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Bonnie, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience:  and pediatric nurse practitioner with 30 years of experience counseling parents.
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Hi, I have a 3 1/2 year old son who has become quite a handful.

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Hi, I have a 3 1/2 year old son who has become quite a handful. It is a battle from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed. Time outs are not successful. Example: He goes to daycare 3 days a week so we have to get ready at 7:00 am. We use to let him come downstair and eat breakfast before getting dressed but that turned into a battle, he would take forever to eat, then fight us on getting dressed. So I have a new rule on daycare days he must get dressed in his room then come down for breakfast. First thing this morning, he doesn't want to get dressed. Try to reason with him, then take away things (i.e. No soccer tonight if he can't make good choices). still not having it so I leave him in his room throwing a fit. I go to take care of my daughter (1 year old) and my husband goes and tries to get him ready. At this point my son is hysterical, not wanting to get dressed. We leave him in his room crying for about 15 minutes, I finally go in and he gets dressed. This is the way it goes for EVERYTHING anymore. We try to give choices, warnings that we will need to take bath or get ready for bed soon, etc, but nothing is working. I am feeling like a complete failure and that my son is winning these battles. Any thoughts?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Bonnie replied 5 years ago.
You certainly have a strong-willed child. I am wondering if he is reacting to his sisters new found mobility (She is becoming more of a threat). In any case, this calls for a notching up of the positives to a degree that feels ridiculous.
  • Over praise the good behavior
  • Set up special mommy time and special daddy time (does not have to be long just 20-30 minutes daily, does not include what you are already doing, it is extra); This is to satisfy the need for time alone with you.
  • Have an incentive reward ready for getting in the car on day care days and waking up in morning after going to bed without a fuss; The reward is waiting in the car in the AM and the bedtime incentive can be a bag placed on his bedpost (or similar place) which will have a prize in the morning of he goes through the bedtime routine cooperatively. Even a small reward will work if it is interesting to him (stickers, money, snack, little plastic figures)

I would like to refer you to a book by an expert on Oppositional Defiant Disorder called Your Defiant Child: Eight Steps to Better Behavior; Russell Barkley PhD. You will find more ideas here. This behavior becomes more concerning if it is exhibited everywhere (daycare, relatives homes, etc). If this is the case, then, intervention from a child therapist may be necessary. Through play therapy the child works out their angry feelings (which is usually the cause of defiant behaviors).

I hope this helps but feel free to ask follow up questions.
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