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Lori Gephart
Lori Gephart, Licensed Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 259
Experience:  Licensed Psychologist and Hypnotherapist 20 years of experience helping clients of all ages.
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My 3 1/2 year old is having more and more episodes where he

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My 3 1/2 year old is having more and more episodes where he is completely unreasonable over the most insignificant things. He must be the first one up or down the steps. If I walk up the steps first, he will carry on for two hours or more and will only be satisfied if I walk down the stairs and then he walks upstairs ahead of me. His behavior goes much beyond a stubborn, occasionally defiant child. His mind seems "stuck" and until his demands are met, he cannot get past this thinking. This is occurring more and more frequently and is manifested in many situations.

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I am sorry to hear about the problems you are experiencing with your son. He is most likely trying to have power over his world as he is beginning to be able to do more than ever before. You may want to pick your battles and offer him choices on the things that you are willing to let him decide. Then on the others, rather than giving in, you can either try to distract him or matter of factly refuse to debate with him and go about your business treating this as a temper tantrum. As difficult as it may be, try not to show emotion at these times. Keep in mind that any behavior that gets attention is likely to continue happening. It has been called the law of the soggy potato chip in that if a child thinks that he has a choice between a soggy potato chip or no chip at all, he will choose the soggy chip. If your son feels that he has the choice between negative attention or no attention at all, he will choose the negative attention and so he will act out until he gets it. The only way for this pattern to stop is to begin to catch the good behaviors and reward them with attention, and to calmly and matter of factly give consequences for the negative behaviors with as little attention as possible. A very good book on this subject is Win the Whining War & Other Skirmishes: A Family Peace Plan by Cynthia Whitham MSW. The more consistent you become with this positive parenting, the more secure your son will begin to feel and the more his behavior should improve. I hope this answer is helpful. Please let me know if I can clarify further.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I am certain that this is not just the action of a little boy who needs attention. He has those moments too but these episodes are markedly different and there is often not discernible trigger. He will often wake up from a cold sleep and cry uncontrollably. He woke up at 6:30 this morning crying as everyone else in the home was asleep because he was afraid that he couldn't go to the bus stop with his 8-year old sister. Nothing would assure him otherwise. He had a tantrum at breakfast because he needed a second spoon in his bowl of blueberries. Might sound on the surface like a power struggle but to witness this would suggest otherwise.

Thank you for the additional information. Given your concerns and the severity of the symptoms that you are describing, I would suggest that you have your son evaluated by a child psychologist who specializes in preschoolers. It is possible that there are stressors that have created this issue for him, or that he is experiencing some anxiety. Scheduling an evaluation with a child psychologist would be helpful to find out if there are any emotional issues that are causing problems for him. Generally children respond very quickly to play therapy. They also typically enjoy the process of therapy. Please let me know if I can help further.

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