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(Headache) Advice on my son's behaviour...

  1. #1
    OX Jess is offline Registered User
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    (Headache) Advice on my son's behaviour...

    I need some advice on disciplining my son’s behaviour

    My son is 3, since he was around 1.5 we’ve noticed that he has very strong & rigid personality. He is very stubborn and has his own mind to ‘master/control’ things. The following are some examples: He wants his mother to put on the left sock, his daddy to put on his right sock. If he wants mommy to peel him an apple, nobody is allowed to touch that apple otherwise he will have a complete meltdown! No compromise! He could cry and cry till he completely lost his breath and his face turned red, just because we did not follow what he wants. This is only a very brief description of his character.

    His stubbornness gets worse in the recent 6 months, but the things I find quite difficult to control is that he would deliberately do everything ‘opposite’; and the more you ask him to do “A”, the more he would reject it or simply do “B”.

    About half a year ago, he would ‘scream’ for no reason. The more we asked him to stop, the madder he screamed. Whenever he is not happy over some trivial things (e.g. the other day he took out a pen and wrote on the sofa so we said to him, in a very gentle way, that we use pen to write on a paper not on a sofa. A simply statement like this triggered him to lose his temper and throw everything on the table to the floor, followed by screams!

    His stubbornness even shocked his teacher at his nursery. On many occasions they couldn’t handle him so just left him in corner to let him calm down then went to him to soothe him again.

    As I said, he does everything ‘opposite’ to our order. For example, in the morning we ask him to say ‘good morning’ to our neighbours and he just lowered his head and kept quiet. If we force him a little bit he will go straight into sulking or crazy screams! It happens so very often that I, and my parents (his daily carers) find very distressing.

    We have tried many methods, both soft and hard. I personally do not agree with shouting or hitting, what I usually do is to tell him in a calm voice that I don’t like his behaviour (e.g. screaming) so I will send him to his room/toilet and ask him to stop his mishaviour if he wants to come out. 9 out of 10 he would cry and I would let him cry for a couple of minutes and go to him and ask him if he knows why he is sent to his room. However, I do not see any improvement on his behaviour.

    People tell me that this kind of behaviour is very common on children of 2-3 years old, is it really? Is it really only a phase which will pass? I just worry that his stubbornness and bad temper (screams & throw things on the floor) and rudeness (refuse to say good morning to people) will continue and become nuts hard to crack?!?

    Any advice, please. Thank you.
    Last edited by OX Jess; 06-04-2012 at 05:56 PM.

  2. #2
    carang's Avatar
    carang is offline Registered User
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    how do YOU handle it? you've given us an idea of his behaviour, but not of you and your husband's handling of it.

    it sounds to me like he's been allowed to "win" too often and now demands are escalating. you need to stop "being nice" and start being a parent. (not meaning to sound nasty, but i see this all the time....) it sounds like you are afraid of his behaviour and as such, give into his demands.

    you need to start fresh. it's going to be difficult, but he needs to learn that YOU are the boss and doing what you say is NOT an option.

    with my stubborn daughter, i found that controlled choices work:
    1) not getting dressed isn't an option, but she can choose the pink skirt or the black skirt
    2) not eating dinner isn't an option, but she can choose the peas or the corn

    etc. that way, i'm guiding her but she still feels a semblance of control.

    as for your specific examples:
    1) writing on the sofa.... forget explaining nicely. TAKE the pen away and tell him he can have a pen again in X days. every time he writes on something he shouldn't there should be a consequence. if he screams at you. tell him he has til the count of 3. if he doesn't stop, he'll be put in his room until he does. then FOLLOW THROUGH with what you say.

    2)cutting the apple: if he is hungry and wants an apple, then it shouldn't matter who cuts it. if he screams, say, you mustn't be very hungry. i'll take it away.... then FOLLOW THROUGH. then tell him if he continues screaming you will put him in his room/naughty chair/ naughty corner. etc.. then FOLLOW THROUGH. he is not to move from that space until YOU have given the OK> very, very important....it might take 3 hours to get him to sit there... but he will eventually... if YOU DON'T GIVE IN.

    3) if he EVER throws ANYTHING take it away. put it into a special box for that purpose. he needs to "earn" it back through good behaviour.

    the biggest thing is that parents need to follow through and NOT give up.

    if he screams for 30 minutes and then you cave and give in.... guess what you've just taught him?

    you've taught him that if he screams for 30 minutes you'll give him what he wants! so, next time, he may scream for 45, believing that he'll get what he wants.

    if you choose the battle, you MUST win it. you cannot let him win, so choose your battles carefully and be prepared for some exhausting weeks ahead while he learns the new rules.

    also, very important: make sure grandma/helper (whoever takes care of him during the day) knows what is going on and handles the situation the same way. for me, it would be the difference between keeping a helper and firing her if she doesn't follow the same method.

    GOOD LUCK!

    3) putting on socks: if he screams, either do it all, or take them off. tell him he won't get socks until he stops screaming. if
    shwetakhanna, thanka2 and roam like this.

  3. #3
    kacoak is offline Registered User
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    1-2-3

    We use the 1-2-3 method at our house for stop behaviors (when we want our kids to stop doing something). It's a simple counting from 1 to 3, at which they get a time-out at 3. You can read the books "1-2-3 Magic" for all the details. We've found it quite useful for our 3-yr old daughter. Certain behaviors like hitting her sister earns an automatic 3 & a time-out.
    For start behaviors (things we want her to start doing, like putting dirty clothes in laundry hamper), it's better to use positive encouragement rather than counting.

    The key, like Carang mentioned, is consistency. Both my husband and I had to agree on this method of disciplining. We're still getting our helper to be on-board, but that's another story. For screaming/crying/whining, I suggest you either count, or ignore. As long as you don't relent and give in to his wishes, he'll soon get the idea that crying will not get him what he wants - in fact, that's what we've started telling our daughter, that crying will not get her what she wants.

    As for the 'politeness' issue, I don't think it's an issue at all at this age. I used to worry about the same thing about my first daughter. Between ages 2 & 3 she'd be completely happy with me, but when another adult approached, and I greeted them, and asked her to greet them too, she'd turn her head around and completely ignore them. I now think of this as part of her 'terrible two' phase, and also due to the fact that she just had a new baby sister. She's much better now at greeting others (she's 3 yr and 3 months now). I think it's also part of her character too, as she's always been a little reserved even as a baby. On the contrary, her baby sister is now little over a year and she is extra friendly to strangers, waving hello to everyone in sight.

    I wish you all the best! If your son is really that stubborn it may take sometime for the discipline to sink in, but perseverance yields result! :)

  4. #4
    carang's Avatar
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    sorry, i've been having issues with my computer... the socks thing should have come up at the top.....not at the bottom.

    hope my post didn't come across as mean or nasty. wasn't meant that way at all.

  5. #5
    lesliefu is offline Registered User
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    Would agree with carang. From my personal experience....when my 3year old throws tantrums like crying, I ignore, then give her to three to quite down, and then send her to the bathroom (no quiet corner for us...a quiet "room" instead). Consistency is the key. At the mention of bathroom now, she stops crying almost immediately now. Took a couple months though for her to fully understand...so bear with it!

    Choices are important at this age since the want to seem in control...like carang say make them controlled choices, so whatever they choose, it's something YOU want them to do and not only what THeY want to do.

    I find with my daughter a mixture if soft and hard work best depending on the incident....writing on the sofa would be an immediate bathroom trip.


    Just never do what he wants if there is crying/screaming involved. Now when my daughter does that, I tell her "I can't her what you want mommy to do when you're crying. Stop crying and tell me nicely". That normally does the trick after I repeat it a coup,e of times and what I've said sinks in.

    Good luck,
    carang likes this.

  6. #6
    starbucks2 is offline Registered User
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    All very good advice above. The so called "terrible twos" seemed to last longer than 2 years old in our house too! We use the 1, 2, 3 method and time outs (to the naughty stair - bottom stair in our house) with extra bad things like little sister (2 years old) hitting big brother (4 years old), straight to her room to calm down.

  7. #7
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    Sounds like the very fact that you get stressed out about it gives your child control and power over you. This is a control/power issue. He has simply been allowed to control the situation. I think your child's teachers are on the right track. Afterall, they don't have the time (and they shouldn't have to) worry about if your son is "okay." Obviously, he is "okay"--he is not bleeding, in immediate danger or otherwise in trouble--he is simply trying to control everyone and everything around him and if it doesn't work his response is to scream and throw a fit. The reason why he screams and throws a fit is because he knows it will get to you--that eventually you will cave into his demands in some way or another--either that or the discipline he is receiving doesn't produce enough of a negative feeling to inspire him to stop. You said yourself that you go to your son if he cries for a few minutes. In our house, crying does not get attention unless it has a legitimate reason behind it (crying because you are physically hurt or in some cases emotionally hurt... i.e. another person has hurt your feelings). If my son cries he doesn't get attention until he stops and shows that he is truly sorry. Any parent can tell when their child is remorseful. Simply stopping crying isn't enough for us. We are worried actually more about our child's attitude than what he does because the attitude determines what he does. So, for example, if he says sorry with a snotty attitude, it is unacceptable.

    I would stop trying to reason with him if I were you. Well, the thing is I would have never tried to reason with him from the beginning--this type of behavior escalates if it's allowed to take place over a period of time. I would just tell him, "Writing on the sofa is not okay. We do not do it. No, you do not get to write on paper. You get to go to the toilette/naughty step and sit for 5 minutes until you can apologize for your behavior. If you cry and scream, I will add more time. When you are ready to apologize and clean up your mess then MAYBE you can have paper and pen." Because at 3-years-old (even at 2-years-old) a child can comprehend what is not okay and what is--it's not a matter of misunderstanding, it's a matter of defiance.

    Don't be intimidated by his screams and attitude. Teach him that there are consequences for bad behavior. If you want him to learn to be polite to the neighbors by greeting them in the morning you have to reward for that behavior and discipline if he doesn't participate. No need to be dramatic. Just set out reasonable rewards and consequences for behavior.

    Basically, when it comes to behavior problems in young children the only people we can look at or "blame" is ourselves. Whatever behavior you tolerate or put up with is the behavior you are communicating is okay to your child. Children don't really listen to your words like an adult would--they watch what they would do. Your son is smart. He knows exactly how to control you--he knows that if he yells loud enough and long enough and does enough destructive things you will compromise and try to "make him stop." You just have to communicate through actions that his behavior will never be rewarded with attention.

    When I was growing up if I threw my toys at my parents I lost them--for good. My mother literally would box them up and give them away to my friend and then I would see my friends walking around town with my toys. I guess you could say I was a "hard nut to crack" too--I was stubborn, defiant and strong-willed but my parents still didn't put up with rudeness, disrespect, anger, aggression and manipulation.

    So, basically, it's not your son's "problem"--it has to do with what you allow. You reward his bad behavior by giving him attention for it. Are you rewarding his good behavior. Are you trying to "catch him" being good. Do you have a developed plan of rewards/consequences that mean something to him? I think all the answers lie within you just have to honestly assess what you are and are not doing.
    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

  8. #8
    OX Jess is offline Registered User
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    Thank you for all the feedback and advice, which are very valuable to me. As I am working at the moment I am unable to write a long reply (but I want to write in details how did I / my parents handle my son's behaviour to let you all have a better idea what went wrong with us, the adults!)

    I think I understand all the logics you have put forward here and I haev applied some. The long and short of it, on retrospect, I did reward his bad behaviour with lots of attention and the worst is, I did cave in his demands, i.e. demands to control his environment (i.e. who should put his clothes on, who should bath him, who should pour him water, etc. too many similar examples) I really want to put a stop to it but to a certain extent I was terrified (terrified is not a proper word) of his melt down, especially in public.

    Another issue I didn't mention in my first message is that he has a little brother of 5 months, and, in order not to make him jealous over his little brother, we always try to NOT to give him an impression that he is punished becuause of the arrival of his little brother, and it makes me slightly reluctant to discipline him in a hard/strict way, but choose to gently 'talk' to him. Anyway, I will write my approach in handling him in more details so that I hope I can get more advice... Thanks.
    Last edited by OX Jess; 06-05-2012 at 03:41 PM.

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