Does My 3 Year Old Need to See a Counselor??

Updated on March 18, 2008
T.W. asks from Cary, IL
6 answers

I know, I know...I just asked a question about flooring and I'm already shooting off another question!

My 3 year, 9 month old son (Josh) is in preschool. In the fall, preschool and Josh were like ice cream and chocolate sauce-- one complemented the other. This spring has brought about a number of changes, and I'm concerned.

Since Christmas, we've noticed a big change in our son's behavior. He's been more frustrated and ornery-- often not listening at home, which is why we have had to use many, many time outs. In the past five weeks, Josh has not been listening to his teachers at school. He also pushed a little girl who "wouldn't share," and hit a little boy on the arm "because he called me a name." He threw a plastic orange at one of his teachers, too, and refused to sit up during "circle time." At home, listening has continued to be a problem. He frequently says "no," and has a fit when he can't have his own way. He also seems desperate for attention.

A number of things have happened in the past 6 months: we had another child (in August), Josh started day care (also in August), Josh started preschool at a different school (in early February), Josh had surgery (3.5 weeks ago), and he's had some problems with his bladder and bowel ever since the surgery (which we've seen the doctor for, which resulted in a very traumatic catheterization). Naps have also been stopped in order to accomodate new preschool hours.

Despite the many changes, we still need to have our son listen to us and to his teachers and play nice with other children. I know the poor kid has been through a lot, but we still need him to behave. Any ideas on what I can do? My heart just broke when I saw that the other kids at school were earning 6-8 stickers a week for good behavior compared to my son's 2 stickers. Any advice?

P.S. He's not ALWAYS poorly behaved. He has many, many good qualities. We do average 2-4 time outs a day, though. Is that typical?

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answers from Chicago on

It sounds like your son has had a lot of things going on that shake up his world. I don't think a counselor could hurt, but with a 3 year old, I'm not sure there would really be any progress at this point. He needs to adjust to everything. A new daycare can be traumatizing for little guys, as they thrive on routine. Surgery, and recovery can also make his behavior bad for a while. He has been through a lot. Be patient, and loving with him. I know it is hard when he is misbehaving, but there have been so many changes going on with him, it sounds like he is just confused and frustrated.



answers from Chicago on

Despite the fact that they call it the terrible twos... it started by 18 months with my kids and with my youngest went into age 4 and at 5 we still have our days. Some kids just test limits more than others. Like you said your son has been through a lot. Give him some time and be consistent in your discipline. He'll probably come around on his own.

A good parenting read if you haven't already read it is "1,2,3 Magic" by Dr. Thomas Phelan. Very readable and a lot of what he says makes good sense. He writes as a psychologist as well as a parent of two - one of who has a form of ADD I believe.



answers from Chicago on

I think your son is in pain and that is why he is acting out he cannot describe the pain especaill Gi unorairy relate to you so he is communicatingi n a differnt way. This happens to MANY boys when there is something physically wrong. I really think he neds a second opnion for an differnt dr to what is happening to him and if this started after the surgery there is definitely more to it. Did you ask teh teachers what is happening? is tehre another boy that in his class he is role modeling from at this new school? I still think it is the pain



answers from Chicago on

Hi T.,

You're not the only one! As you can see, I just posted a similar question about my 2 year old daughter. I'll be sure to read your responses too! Hang in there and remember to breathe!




answers from Chicago on

Hi T.. I am the wife of a family counselor who is wonderful with kids and their behaivor. We have 6 children and I thought it would be nice to respond to you on what has helped me in raising our children. First of all and most importantly your reaction is crucial. I have a son that has acted very similiar to your son and believe me I have had a hard time with him. He has made drastic improvements by what I have done differently. I have learned that we as adults get irritated and are emotionally effected by our childrens behavior. I found that my husbands advice was simply remain calm and direct with our child. If the behavior is unacceptable then have the child practice over and over the proper way to behave. Ex: child slams door to bedroom when he is mad. Explain in as few words as possible how slamming the door is not a good thing and then tell the child that they are going to practice shutting the door calmly and you can do this several times until the child "gets it". You can only do this if the child is ready to listen and is in the right frame of mind to cooperate. If the child is having a tantrum or refusing to practice the appropriate behavior, explain to the child that they are to come tell you when they are ready to work with you. I have seen my sister in-law use this same technique with her 4 year old daughter with mouthing off to her and she has said it has helped dramatically with many of the poor behavior examples she has shared with me. The true key is to be as calm as possible and be firm. My sister in law said that her daughter even has fun practicing the correct behavior. Hope this helps.



answers from Chicago on

I feel for you. I have a five year-old who is very defiant and agressive at home. He would probably be in time out all day if I used it for each little thing. However, I have never heard anything negative from his teachers. I quess he knows when to turn it on and off. As a former teacher, I am not sure that giving preschoolers stickers for good behavior is appropriate. It only makes the students who have bad days feel bad. I mean, afterall they are still so young and learning how to interact in a group setting. Preschool is supposed to be play-based and for children to develop social relationships/skills prior to kindergarten. I think it is not good for their self-esteem to give stickers to only the "good" students. It will make a child dislike school before he even starts. I think I would search for a new preschool. We are Catholic and my son goes to a lutheran preschool in Crystal Lake (Bethany preschool). The class sizes are small and the teachers are 2 older women who are wonderul with the kids.
I am sure your son is completely normal for his age and has had a lot of changes like you said. They just get so frustrated when they are little and cannot express their feelings effectively. If I were you I would keep up with the time-outs and establish some "house rules" asking him to help you decide what the rules should be. Put up the rules somewhere for him to read them too. If switching preschools is not an option....discuss your concerns about the negative aspect of the stickers. Afterall, you are paying them to teach so you do have a voice. Good Luck!

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