Long - Need Advice, Please! — The Bump
Pre-School

Long - Need Advice, Please!

This is very long.  I apologize!!

My DS will be 4 in November.  We are having some serious issues with his behavior and listening skills and aren't sure if it's because of all of the adjusting he's had to do or if it's completely abnormal and he needs to see a psychologist.  Here are the things he's experienced over the last year:

* His dad lost his job in May 2013, went back to school full-time, graduated in December 2013 (caused serious financial issues, tension, and he was home all the time).

* We moved to another town to be closer to my work in November 2013

* DS started a new daycare because of the move

* DH started a new job in January and went from being home all the time to gone 2-4 weeks/month

* We had a new baby in April

* When DD came, DS, DD, and I stayed with my parents for the first month bc DH was out of town that whole time.  We pulled DS out of daycare at that time bc the daycare he'd been waitlisted on for a year finally had a spot for when my maternity leave was over.  So he went 1 month without daycare.

* At the end of May he started at his new daycare.

 I know that any one of these things can throw a child out of synch, so I'm really ashamed that we've done all of this to him in such a short period of time.  At the temporary daycare he started having some pretty serious issues with not listening and aggressive behavior towards other kids.  His teacher there was awful with him.  She yelled at him all the time and was extremely inflexible with her teaching methods with him.  The other teachers there loved him and worked with him, but we were more than happy to pull him out when we got the call about the other daycare bc we knew he had at least 7 more months with her before he'd be able to move to a new room.  At that daycare, even with his issues, he always loved doing anything academic.  He participated in circle times and loved doing any structured group activities.

During the month that he had no daycare, the main reason we pulled him out was because my mom is a retired elementary teacher and had agreed to work with him.  When we arrived, she told me she had all sorts of activities for him but really just wanted to be "grandma" instead of a teacher.  So she ended up only working with him maybe 15 minutes per day.  I honestly would've probably kept him with the mean teacher, just so he was doing something constructive every day, if I had known he was going to be so unstructured at my parents' house.  And yes, I was there, but I was recovering from a c-section and probably did more activities in the few days I felt up to it with him than she did the whole time.

The new daycare is a dream daycare.  They have amazing curriculum and it's just a wonderful place with highly qualified instructors.  In the month that he's been there, he has been extremely aggressive, does not listen to his teachers, won't participate with anything (just found that out this morning), and is just acting horrible.  He's told his teachers he won't listen to them because they're girls.  He's actually cussed (which we're assuming he learned from his father).  He will play nicely with other kids and then for no reason, he will start hitting them.  Every day when I pick him up there is a new, horribly embarassing story of how he's acted.  He's been to the office 4 or 5 times for disrupting the class or hurting another child.  I'm just at a loss.  Is this normal behavior for a child who's gone through so much or is this something that we need to see a professional about?  I'm afraid that this is just going to continue because we can't find a great consistent balance with his dad being home for a week or 2 at a time and then being gone for just as long.  DS's behavior seems to have gotten much better over the last couple of weeks at home, but he's getting worse at daycare.

We asked his pediatrician about it, but he was no help at all.  He wouldn't even let me tell him exactly what was going on.  As soon as I brought up "behavioral issues" he said he didn't know what to tell me, he's 3.  He said if there are still issues after he turns 4, we might talk about it then. 

Please help me, I'm so afraid he's going to get kicked out of his new daycare because of this before we can get him straightened out.

Re: Long - Need Advice, Please!

  • Some things we've tried at home: talking to him, timeouts, being sent to his room, spanking, taking things away from him, reading books about proper behavior.

    The only punishment that seems to have worked is telling him "nose and toes in the corner" and making him literally stand with his nose and toes in a corner.  He hates it and generally corrects the behavior. 

    Just this weekend we started the book about filling a bucket with happiness.  I bought a bucket and some smiley face bouncy balls for him to put in the bucket when he does something great.  He seems receptive but when I told his teacher about it, she was less than enthused.   

  • aglennaglenn member

    First, age 3 is the pits.  Seriously, it is tough under the best of circumstances, and your DS has had a lot to deal with that is probably compounding the general emotional craziness of the age.  3-year-olds tend to get easily overwhelmed with their emotions.

    Second, I would start with the current day care teachers and/or director because they will be able to give you good solid feedback on what is normal and abnormal about his behavior compared to other kids his age.  It also helps to partner with them on discipline strategies so he is getting a consistent message everywhere he goes.

    Lastly, it's hard to tell from your post specifically what types of circumstances are setting him off and what he's doing, but things that were important to my DD at age 3 were routine, choices, predictability (so telling her "now we're doing x, and next we will do y" constantly), and beginning to learn self-calming techniques.  We made a calm-down spot in her room in a play tent with pillows, blankets, and books and when she started flipping out we would ask her if she wanted to go in there.  She responded well to that and still goes in there sometimes (she's almost 5 now). 

    Hope some of that helps.  Hang in there!   

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  • Hmm...that's a tough situation, and your son has been through a lot of change during a time when change is particularly hard for children.  Like a pp said, I found age 3 to be much harder with my son than I did with my daughter.  All in all, a few things seemed to stand out to me from your post. [My answer got really long!  Sorry!]

    1.  You are primarily focused on the fact that he's acting out at daycare.  At the end of your post, you said he's been "better at home" recently.  Have you seen aggression at home?  What triggers it? Does he say he won't listen to YOU because you're a "girl?"  Does he try out cuss words on you?  Does he try to manipulate you?  Use pouting or anger to get his way?  Is it possible he doesn't seem as "naughty" at home because, with all the changes and stress you have been through, you're more flexible and you allow him to get away with it?

    2.  The methods you are using to deal with his behavior are heavily focused on punishment. The problem with this approach is that it puts you in "reaction" mode instead of "prevention" mode.  When your rely too much on punishment, you're basically counting on your child to : recognize that he's about to do something that could result in punishment AND have the impulse control to make himself stop before he does something wrong.  Most 3 year olds just aren't there yet.  Instead of focusing exclusively on punishment, you might want to try to head off problems.  Set out expectations for him ahead of time and give him very limited choices where he can choose between 2 things that are both okay with you.

    The bucket of happy balls focuses on positive reinforcement, instead of punishment, but it isn't particularly structured.  I don't think that will be a cure-all for you, and I suspect that's why your daycare teacher seemed "meh" about that plan.  You need an approach that provides more structure and clarity, but is generally focused away from punishment.

    3.  I'm going out on a limb here, because you don't explicitly mention this, but your post carries a heavy subtext of frustration/resentment against your husband.  I can imagine it's been stressful for you that he lost a job at a time when you were adding a new baby, then got a new job that requires him to be away for 2 weeks at a time.  That would suck.  Yet, I found it odd that you said "we assumed" he was cussing because of his dad's influence.  Who's the other person in that "we" if not your husband?  Your mom? The daycare teacher? Wouldn't you know whether your H curses in front of the kids?  I also found it odd that your post doesn't indicate that your H is at all involved in the daycare or the behavior plan at home.  I almost wanted to ask you to clarify whether you and the father are still married. 

    My point is, if there's tension between the two of you, odds are your son is feeling it, and this could be a huge part of what you're seeing in his behavior.

    4.  I do not think it would hurt to ask the school for a referral to a child psychologist or therapist.  Check with your own HR department too, because you may have an EAP or some sort of coverage for short term therapy of this type.  Having him evaluated wouldn't hurt, and it might help a lot.

    5.  Finally, the best advice I can give you is not to let guilt influence your parenting decisions.  Feeling bad for your DS because of all these changes will not allow you to make the best judgments about how to help provide structure and consistency for him.  If you find yourself making decisions based in guilt, re-think things.

    Hang in there!  You're pointed in the right direction and both parents have paying jobs.  Your son is in an excellent daycare.  That's huge progress from where you were a year ago.
    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
    [Deleted User][Deleted User]Jazzra369
  • My dd just went through a rough phase which we think was do to all the change in our lives lately. We all see individual therapist, including dd. the first and last parts of the session are more like family therapy and whichever one of us brings dd talks about her behavior and responses to what we are learning to do differently. Her therapist recommended reading "The Whole Brain Child". It talks about how we respond to our children and how we can help them to appropriately develop their brains. I highly recommend it.

    I think consistency is key. I'm sure a big part of it has to do with your h's traveling. Do you prep your son for h's trips? Prep him for when he comes home? We have a recordable Elmo book about being apart and thinking of each other. Something like that might help. I would also do some kind of count down to your h's return. A paper chain maybe?

    Dd struggled with which of us would put her to bed each night (we switched off to fit in workouts). We took a whiteboard weekly calendar and added our pictures to it using Velcro. That way she knew who's turn it was.
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  • Leap08Leap08 member
    I think 3 is just a really hard age. My daughter's listening was just so terrible at 3 and it can be so frustrating. Things that worked for her:

    - When she was really off in her own world and not listening at all, I would stop her by putting my hand on her arm and then get down at her level and repeat very calmly whatever I had said to her before. It's like she wouldn't even hear me until I touched her and repeated myself. 

    - Offering choices. Lots of choices. Do you want to wear the blue dress or the green dress? Do you want yogurt or cereal for breakfast? Do you want to put your shoes on first or your jacket? Do you want to hold my hand or be carried? Do you want a piggyback ride up the stairs or do you want to walk?

    - Keeping a consistent routine. For example, morning routine = one cartoon with breakfast, get dressed, pick a toy for the car, out the door for school (daycare). Evening routine = playtime, dinner, bath/shower, books, lights out.

    My husband also travels a lot for work and that's hard. It's hard for me because I have to handle everything alone and it's hard for the girls. We try to FaceTime or Skype on a daily basis - usually just after dinner and before bath. We used to do it just before lights out, but the girls would get too excited and then it was hard to get them settled down for bed. We also do calendar countdowns to when Dad comes home. We talk about Dad a lot and plan fun things for all of us to do when he's home. And we talk about where Dad is and why he's there. The girls also really like to look at pictures of them with their Dad. My 4 year old has a favorite picture of her and my husband when she was a newborn that she keeps in her room. Anyway, I think all of that helps. 
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