Tuesday, September 16, 2008


"... I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody."

Okay, just kidding; this isn't a post about The Beatles. But I really do need help... with how to handle Steven's horrible misbehavior. Here is a snippet (abridged) of what played out during dinner Sunday night:

"Steven, please take a bite of your dinner."
"No! Go away!"
"Steven, that isn't a very nice thing to say; it hurts our feelings and makes us feel sad. What can you say to make us feel happy?"
Refuses to say anything.
"Well, please eat your dinner."
"I don't want to!"
"Then please go sit in your room until you are ready to eat some of your dinner."
"Go away!" While walking to his room.
Slam! Slam! (the door) Bang! Bang! (the walls) then screaming at the top of his lungs (honestly, isn't he too young to be doing this?)
After a stern talk with Daddy, he decides to come back and eat.
"Thank you for making a good choice and coming to eat with us."
"I'm sorry, Mommy."
A few minutes go by when he refuses to eat again (he's only had one bite of dinner!)
"Please go to your room until you decide that you can eat dinner with the rest of us."
Slamming and banging and screaming again...
He comes back again, says sorry, and tells me that Daddy is giving him one last chance to eat or he'll have to go to bed without dinner or stories (the real kicker)
After coercing him into taking another bite, be proceeds to spit out all of his food all over the table... aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhhh!
So he gets sent to bed early without dinner or stories while the rest of us are still eating. What followed was complete mayhem. (I think I have a new understanding of the term "weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth!")

Though Monday night wasn't quite as bad, he still refused to eat anything and wanted to be sent to his room instead of eating. What's a mother to do? Can anyone PLEASE tell me that my kid is not the only one to have ever done this stuff at the age of 3! How am I supposed to react to this kind of stuff without losing my cool but still be firm enough so that he can understand that this sort of behavior is unacceptable? If you've got any pointers, suggestions, tips, advice, etc... please...HELP!


Anonymous said...

I suggest next time he doesn't want to eat, take his food away, let him throw his fit (IGNORE HIM) and then when he complains about being hungry you tell him he will have another chance to eat at the next meal. I have taken my kid's meal away enough times that after a few times of being hungry, they eat what is served.

If you ignore his fits, you are doing exactly what he doesn't want. By throwing a fit, he wants attention. Don't pay attention to him at home when he throws a fit.

Also, if they complain about what is for dinner, they don't get to eat and I offer for them to find a job and another place to stay. The kid becomes very quiet and doesn't seem to want to complain anymore.

Bethanne said...

You know how I feel...3 years old was always worse for Leah (and us) than 2 years old! And lately Leah and dinner-time is torturous for us too. Seriously. She just wants to TALK and play the whole time...she could be there for hours. NO JOKE.

We've mixed up and tried a couple of options: naming the number of bites she has to take to finish and counting with her, doing a t-minus countdown until she has to finish and take another bite (she actually loves this "game"), I save uneaten food from lunch and she doesn't get anything else until her plate/bowl is empty, take away her nightly go-gurt option if her plate isn't empty (and she hates missing out on that), and sometimes we leave her at the table while we move on...can't leave until she's finished.

Definitely don't give him an audience 'cause that is what they want. I remember when Leah was younger and would throw a fit, it would magically stop as SOON as I would walk out of the room. Then she'd follow me and "all of a sudden" start crying again?! It's all about reaction.

But also remember that punishing in retrospect doesn't work. Hopefully it was just a bad night for him!

Audrey said...

I wish it was just a bad night for him! But dinnertime is a battleground for us most nights, though not always THAT bad.

My thing about not giving him an audience is that the big fit throwing is when he is in his room by himself. I really have a problem just letting him slam the door repeatedly or hitting and kicking the walls. I want to let him just go at it, but I want that aspect of it to be contained.

I didn't even mention his bedtime fits. He's always "too scared", "too thirsty", "too lonely", etc to stay in his room and go to sleep. He tries to pull off those same tantrum techniques and I give into him everytime because I don't want him to wake up Margaret. (sigh)

Auntie Heather said...

Oh man! Sounds like you have it rough right now. I too, ignore any of Sophia's tantrums and now she doesn't do them anymore--at all. Her thing now is whining and crocodile tears. We don't give in and explain that she does not get (whatever the thing is at the time)until she stops whining and calms down. We are consistent with this. So far it is working for us. We send her to her room, too, for things like hitting or pushing Phoebe, sassing us, not stopping whining, things like that. However, she just sits on her bed and doesn't do all the kicking and slamming. Have you tried a time out mat or chair that he has to sit on? That way he can be in a place where you can still observe him easily but he can't get up to be slamming doors and kicking the wall. I suggest that for a few weeks and see how that works. If it doesn't work the first few times don't give up. It takes time for kids to get the picture!

As for the bed time thing....do you believe he is simply not tired and using excuses to not be in bed? OR is there some underlying reason, like he truly is afraid of the dark? Or having the door closed is scary now and makes him feel separated from you? If you haven't tried a night light and leaving the door cracked as your bargaining chip I would try those. If that isn't enough then tell him it is lights out and door closed. One or the other and THAT IS IT! Be consistent on not backing down. If you are worried about Margaret waking up (we have the same concern with Phoebe sometimes) we got a white sound machine for her room and it helps block out other noises and is soothing. I hope these ideas help! Good luck.

Kathy said...

I will just tell you, you are not alone. We struggle with that. One thing to try might be to basically give them no food at all after lunch so they are starving for dinner time. Sometimes that is the only thing that works. Good luck and know you are not alone,