Need Help with Some Behavior Issues!

Updated on August 06, 2010
D.W. asks from Oregon, MO
13 answers

Helllo all! I have a question about my 3-soon-to-be-4-year-old's behavior. My mom watches him while I work and when he gets in trouble over there, he always says he doesn't like her and wants to go home. Is this just normal behavior? I know it really hurts her feelings, because she does sooo much for him. He is smart enough to know that what he is doing is wrong and I am just looking for advice on how to discipline this behavior. Thanks for any and all advice!!

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?

Hello, all! thank you so much for affirming my hopes that it is normal! We have done many of the things that have been mentioned. My mom does react, and I'm sure it probably fuels his fire. It is also hard because she is the type that if I try and tell her anything, I'm telling her she doesn't know how to raise kids. I walk a thin line!! Last time he said that to my mom, I was picking him up, so when we got home, I made him stand in a corner (worst punishment for him) and then made him do chores around the house. He also got no toys or TV the rest of the night (which was only about 2 hours, since it was almost bedtime). I did have a talk with him about how it hurts her feelings and how would it make him feel. Hopefully, it won't happen again! Thanks again for all the advice! I really do appreciate it!!

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answers from Chicago on

While I believe the behavior is normal, I think he needs to know that it is disrespectful to speak that way to his grandmother. She is who you have chosen to watch him while you're gone, which means she deserves the same respect you do. Maybe create a behavior chart, or give him warnings & discipline (we lose special toys), and let him know it will not be tolerated. She should tell him how she feels, and explain it to him 'how would he feel if grandma didn't want him around'...he's old enough to know he'd feel sad, and that he wouldn't want to make anyone else feel that way!

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answers from St. Louis on

As others have agreed, this is normal behavior. But, it helps if you (or better yet if your mother) understood that he just needs help to learn to say what his feelings really are. The job of childhood is to develop skills and power. The job of parenting is to help them develop skills and power AND how distinguish the difference between the motives and goals that support his/her own nobility, safety, and true happiness. In order to help children in this way, it is helpful to have some understanding of the capacities for development at each stage of their development. At the age of 4, when a child is not getting what he wants, he will generally say whatever he feels might help him get it. He does not yet have a well developed sense of responsibility for the feelings of others. Yes, it is time to be helping him develop sensitivity to others. But, it must be taught. It is not something that develops naturally. It must first be taught and the parent/grandparent can use the child's outbursts as 'teachable moments'.

I don't like to think of these issues as needing 'discipline', which is often a polite way of saying 'punishment'. I struggled with this same issue when my son was 5. We mistakenly allowed him to see the movie Home Alone. After that, every time my son was not getting his way with me, he would tell me he wanted me to leave and he wished he could live alone. Telling him it was unkind to say that was useless. Time out, I learned, was just making the child feel rejected rather than helping him learn. Finally, I realized that he needed a real experience that would allow him to understand the outcome of speaking that way. So, I waited until he said it while my husband was home. Then, when he said it, I dropped what I was doing, picked up my purse, and told him, "Well you have said this to me many times now, so I suppose this is what you really want. I guess I should go look for a new place to live." Then, I walked out the door, got in the car, and drove around the block. I wasn't even out the door before he was telling me he didn't mean it and asking me to not go. By the time I was in the car, he was in tears. My husband was prepared to say, "Mommy loves you and is just trying to understand what you have been saying to her. Would you like to say something different to her?" When I got home, he did not want to let go of me. So, I held him and we talked about how powerful words can be and how this is the time for him to learn that his words are very powerful in my ears, in my mind, and in my heart. Then we read the story about crying wolf and discussed the need to be careful so that our words to not become weak. We talked about how saying the truth helps keep our words powerful.

After that, whenever he used inflammatory speech, I could say something like, "It sounds like you are trying to make your words more powerful. What do you really want to say. The truth is the most powerful thing to say." That would allow us to explore how he could express his true feelings.

There may be a number of reasons your son is saying this phrase to your mother. He may simply be missing you. She may not be giving in to something he wants and feels that when he says this he weakens her resistance. Grandma's should never take these outbursts personally. If she feels hurt, she is in no position to help him learn to express his true feelings.

In closing, I will tell you that the best book I have seen to date for raising an outstanding human being is The Family Virtues Guide, by Linda K. Popov. We got this book when my son was 7 or 8. He is 24 and is overseas volunteering service for a year and a half. People my age go to him for advice. Notwithstanding that I am his mother and have feelings of motherly affection, I believe he is one of the most beautiful and courageous souls I've known. Next to pure Scripture and prayers, The Family Virtues Guide was the most helpful guide to parenting I have ever seen or heard of.

Many books on parenting offer you methods. This book goes far beyond that. It helps you develop an understand and awareness of the skills and strengths you want your child to learn and master. One of the benefits to the book is that you get to learn and master these skills as you teach them to your child. It's a win/win all the way.

I hope these thoughts and memories are helpful to you.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

yep, it's normal & (I believe) it's the beginning of a tendency to be disrespectful. You & your mom have 2 choices: to be firm with him & to have a "life" talk with him- so he knows you're on the same page .....or to "laugh" it off, grab him when he walks in her door (the next time he does it to you), tickle the heck out of him, & confront him on the issue - then leading into the serious talk about how he should behave. Either way will have the same just depends on how you want to approach it. You know best what will "get" to him. With my sons, I have one of each!

If you're a tv watcher, then the older Nickelodeon show "Franklin" deals beautifully with issues such as this. For adult fare, the video "1-2-3 Magic" is wonderful.....& taught us lots! Good Luck & Peace.



answers from Portland on

Get her, and yourself, copies of the fabulous book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk. This is the single best parenting resource I've ever found, and really will help you and your mom deal gently but effectively with your son's attitudes.



answers from Joplin on

I loved the book 1,2, 3 , Magic when my two older children were that age. If you and your mom are on the same page with discipline it helps. I think it is pretty normal, my best suggestion if you want the attitude of I don't like you to go away is to ignore it...if the child knows it is upsetting or is getting a rise out of your mom, his grandma...he will continue it, but if he sees he can't get any mileage with the I don't like you routine he will bore of it and drop it.



answers from Wichita on

Normal! Normal! Normal! I can relate since I am very sensitive to what my own four sons say; however, it is best to not react. That is easier said than done of course!
When your son gets into trouble, have your mom carry out the discipline for his misbehavior and have her show no reaction to his words about not liking her. It is simply his way of coping with his anger about being in trouble.
If she feels the need to say something, she can simply repeat the following phrase: "I am sorry that you feel that way. I love having you here each day."
Encourage her not to show her personal feelings or he will continue since he sees that he gets a reaction; the reaction from her is his only "control" of the situation at the time.
Good luck! Like I said, easier said than done!



answers from St. Louis on

I believe this is very normal. I have a 3 year old that turned 3 at the end of April. He says no to my husband and I about everything. Sometimes we will say the opposite of what we want him to do just so he will do it :). We actually started marriage counseling because we were having trouble getting on the same page about discipline. It has been a very trying time for me. And people always mention the "terrible twos." There should be some mention of the "terrible threes" :). And actually last night when I was putting him to bed (which is a daily struggle) he crossed his arms and said, "don't like you." At very first it kind of hurt my feelings but the feeling didn't last long because I know how much he loves me and I know he was just saying that because he was mad about not getting his way. Maybe tell your Mom not take it personally and try to have her remember how he is when everything is going well :) husband and I do the time-outs and that works for us but every child is different. Good luck to you!



answers from St. Louis on

My daughter does the same thing. She thinks it hurts my feelings. Ha. She will say things like your not my friend or you can't play with me.

They say things like that either because it would be something that would upset them, or because they can tell it upsets us. Just remind your mom that it is a phase and that if she doesn't act like it bugs her then he will move on to something else.

I respond by telling her in a very light upbeat tone that what she said isn't nice, but rarely is it those lines that are the big deal. It is usually back talk in general, or whining, or not doing something she was told to do and so I focus on punishing her for those unacceptable behaviors.



answers from San Diego on

Yes it's normal, He's probably thinking at home he can get away with it. he's trying to manipulate her with words. J.



answers from Lawrence on

you might ask him how it would make him feel if someone (or grandma) said that to him, or if it would make him sad. Your mom shouldn't react to it negatively though when he says that (Im sure she doesnt anyway) because it only shows him that when he says hurtful things like that, it works. Maybe explain to him that grandma just wants him to be safe and nice and have fun, so when he does (or says) things he shouldnt, she is only trying to help him (help him be nice/safe etc). Like another post said..explain that grandma really likes having him there and it might make her sad if he says things like that, and we should be nice to grandma because we love her. Good Luck :)



answers from Kansas City on

I haven't had this exact problem, but something similar. I do daycare and I've had 3 year olds give Mom the cold shoulder when she comes to pick them up. They would either ignor Mom or throw a fit about going home, etc. I sat down and had a one on one very "adult" conversation with them about how Mom works hard to earn money and looks forward to coming to pick her up each day. We talked about how feelings can be hurt and how that makes Mom sad. This conversation really worked for us, I don't know if it will work in your situation or not but it might be worth a try.



answers from Fresno on

that is completely normal. hes just tryin to find a way to get his way. and it should stop with time if she doesnt give him his way when he says it. that way he doesnt feel as if hes bein rewarded for bad behavior...


answers from Kansas City on

They all try to manipulate you if they can, they want their own way, and you have to stand firm and even if it hurts not give in. I think saying "I'm sorry you feel that way, but......" and let them know it's not acceptable to say and then go on or discipline however you chose, don't play the hurt victim, which is easy to do being it does hurt you and your mother and others. I've gone through that with my children and grandchildren I babysat and the next week or so it's they don't like the other grandparent because of something. One week it was he didn't like me because at the other grandma's he could do whatever he wanted. I said 'That's fine if that's what the other grandma wants but here we do this and I'm sorry you feel that way but......."

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