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Lfarewell's avatar

How do I reconnect with my 3 year old son?

Asked by Lfarewell (52points) May 14th, 2010

My 3 yr old son is the middle child coming between a 6 yr old daughter and a 21 month old son. My son has always been a handful, throwing tantrums and acting out, crying all the time. Most people said that he was just being a boy but my mom instincts weren’t settling. I had him checked for allergies and was told he was too young to check for ADD or ADHD. I don’t know if this affects anything but he has ALWAYS had loose bowel movements which is not an issue with my other two. I love him unconditionally however lately since my divorce 7 months ago he has gotten to be unbearable. He talks back, throws fits and I can never let him play with other kids without having someone tell on him every 5 minutes. Another concern I have is that he seems to be gender confused sometimes. Getting to the point… I’ve always been the sole provider and I work extremely hard and go to school. I’m beginning to be resentful towards him and find myself not being as nice to him. I try to shower him with love all the time but all I get it bad behavior, crying, fighting, etc and I can’t take it anymore. I desperately want to help him but I can’t ignore the other two children. I don’t want to lose my son but I’m at a loss for how to fix our relationship. Any advice?

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19 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Go immediately to a clinic for intervention.

janbb's avatar

This is going to be hard ot arrange given the constraints of your situation, but if you can find ways on a regular basis to spend time alone with him, I think it would be very beneficial to both of you. Is there something he particuarly likes to do? Maybe just lunch out together once a week or some time alone at bedtime would help you rediscover each other. Is the father involved at all? Can he take the other two while you spend time along with this child? In addition, @dpworkin suggests, a family or mental health clinic might be very useful. On a side note, I wouldn’t worry too much about gender confusion at 3, kids are playing with all kinds of concepts at that age and who knows what may emerge. The real problems are much more serious.

Trillian's avatar

Get help from all the services available in your area. Been there and done that with my son. When he was seven I literally considered giving him up for adoption.
The thing about ADHD is that it is incessant. It literally never stops. If you are alone in dealing with it he will wear you out. I was terrified that I would snap. One never knows what one is capable of under that kind of pressure.
ADHD is exhausting and completely draining for the parents and you need all the support you can get. There should be respite services available through a state agency, as well as support groups of other parents of ADHD kids. Get help NOW!

dpworkin's avatar

The cluster of symptoms you describe is non-trivial.

janbb's avatar

I may have underestimated the weverity of the issues and agree with @Trillian and @dpworkin that getting help now is the way to go.

Lfarewell's avatar

I’m actually on a waiting list with a local hospital for a child pyschologist. Apparently they have a long list but at least I’ve made the first step of getting on it. My son is a great little boy when he’s not being difficult. Just this morning he made a point of telling me he loved me more than once. Despite the resentment I feel sometimes I know that I would be lost without him. Their father is not in their life much and I think that is part of it. I try to get his uncles and grandfather to spend quality “guy” time with him. When he turns 4 this year I plan on getting him into some activities. A side note: His father was taken to a mental hospital when he was a child and put on ritalin and valium but was never diagnosed with ADHD (although I think he has it). Also my mother suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar about 10 years ago although she’s been fine on her medication for years. Thanks everyone :)

janbb's avatar

Keep plugging and welcome to Fluther!

hearkat's avatar

In addition to the above advice, you might want to research food allergies. Since you mention the digestive issues, he may have gluten-intolerance or celiac disease, which can contribute to nutritional problems and discomfort that can manifest as behavior issues in a child that age. might be a good starting point.

cazzie's avatar

Early diagnosis is the key for any problems with allergies or ADD or Autism spectrum disorders. In the mean time, he needs some very clear boundaries and I’m guessing that he’s a real visual kid (like mine), so a BIG chart with pictures on it to reward positive behaviour could be a tool. Choose ONE bad behaviour (like using violence) and find a trigger that gets his attention. We used to take a toy and put it in ‘jail’ for a certain amount of time and it was the ONLY thing that he cared enough about so he’d change his behaviour. Tell him that if he does X, Y will happen and make it clear and follow through. When he tells you he hates you tell him that’s sad because you love him very much. With that age, words don’t mean much, but actions do, so don’t try to talk your head off at him.. it just frustrates them (and you).

Positive male influence is essential. Mine don’t see their dad much either (he travels for a living) so the male caretakers at his daycare are wonderful.

Do check out allergies. Food has a big influence, especially at this age.

Good luck.

gailcalled's avatar

There is an empirical connection to Autism spectrum disorders and certain diets. My niece’s middle son (diagnosed on the spectrum at 2) has a special diet, derived by trial and error.

Your little guy may not have control over some of the things he does.

Do seek a professional diagnosis and professional Behavior Therapy.

Where’s his dad in all of this? Was the divorce contentious?

Lfarewell's avatar

His dad was never very helpful and we spent most of our relationship arguing over his lack of being a father or provider in the home so I opted for the divorce and he lost custody and visitation. I still let him spend time with his son when he’s not making excuses. We both believe in a natural way of eating although unlike him I still include some meats in our diet. I thought he had a milk allergy but after seeing an allergist they came up with nothing. However it took me 27 years and several physicals among a million blood tests and constant following up to find out that I had a heriditary blood disorder. My general doctor said I didn’t have it and it took a specialist to push the issue. I’m thinking that I may need to take him to another specialist. Would anyone know what types of specialists would be helpful besides an allergist?

partyparty's avatar

Perhaps the divorce and not seeing his dad around may be causing some of the tantrums.
He sounds as though he is suffering. Poor chap.
Professional advice is a must and the sooner the better.
He is telling you he loves you, perhaps he is needing you to tell him you love him in return. This may be a cry for help. Give him hugs whenever you can.

tranquilsea's avatar

When my youngest was 2, 3, 4 and 5 he could have easily been diagnosed with ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). He pitched a fit every 20 minutes, when things wouldn’t go exactly how he wanted them to. He threw things at me, hard things, and came up with creative ways he was going to kill me when he got older. This was my favourite: he was going to invent a time machine and shove me in it so I could be put on the Titanic and die.

Through those years I pushed him away as I just couldn’t handle what was coming out of his mouth. We sought out, and received, family councilling. My oldest was able to talk him down from these fits and he ended up being instrumental in helping.

I tried every parenting style, tip, advice. Nothing worked. Then I had an epiphany. I started to just ignore his behaviour when he was in blow up mode and then talk to him about how he could control his temper once he had calmed down. I also started to hug him several times a day.

He’s 10 now and nothing like that child he was. I think a lot of what was going on for him was his desire to do things that his dexterity, body, age would not allow him to do. He could comprehend more than most kids his age, but he was limited by his age. He is also very sensitive. He reacts harshly to bright lights, loud sounds, unusual tastes and clothes that rub.

Although labels can be beneficial you have to be very careful you are not labelling prematurely as you could be wrong. Hanging a wrong diagnosis on a child can have devastating consequences to who they are and what type of help you get.

Three is tough age. He may be acting out because of your divorce. Kids that age often don’t have the language capabilities to verbalize what they are feeling. Therapy can help you with that to. Naming how you’re feeling is a life skill that can be taught as young as 2 and 3. Coming up with strategies on what he can do when he is feeling “a” “b” or “c” will be be very helpful.

Lfarewell's avatar

Everyone’s suggestions are so insightful and I am very appreciative. I do tell my son that I love him and I often kiss on him even if he makes ugly faces :) I am definitely fearful of labeling him so I try not to go that route. His father never paid him attention and yet he puts his father on a pedestal so I definitely think he’s crying out. Also being the middle child has to affect him some. I will make more of an effort to control my temper around him and give him more hugs and reassurance. I will also try to spend more quality one-on-one time with him. I’ll try the chart idea too and make the effort to be more consistent (which I haven’t been). I know that he cares for me because even when his dad asked to have him stay with him, my son refused and said he wanted to stay with me. It baffled me because I thought that since our divorce my son hated me. Hopefully by using your suggestions and the help of a professional we will be able to resolve our issue and reconnect. I love him so much and look forward to more amicable moments with him.

btw @tranquilsea : The comment your son made about the time machine… priceless. I know it wasn’t funny at the time but you got to give him kudos for creativity :)

skfinkel's avatar

I was surprised that you said you thought your son hated you—a three year old loves his mama, no matter what. He adores you, and he needs you. It sounds like you are working a lot and have two other children that no doubt require much time from you. Like @janbb I would suggest that you schedule time with him one on one. And tell him that you are going to do that—and when you have that special one on one time, have no interruptions from other children or telephones or anything. And then, help him by giving him reasonable limits and following through with them. Try and not say anything negative about your ex-husband as well—he loves him too and needs to have a relationship with him over the long term. A child does not need to hear bad things about his parent.

A child of three is really just a baby, and you need to remember that you are the grown-up and the one he looks to for stability and resolve (not always easy, I know). You said you don’t like labeling him, so be aware that you have tossed out many possible labels—when all it sounds like to me is a child who desperately needs his mother to be there for him, be consistent, have some time for him, make sure he is fed and rested (which can help reduce that tantrums).

Nullo's avatar

Maybe he needs some time with Dad.

Rarebear's avatar

Showering with love is not the answer. Clear limit setting and behavioral modification is. I recommend a book called 1–2-3 Magic

perspicacious's avatar

He needs you. If you work and go to school, I don’t see how you are able to provide everything it sounds like he needs. He needs to be with you in the evenings consistently. You may need to take a semester or two off of school. He is more important than work or school. Everything you said sounded like a toddler who needs his mother—- more. It’s a hard job you have, but don’t forget it is the most important one you will ever undertake.

Also, stay away from trying to blame his behavior on a “condition” that needs drugs.

YARNLADY's avatar

My youngest son showed some of those same symptoms, and was later diagnosed with mild ADD. (there was no H in it in those days). I was easier for me, because I was a stay at home mom with only one child at home.

I helped him with the excess energy by enrolling him in every level of physical activity I could arrange, from the baby and me classes offered by the hospital to the kindergym when he was older, and Little League baseball. His grandpa took him for swimming lessons when he was two.

I do not favor any kind of long term medication, except in extreme cases.

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