What happenned to my little boy!?

Danielle - posted on 06/26/2012 ( 7 moms have responded )

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I don't quite know how to title this post but hopefully my explanation will make sense. My little boy is now 2yrs 8months old. For roughly the first 2yrs 3months he was such a happy little boy and although he liked attention (of course, they all do) he was always happy to spend lots of time amusing himself. He would often like to be nearby, maybe in the same room or an adjoining room but didn't need someone to be actively playing with him and he was such a happy little boy. My dad once babysat him for a few hours and when asked how it went he said that Jonathan was so happy and content he hardly knew he was there half the time.

Nowdays he is always looking for attention. Always wants someone to play with him. It probably started about Christmas time which is when I quit work (I was working 3 days a week) and I wanted to start playing with him more so it was ok. But in March I had our second baby who is now three months old so of course it is not so easy to give him the attention he wants anymore. When he's not getting attention he whines a lot and misbehaves (general attention seeking). A lot has changed this year, I stopped work, he started a new daycare in January, then our baby arrived, then we had lots of visitors staying with us, now he is toilet training etc etc so it would be hard to pinpoint one cause.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I am wondering if the need for someone to be actively playing with him all the time is a developmental thing that just happens at this age (growing social development) or is it more about all the changes that have happened in our lives this year. More importantly, will I ever get my easy-going, happy-go-lucky and independant little boy back or is this demanding attention-seeking toddler (though still much-lovable of course, just harder work) here to stay? I am doing my best to give him lots of attention even though he's not an only child now (I think the baby gets less of my time than he does) so I'm sure he knows he's still loved but it's hard to juggle everything.

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Catherine - posted on 06/27/2012

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3 year olds (and for some 2 & 3mths counts) are awful.
I say this with all the love of a mother of 4, the youngest of whom is now 5:). They become manipulative, can be dishonest, demanding to a ridiculous degree and generally very wearing. If you do a search on this site, you will find many an old thread on this exact topic. The good news is, they do come back - around 4 yrs is usually a bit better and by about 5 most of them are absolutely delightful.
Now, that's not to negate the fact that he is obviously dealing with a lot of changes in his life, and most kids will really push the boundaries when this happens - they want to know that the rules and boundaries are still there. So, I agree, keep loving him and giving him cues to know he is loved and valued and has a special place in your family.
The best thing for a kid in this situation is as much routine and consistency (especially in discipline) as you can provide.
Don't get discouraged if it doesn't seem to be working. The 3 year old brain is going through massive changes (there is a late 1990's BBC documentary called the Human Body that covers this) so it takes quite a while for them to absorb all of the new things they can do, in the context of their boundaries and how they can best apply all of this.
When you look at it this way, it's no wonder they're very self-absorbed and somewhat unpleasant.
Stay patient (yes, I know how hard that is:) ) ; be firm about your expectations for his behaviour ( I love the approach "I'm sorry, my ears have bee retuned, they don't hear whiny voices - can you say that in a nice voice please?") and remember:
YES, your easy-going, happy-go-lucky and independant little boy is in there somewhere - it's just going to take a while to help guide him back out.

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Danielle - posted on 06/28/2012

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Thanks for the encouragment everyone. I guess I have been hoping it's a phase, but it has felt like a long phase so I've been starting to wonder if it will ever end (or end up like our on-going battle over hair-cuts but that's another post!). I'm going to get that BBC series from our library Catherine, it sounds very interesting.

We have a pretty good routine most of the time, except for the period when we had lots of visitors after bub 2 was born. But that has mostly subsided now.

Consistency in discipline is something we are still working on. Honestly we very, very rarely smack (spank) because of all the advice against it but sometimes I think it would be easier to be consistent with discipline if we did. Naughty behaviour? Smack. Same every time if you're a smacker. But with time-out it all depends a bit on the situation. It's hard to give time-out in shopping centres, or in the middle bath-time, or you're running late trying to go somewhere. So then I try to pick an alternative such as telling him we will take away a favourite toy when we get home but then I am always thinking on my feet and sometimes I forget when we get home or it just seems to be too long after the event. But we are working on it. I recently read 1-2-3 Magic which has been quite helpful so we are trying to start implementing that. My husband (who is usually very anti-self-help books as he calls them) commented the other day that the "1-2-3 thing" has been the most successful discipline method we have tried so far.

We will keep going and wait for the new phase!

Jodie - posted on 06/28/2012

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My son, now 10, was exactly the same for maybe the same amount of time but maybe the changes in your son is for the same reasons as were with my son.
When my son was 18mths, we moved out of my mum's home, at about 20mths old, I met a new fella (my son's father was never in the picture); when he was 2, I married my new fella and he moved in with us; at 2.1yrs, we moved house; at 2.3yrs he started playschool, at 2.9yrs I fell pregnant, at 3.5yrs I had my daughter and we moved the next day so he'd been through alot in 21mths. We've moved another 3 times since then, and he really struggles with any sort of change.
I'm not saying this is how your son will go but the many changes in his life in a short time might be a factor.

Danielle - posted on 06/26/2012

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I guess the reason I wondered if there was a developmental aspect to it or something else is that it was sort of starting a few months before the bubby was born.

Danielle - posted on 06/26/2012

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We are definitely trying all we can. He still has bath time with Daddy and story time with mummy by himself. If I can't play with him I try and get him involved (helping wash the baby, helping do the dishes and cooking which he thinks is great fun) I guess we just hang in there. Baby is three months old now so I thought it might have settled down by now but I guess not. Oh, although I forgot to add he has started having to wear an eyepatch 2 hours ever day now to to correct a lazy eye so I don't think that helps either.

We had a weekend where we stayed at a friend's house two weeks ago. They have three little boys and you know he was the most like his old self that I've seen him this year when we were back there. I think he loved having the other boys to play with all the time. And the new toys. But I don't think I want to adopt 3 other little boys into our family to fix the problem, that would send me more insane! :-)

Louise - posted on 06/26/2012

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He has been through so much in his short life, he was top dog until the new baby came along and now he has to share you. He probably feels that he has to go to play group so you can have time with the baby and he resents going. Just make him feel grown up and make a big fuss of all the things he brings home from playgroup.

He is demanding more of your time because he feels pushed out. Just make sure he has special times in the day with either you or dad. Bath time just for him and story time just for him. He will soon settle when he adjusts to a new nursery, new sibling and a new routine to accommodate the new baby. Give him time, lots of love and your attention when you can. That sweet little boy is still in there it is just having a hard time!

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