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Mom of 3
Mom of 3 asks:
Q:

My 3 1/2 year old boy doesn't listen to anyone. How can I discipline him when he is so energetic and stuborn?

I have 3 boys 14, 8 and 3 1/2, we are a very loud family. I try to teach my children to be soft spoken and courteous to each other. This has caused my toddler to grow up loud and out of control. When he gets to go out and play he runs away b/c he know we are going after him. Other parents in our street have toddlers and they play very well with each other. When I take him to the store he wants to run around and screams when I sit him in the cart. He doesn't let me hold his hand when we are walking and hence runs away and sometimes into the streets! I am so mortified! I tried putting him in soccer so he can interact with other toddlers but he was not interested. He once ran away from the field and towards the street, I was running like mad after him! Time-out just doesn't work with him (or maybe it's me). I try not to lose my temper but I don't know what to do. My husband has a very aggressive temper and loses his patience with him and yells at him and spanks him. This makes me so mad and frustrated it often leads to my husband and I arguing. Please help me!
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Hand in Hand
Mar 19, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Dear Mom of 3:

You have a lot on your mind, and a huge job in parenting! I can feel the love and care you have for your boys--it comes through so clearly as you write.

There's a way of relating to your little boy that you might want to try. I think it will make a big difference, though it may seem "out of the box" at first.

In order for their minds to function well, children need to feel close to their parents. They can't feel close when the parents are full of tension, because that tension sits between the parent and the child, and children are very accurate tension detectors. So when your little guy feels the tension rising in you, he doesn't want to come close, he wants to run, wants to act out--he's now full of tension, too, scared that the person who's taking care of him is not on his side. This is really frightening for a little one, who is dependent on your good will for his existence.

So, an interesting first step to try would be "Special Time," maybe 10  minutes in the morning, and 10 minutes later in the day, if you have that kind of time. If not, then 10 minutes whenever you can arrange it. For that little bit of time (set a timer, it will help you focus) say, "You play whatever you want to play!" and then, show delight in him. Whatever he chooses to do with you, do it with pleasure in him. Be pleased. Make eye contact with him. Touch him with affection. Speak gently. Try to keep the thoughts about what an amazing little being he is at the front of your mind, so you're not just trying to be nice, but genuinely pleased with him.

When it's over, hug him warmly or ruffle his hair or show some little sign of affection, and tell him when he can have Special Time again.

Most likely, because tension in him has built up over time (spankings are frightening to a young child--the base of their brain interprets a spanking as very dangerous thing, so spankings lay in more tension, and result in more off-track behavior in the long run) he'll be disappointed at the end of the time. He'll find some reason to fuss or tantrum. At that point, move close, don't stop being supportive, and let him cry.

We call this Staylistening. You allow the child to cry out all that tension. That's how children get rid of bad feelings. That's how they recover from their troubles and find some relaxation and a sense of closeness again. So if you can be a real adventurer, and head into stormy emotional waters with him. listen. Don't argue. Don't try to get him to stop. Just let him cry until he feels done. He will feel closer to you, will behave much more sensibly, and will probably cry easily again, because he has some emotional catching up to do.

You will probably want to try this when you don't have to fend off critical onlookers, or critical family members. It's hard enough to do it the first time, without others getting angry with you for trying something new to help.

There's much more about this approach and the good results it gives at the Hand in Hand website. You can try this article:There is No "Throwaway" Behavior, and look at the booklets and articles and success stories we have at our general website, listed second below.

Good luck with your experiments. Your little guy is warm, loving, and wants to be with you! Listening to his feelings will help him remember that, and spend more and more time being reasonable and fun to be with.
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Additional Answers (10)

aemalcio
aemalcio writes:
First, it sounds like you are probably overwhelmed with three boys (anyone would be). My hat goes off to you. I think that the important thing to remember is that you are in control. Despite the fact that toddlers like think they control things, that is not the case. I often have to remind my little ones that they are not the boss and they don’t set the rules in our house. As a parent, it is your responsibility to set boundaries and guidelines for your kids, even if it upsets them. It frightens me when you say that your toddler has run into the street because he doesn't like to hold your hand. Frankly, it is not your child's decision as to whether he should hold your hand. You are the adult and he doesn't have a choice in the matter. If is perfectly acceptable for him to scream and have a tantrum about it, that's what 3.5 year olds do but as a parent, it is your job to keep your child safe.

As for the spanking issue, I have a 3.5 year old at home as well and I know they can be frustrating and they try your patience but once again, don’t allow them to control you, you control them. Your husband needs to learn some anger management techniques to help him control his temper. I don't condone spanking but even if you choose to spank, you should never spank your child in anger.

When people say timeout doesn’t work, I find that they usually aren’t executing timeout appropriately. When he acts out, how do you execute time out? How long is he required to sit for? Is the time out area in a place where there are a lot of activities or distractions? Are there toys around? Are you consistent with the practice (do you put him in timeout every single time he acts out)? Do you explain to you son why he is being placed in timeout and the behavior that is expected of him?

In addition to timeout, there are alternate forms of discipline. You can take away things from your child. Maybe the next time he runs out into the street, he doesn’t get to watch his favorite show or his favorite toy is taken away. The most important thing to remember is that you need to be consistent. Whatever method you follow, both you and your husband need to be on board and you need to do the same thing every time.

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missk
missk writes:
He just wants to exert some control, it's a fairly normal thing for a 3 1/2 year old to do.
When I had a similar problem (now he's older I have a whole bunch of other problems!), I would give him a choice: Help me push the cart, or sit in it. Walk by my side or hold my hand. And enforce the hand holding if need be.

Usually giving him a choice of 2 things will keep you both happy. He gets to make the decision (makes him feel good because he has control over himself), and you get to decide what the acceptable choices are.

Try not to get into a situation where he can just run off, offer him something to do that makes him feel "like a big boy" instead. And don't stress too much if he screams whilst your enforcing sitting in the cart or hand holding etc. After all, most people will understand, I'm sure there would be very few parents out there who haven't been in your situation.
> 60 days ago

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Dr. Hillary
Dr. Hillary writes:
Discipline is a system of teaching your child to behave in an acceptable way in a loving an accepting way.  Sounds like you are implementing time-outs, but you are not sure if you do it effectively.  Please read my article about discipline on my website.  I also have a couple of articles there about how to teach your child manners and how to teach your child responsibility.

If your attempts to discipline your child are unsuccessful, or he exhibits excessive aggression or intense temper tantrums, please talk to your child's health care provider.

Dr. Hillary
> 60 days ago

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LWhite
LWhite writes:
There is a really good book, Called " To Train up a Child" by The pearls. Even if you are not a Christian or religious, it is a very good book on helping to discipline kids. I have the same challenges with my three year old son, and this book has been a life saver! It is very different than anything you have probably tried before. It is about five dollars new, but im sure you could find it on amazon.com Good Luck!
> 60 days ago

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jayeshrathod
jayeshrathod writes:
If your boy does not be in decipline than tell him that whitout dicipline if you are smart then to your career will not be there

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lehnert26
lehnert26 writes:
I AM A MOTHER OF 2 BOYS THAT SCREAM AND YELL AT EACH OTHER OR JUST SCREAM FOR NO REASON THEY 3 AND 5 YEARS OLD AND YES I WAS THAT WAY TO SO I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING THREW WITH THE SCREAMING AND THE HUSBAND LOSING HIS TEMPER SO WHAT WE DID THAT WORKED WAS BE PATIENT AND CONTROL OURSELVES AND TRY NOT TO HAVE USE SCREAMING OR YELLING OR ARGUING IN IN FRONT OF THE KIDS AND THEN WE CAN WORK WITH THE KIDS OR KID ABOUT CONTROLLING HIMSELF WE HAVE TO BE CALM WHEN WE DO IT OR IT WON'T WORK. I learned this when I needed help I hope it will help you remember you are in charge not the child. Just keep telling yourself that.
> 60 days ago

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Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
I would let your husband know that "anger" is normal when you have a child that is giving you hell. However, spanking out of that anger only causes the family stress. Don't get me wrong, I think spanking is sometimes mandatory given the type of child and situation. However, age 3 is a little tricky. The toddler is trying to explore his world and if anyone gets in his way the automatic response is a tantrum. Which usually sends parents off the deep into spank mode. What I would do is when you go shopping, try to think of his needs too. Buy a shopping cart for him and have him toggle along next to you. Let him take the boxes. This will let him realize that he is important and what he doing is what you are doing. Now, in all practical circumstances, I would suggest if you go shopping to just avoid this situation and have a babysitter watch him or family member. It is so wonderful on you if you can shop in peace. Don't worry as he gets older you can teach him and he will be more obedient. As far as husband goes, try to talk to him about having patience. Raising a family is like rocket science sometimes and it takes a patient mind to get things done effectively. And if it is such a problem that it affects your kids, try counseling on the anger issues :)
> 60 days ago

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CKFormato
CKFormato writes:
Hang in there!!!  I also have a 3 1/2 year old boy that can be a handful.   Although the time-outs don't feel like they work you may have to keep going at it.  Believe me, I have been there and have screamed and spanked only to feel guilty and exhausted afterwards.  I am trying so hard with the time outs.  Promise yourself that you won't yell and be on top of it.  It is truly hard but at least after the continuous trips to the corner (because he won't stay in it) I have felt better about myself not screaming like a lunatic.  Good luck!!  It's not perfect but you'll feel better about trying.
> 60 days ago

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Reclay27
Reclay27 writes:
Beat the hell out of him.
> 60 days ago

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benn1977
benn1977 writes:
i totally feel for you we are in exactly same position with same age boys. its causing me and my wife to start breaking up and were falling apart :-[[  all the best to you
> 60 days ago

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