady
Speaking as a 54 year old on the Autism Spectrum who also suffers from Sensory Integration Disorder, this little guy has a lot of red flags for both. (They very commonly come as a package deal.)

I'd get him evaluated by both a neuropsychologist and an Occupational Therapist (OT) as soon as possible.

The sooner interventions are put in place, the better his chances of living a happy and productive life.

Congratulations on seeking help so early. You're a good mom!


Well-Known Member
I agree with others, red flags for sensory issues and autism spectrum.

While waiting to get him evaluated, it could be helpful to read about those and try parenting techniques suggested to kids with those issues. I personally also found some success with basic animal training techniques (positive reinforcement, shaping and other operant conditioning methods, even using a clicker as a jest or well, play, my kid like to play he was a dog and loved it, when I trained him together with our dogs. That actually solved some rather difficult daily problems like dressing himself to get ready to go out.)

More than anything, keep in mind that while at this point it certainly is a problem you have to try to solve by parenting, it is not a problem caused by parenting, but a problem that causes problems in parenting. Huge difference!
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