So many conflicting messages about with defiant 3 y.o!

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by hope9, Sep 10, 2013.

  1. hope9

    hope9 New Member

    I posted a few months ago about my son who is almost three. He is definitely sensory processing disorder (SPD) with sensory seeking (and some avoidance) and possibly speech delayed...we are having him evaluated by the department of education next month to get a clearer sense of his needs. Right now he sees an Occupational Therapist (OT) and a behavioral therapist.
    My question for you all is about discipline at this age with a very spirited, often defiant, and sometimes aggressive kid. I've been reading the Explosive Child and now I'm just flat out confused. The behavioral therapist we've been working with has been telling us to set consistent limits with him- so when we tell him he's got to do something (like get in the stroller, stop climbing on the table, get his diaper changed), we count to 2 and then basically force him to do it. This often leads to physical battles, but the good news is that he often gets over it quickly. It can be an intense battle to get him in the stroller, and he will be very upset and tantrum, but within 5 minutes he's sitting quietly. Other times the battle escalates to hitting and biting and we have put him in a time out- which can end in him throwing books or toys all over his room. The behavioral therapist has warned us against 'negotiating' with him- and it does seem like when we try to negotiate he extends the negotiation longer and longer to avoid doing the if we are talking to him about getting in the stroller, he is laughing and running away the whole time, tempting us to run after him. This happens even with ample warnings.

    The Explosive Child seems to be advocating just that- negotiating. I am so interested in changing the way I'm setting limits with him, but I'm not sure how it would work to be more flexible with him. I try to be flexible about things that are not that important, but there are so many things that he battles us on! How have others used these techniques with preschoolers in a way that actually resolves the issue rather than extending the time that you are dealing with it? The idea of trying to talk about these issues before they happen with a 3 year old seems ridiculous- he's understands a little when I talk with him about our conflicts, but not enough to have a discussion as is suggested in the book.
    Help! I don't want this battle of wills anymore, but it seems this kid is hard wired to test the limits!
    Any stories, advice, tips would be welcome.
  2. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    I agree that you cannot negotiate on everything and definitely not on the Non-negotiables!

    But -

    You can offer limited choices. Such as: we'll have a snack after you get in the stroller - would you like crackers or chips? After we change your diaper, would you like to play a game or read a story? Do you want to eat your meat first - or the rice? Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?

    Let him choose where you can. Try not to let the non-negotiables be a battle by being matter-of-fact about it. And if it's not important and not worth a battle? Skip it!

    Good luck!
  3. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    We found we had to really cut back on activity... to get life to the point where difficult child could handle it. THEN you can start setting behavioural expectations. And I agree with the limited choices DF is suggesting. Someone suggested to us that we never say NO when there's a better way to put it. Like: half an hour before lunch, he wants a cookie. If you say NO, you get a war. If you say YES you can have a cookie after we eat our lunch, you give him less to push back against, because you didn't actually say "no". It doesn't always work, nothing always works, but we still find it useful and my kids are teenagers.
  4. hope9

    hope9 New Member

    That's so interesting about cutting back on activity....I was just saying the same thing to my husband today. I think we need to really simplify what we are doing with him and make things more manageable for him. It's so hard! We are pretty social people so the temptation is always to meet friends with small kids on the weekends and do stuff- like the beach or the zoo, etc. But I'm finding that these situations are hard for our son and hard on us because we always end up comparing our kids (we have twins, double trouble! the other twin is not as explosive, but she's not an easy child either) to the mild mannered, low key kids around us. So, cutting back on activity makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the advice so far!
  5. TeDo

    TeDo CD Hall of Fame

    I am so glad you are getting him evaluated to see the extent of his issues. At this young age, it can make all the difference in the world. I also have twins (they're 15 now) and they have never been easy (one easier than the other but neither easy). I am going to relate my experience with the book, behavioral therapists, and parenting twins (I have always been a single parent). Take what fits and ignore what doesn't.

    As for the book, I used the "probing" part a LOT and learned how VERY differently difficult child 1 thought. I really had to work hard to ignore my "more conventional" thinking patterns and really, really listen to what he was telling me. It made a HUGE difference. It told me the why's of almost all his tantrums, refusals, attitudes, actions, etc. After a long time of diligently asking him "why did you do that" and "why don't you want to do that" to figure out the root cause of most of his behavior. Now, I can usually predict with pretty good accuracy how things are going to play out AND I've changed how I approach things to get greater compliance. Most of his issues revolved around sensory issues and absolutely not understanding why he was expected to do many things because they didn't follow HIS train of logic. Using the method in the book helped me get to where we are.

    As for the behavior therapist, most of them look at behavior as something that needs to be corrected with a "strict" hand instead of a form of communication. Personally, I'd ditch the BT until you know more about your son's sensory issues. The stroller could be too confining, too uncomfortable, too ______. It might be that he just doesn't want to go in there but it could also be something else. The assumption is that he doesn't want to. The "alternative thinking" is that there's a very real reason he doesn't want to that he simply can't communicate to you any other way. With the diaper, maybe he doesn't like the feel of the wipe or the rag or maybe it's too cold or hot for his bottom. There again, the assumption is that he doesn't want to but there could also be a very good alternate reason. difficult child 1 absolutely couldn't tolerate anything but a warm rag. Cold anything and baby wipes were out of the question with him.

    Since difficult child 1 is older, we negotiate about some things but he's also learned that there are some things that are not negotiable. The key with him is to explain MY why so that he understands it. The "mantra" I use the most in those cases is "You don't have to like it or even agree with it but you have to do it". There are many situations in life where you just have to do things you don't "get" or like or want to do.

    Sorry this turned out to be so long. Two other books you might consider reading are "What My Explosive Child is Trying to Tell Me" and "The Out-of-Sync Child". Those are the other 2 that I found very helpful. Good luck and keep us posted.
  6. hope9

    hope9 New Member

    Hello TeDo...thank you for this thoughtful response. I have much respect for you raising twin boys on your own! I think you're right about probing. As my kids get a little more verbal, I'm trying to ask them more about their feelings and reactions to things- without judging it. Sometimes it's so hard because we know they have to do certain things even if they don't want to - like go to school. But I know that giving them a chance to air their feelings about it is still helpful.
    One thing that's challenging about my son is that I think most of his resistance to doing things comes from HATING transitions, and not wanting to stop his play activities. He doesn't have many sensitivities except sound I think, so usually it's not so much the way the stroller feels or the way it feels to have diaper changed, but the transition. Also not having control over the situation. He is definitely a control it's hard to figure out how to help him because transitions happen all day long, and he can't be in control of everything because it's not safe (some examples of things he wants to control: closing the car doors, buckling himself into his car seat, putting a glass cup in the sink after he has grabbed it off the counter (he's 3 so he can't reach into the sink), and often he is desperate to walk across the street without get the idea, lots of things that have the potential for injury or big mess!).
    This conversation is helping me tremendously, I'd love more feedback!
  7. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    How good is he at following "rules"? i.e. doing something the same way every time?
    If he's good with that...
    Car door: both hands on door handle, and wait for you to say it's OK to close.
    Seat-belt: he does it up, you check it or show him how to check it while you watch
    glass into sink: can you provide a Rubbermaid stool or something similar so he CAN reach?
    Crossing the street: can he hang onto the stroller, the edge of your coat, or something you hang from your belt? That way, he isn't holding on to YOU but you know that you are connected.
  8. TeDo

    TeDo CD Hall of Fame

    How do you KNOW sound is his only sensory issue? Have you had a pediatric Occupational Therapist (OT) do a very thorough evaluation? That would be where I would start. We found one (our 3rd) that was VERY thorough and found many issues with difficult child 1 that I never would have even thought of but explained so much. She was a godsend. You might want to look into something like that.

    If it really is the transitions, I found giving difficult child 1 a cue or "countdown" helped. If he was watching TV, I'd tell him ahead of time that "at the next commercial I need you to ....". For the diaper change, try to set up a schedule (necessary for toilet training anyway). If he soils, find a cue that it's going to be coming. For difficult child 1, expecting an immediate response was a HUGE problem. His brain couldn't process the request that fast, especially if it was from a desirable activity to a less desirable one.

    The more you share (transitions, sensory, needing to be in control, etc), you might want to see if you can find an autism specialist to evaluate your son. I didn't see the whole picture until I came here and was encouraged to do that. It turned out that he is on the spectrum which explained sooooo much. I changed a lot of things when dealing with difficult child 1 that have made a HUGE difference. We are in a good place now because of this board and the specialists we searched for at their recommendation. From what you've shared so far, it is a possibility that can be specifically evaluated for and could gain you access to specific services.