Saturday, March 24, 2012

My 2 and half year old son is full of energy.

My son is 32 months old and is intellectually very advanced for his age. He is also full of energy and gets bored very easily, thus being hard to entertain and sometimes getting easily frustrated.

I am a single parent who copes well and has a good social life and a generally happy child, and I've recently got into a new relationship.

Since my son was born, I have had about four other relationships (I left his biological father) but I must stress that I am very careful to get to know them before they know my son. My last relationship was a year long and my ex (C) and my son were fairly close, to the point that he was calling him Dad.

I ended it about two months ago and have started dating a new man (B). My son likes him, and things are progressing very well.

My concern, however, is that my son uses physical violence when he is overtired or particularly heat up about not getting his own way. My parents have experienced this but don't particularly have a concern with it, I have, but he usually does it in jest to me, and did in the past to C, who just laughed it off.

However B has told me that he really doesn't like it when my son hits him, I say it's OK to tell him off but B doesn't feel it's his place to.
I am concerned because I don't want this to ruin our relationship, and I also wonder whether it is normal or not or there could be something wrong. It means a lot to me that he makes a good impression on my boyfriend's parents too, as he has only met them briefly and was very overtired and irritable that time - I want him to be able to redeem himself and for me not live in fear of him being aggressive.

Have I been too lenient on him? Could he even be confused or missing C? He has not mentioned him since we split, but I know kids are sensitive.

Please could you help me?

Dear SJ:

You may not like my answer however I am not here to tell you what you want to hear.

1st. You said you have had 4 other relationships and this child is only 32 months old? Isn't this alot of change to expect a 2 and half year old to handle?

I have very strong opinion about introducing dates to children. The time to introduce them is when you are positive the relationship is going to end up in a long term commitment and by this I mean an initial commitment, not just we get along or we have dated for a year.

Even at an early age children experience anger. They just don't have the vocabulary to express it. He has to be feeling losses as you go through date material. Please do stop introducing him to anyone until you have established the relationship and it has a commitment of engagement or moving in at the very least. Then when you do so, introduce him slowly, he needs more time to adjust than you do as he is a child with limited emotional vocabulary to express himself.

2nd. The hitting. It concerns me that your parents think nothing of him hitting. It concerns me that your prior relationship laughed at his behavior. Neither of these attitudes was helpful and indeed just served to reinforce his behavior. I don't think something is wrong with him just in how this situation has been handled by the adults in his life.

He needs to know hitting/violence is not acceptable. Hopefully no one is hitting him which is how most children learn to hit, by example.

When he does hit then all interaction needs to stop. The adults need to tell him in no uncertain terms that hitting is not okay. Hands are not for hitting. There are numerous books for children that help them to express themselves in a positive manner. There are books that explain what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable. "Hands are not for hitting, they are for throwing balls, feet are not for kicking others they are for running," this type of thing is available in the children books section. I strongly encourage to seek this type of reading out and have discussions with him. Because he is so intelligent he will find this interesting and enjoy the discussions.

3rdly. Maybe slow down on the dating and just spend your quality time with him. Someone will come along who loves you both. In the meantime he is growing up faster than you realize. You can always date, you can't get these precious years back again.

If you would like to discuss anything in person I can be reached at the contact information below for a private, confidential and anonymous conversation. I also have live recordings about children and relationship issues my homepage. Just click on the appropriate topic and listen.


M Kay Keller


  1. It is telling that the main concern is not the child's behavior and his well-being, but that the behavior doesn't ruin the relationship. I agree, the priority needs to be the child's health and happiness. We know when we have children that it means sacrifice, and for those of us who are single mothers, after being away from our little ones working all day, they need our time. I have been a single mother for 16 years, and when my son is grown I will have time for romance again. For now, he needs a mother who shows she cares by choosing to spend time with him, not dating. At the very least, get to know a man better before introducing one "daddy" after another. The potential for harm that opens a child up to is well known. Being a single mom has not been easy, but my son is worth it.

  2. I agree that children do need our undivided attention however I also think that when they have the opportunity to watch us date and be in relationships that we teach them more by example than by telling them how to be in a relationship. I also don't necessarily agree that putting them totally in the center of our universe is a good idea either. In healthy two parent relationships the parents focus on each other as well and children learn how to share a parents time. Raised three myself as a single parent and I dated really nice men who were kind to my children. They needed to see me interact with men and set boundaries and do all of things we do in relationships in order to believe that it was possible to be in a healthy relationship. Modeling after all is the most effective teacher. Children get their self esteem from the same sex parent and their relationship skills from the opposite sex parent.