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Three year old behavioral problems
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Three year old behavioral problems

I have two boys - one is 28 months, the other is 41 months... They are both very intelligent and were wonderful children until about six months ago. My 3-year-old has begun to not only to misbehave, but is seriously destructive. My husband and I have tried every disciplinary tactic we can think of
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I agree with the recommendation to consult with a mental health professional. Your son's behavior is far outside the norm for his age and it indicates a serious level of emotional disturbance. Only a thorough evaluation by a mental health professional will clarify what is occurring. It certainly appears that his behavior is symptomatic of a juvenile onset bipolar condition, but I am only speculating. The likelihood of this is increased if there is a family history of bipolar disorder. Is there such a history? And don't underestimate the destabilizing impact that can be caused by changes and disruptions in the family composition, such as has been occasioned by your husband's deployment. The country owes a great debt to servicemen and women, and too often the sacrifices they and their families make are not recognized. It must be very difficult for him to be away from you all, and it goes without saying that it is very hard for you and the children as well.
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You are a good Mom, which is why you are here.  You love your child.  OK- From what you have wrote, IT DOES NOT SOUND LIKE THERE ARE ANY SERIOUS MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES with your child. I believe this is all behavioral.  It sounds like you are a very loving mother and are concerned for your child.  Let me tell you what I think is going on...

Its so obvious to me that these actions by him are out of ANGER, (probably out of the absence of Dad, which hurts), CONTROL (in an out-of-control situation- Dad gone, No consistent consequences), FEAR (what is consistent, what can I get away with, if Mom is not in control-who is?), UNSTABLE (Dad is here, dad is gone, Mom disciplines now, ignores the behavior later...).  With children, when there is something out of control, like dad coming and going, Mom probably feels like giving a little leeway here and there because it is a tough situation, you are home full time, maybe a little burnt out, not being consistent as much as you'd like,maybe letting discipline slide a little- this is normal.  Its tough to be a single parent, especially when under the stress of dad being at war.  Times like this REQUIRE consistent and reliable, loving discipline and schedules because that will put ORDER into their lives.  

order=safe child;
predictability=secure child,;
love=happy child.

So parenting, especially in your situation needs all 3 things.

Your child didn't USE to be loving and wonderful- he IS, he's in there I promise.  He's still bright, he's still considerate - He's just having a hard time with the situation, and your family is reacting to and off of each other to create this horrible problem.  No one means to, it just happens sometimes to the best of children, the best of parents, the most loving of families.  So once you let the guilt and hard feelings go (its not personal-and it doesn't revolve around you), you're ready to see inside your childs heart again.

I'm warning you, you have allowed things to get to a point where its going to be tough at first, your heart will break from the "tough love", you will second guess yourself, he will be in time out a major part of the days, he will cry, scream, yell, kick, bite, scream, you will need to physically restrain him from hurting himself or others, but guess what?  That means it working. And the only way to get back to the heaven your child is, is to go through this small bit of what seems like hell, theres no pretty way.

What do you do?  Take control. You did the right thing-Strip his room, for now.  No toys, just his bed and blankets.  (As his behavior improves (which it will) you may start adding things back in).

Breakfast, naptime, lunch, quiet time, book time, t.v. time, bath time, the same time everyday, the same way everyday, the same people everyday-no exceptions for now unless absolutely necessary.  Contact from dad needs to be somewhat predictable-no surprise calls, you need to work that out with Dad, but your child needs structure and schedule in the contact with dad through this tough time to feel some sort of security in that relationship.  

Spend as much time a lone with each child as much as possible- I know it hard, but if you can, do it.

is there anyone  that can watch the younger child for awhile so you can give 100% to the older child- even if its for an hour?  Think about that...

Get away once in a while (scheduled, predictable), have Grandma come over and go be alone to get your head straight, relax and put things into perspective.

Supervise constantly-always stay where you can see him.  for now, that means if your going to the bathroom so is he-if your in the kitchen so is he.  he'l like the closeness, and dislike the short leash, which may give an incentive to behave "You cannot go into your room yourself because you _________.  You cannot be alone with your brother because ________. You need to stay by me until you can act appropriately."  

Your child is in there, he loves you, he's a good kid, he's hurting and scared and unsure right now and needs order, predictability and love. It will be hard, but it will not take long and your loving child  will magically  appear again. But make no mistake, he is not your best friend, he is your child.  he's got friends, he needs a parent.

Time out is not a punishment, time out is a break, settle down, calm down, for Mom and child.  When the behavior starts..."Oooh, looks like you need some time alone to calm down, its not ok to _____."  "I see you are hurting your brother, you need to go to your room and calm down so you can't hurt him or get hurt yourself."  If he comes out of time out ranting and raving turn him right back around to his room.  if he screams and tantrums in time out, let him have it out, as long as he comes out calm, and behaving.  NO EXCEPTIONS.  Most important for Mom-No yelling, no anger, no frustration-because that gives him POWER.  You are in control, be calm, sure of yourself, consistent and loving in everything you do.  (Can you see what I'm saying how he will feel safe, secure that moms in control) Also, a big thing kids LEARN is how to calm down, sometimes if a child is tantruming they need the opposite of punishment, they need HUGS.  Consoling, "Its OK, I know your upset, lets calm down, hug me tight, breathe slow, relax..." you know your child best.  Try everything and take what works.

Some things I need to point out-you stated several times that the boys tantrum when you TRY to give time outs, when you TRY to discipline.  Stop trying.  Stop fearing your child.  Your child has 100% power over the family now.  (How scary is that- a 3 year old is in charge of the whole family...wow, thats power) Just do it, theres no negotiating, why argue with a 3 year old?   They do what you say or there is a consequence, no if's and's or but's about it, and no TRYING.  Why is he repeatedly doing things he's told not to?  Could be many rasons-Because the consequence is different every time, because its something a 3 year old does, because he can, because the consequence your giving is not his "currency".  (Dr. Phils term-read his books, go to his website, )  Sit down with your husband, find your childs currency, decide consequences and DO NOT BE WISHY WASHY. ( If he's like this at 3, you got it in for you in about 10 years) there is NO doubt in my mind that your child will stop these behaviors once you change yours.

You also stated he lies, that he knows the difference between reality, make believe and dreams.  Nope. Developmentally that will not happen for a few years.  he is 3 years old-my advice, get lots of books on this age, research.  Its important you know how his brain works so you know how to work his brain. Go to ECFE, talk to other parents with 3 year olds. Educate yourself on your child. Go to parent support groups through the military for women with husbands overseas, online, chat groups, phone calls, soak in  all you can, because your child is begging you for it.

Your son can only "refuse" to listen to you and obey you if you permit it.   It should not be a choice or an option for him. order, schedules, predictabiltiy, consistency, good nutrition, exercise daily to get out excess energy, and most of all love, love, love.  

I have no doubt you love your child, I have no doubt you have tried all you know to do, I have no doubt you've been creative,  but the old tried and true is what will bring order to your home, and peace to your little mans heart and spirit.

Good luck to you.

My advice comes from being a parent, and I have a masters degree in counseling and child development.

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Avatar_n_tn
Similar problems with 20 month old as described above.  I would be interested in knowing if any of the suggested methods helped you?  I have extreme difficulty with my 20 month old boy.  He has had horrible tantrums A LOT.  In particular I noticed that when he had tubes put in his ears last summer he screamed way longer and louder than any of the other children.  He was still screaming when I finally left.  He made himself throw up.  He has done this at daycare (and they called me to pick him up)  I took him to the doctor and he said it was a temper tantrum (almost two hours) then he fell asleep.  I just travelled with him on a long airline trip and he screamed and tantrummed until he fell asleep on 3 of 4 plane rides.  On the 4th he screamed, but more like a normal child.  He will hit me, bite me etc. The pediatrician says his speech is delayed but that his behavior is within normal limits.  

I feel like I need help with this child but am not sure where to turn because my pediatrician does not think there is anything wrong.  Perhaps I just need better parenting skills?  I give him time out, talk to him, etc but don't hit him.  Nothing seems to work.

My 5 and 7 year olds are very well-behaved and have never given me this kind of trouble.
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