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'Normal' behaviour or something else?


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#1 newbub2014

Posted 20 June 2017 - 06:22 AM

Wasn't sure where to post this as DS is about to turn 3, but anyway. He has always been a full on kid but lately he has been a bit more so than normal, the daycare has also picked up on it and I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed, frustrated and embarrassed by some of his behaviour.

His dad and I separated when he was 12 months and we have about 70/30 care. He's had a lot of changes this year, I had to move house and he went from 5 minutes away from his dad to 30 minutes and a new daycare (4 days per week). His dad got a new partner who he introduced very suddenly and in quite a full on way imo (ie less than 2 weeks after knowing her he had 3 nights at his dad's and she slept over for all of them). I am seeing someone new also who he has spent some time around (first partner for both of us that we have introduced) but done in a more gradual way.

His previous day care was a small converted house with different rooms for different activitiesand about 20 kids, he started there at 10 months. At the new daycare it's a bigger centre with about 100 kids. Apparently he just runs from activity to activity, he does sit for group time although I'm. It sure he stays the whole time. Over the last few weeks they've noticed he will knock over toys randomly, put dirt everywhere from a worm farm, pushes other kids if he doesn't like what they're doing (this one really bothers me) etc.  Most of the time at home he's polite, like if he accidentally bumps in to you he'll say "sorry mummy" of his own accord. But if he gets in a bit of a meltdown mode or whatever he'll lash out and hit etc.

Yesterday after he soiled his nappy (yes I am trying to TT) he pulled it out and put it everywhere which he has never done before. When I asked him about it he didn't seem to see a problem with it, he just told me about how he'd put it in different places much the same as if he was telling me he played with a train set for example. If he's told something he doesn't like eg when I get there and say "come and put your shoes on" he will run off screaming "nooooo" and hide under a table or behind something.

When we walked from the daycare to my car yesterday (a 2 minute walk which we have done regularly as I usually park at work and leave my car there when I go to pick him up if it's not dark yet) he ran off up behind a barrier and hid and told me to go away and go to work and leave him there. When I climbed over the barrier to get him he ran off up in to a garden bed screaming "nooooo". Previously he mostly just walks to my work, knows to stop at driveways and check for cars etc, buzzes in to the car park and walks over to the car cooperatively, so he does know what is expected of him as we have repeated this walk so many times before.

He doesn't like to hold hands in public, he just screams and makes himself a dead weight and drops to the ground. Most recently he's started screaming "you're hurting me mummy" if I try to hold his hand, which is pretty embarrassing. So I've tried to run with this and teach him the rules so he can just walk independently and along side me, but half the time this doesn't work and he's getting up to mischief. I know he's pushing the boundaries, the look on his face is like watching me to see what I'll do and how I will respond. It makes public outings a nightmare usually.

He's seems to feel things very extremely, a couple of weeks ago I wouldn't buy him a chocolate at the post office so he started full on screaming, I basically had to drag him out as he was getting in people's way and I then took him over to a quiet empty corner and spoke to him and hugged him until he stopped crying and screaming. He had a lot of tears running down his face and gets very worked up and warm so he took a while to calm down.

I've done circles of security and utilise the 'time in' method when i can, this seems to work best if he needs a bit of a break because his emotions are so heightened and he can't regulate them himself, for example if someone is at our house and he has a bit of a meltdown or becomes over excited and repeatedly does something he's been asked not to, I can take him to his room and sit and calm him down, then I give him a cuddle and read him a couple of books and his behaviour noticeably improves when we go back out. At a previous daycare he went to they had a little seperate room with beanbags and books so he could go for some quiet time in there with one of the educators if needed, the current daycare doesn't have anything similar and I'm wondering if it's too much to ask them to do this anyway (ie take him aside for some time) because they're busy with the other kids.

Anyway, it doesn't help stop the behaviour, only calm him down at the time. I've tried explaining what's expected of him beforehand eg going to the shops I explained "no running off and no screaming" and kept revisiting this during the shopping trip, he remembered and was pretty good until he sees something he wants which I guess is pretty normal.

I'm not sure if the above really gives a good enough picture of just how full on he actually is. I'm always getting comments from the daycare on how much energy he has and that he doesn't stop. But it's starting to make things really difficult for me, I'm exhausted most of the time from working and being a single mum and I can't do anything I need to do when I have him like go to the post office. People stare all the time in public when he has an outburst or meltdown and give me rude looks etc which gets me down because I'm doing the best I can. I can't talk to his dad as much because his new gf is young and incredibly immature and insecure (I did call him yesterday after the daycare explained some of his latest behaviour, and we did talk for about half an hour, but it's not the norm lately). So I have no one to talk to about it. I see all the other kids at daycare playing nicely together, going off nicely with their parents when they come to pick them up (not running off and hiding under tables where I can't reach him), waiting next to their cars while the parents put the bag in etc. And I just feel like I'm the only one and what have I done wrong to have a kid who seems to deliberately do things he knows he shouldn't to get a reaction from me.

#2 José

Posted 20 June 2017 - 06:42 AM

I think at this age there is a wide variety of whats considered average behaviour.
I think many of the behaviours you describe could be considered within normal limits but that doesnt mean it isnt pretty challenging to manage.
Id chat to daycare about if they thought an OT might ve helpful- perhaps there is a sensory component. And OTs often worj with social skills and emotional regulation.
I'd also check what day care say about his language development in case a language assessment might be warranted.
On outings rather than no running describe the behaviour you do want eg walk close to mummy.

#3 SplashingRainbows

Posted 20 June 2017 - 06:45 AM

Oh you poor thing - I can hear how overwhelmed you're feeling. I've been there. You are not alone. Most kids do this to their parents at some point - they really do.

So please stop beating yourself up. You sound like a really wonderful caring mum.

Do you think some extra support for yourself might help? Because kids really do pick up on how we are feeling and coping, especially in those early years where they are making sense of their world and their place in it.
Certainly one of the happiest periods of my life was when I was regularly seeing a psychologist just mostly to debrief my crazy life at the time. She was there to support me and me only and at the time I really didn't have someone else to do that for me without judgement.

I also think perhaps schedule a meeting with the daycare room leader when you're both able to attend without time pressure to explore what they're concerned about if anything. They may be concerned or they may just be making conversation. Better to know and then follow up with your GP if necessary.

If you do think there's something going on developmentally for your son by all means see your GP. They can be a wonderful source of support.

#4 Rosiebird

Posted 20 June 2017 - 06:53 AM

I think you're doing a great job from what you describe, and I think his behaviour is absolutely normal for the magnitude of changes he has experienced.

Circle of security and time-in are perfect.

I wonder whether you are feeling a bit sorry for him and trying to avoid setting boundaries sometimes to avoid him feeling upset.  What I suspect is that his "over-reaction" to little things is an excuse to express his emotions about the big things (new childcare, new step-partners etc). Ans that's a good thing - he needs to express these emotions and have you accept and acknowledge his feelings (without minimising them or trying to change them into positive feelings)

He probably needs tighter boundaries at the moment to feel secure. You know he's testing you - (looking to see your reaction) - and when you know that's happening, just move forward and stop him early, in a knowing way. "I see you are thinking of running off. Would you like to hold my hand or sit in the stroller" .... "You thought I hurt you! Oh dear. I tried to take your hand gently but it felt rough to you. I'm sorry. I'll pop you in the stroller now and we'll head home".

I think you are doing things right. I'm impressed with you. Things will improve. His emotional outbursts are a good and healthy release for him, not bad behaviour.

#5 the abc

Posted 20 June 2017 - 07:18 AM

Sounds very like my son, which I put down to him being very headstrong and starting to feel out/challenge boundaries. It can be exhausting. The post office is our key battle ground too - if I want to retain my sanity & need to get something done, I strap him in the stroller and give him my phone for 5m if he starts playing up. It's not 'ideal' parenting but I think it's better he has a sane mother. Good luck

#6 mayahlb

Posted 20 June 2017 - 08:37 AM

He's almost 3 right? Then most of that sounds perfectly normal to me. As rosiebird said as much as it sounds strange he could be wanting some strong boundaries. While they push against them and it's frustrating for a parent having the reposnse that this is the rule and the rule isn't really going to change is actually comforting for many kids this age.

And... I'm sorry to say it's probably going to get worse before it gets better. 3 is one of those ages where children seem to try to assert their independent and push boundaries but still want to know the rules that keep them safe. I would just keep doing what you are doing. Work with him and use the calm down strategies you are already using. Talk to daycare about putting something in place to work with him and maybe about how he would benefit from the room he is in being more structured. Most kids repo d well to this. Ignore the stares and glares... everyone gets them and half  He time it might actually be in sympathy.

Oh and post office... totally nightmare with my kids and many others. I still avoid it and they are 7 & 8.5.

#7 amdirel

Posted 20 June 2017 - 10:40 AM

Sounds pretty normal to me OP.
Sorry.
3yo's are generally awful.

#8 Lou-bags

Posted 20 June 2017 - 10:52 AM

It also sounds normal to me too. My DS1 and my niece both had very similar explosive and testing behaviour at that age. Both very outgoing, busy active enthusiastic loud children in general.

Rosiebird's post hits the nail on the head. Now is the time to hold the boundaries firm and set the limits. He needs to push so he can see that you'll stay strong, calm and steadfast when he's not.

Also agree with her and another PP about pushing to get a reaction or to hit the boundary so that he can then let loose the emotions. My DS1 would/will push and push until I either snap (awful) or I hold the limit firm and he can cry and scream. He actually told me one time, after I asked him if he'd kept doing what he did (throwing toys) because he felt like he needed a big cry and shout and he said 'yeh it was all in my belly but it's come out my mouth now and I'm all better'.

It made me realize that I need to provide a safe place for him to do that (i.e. let him go for it without trying to stop him crying, and also that I needed to stay firm with behaviour and not let things slide to avoid tantrums). As soon as I did, the frequency did start to drop off. And the length of time the tantrums go for is far less when I'm accepting and calm with them (vs trying k fix or getting cross).

3 year olds are HARD. I just try to remind myself that if it's hard for me, it's no doubt harder for him.

Good luck!!

#9 Bwok~Bwok

Posted 20 June 2017 - 11:32 AM

I have a 3 year old and she is exactly the same atm.

It's like she woke up one morning and was a different kid.

All I can say is hold and tight for the ride and I'll send you a hug as well.

#10 RSA

Posted 20 June 2017 - 11:52 AM

Can't really help you as my bub is quite a bit younger, but I really just wanted to post and say hang in there.

You sounds like a really great loving, caring mum! Don't doubt yourself, just from this post I can see how much you care about him.

Keep doing what your doing, hug him, tell him you love him and help him through all these feelings and emotions he's having.

I remember my cousin hitting the 2/3s really horrible. Everything was no, everything was a tantrum or a screaming match or she was really horrible to other kids and animals for about a year or two.

She's now a very quiet well behaved 15 year old. I had almost forgotten how absolutely awful she was for a few years!!

#11 PeaSoup

Posted 20 June 2017 - 12:33 PM

Have to agree with PP's.  My nearly 3 year old is the same.  He had a massive tantrum this morning because he wanted to wear a certain t-shirt...which he already had on.
Letting him have a tantrum and just riding it out seems make the tantrum pass more quickly.  He always needs a hug afterwards.  
Make sure that when you set a boundary, that you stick to it.  If you say that you'll take him home if he doesn't sit in the shopping trolley (or whatever), then actually take him home if he doesn't sit.  Make sure he knows why, but stick to your boundary.

Good luck.

#12 Ellie bean

Posted 20 June 2017 - 12:37 PM

Yep sounds like normal 3yo. I have one, he was such a placid darling before, he's a little pain in the butt atm but I don't worry about him. My Dd does have some issues that go beyond normal IMO (am getting her assessed) so luckily i am basically impervious to all public embarrassment- I just remind myself any public tantrums are a reflection on him NOT my parenting ability.

#13 Therese

Posted 20 June 2017 - 01:52 PM

It does sound like pretty normal behaviour but if you are at all concerned it is worth having a chat to someone. I would start with his carers at childcare.

#14 ekbaby

Posted 20 June 2017 - 02:39 PM

It sounds normal to me, I have definitely had moments with each of my 3 kids where they've been screaming their heads off as I sit down next to them in a shopping centre or gutter and deal with the stares... or where all the other kids seem to be doing the "right" thing and mine is the one climbing over the fence to escape the playground, chucking a wobbly and climbing a tree and refusing to come down etc etc...

The fact that daycare have pointed it out would make me wonder though, can you have a bit more of a chat to them and try and get to the bottom of what they meant by it? Ask them if they are concerned about his behaviour and how it fits into the spectrum of what they see in kids his age?

Are his daycare teachers experienced and good at what they do? I guess I'm thinking either they are a) just making conversation/empathising with you b) trying to let you know that there may be some things worth getting checked out further or c) not very used to "normal" toddler behaviour and with a preference for only "very well behaved" kids, in which case, along with what you've said about the daycare being very busy, would make me wonder if it's the right place for him.

#15 Ellie bean

Posted 20 June 2017 - 02:45 PM

 Therese, on 20 June 2017 - 01:52 PM, said:

It does sound like pretty normal behaviour but if you are at all concerned it is worth having a chat to someone. I would start with his carers at childcare.
Yes definitely get it checked out if you feel you should.

#16 Rosiebird

Posted 20 June 2017 - 02:52 PM

Just another thing I noticed... maybe instead of saying "no running and no screaming" you could say "I want you to walk next to me and stay close. You need to use a quiet talking voice in the shops" so you are being very clear about what you want him to do.

#17 ednaboo

Posted 20 June 2017 - 04:05 PM

 PeaSoup, on 20 June 2017 - 12:33 PM, said:

Have to agree with PP's.  My nearly 3 year old is the same.  He had a massive tantrum this morning because he wanted to wear a certain t-shirt...which he already had on.

I love this.  Sums up 3yos perfectly!

#18 theboys2

Posted 20 June 2017 - 04:56 PM

sounds fairly normal but so frustrating at the same time. I think this is an important time to set boundaries so that when they get older they understand what is expected of them - not that rules are things that are said and dont actually mean anything.

We saw a psychologist for a while for our DS 5 who had trouble expressing his emotions and had frequent meltdowns about things around 3.5-4.5 years old and one thing that she said to us was to over praise all the good things he was doing (just normal every day expected behaviour as well as good behaviour) so that that became his way of getting attention. She said to only do this for a week or so of FULL ON OVER THE TOP praise but just to reboot his system so to speak. And also with lots of phsyical contact. a touch on the arm of being really good, a high five, a hug. Sometimes at this age they dont fully hear the words.

She thought that he may have been reacting to things as he needed attention adn that is how he knew to receive it. If he was getting the attention he needed at other times he may not burst with meltdowns as much.

i dont know if this helped at all but i think it did to a certain degree. we spend so much time i think ignoring or just enjoying the good behaviour we dont say anything (in my case i didnt want to interrupt the good behaivour for fear of scaring it off! lol) that he only saw a lot of emotion from us when he was being naughty.

just something you could try as well.

Good Luck OP

#19 Rosiebird

Posted 20 June 2017 - 05:08 PM

I agree with the idea of love-bombing (ie. heaps and heaps of positive attention) but I personally wouldn't over-praise. I think just having fun with him, doing things together that he loves. paying attention to him and connecting with him is enough.

#20 Veritas Vinum Arte

Posted 20 June 2017 - 05:23 PM

Ignore the looks in public. There are those who have no idea and who "disapprove" and those like me who will be thinking "poor mum" (as well as thinking thank god I am past that stage).

Hold your head high knowing you are doing the best you can.

My sisters eldest never tantrumed, well behaved. Next child is the devils spawn. So much so my sister has a full set of teeth marks as a scar in her upper arm. This is a happily married stable situation.

For out in public with kids who didn't want to hold my hand I did purchase the backpack with parent strap. My children had to decide which was worse, holding my hand or being in the backpack.

My DD loved to scream at me "I hate you mummy" when she was tantruming.

Unfortunately tantrums seem to be a normal part of childhood for most.

My third tantrumed right up until she was in school. Even at 7yrs will still try it on.

Wishing you all the best.

#21 newmumandexcited

Posted 20 June 2017 - 07:19 PM

Sounds like my son. 😔

My son had a tantrum today because I took an apple from him as he asked. Then one when I gave it back to him as he asked.

Edited by newmumandexcited, 20 June 2017 - 07:22 PM.


#22 harmonic_wizz_fizz

Posted 20 June 2017 - 08:14 PM

Its normal that kids act out a bit if they go through a lot of changes, especially if they are getting tired at this age. Its a pretty energetic age for them anyway!

Maybe give it a few weeks and if he doesn't settle down in his new centre have a chat to a nurse or gp and see what they say.

#23 newbub2014

Posted 22 June 2017 - 07:04 PM

Thanks everyone. I think I will try the suggestions of telling him what I do want him to do rather than what I don't want him to do, I think this makes sense and it will work well in conjunction with descriptive praise which I already use a lot.

I think he already knows what the boundaries are but I'll keep trying to make sure I reinforce them. I might take him to an OT for a couple of sessions at least once I can get some extra money together.

Hopefully it is just a phase but it feels like it's been going on for a while now, I think it just feels worse atm now that the daycare are commenting on it too

#24 elemeno

Posted 26 June 2017 - 06:12 PM

Sounds like my almost 3 year old. This is not an age I am enjoying. When they get to 4 they are so much nicer!
13 months to go :(
hugs Mama.

#25 laridae

Posted 26 June 2017 - 06:35 PM

Sounds exactly like my nearly 3 year old at the moment
Tonight she cracked it as she didn't want my to buy carrots from the shop on the way home. She put them back and when I picked them up and bought them anyway she threw herself to the ground and screamed for about 10 mins. I ended up having to carry her the rest of the way home (very unwillingly).




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