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How do you get a child who just turned 3 to follow the rules. My son since he could walk has been very destructive. He takes apart his toys breaks things if they can be broken. We have not found what he values yet. He has gotten minor, minor spankings that don't phase him but for a moment, the same with time outs and removal of toys. I love him and he is sooo sweet but a handfull. Very different from his older sister. Any advice???? He is also very strong and I think sometimes he feels like he can do what he wants because of his strength. I don't know. To keep hime from being bad I have to follow him around all day redirecting him. Trouble is just a few steps away.


Elinor Robin, PhD Replied: He is who he is. Forget the comparisons, he is a high-energy, curious little boy. (1) Give him choices, not rules. (Which pajamas do you want to wear to bed? versus Its time for bed now!) (2) Find ways to tire him out during the day. (3) When he is not living up to your expectations, look him right in the face and give him a choice. Never yell from another room. He needs your undivided attention.
Posted On 2010-05-03 00:17:58
Dr. Vicki Panaccione Replied: Sometimes parents become so caught up in the problems, that they find it hard to balance them with the positives. So, it's wonderful that you can still see the sweetness in him. It is not clear from your question whether the destructive behavior/breaking things is related to taking things apart. If he has a real curiosity for how things are put together, and therefore takes them apart to see, in essence ‘breaking' them, that is one thing. If he is simply being defiant and just breaking things by throwing them, etc. that is another issue entirely. So, let me address both. If his behavior is driven by his curiosity, or his interest in hands-on activities, then I wouldn't call it destructive, but rather explorative. In that case, I would give him things that he can take apart, and would encourage you to work with him on then putting them back together again. And, if they are his toys, he really has the right to take them apart, as long as he understands that it might mean the end of that particular toy. But, if he is less interested in toys, and more interested in taking apart things, then I would buy playthings that meet those needs. If, on the other hand, he is simply breaking things, I wonder what is the root cause. Simply punishing without understanding can definitely be futile. Is he angry? Does he not know his own strength? Is he inadvertently but literally being given too much power? Or, is he enjoying the reaction he gets from you for this behavior? Getting a rise out of you can be most entertaining. Be as calm and directed as you can be in dealing with this misbehavior. If he is in charge of where he goes and mom follows, then the balance of power is askew. He shouldn't be dictating where you go---it's your job to direct his boundaries. Choose the room that you want to be in, and either contain him in there (with a gate, closing the door, etc.) or put him in an area in which he can be contained (with toys/objects with which he can do anything he wants.) You may want to try getting him to help you ‘take things apart' in constructive ways, such as taking groceries out of the bags, peeling carrots (with your assistance, of course,) taking clothes out of the washer/dryer. In other words, find ways to channel his exploratory behavior into helpful behavior. Whatever you do, I would advise against spanking. Spanking is trying to use your strength to exert power over him. If he is strong and oppositional, then he will begin to use his ‘power' in defiant response. If the above suggestions do not help, then I would suggest consulting your pediatrician, and perhaps engaging the services of a child psychologist who can evaluate the situation fully, and provide assistance in developing effective behavioral techniques.
Posted On 2010-01-16 15:02:41
Jim Taylor, Ph.D. Replied: Sounds like quite a challenge. Of course, part of being a three year old is to test limits and cause trouble. And most kids grow out of this phase. But, considering that none of your interventions haven't worked (and I would definitely not advocate spanking), it sounds like there may be more going on here than a simple behavioral problem requiring limits and consequences. Quite simply, it sounds from your description that he is out of control, not only your control, but also his own. I would suggest that you have him assessed by a development specialist. His behavior may simply be a reaction to or a coping strategy for some sort of a neurophysiological issue. For example, the four-year-old son of friends of ours exhibited similar behavior. He was diagnosed with a sensory disorder in which he is hypersensitive to sensory input causing him to act out as a means of dealing with his sensitivities. With help from a variety of professionals, the boy's behavior has improved dramatically.
Posted On 2010-01-14 17:01:35
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