3 Year Old's Behavior - Hutchinson,KS

Updated on December 06, 2011
A.S. asks from Hutchinson, KS
8 answers

Hi everyone. My boyfriend and his 2 children moved in with my daughter and I about 4 months ago. He has full custody his children for various reasons and by all accounts I treat each of them as I treat my daughter. His son turned 3 about 3 months ago. Since we have dated (almost 2 years) I have noticed his son acts very babyish. Before we all lived together I didn't see how extreme it really is. For example, he cries at the drop of a hat about everything. We just got through potty training him and he will cry if we "remind" him to go potty. Or, seriously, if you just look at him wrong. He is a very weepy child. Instead of talking he will make crying like noises and hold his hands out in an attempt to get what he wants. My boyfriend and I constantly tell him that crying will not get him what he wants and he needs to use his words or "big boy words". For the most part this somewhat works however sometimes it just makes him try harder and harder. Another situation is he will not get out of bed himself in the morning. He is in a twin size bed and has no problems getting in and out (meaning we don't lay him down or pick him up to get him out), but on the weekends he will lay in bed and yell out for us or cry for us to come and get him. This also happens at nap time. This morning he yelled first at 8:06 am. We waited it out and it was 11:24 before he finally got out of bed...but only because my boyfriend went in there to turn the fan off and his son popped his head up. It's like he needs us to either be in there or tell him he can get out of bed. There has never been any negative reaction towards him about staying in bed at our house. The other day at nap time he woke up, yelled and when I didn't go in there he started to cry. For 45 minutes he alternated between crying and yelling. I poked my head in 3 times and told him that crying will not work and he can get out of bed if he needed something then I would walk away. The 3rd time I did this, he finally got up. Has anyone else ever experienced this? If so, what helped steer you child towards acting more their age? Any recommendations? For the record, he does see his mother twice a month and she reports that he is perfectly fine at her house. All 3 of our kids get good positive attention from my boyfriend and I together and apart.

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So What Happened?

Well, thanks for the input however I must say that I was a little shocked at the answers that I received. I felt as though I was being scolded for my actions. Here's the deal...he is a great kid and I love him with all my heart. By most accounts he acts as any other 3 year old child. I understand there will be an adjustment when families blend. Both his older sister and my daughter have gone through the adjustment phase and one could argue they still are. However, his baby-like behavior has not changed since before he even moved in....I just notice it more because they live with us. There is alot more to his history in regards to his mother than this space would allow. But in a nutshell....she very much babies the kids. His older sister still has problems with talking like a baby or doing baby like things in an attempt to get what she wants and she is 6 and in kindergarten. It's not just with us either....she does this at school. For the most part we have been able to nip that in the butt with her and she has begun to change her behavior. I just don't want her brother to go through this and I don't want my daughter (also 3; 4 months older than him) to begin this behavior. Like I said in my first post, each child gets one on one attention from the both of us and we do alot of stuff as a family. For example, this weekend the girls are with grandma and grandpa and he has been home spending lots of time with us.

All that being said, last night after all the hugs and kisses we talked about how he can get out of bed in the morning when he gets up...like his sisters. I really didn't expect much out of it...but this morning I heard his bedroom door open and within a few seconds there he was telling me it was time to get up. Of course there was a ton of positive reinforcement and he was pulled into bed with us for snuggle time.

All in all, blending families is extremely difficult but I am happy for the what I have been blessed with. My question was just simply wondering if anyone else had any experience with this type of behavior and what you have done to help with it. I don't think continuing to "baby" him is the answer as he does need to mature and grow. But let me be clear, there is a difference between babying and loving on a child. Every child manipulates...not maliciously nor do they know what manipulation means, but it does happen. Constant love and affection is a necessity that every child needs, but there are times that people/parents need to let kids do things on their own so they can learn and grow.

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answers from Springfield on

I know it's exhausting, but for now I would just try and meet his needs. He seems to have a real need for attention - good or bad. Right now he's getting negative attention when you get upset with him or tell him that crying won't help. This will more than likely stop if he is given lots of positive attention.

Why not just try responding positively when he calls for you? It would mean the world to him if you picked him up out of bed and gave him hugs and kisses or tickled him a bit.

It is important for him to use his words as much as he can. What worked with my son was to very calmly and nicely say, "I'm sorry, but Mommy can't understand what you're saying. Can you please try again?" He definitely had his moments when he would whine, but for the most part it worked.

I know 4 months seems like a long time to you and that he should have adjusted by now, but some kids just take longer. Keep being as positive, kind and loving as you can. That's what's going to get him through this phase the quickest.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

I really agree with what Marda said.

I'll share a secret I don't often tell people outside my profession: when I was a nanny, it took almost a year for all of us (myself and the family) to become really "used to" each other. This includes me, a grown adult. A full year.

Your boyfriend's son sounds like he's had a LOT of transitions lately. A blended household (now he has two new people to get used to), potty training (which is, in my book, a big deal for some kids) and pretty typically, from my experience, you are going to see some regression in some area.

This is what I would do: love on him as much as you can. When he says he's awake, go in and read a story with him before he gets up. My son is 4.5 years old and even without all those huge transitions, he loves for me to snuggle him up in the mornings.

A. Maslow's "Heirarchy of Needs" (or what some call the child's "Staircase of Needs") identifies what children need in order to become self-actualizing people. First, their physical needs must be met. ("I have food, shelter, and someone to hold me.") Second, their need for security, proof that the world is a trustworthy place. I'll stop at the third (there are six): Belonging. "This is where I belong. This is my place." I think this little boy is stuck between second and third. He's asking for company and attention when he gets up, and gets nothing. It's up to you and your boyfriend to figure out how to help him feel that there is security in his new home, and part of that is responding to his needs, even if that means just helping him out of bed.

What you describe sounds sadly like a battle of wills. The adults want him to 'grow up'. He's in regression, which is really common for kids in this situation. Try to meet him halfway. This will take a long time. One book I recommend highly is "Taking Charge: Loving Discipline that Works at Home and School." by JoAnn Nordling. The area I would encourage you most to take to heart is regarding Positive Attention for Neutral Behaviors. (this is different from spending time with him or acknowledging his good behaviors, which you are doing.) He needs to know (not through words, but constant love and support) that he is loved for being just who he is. "Just who he is" right now is a little guy whose world just got turned upside down. No matter how his mother parents him, even if she's infantalizing him a bit, this book WILL help you be able to help him. I'd also suggest possibly family counseling, as I would suggest this when any two families become one.

Added: It's also really clear to see that you do care about this little boy and are trying to keep things stable as much as you can and as equal as you can with your daughter. Good for you. I have been where you are, by the way, in differing aspects of my work. It takes a lot of time for some kids to trust us, even if we think they're familiar with us. Having a lot of patience helps. I hope you let us know how things work out down the line.

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answers from Portland on

This is a major adjustment for him. I urge you to be more sympathetic and emotionally supportive. Telling him to stop crying only makes him feel worse. You want him to be able to express his feelings while also learning to use his words. Say, "I can't understand you when you're crying. Can you calm down and tell me in big boy words what you need.'

Accept his tears. He's anxious and probably scared. His first years have been disruptive and are still disruptive since he visits his mother during the month. He needs lots of understanding. He will stop crying when he feels secure.

Got to him and help him get up. Geez, he's anxious and needs your support. At 3 he still needs to have you help him with getting started on his day. He feels all alone in that bed. He's scared. Reassure him that you are there for him.

I suggest he's perfectly fine at her house because she isn't trying to make him grow up. She may prefer having a baby. And for him, this is good.

Now you have him most of the time and it is up to you to help him mature. You do this by accepting his feelings and help him deal with them. Give him lots of support. Hold him when he cries. Let him know that you care.

You can still teach him how to use his words but only after you acknowledge and accept his emotions. Try to put yourself in his place. How are you feeling when you cry? Do you cry to manipulate? I doubt it. He's not manipulating you. He's letting you know that he feels awful.

After your SWH: I had a foster daughter who was 7 and then 8 and 9. Just like your 3 yo she'd had a rocky beginning in life. At 7 she acted more like 4 or 5. She couldn't tie her shoes. Her caseworker and our therapists said that I should treat her at the age she is acting. She needed to go thru those ages to reach her chronological age.

So love your little 3 yo like the 1 yo he's acting. Teach him as if he were 1. He'll go thru the stages more quickly than he would've at that age. Eventually he catch up to his chronological age. My foster child eventually caught up several years later. It was a hard time for both of us.

Other foster families tried to make her act her age. They failed. Because she was lacking in the security that babies and toddlers need she needed to go thru those stages to learn how security feels.

I urge you to get an evaluation for your 3 yo. The psychologist can tell you what his psychological age is and give you pointers on how to catch him up to his chronological age.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My day care provider just took on another child (my two have been the only ones with her for the past 2 months) and for the past week BOTH my children have wanted her to carry them so the loving person she is has alternated holding both! She told me this on Friday hummmmmmm wondered why my 2 & 3 y/o children wanted to be picked up more (for which I do not indulge they weigh 30 lbs a piece!) That being said I discussed the possibility that they are testing her to ensure they are still loved and will be working with her next week to ensure my children know that they will be able to equally spend time with her. Continue to be loving and set the routine for him, this is what children need Good Luck

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answers from New York on

Sounds like you're doing a great job! I had a student once with similar problem. He was in first grade and tried to act like he couldnt do work that he could do, it was very annoying to teach him, because it was hard to see what he knew and didnt know, what he coud and couldnt do... so you do have to nip it in the bud, as you said! He was also going back and forth between two homes, and his mother babied him A LOT!
I still think it's OK to say "Do you want to play baby for a while? that's fine." You're naming the behavior as play acting and not typical behavior for a three yr old. Do you think his mother tells him he has to stay in his bed until she gets him up??

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Stick to your guns. He will learn what is expected. You are doing a great job and do not think any differently. It sounds like you are setting expectations and giving good postive reinforcement.



answers from Shreveport on

I do not know what goes on or if he sees his mother, but if she babies him or lets him do this, then he is carryingt his over to you. Kids usually behave differently with differnt people, like one way for a parent f they spoil them and another way with a grandarent if they are strict. MY 2 1/2 year old has been whining and crying like something is seriously wrong, only when I rush in there it is over something stupid, like her sister has something she wants. Do you think maybe he feels neglected, evn if you do not neglect him? My daughter is 6 and has started to notice things that are not fair, like when she is in school, her sister may get to go shopping with me and my mom.
I also would like to suggest a chart that rewards good behaviour, like with stickers. Either have "prizes" he can earn or a goal he can work for. (a movie or small toy or outing with you guys. That helped with my oldest. Good luck, whining drives me crazy!


answers from Seattle on

Have you thought about applying Ferber's method to this situation? When he cries, wait for 5 minutes before going in to reassure him that you are there, that you love him and you're excited to play with him when he gets out of bed. Don't get him out; just talk for less than a minute and then leave the room. If he keeps crying, wait for 10 minutes before going in and repeating the action. If he keeps crying, wait for 15 and repeat. This way, it still teaches him to soothe and calm himself, but reminds him that you're there, that you love him, and that there is a reward for acting appropriately. I don't know....that's just a thought.

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