Monday, May 20, 2013

Friend or enemy?

B. He's trying to kill us...slowly. Honestly, I think we may need professional help, because we are all about to lose it...

He wakes up grumpy, with a pouty, scowl-y face, which would be comical if it weren't so annoying. Refuses to get out of bed, change out of his diaper, put on clothes. I've tried all kinds of incentives, games, distractions, songs, races, etc... I've let him pick the order of things, pick his own clothes, let him do it himself vs. help him vs. do it for him, wear PJs all day if that's what he prefers. Nothing works. Eventually there is hitting (he hits us), flailing about and crying. 

The new thing (for the past few days) is "idon'tlikethisshirt" repeated constantly in a monotone with eyes glazed all day long, despite the fact that he PICKED that shirt, and doesn't want any other shirt (because, idon'tlikethoseshirtseither"). He circumvented that with letting him wear PJs, but now its "idon'tlikethesePJs". Seriously, ALL DAY, like a malfunctioning robot on the (completely adorable) robot PJs that he really doesn't like. 

What do you want for breakfast, B? We have x, y, and z. "What do we have?". X, Y, and Z. "what do we have". Like I said, X, Y, and Z. "what else do we have?" Nothing else. "what do we have" X, Y, and Z. repeat for 15 minutes. "I want X". Make X, give it to him. "I don't want that. What do we have?". and then "i'mhungry...i'mhungry...i'mhungry...."X100000. 

Then there's the hitting--me, daddy, L, the dog, whoever is within reach. This I really cannot abide. I want to discipline but again, nothing works. He has no toys he is attached to, no real physical objects other than his lovey that I would never take away as a punishment. So I take away privileges--he likes watching videos of his songs on youtube after dinner, eating ice cream for dessert, listening to music, watering the plants, "helping" with some cooking task. These things are all tied to behaviors and they are all usually gone by 7AM...then what? Time out doesn't work because he doesn't stay (and I am iffy about the whole concept), and I have to forcefully put him back over & over & over---hitting & flailing & kicking all the way.

Oh, and last week he bust out with "stupid". Now its on heavy rotation. G contends he learned it at daycare, whereas I'm pretty sure he learned it at home, from G! This was something I didn't expect for another couple of years so we didn't have a good strategy in place when it suddenly came up. I tried to be calm about it yet convey that we do not use that word...and now whenever he is angry, he will wield it. He has no clue what it means, and doesn't say "you're stupid" or "that's stupid", just "stoopit stoopit stoopit".

 Patience is hard to maintain (I admit I've sometimes given way to banshee-shrieking on a tired hurried morning). Always handling things consistently, over time and between the two of us, is really really challenging when its a constant barrage. Everything I read is conflicting---"take away privileges", "positive discipline", (and if you dare read comments "ass whooping") etc... And the household just feels...heavy.

I know 3 is a notoriously tough age, with all the cognitive development short-circuiting his little brain. I know this behavior is the outward manifestation of some inner turmoil---but I can't figure out what the turmoil is or how to quiet it. It hurts me that he is clearly suffering from SOMETHING to be so angry and sad all the time. But yet, I can't let him go around hitting or saying bad words, and there is no hearing person on earth who could withstand that high-level whining for very long. And of course there is the part of me that can't help thinking...what the hell is so awful with your life you ungrateful little...

There are good times, but they are becoming fewer and farther between. Even bedtime stories, previously full of cuddling and giggling, has been replaced with "idon'tlikethisshirt" "idon'twantthatbook" and tantrums when the stories are over.

Obviously any advice is welcome, as well as words of hope. Or wine. We're running dangerously low. 


  1. You're making me really happy I'll be an intern when Dyls is 3.

    1. Seriously, in the "3 year old: friend or enemy" book (which was utter drivel, by the way, despite its hearty recommendations) their advice was "children are really difficult at this age. Get a babysitter or family member to take him for a while.". For us, they are in daycare 8 hours most days---I think we've maxed out THAT particular solution.

    2. You have not maxed out. Just saying.

    3. I think ours did start getting a little better at 3.75 or so but then we got ready to move and Bug started losing his tiny mind again. 3: It Sucks.

      We do give lovey a timeout sometimes; usually when I've just been hit with it. There is a specified, short time period, and it definitely causes sadness (though we do have Alternate Teddy for hugging) and... dude, you may not hit Mama.

  2. Oh man - no advice, but just wanted to send some hugs your way. Hopefully this phase will end quickly.

  3. Sounds like a day in the life...

    I have no advice, but can offer a wee bit of hope. My daughter will be four in less than a month, and she is FINALLY coming out of this phase. She's much easier to engage in meaningful conversation these days, and seems to be (somewhat) less stubborn and opinionated. Thankfully. Though I do find that these behaviours seem to resurface when she's over-tired or hungry.

    I can certainly relate, though... keep the wine coming. It makes it all easier to bear. HUGS...

  4. I felt like time outs helped our kid (she's now 5) and she puts herself on time out sometimes now, so she can settle down. We talk about them in terms of "your behavior is not ok right now and you are very mad. Come back when you are steady again." She doesn't always stay but usually after the second or third time returned to time out, she is better and settled down. Parents also go on time out sometimes too and I think that helps her realize it is meant to help her cope, not a way to be mean. We also picked our battles. She didn't want to get dressed? Fine! I put your clothes in a bag and you go naked to daycare. In the snowy winter. If it were a real safety issue, we'd stuff her into something. I felt like at 3, many of the troubles were that there were too many choices so we tried to narrow her options to one (or nothing) or between two. We also got baskets for clothes and put outfits into the baskets on laundry day (kid helped usually) so she could pick a basket rather than from every outfit she owned. Often she still pitched a fit about it, but it was less often. She got better right around age 4 for a few months, then we moved and she went straight back to being 3 for another 6+ months... Now she is actually better behaved and more like a human being most of the time rather than some animal that somehow got into the house.

    Good luck!

  5. If he behaves at daycare, my advice is to watch what they do and copy it at home. In any case, they do grow out of it!

  6. Yup. "I want grilled cheese." 10 minutes later after grilled cheese has been carefully prepared and cut into interesting pieces for his amusement. "I don't like grilled cheese. I want chicken." 3.5 is exhausting. The whining! The indecision! The endless energy! The new ability to sense when Mommy is getting frustrated and find ways to exploit that frustration!

    W just learned from a kid at daycare that it's funny to say phrases like "poopy butt," so I think we're also entering a new phase of silliness, too. Excellent.

    No advice from me. We try to pick our battles, but since you and I seem to have the same 3.5 year old and are both calling (desperately) for wine, I think we just have to wait it out.

  7. OH MY GOD, it sounds so hard. It's impressive that you can empathize with all the developmental work he's doing, but UGGH. I think you need a vacation. Alone.

  8. 3 is no joke. We're right there with you, though the tide turned right around 3.5 and it got MUCH better.

    You might search the archives at as well for suggestions.

  9. Anyone who has experience with the challenge of a constant conflict with a child would be able to understand that nobody has infinite patience. On the bright side, he is just a year or two away from school. I guess my advice is wait and see if things get better.

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