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Ask Lori Gephart Your Own Question
Lori Gephart
Lori Gephart, Licensed Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 259
Experience:  20 years of experience as a Psychologist and Parenting Coach. Parent of 2 grown children.
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My son will be three in Nov. In the past 3 to 4 months he has

Customer Question

My son will be three in Nov. In the past 3 to 4 months he has changed from my sweet boy to a hot tempered non listening boy. We went from never having a problem at bed time to having a 1 to 2 hours fight @ bedtime. A few changes have went on in his life. New babysitter in Feb, moved to new house in June and at that time went from crib to big boy bed as well. He listens to NOTHING. Not even simple things , like "come here". How can I get him to listen and control his temper?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Lori Gephart replied 6 years ago.

Thank you for contacting JustAnswer.


I am sorry to hear about the problems you are experiencing with your son. You are correct that the recent stressors in his life may be escalating his behaviors. Children often feel less secure when there have been changes and may act out due to this. However, you can help by providing consistent parenting in the following way. 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 for you 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. This means no whipping, no yelling, no lecturing; almost acting like a robot when he has been acting out. 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, once he determines that you are going to be consistent with this and do it every time. In the meantime, be sure to catch the good behavior and give plenty of love and attention at these times. I hope this answer is helpful. Please let me know if I can clarify further.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thanks so much for your advice. Also there is one more possible big stresser. My husband work out of town and is usually gone Mon-Thur. The great part is, when he is home he is a great daddy and spends lots of time with our son. Also, I work swing shift. I work days and nights. My shift is a hard one when you have kids. There is however an upside. I usually only work 14 days a mth, so I have lots of time with my little one, but he does have to spend 4 to 5 night out of the mth with a sitter and then ofcourse a little while I sleep during day. He loves the babysitter but I was thinking of hiring a sitter to watch him @ home so he sleeps in his own bed. It sounds good and would make life easier but I worry about him not having the other kids around all the time? What are your thought on this? Better to be around other kids a good bit or to be in his own home and his own bed?

Expert:  Lori Gephart replied 6 years ago.
Consistency is very comforting for children. I wonder if you might be able to offer some other options for him to socialize, perhaps at other times, that would still allow him to sleep in his own bed. Also, I would encourage you to share these techniques with his sitter so that you are all on the same page. I wish you the best with this.
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I can't take my child in public anymore without a it being a very stressful trip. I mean it can be unreal. He crawls out of buggy and wants to push. Hits and scratches and will not listen to reason. With the other advice I've gotten I hope it will filter down to every event but int he mean time. What do I do? I hear all the time about what not to do but not much on the to do list of my actions.
Expert:  Lori Gephart replied 6 years ago.
That is a very good question. One thing you can do is to work on catching the good behaviors when you go out. First prepare him for the trip by letting him know that he will need to sit in the buggy. When he does, praise him, talk to him and otherwise give him attention. If he begins to try to crawl out, then matter of factly place him back in the buggy without showing any emotion or giving attention. If he continues to act out, then end the trip out. You may need to do a number of practice runs where you practice these techniques with him in order for him to understand that the way for him to get your attention, whether he is at home or out, is for him to behave. I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if I can clarify further.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I'm back with another question about my son (3 i Nov). I hope the strand of message goes with my question so I don't have to start all over. If not please let me know and I'll send more info. Up until we moved in July and also moved to big boy bed we NEVER had a problem with bed time. I've taken in account all the advice but bed time is still horrible now. What are some steps to make this better? Does his dinner time affect this? Is locking his door awful?
Expert:  Lori Gephart replied 6 years ago.

Thank you for bringing your question back to me here at JustAnswer. Dinner time should not affect bedtime, unless it is within an hour of bed, or consists of a high amount of sugar and/or caffeine. Most likely the change in bed is contributing to the problem. This often causes children to feel less secure and a bit anxious. You might try allowing him to take a favorite stuffed animal to bed with him. I would not suggest locking his door. This could raise his anxiety level higher, and could potentially be a safety issue. The best idea is to be sure to have a consistent bedtime ritual (bath, story time, . . . to allow him to wind down) and then hugs and kisses and leave the room. Each time he gets up, matter of factly walk him back to his bed, the first time letting him know in one sentence that it is bedtime now; after that, just simply placing him back in bed with no emotion (including no anger or frustration on your part). If you are consistent with this, the most it should take is three nights to have him back in a good bedtime routine. However, if you give in, or if you show emotion while you are doing this, then the problem will continue. Remember to give attention in the morning if he has had a good bedtime. I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have any further question.