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26 Mar 2003

3yr old like a monster
I have a 3yr old son. My husband and I can take him nowhere. If we go for an outing or to the shops he demands everything his eyes see and when we say no, he will throw a tantrum, scream, cry, hit us, bite us or scratch us. It is very embarrising as people stand and look at us. We can't spank him, does not work, it only makes him worse. We have tried talking nicely to him, does not work. I cannot carry on living a life with a child that demands all the time. We put him into a nursery school but had to take him out as he would scream every morning when we drop him off and eventually through all the crying became sick. People tell me that it's because he misses his grandparents (they were living with us since he was born and he was with them all the time) and now they moved away. But this problem was before they moved away... it just became worse since their departure. If the grandparents go to the shops with him, he behaves himself and acts like a real angel, but with my husband and I he is a real little monster. Please help, I do not know what more to do with him. I have to get him to start behaving in public.

Answer 407 views

01 Jan 0001

Dear Desperate Mother,
I suspect that other readers will have found ways of dealing with this all-too-common problem of raising a young monster. The fact that he discriminates and selects settings in which he will misbehave, and situations in which he won't, proves that he is capable of controlling what he does, He just doesn't, at present, choose to do so. Children are master manipulators, and highly skilled at twisting their parents. In fact, some are far better at getting you to behave in the way they want you to, than vice versa.
Before one goes to the child shrink ( which is always an option ) its worth trying to analyze the situatons in which he does and does not misbehave. What could be rewarding to him in the situations in which he plays up ? Does he enjoy the attention, from you or from others ? Does he rely on the fact that he will eventually get at least some of the goodies he sees and demands, if he raises the stakes high enough to force you to give in ?
He's a bit young for a comprehensive behavioral treatment, but the same principles can apply usefully. One tries to remove the benefits and rewards he receives from misbehaving ; and to reward instead the good behavior you want. To the extent that he can understand you, one might explain that his outings and trips to the shops wll be limited or non-existent if he misbehaves when he goes out. It'd be handy if you had someone available to serve as a babysitter for such occasions. The rule can be --- one scream, one sign of starting a tantrum, and you get taken straight home and left there with the sitter --- and you miss the next three trips out. No toys, no icecream, no videos, ( whatever are his special treats) for a day after a tantrum.
On the other hand, one can have a reward system, coupled with this. For each occasion on which he behaves well in a situation in which previously he misbehaved, he gets a gold star on a chart on the wall. And for every 3 stars, he gets a treat of his choosing.
Oh, and the sitter of choice would not be the grandparents he obviously loves, or his "punishment" would be a reward. Instead, if he wants time with them, or trips to the shops with them ( and they'd have to buy in to your plan ) these can become the rewards he has to work for. 3 well-behaved trips to the shops with you, and he gets one trip with them. One tantrum and he misses out the next trip with them.
Besically one has to be ingenious, and find ways to make the misbehaviour less fun, less rewarding, than the good behaviour you want.
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