Wednesday, February 18, 2009

At my wit's end

I heard all about how the Terrible 3s are the new Terrible 2s. About how awful 3 is because the child, he has an opinion and the need to express it and the ability to express it. Couple that with the insistence on doing everything himself from putting on his shoes (thank you Velcro) to brushing his own teeth (hello, tooth decay) to deciding how many minutes he will play before gracing us with his presence at the table ("One minute, Mommy, one minute") to getting in his own carseat (which only happens after he first crawls in the front seat and opens the passenger door and raises my blood pressure 75 points) and you have a recipe for Mommy Meltdown.

Three might kill me.

Oh the battles we have had lately. A perfect example: Jack fools around before naptime with the same routine everyday. We go upstairs and he morphs into Devil Child on the way up the stairs. He starts laughing and runs into the bathroom, slamming the door. He runs the length of the room to the tub and then emits a high-pitched scream. I ask him nicely to get on the potty and he runs by me, screaming, out into the hall. I pick him up and bring him back in the bathroom, where he goes noodle on me and refuses to stand up. I end up pulling his pants off and telling him to stand up and get on the potty. He refuses. I pick him up and put him on, but he slides off screaming, "NO, JACK DO IT." After he refuses again, I pick him up and take him in his room where I start to put his naptime diaper on him. He then freaks out and says "Pee potty! Pee potty!" so I take him back in the bathroom and he finally climbs on and does the job. Washing hands is more of the same, and ends with me physically pinning him between me and the counter and shoving his hands under the water. After that, he runs into his room and I finally get him in bed.

At the end of this 10-minute process, I am exhausted physically and mentally. I can't keep butting heads with him all day and I am coming to the realization that I am never going to win the battle with a 3-year-old. This is the boy who chanted, literally nonstop, for 90 minutes at naptime, "Mommy come in." He has a one-track mind and will not be deterred.

I can't take it anymore. It's like this with almost everything we do. I have tried everything: reward charts, timeouts, positive reinforcement, 1-2-3 Magic. Nothing works. They say to be consistent, but it's hard to be consistent when you don't see results. When your child laughs at you and runs out of timeout for the fifth time in three minutes, you just feel defeated. Ditto with him checking the reward chart to see if he has one more star to waste on some bad behavior before whalloping his sister. (Yes, he actually looked at the damn chart to see if he could get away with something and still watch a video. It's scary the forsight he used.) I spend the timeouts either threatening him to get back on the mat/in his room or holding him in my lap or holding the door shut. And it's not fair to Emmie to take attention away from her when she didn't do anything wrong so I can make sure his punishment is being meted out correctly.

I need advice. But I don't need to hear: "I guess my kid just has an easygoing personality because he never misbehaves." Or, "I just give him lots of extra hugs and attention and that solves the problem." Or, "I give her a good whack on the backside and she doesn't backtalk me no more."

Please. If there's anyone out there going through this or on the other side of it looking back with sympathy, just tell me what to do. I am desperate.

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Blogger 4boyz4me said...

First, let me just tell you that the only parts of that post I couldn't have written about Nico was the one about checking the star chart before hitting his younger sister. Well, that and the fact that we gave up on naps ages ago and he doesn't use the potty. But seriously, you've pretty much described my life with Nico. I have the difficulty of trying to chase him out of the street while trying to get everyone in the car for yet another activity or getting him to settle down long enough for me to do a lesson of something with one of the other kids. It's been a nightmare. I love him but we had the 18min tantrum yesterday. Yes, I timed it because it started as a timeout but he just went ballistic so I had to stay with him and keep restraining him so he wouldn't hurt anyone or anything. He ended up with staples after running away from a diaper change and yet he still does it.

I can give you advice but you won't like it. Time is likely the only thing that will actually see you through this. Not your time in giving him more one-on-one but time as in his getting older. This will get better tho he'll probably always be more *ahem* challenging than many other kids but he will get to the point where you can reason with him and the lines of communication are not so one-sided (his way or the high way). My mantra for many years (Christopher wasn't fun either and Matthew has a temper that won't quit) has been "I will not kill my child today". (Please no hate mail) It's not that I would ever harm them but it was just a way to go zenlike and make myself laugh a little that that was the best thing I could say about the day. And 14yrs later I still have all my kids. So breathe deep, keep digging deep to find those reserves of patience you didn't think you had, yell into a pillow when you need to, and remember, this too shall pass. Or you can also do my other favorite which is calculate how many days until they turn 4½-5yrs old which seems to be the magic dream age.

February 18, 2009 11:32 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

Here's my advice: Drink. A lot.

The 3's sucked with my son and I found *nothing* that helped. I cried. A lot. It was hard and I felt like I was the worst mother in the world.

The 3's, for boys, suck. And I thought the 3's for my daughter was hard but I am finding her to be even more challenging now that she is 4. I may not survive.

I tried different parenting strategies. Nothing worked. My blog, during the year my son was 3, is filled with posts just like this one. Other parents I know, the ones who aren't trying to look like they have it all together, say the same thing: it's all about survival. Yours.

I tried the naughty rug (yeah - sometimes works but more often than not it was waaay too much work for me to keep taking him back). I tried a good solid swat. I tried threatening with a wooden spoon (never did it though). When he was 5 I learned about "sassy sauce" and it has become my saving grace right now. When the kids get smart or just dangerously out of control I just have to say "Shall I get the sassy sauce?" and they straighten up. How would it have been if I tried that at 3 with my son? I don't know.

Sassy sauce can be many things - I have both the brown listerine and tabasco sauce. I have used a teeny tiny drop of tabasco sauce in my son's mouth and that was enough for him to know he never wants it again. (I felt awful and crappy but man did he need something done!) (For the record: a glass of milk will take the burning away for him and a stiff drink will help you.)

It sucks. So, so much. I survived the 3's twice and I know of no magic bullet. You do the best you can on any given day and that's all you can do.

I used to have low blood pressure. In the past few years it has crept upwards....and I know exactly why.

February 18, 2009 11:41 PM  
Blogger Monica said...


You may feel like it. Again, this sounds like Ethan to a T. I thought I/him were not going to survive. 2 was nothing compared to 3. Now Ethan is 5 and just a joy to be around. Love your description of the "noodle". Yes the independance part sucks, because they don't do it the way you would. But let him do it anyway, it takes the edge off of the battle so to say. I guess pick your battles as well. I used to scream at Ethan for little stuff, and now I feel bad looking back.

As the 1st commenter mentioned "time", I second that as well. Not what you wanted to hear. Boys seem to have endless energy, so if you have the option of letting him go outside to burn it off, that's great. Ethan will go out regardless of how cold/hot it is and I just let him.

Believe me when I say, Jack will be so awesome in the next year or so. He really will. It's hard to see the light when it seems so far away, but he is normal, and you are a fanstastic mom. This post is proof of it and how much you love him.

February 19, 2009 1:57 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Oh boy did all that sound familar!! I remember those mind numbing days all to well and the best I can offer is to make these words your mantra....this to shall pass....I believe those words got me through the worst days when my son.....a very headstrong child.....pushed me to the edge every day when he was that age. But here is the good news, all that willfullness (?),stubborness that makes parents crazy can turn into positive traits when they are older.

February 19, 2009 7:45 AM  
Blogger Hettie said...

My sister in law has a mantra that I've adopted at times when dealing with Nora. It's "be the tree." As in, all the yelling, not listening, hitting, laughing in the face of punishment (oh, how I hate that one) doesn't affect me because I am the strong oak tree and my kids can beat me up but they will not get to me.

It sorta works. :)

This is going to sound awful, but I've found that the timeout that works for Nora is sitting her on the stairs, with the lights off and the door shut. She seemed to enjoy the open door ones a bit too much. The other one usually makes her cry.

We've just started doing timeouts for everything, cuz the not listening thing has been driving me batty.

But yeah, this age can suck. Trust me though, 4 is better (and actually 3-1/2 was better, too.)

It is harder because you also have a 1-year-old in the mix. Seriously, though, it does get better. Really, truly.

February 19, 2009 12:21 PM  
Blogger snarflemarfle said...

I totally hear you! X-man has been crazy since he turned 3 earlier this month (is there a switch or something?). He doesn't listen and purposely does things he knows he's not supposed to do.

What we've done lately is take away toys, books, etc. And I remind him frequently about what he can't have because he's not behaving. Currently his Geotrax Airplane, Handy Manny toolbox and Dr. Seuss books are on lockdown. The next thing to go is the Frog tent in his room. This insaneness is driving me batty!!

February 19, 2009 2:15 PM  
Blogger Mah Mare said...

You unfortunately have a son who is totally and completely like you were at 3. I see you struggling and know exactly how you feel and what is to come. Less choices, more consistency, lots of love and rewards for good behavior are what will work. You used to set the timer and get out the chair for timeouts so you can only imagine what my life was like.

February 19, 2009 3:40 PM  
Blogger Jennifer H. said...

This too shall pass!
I like Love and Logic - the Early Years, but my son is only 2, so I don't have any experience with 3 year olds.
One thing I have heard is that kids that have tough toddlerhoods and preschool years have easier teen years - if you think about it, all the struggles are the same: independence, autonomy vs. authority, etc.

February 19, 2009 6:19 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

Thank GOD I'm not the only one. My oldest daughter turns 3 next month, and I'm pretty sure I'll have an entire head full of gray hair by then. I'm also at a lost as to what to do...we've tried everything you have, and nothing seems to work for very's like trying to reason with a brick wall. Something tells me brick walls are probably much more reasonable. Ha.

By the time my husband comes home, I'm ready to lock myself in our room and scream into a pillow. Or poor myself a very large drink.

I also have a 10 month old, and I hate feeling like I'm too busy disciplining her older sister to pay attention to her.

Here's to hoping they grow out of

February 19, 2009 7:10 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

'at a LOSS' & 'POUR myself a large drink.'

I can't seem to spell these brain!

February 19, 2009 7:12 PM  
Blogger Ally said...

The way I see it with my guy is he knows when he is doing something wrong, and he knows what I expect from him. When he misbehaves I don't give warnings, I don't ask him if he wants a time out I just do it...everytime. Some days I feel like all I am doing is punishing him, but I have seen a difference. If he hits (insert here what he wouldn't like...a time out a toy taken away etc). I hate saying it but consistency is the only thing that will work, and finding something that he finds unpleasant is key.

February 19, 2009 7:19 PM  
Blogger j said...

My older son is one day older than Jack and my younger son is 3 weeks older than Emmie, and the similarities between your son and my older son have really been incredible. I could go on and on about your son and my son, but I'm running on negative time so I'll just throw out the advice. Regarding time outs: my son's are spent strapped in the booster seat (away from the dining room table). He feels sorry and I can switch the laundry around without worrying about the baby being alone around the older one for 2 minutes (I haven't moved up to 3 minutes - he'd be in timeout all day!). When he stopped napping, which was earlier than most kids, I went back to work part time. It's an amazing sanity break and I get to wear white and silk blouses.
I saw it mentioned in other comments - Corona eases my mood when everyone starts to feel the effects of missed naps later in the day.

February 20, 2009 12:27 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I've had too many of those days to count them! My son just turned 3 and it started a few months ago. It was really bad for a few weeks. Would scream going to bed at night and kept coming out of his room until about 10:30. Nothing worked. Eventually it passed. We finally figured out the mental part of some of it but each day seems to have new struggles. The only things that have helped us are:
1 get out of the house for a little while almost every day.
2 when at home use crafts or games as a distraction before the melt down starts
3 take away toys if he gets out of bed. one day I took away 10 toys before he finally stayed in bed and he's still earning them back with good behavior.
4 the hardest one of all... stay calm. I have to work on this all day every day but it seems to help. If he sees he's getting under my skin things get worse.

Scary how manipulative they are at such a young age.

February 20, 2009 10:35 AM  
Blogger Tracey said...

Longtime lurker from FF back in the day - but I'm going through this as well with my 2.75 y/o and a 7 month old. You have described it to a T and I'm scared because your kids are ahead of mine. Oh what's to come. No advice, but if you find a solution, please post it!

February 20, 2009 2:17 PM  
Blogger Jorie said...

Been there. My daughter's Year 3 has been not-so-lovingly referred to as the Chinese year of the Horse's Ass. We've learned how to deal with it, and this is what we've come up with over the year.

We focus on two bad behaviors at a time (right now it's (1) not listening and (2) hitting, especially her little sister). First offense = 30 minutes in the room; second offense = 1 hour in the room; third offense = rest of the day in room. She only gets to come out if we have not been able to hear her during her jail time - any noise/screaming/wailing of the injustices of life gets the clock reset. We give her no warnings and no amount of good behavior undoes the bad (yep - that means no reward for good behavior other than "Good job, sweetie - you really acted like a big kid should"). And just to be spiteful? I put all but 2-3 toys outside her door and make sure I play and read to her little sister right next to the toy bin so she can hear me. It took about a week for her to understand all this and we still have occasional days in jail.

Part 2 is that we have more chores for her to give her a different role than the baby sis. The ones that she's able to do are sort the books into their bins (we made this one up for her), feed the dogs (who I often have to go back and feed again - no big deal) and get the mail. This plan, along with some therapeutic margaritas, has made about 90% of life pretty bearable. I'd love to say that all of this was carried out with calmness and loving concern for her well-being, but more often than not it was done when I was about half a step away from dropping both the kids off in Wal-Mart and wishing them the best of luck finding a new family. You'll get through this just fine.

February 20, 2009 2:23 PM  
Blogger thehazlettfamily said...

I guess I'm too far removed from 3/4 year olds. Mine are 10 and 17. I do recall that my son had to go outside to pee every time. Not so fun when you leave on a very busy street. When meeting new people and they wanted to know where you lived, mention the little boy who wears only underwear in the front yard and they had your house pegged. I lived in Florida so weather was not an issue. My sanity was though. At this point I can't remember too much of those years in re: to the tantrums, etc. My son has ADD/ODD so it has been a constant battle since age 3. He never grew out of the defiant stage. I have just learned to send him to his room for a time out. More so for me to have a time out. I don't really want to start the 4 p.m. drinking. I know he plays in there, but I'm not fighting with him and screaming at him so it's all good in my eyes. My son is homeschooled so I don't get the break that most moms get for 6-7 hours a day. Just take the time outs and deep breaths. Later you will be able to reason with him. I promise! Just maybe not today. I have found that a 14-17 year old daughter is a much tougher nut to crack. She was great from 4-13. Have faith that this too shall pass. You sound like you are making good choices. FYI, I just found your blog through another one I follow and I'm enjoying your stories. They make me laugh and enjoy the days before my kids could reason with me. By reason with me, I mean put up such an defense that even I could not find fault in their reasoning, just know it's WRONG!!!!

February 27, 2009 3:56 PM  
Blogger jennyonthespot said...

Sisster... oh sister! I am with you! I have written about it several times. My youngest will be turning for in a week, so I figure I have another year of hell, cuz 4 ain't much better. Ugh.

I call it the Therrible Threes cuz I'm a dork. My philosophy is that we have the "terrible twos" for a warm-up. If we had to go from "baby" to 3... well, humankind would be extinct.

Ugh. the 3's. Ugh!!!

March 3, 2009 10:30 PM  
Blogger lonek8 said...

thank you for expressing what many don't know - three is WAY worse than two. My daughter is turning three next week, and man is she turning into a tyrant! She was delightful an ddhelpful for all of two, so this is a real (unpleasant) change. I know that most of her behavior (constantly dismantling things, touching anything I told her not to, intentionally spilling juice on the floor, encouraging her 18 month old brother to do all of the above) is a plea for attention because in addition to her and her brother I also have a two month old and my hudband has been living in a different state for four months and we only see him every three weeks. So she definitely gets the short end of the mommy stick because she needs less help than her brother and sister. And I'm doing my best with that, but there is only so much time in the day and energy in my body that I can give. So I need some obedience! Most punishments don't work at all, and the advice online is often not useful -they will say take away the toy, but when the toy is the couch or her potty seat, i can't really do that. She does not like to be sent to her room - and as horrible as it may sound to other people, I send her there and lock her in. we started the locking when we moved her to a big girl bed last year because she would come in our room at 2am and just stand there until she fell asleep (she would never wake us up, it was weird) so we turned the knob around so it can be locked from the outside and she learned to stay in bed. I recently thought I could stop locking it, but now she asks me to do it at night so I guess she likes it. But she does not like it when it is for punishment, so that works at least a little, although now she has started peeing on the floor when I put her in there for a time out (she has been fully potty trained for a year), so that's just one more thing I have to figure out how to deal with. Hopefully i can get some ideas soon, so I'll know how to deal with the tyrannical threes by the time my other two kids get there! Good Luck!

March 15, 2009 2:51 PM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Ok So I have to tell you how I 'happened' upon your blog. I have a feeding blog that I started for some of my feeding therapy patients (im a speech path. and feeding problems are my niche) anyway I had typed in the phrase "wit's end" in one of my posts and for some reason i was questioning the phrase. I have no idea why really. so why not google it? and this post came up...I started reading it and could relate RIGHT away as I have a 3 year old and i felt like i was reading my own thoughts! Everything I have read on your blog so far has made me laugh--needed that!
So stop by sometime soon! If you happen to know any other moms who are having a terrible time with super picky eaters send them my way

September 4, 2009 1:54 PM  

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