Our 2yo son is defiant and destructive. Normal methods have not resolved the issue, what can we do?

Kristen - posted on 08/12/2012 ( 4 moms have responded )




I am posting from my wife's account. Hopefully the circle of moms is okay with the occasional question from a father...

We are the happy parents of three with one more on the way, due in early October. Our first two girls were easy as infants and toddlers. Our third child is a boy, and I'm sure that is part of the issue... He is high energy, like many young boys, and when he is mellow, he is great. He smiles a lot and giggles endlessly. But he has another side of him that is destructive, mean, and angry. I realize that all kids are going to have their moments, but with him, its multiple major intentional messes, broken things, and physical violence every day. I expect a child to impulsively throw a full cup of milk occasionally when they are upset, but it has been at least once a day for a week now, sometimes twice. He grabs anything and everything that is off limits, he will not stay off the counters, out of the fridge, or out of the bathrooms. He can defeat the "child locks" on the doorknobs in a few seconds, he intentionally hits and beats on things he knows are breakable or fragile, he bites, kicks, hits, and throws things at his sisters, the cats, and especially me. I don't know how many of you remember the old show from 20 odd years ago with the family of dinosaurs, where the baby likes to hurt the father and yells "not the mommy", but that is how he acts towards me. We have tried many different ways of handling this, from positive reinforcement, time outs (20 times in a row and he just thinks its funny), taking things away, separating him from everyone else, and the way I was disciplined, yelling... Nothing even phases him. He just doesn't care. When he is doing something wrong, and we try to talk to him or get his attention, he just ignores you. If you go to him to physically remove him from the situation, he throws himself around, goes "limp" (flops on the floor), or tries to run away. This has been going on since he was about 14 months old, but crescendoed at about 19 months. He is 26 months old now. I am at my wits end, with the other stresses we are currently dealing with (I'm out of work, my wife is 8 months pregnant, and we're being forced to move, the house we rent is being sold out from under us), Im about to lose it! What can we do to get control of our son? I am at a loss.


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Kristen - posted on 08/14/2012




We have spoken to his pediatrician. His speech is hard to understand, but he has a lot of words. I think it is common for later children to take longer to speak appropriately. His pediatrician tells us that his behavior is normal, and that the best thing to they is consistent time outs.

We aren't as consistent as we should be, but we've tried to as much as possible. He is just so difficult to punish, as it does not seem that anything works.

We have removed most fragile things, but he finds new ones that he can damage. He is very strong for his size and very rough compared to our two girls. We try to distract him, but he is not easily distracted. We hate the use of TV to "babysit" kids, but the thing that works best is Team Umi Zoomi on Nick. He plays outside a lot, and we have a trampoline, and he like to jump around which helps him release some energy, but he still seems to have more energy than any other kids I have met.

I know that he is high energy, and I think he is bored. I was that way to a point when I was a kid, but I was an only child, and my parents were very strict. We do emphasize that hitting, kicking, and biting, any violence is unacceptable. He sleeps well, he has been able to climb in and out of his crib since he was about 14 months. We have a top of door lock on his room, so he can't get out when we put him to bed. He occasionally gets out and plays for a few minutes when we put him to bed, but quickly climbs back into bed and goes to sleep. He sleeps soundly through the night, and through his naps.

He doesn't really throw tantrums, but he is just very strong willed.

Thank you for the support and suggestions, still looking for more...

Amanda - posted on 08/13/2012




How does you son sleep?? Not enough sleep or poor quality sleep can have a big impact on kids behaviours.
Also what about his diet?? Added sugars and preservitives also affect behaviour in kids. I have found that certain flavourings and colourings turn my son into a tornado.

I had the same problem with my son. He was out of control, spiteful, aggressive, mean, angry, dangerous and disruptive. No punishment bothered him, he found everything funny and went back and did the same thing 5 minutes later. After numerous doctors and specialist appointments, my son has been found to have sleep apenea and ADHD. The ADHD is triggered by the sleep apenea and his behaviour is 1000x worse if he hasn't slept, then on the other hand if he has a day where he is extremely hyper he can't switch off to get a good nights sleep and we go round and round in the same pattern every single day.

He had his adenoids removed when he was 3, and now needs his tonsils removed (all relates to his sleep apenea) The doctors hopes that by fixing the sleep apnea we will be well on our way to having better control over the ADHD.

In the mean time, I use time out and diversion tactics, and ignore the tantrums.
If he has a meltdown he gets put in his room until he calms down and regains control of himself, sometimes this can take an hour or 2 of going backwards and forwards to his room, but once he's calm he is a different child.
If he is kicking or throwing things, he has a choice. Stop or I will take it away or go outside and kick or throw a ball, giving him the option of something that is not acceptable to doing something that is.
I keep things very simple as he doesn't process lots of information effectively.

Rebekah - posted on 08/12/2012




You have got your hands full! I agree with Dove, that getting input from the pediatrician might be helpful, as they can assess the range of possibilities of what might be going on.

Just a couple of other thoughts. You mentioned trying lots of different things... (and I'm sure you've had to!) Be sure you are consistent--before you bail on one intervention not working, give it time. If a punishment or reaction keeps changing, it can create confusion for the child and continued acting up. Even if he seems like he doesn't care, its still important to continue to deliver a consistent response so that he knows what will come if he continues a behavior.

Is it possible to remove some of these things are are fragile/breakable? Can you put eye-hooks on bathroom doors that out of his reach? Whatever you can do to prevent an opportunity for him to end up in trouble, do it. And with 3 kids, I'm sure you have plenty of toys, but be sure there are lots of toys that he may explore. Rotate toys around (put some away, bring out others) so that there is always something novel for him to check out. Give him exploration that is permissable.

When he does get into something he isn't supposed to have, do you use distraction as one of your first efforts? I've found that distracting my son from something can diffuse a situation early on well before it ends up being a power struggle or disciplinary situation. Putting a toy in his hand or calling him over to join you with a book or activity may end it before it starts.

Can you see a pattern of what triggers the aggressive behavior? Is it when he is not getting his way (getting in the fridge)? Is he possibly getting into the fridge or bathrooms because he is seeking your attention? (negative attention is still attention) I'm sure with 3 kids it can be a challenge to get quality time for all 3, but he is at a demanding age to begin with and not only needs supervision, but needs quality time from mom and dad. Is mom less available due to being pregnant (being tired or sick, or at appointments, whatever)? And with all the additional stress that you carry, from unemployment and housing issues, he may be picking up on that tension and acting out because of it. The hitting/kicking/biting...stay on top of that. That has to be a non-negotiable thing. Not ok. Decide on whatever the consequence is and stick with it every time. Especially with a new baby coming, that message needs to be clear.

Try to keep as routine a schedule as you can to keep things predictable for him. He may be in his "terrible twos" (my son had terrible 3's), so keep as grounded as you can while you weather through it. I've had to carry my son physically a couple of times when he tantrumed--only when he HAD to be relocated, otherwise I would not pay attention to it unless he was hurting himself or being distructive--it isn't fun at all. But it will pass. Lean on family/friend supports if possible so that you and your wife can stay strong as you go through all these transitions.

And positive reinforcement is good. He needs that, especially if he has been getting into a lot of trouble. He needs praise and encouragement so that he knows he's on the right track.

Hang in there... Hope things settle for you soon. And congratulations on the baby coming!

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