Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I am looking for some advice about my just-turned-3 son. His tantrums and mood swings are exhausting me and I just don’t know if there is something more I should be doing. He has always been a difficult child – even as a baby he was intense/demanding/fussy. He’s been on steroid creams since he was 3 months for a pretty serious case of eczema but still gets itchy and skin cracks. He just started speech therapy because he is hard to understand, even by his father (although I am told his vocabulary and sentence structure are above average). He is sick almost all winter with coughs and sniffles, periodically on a nebulizer, and it has been suggested that he might have asthma. I try to remember the frustration all these things must cause him on a daily basis but his tantrums, sometimes including throwing things at his older sister, are just getting to be too much.

I try to ignore, we do time-outs. I just don’t know if there is something more serious going on or he is just still in his ‘terrible twos’ and I should be patient. He has good times of course and can be very sweet and loving – sometimes within minutes of the last fit; his preschool teacher has no problems in her 3 hours a week. My husband says I am too lenient with him. I feel helpless.

Any advice would be helpful – even if it’s ‘this too shall pass’
Dear Kristen:

I can hear that you are frustrated and that you are challenged by this child's behavior.

I have to be honest and tell you that the reference to him as "he has always been a difficult child--even as a baby he was intense, demanding and fussy" are very negative labels for a little baby.....

He sounds like he has a list of physical challenges a mile long and is probably doing pretty well considering all he has been through.

Now for the temper tantrums...possibly this may go along with some of the other things he has experienced either way the best way to curb them is not necessarily with time out. Time out is often an overused and over-rated technique for dealing with children.

I find ignoring bad behavior (as long as it does not affect his safety, the safety of someone else or allows him to destroy anything) works the best. When I say ignore I mean NO interaction, no touching, no eye contact, no speaking, Totally ignoring him.

When he does behave well increase all of the above and make sure he knows how pleased you are with his good behavior.

Then check his routines. He is 3, he needs plenty of consistency with routines. He does not understand time and will probably not have a good grasp of time until he is 6-8 years of age. His routines however are what cue him into his day.

Another suggestion is plenty of massage. Massage goes along way to alleviating stress, increasing immunities and other physiological symptoms.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller

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