Need advice, 3 1/2 yr old, should I be disciplining this situation or is it crushing his spirit?

Leah - posted on 01/10/2013 ( 7 moms have responded )




My 3 1/2 yr old DS likes to demand that one parent or the other do various things for him, i.e. no daddy has to dress me, no mummy get me a tissue, no daddy put my shoes on, no mummy get me a drink...and it goes on. If the requested parent doesn't then do as asked a large screaming tantrum occurs. and even when I've managed to calm him down he will still go on about which parent he wants to do the selected task. My tactic at the moment is basically to try and stop the behaviour by not giving into the demands. I tell get who you get it doesn't matter who does it only that it gets done. It doesn't matter who gets you a drink it only matters that you get a drink etc..and if the bahaviour continues then I use the time out chair.

What I'm wondering is am I crushing his spirit, is he just expressing control over his life and surroundings? Is there a better way to explain to him, should I just be disciplining the tantrum and not the request for a particular parent or is that not setting enough boundaries? I guess I just want to set good boundaries but at the same time I want him to have confidence in himself, where do you draw the line?


Julia - posted on 01/15/2013




I am a mother and have worked with children over the last 12 years. I think you are underestimating your son, at 3 1/2 he can do so many things on his own. He can put his shoes on by himself, he can get a tissue, he can learn to poor his own water. Once you encourage him to be more independent he will realize how much fun it is and be so proud of himself, too.
With the situation you are in at the moment I agree that you should ignore his demands, let him cry it out, and not give him attention for his tantrum behavior. In a quiet moment explain to him that he`s a big boy and that you are sure he can help a lot and do things on his own. He will be thrilled to proof you right, just encourage a lot.


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Crystal Ann - posted on 01/15/2013




Let the child have the fit as long as it is in his room because he will get tired of it if you don't lesson and when it is over tell him say please and do this all the time. He will stop the behavor. Let him have manors.

FoxyMom - posted on 01/15/2013




We went through something like this. He either got it from who could get it or didn't get it at all. I agree, it's just him learning he can "train" his parents to get what he wants and his trantrum is just him trying to get his way. He should start to realize that if he wants something he's going to have to chill and get it from whoever brings it to him or he's going to miss out.

Elfrieda - posted on 01/14/2013




My 3 year old son is doing this, too! We say, "no, this time Daddy is doing it" sometimes, other times we say, "You want Mommy to do that for you? Well, you can ask her if she will." and then the other parent says yes ("Mommy says yes!") or no ("No, Mommy's busy right now. Should Daddy do it or do you not want it after all?" with tantrum = no he doesn't get it).

My feeling is that my son feels a bit unsure about our bond with him since his sister was born 2 months ago, and he'll glom onto one parent or the other (my husband is on parental leave for 3 months, yay!) for a few days, and then the other, to the point where if the "off" parent shows up in the room unexpectedly, he shouts and wants me or my husband to go away. We've been just kind of ignoring it and kind of correcting him, "No, you don't decide whether Mommy can come in. You're not in charge of that." and if it's me he's rejecting, if I offer to give him a hug or invite him to sit on my lap soon after that, he gladly does it which is not normal because he's not a snuggly boy. After one of these episodes where he has a tantrum about one parent doing something, he seems to feel better, especially when we don't let it get to us and just give him a little bit of extra positive attention after verbally correcting him.

Leah - posted on 01/14/2013




thank you for your comments, I ill give your methods a try and lay off using the timeout chair as often, There are so many different ways to parent and every child is different its sometimes hard to know what the right thing to do is.

Ariana - posted on 01/11/2013




I think you're doing the right thing by setting boundaries. It's not abnormal for him to do this, he's just using his little 3 year old brain to try and control his parents and manipulate the situation. It actually means he's really smart, but that doesn't mean he should be doing it.

I wouldn't go as far as giving him a time-out (unless he's wacking or throwing things at you or something), I would probably ignore it. Just like you are tell him very simply that if he wants the drink you're going to get it. If he yells I would simply put the drink or whatever he wanted and leave it near him, that way when you or his dad ignore him he already has what he wants and that's that. If it's for a task where you have to do it I would also tell him it's you (or dad) or not at all and if possible ignore him and any crying.

I suppose the time-out would be necessary for things like getting dressed or putting shoes on if you didn't have the time to walk away and ignore him and his crying, but for other situations it's better to just let him throw his tantrum without giving him attention for it.

All of that being said you can empathize with him, you can say, you want Daddy to do it, you really want DADDY doing this. I know it's hard when you want Daddy doing it and Mommy's doing it. That is so hard. It might not work initially, and possibly not at all, but sometimes showing them you understand they're frustrated helps them be a little less upset. It also helps him have the words if you tell him, I can see you're really MAD, you want Daddy, you say I want Daddy! That's so tough! I've tried this with my son and it's a sort of hit and miss technique, sometimes it's totally ineffective and he just keeps on (which would have happened anyway) and sometimes he goes from being really mad to crying and yelling I want this!!! and needing a hug or cuddle.

It's ok for him to be upset about not having the person he wants, but that doesn't mean he's going to get it. If you try to empathize with him and he continues to be upset tell him he needs some time to calm down and walk away. If it's a situation where you need him to get ready etc. tell him firmly it's time to ____ (get boots on etc.) and if he doesn't get his boots on he's going to have a time-out and do what you need to do.

That's just my opinion though. With my son if he's making random demands I also try to think is he sick? Is he really tired today? If he's having a really bad day it may not be worth having a fight over but in general I would stay consistant with this and try to limit having him get a time-out for this behavior. It's an annoying behavior but it's not as bad as hitting or some other behavior that I feel merits a more forceful discipline like time-out. To me simply not giving into the request or kind ignoring until he's calmed down is enough to deal with the situation. He's just being a little kid flexing his little 3 year old muscles.

Dove - posted on 01/11/2013




If the parent requested is available and willing to do the request.... it's fine to let him choose and not a battle worth fighting (in my opinion). If the requested parent isn't readily available to do the request... that's when it is not his choice. Personally speaking, if he were throwing a fit over it he wouldn't be getting the request at all until he were calm and willing to accept whichever parent is available. I don't do 'time out' for fits though. He goes in on the bed until he is calm.

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