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When it’s not “normal” behavior

My husband, Jimmi, and I have struggled with our 3-year-old, Samuel, for over a year now when it comes to his behavior. In the past nine months it has become almost unbearable. We deal with daily massive meltdowns that include kicking, screaming, throwing things, etc…It’s not if he’s going to break something today, it’s when. He jumps off my dining room table, has broken my refrigerator door twice, and constantly has bruises, scratches, and knots because he is so wild and fearless.

You may be thinking, “Yep, you’re in the terrible threes.” Maybe you’re thinking, “Who doesn’t have a 3-year-old like that?” I’ll continue….

I have to keep my front door dead bolted because Samuel will try to leave the house. If I do not have my hands on him constantly when we’re outside, he will run away. He’s been in trouble at least 10 times for bolting across the street to the neighbors house when I’m trying to get all the kids in the car and yet he will still do it if I don’t have a hold of him.

Taking him in public gives me anxiety before we even leave the house. He’s almost 40 pounds and I have a 10-month-old to carry around so I can’t physically handle a public meltdown alone. I’ve had nightmares about him getting run over because he slipped through my hands. I’ve had nightmares that I’ve left my baby in the car accidentally because I was so preoccupied with keeping Samuel from running off or getting hurt.

In a classroom with 24 three and four year olds, I’ve watched Samuel be one of two children that wanders around the room missing the entire lesson because he can’t sit still. He moves until he is exhausted at the end of the day. He doesn’t nap and if you can get him to sit still after 5 p.m., he’ll pass out in your lap in less than five minutes. It’s like turning off a light switch. He doesn’t even sit to eat a meal, he runs by and grabs a bite and keeps going, repeating the cycle until his food is done.

I literally have to follow him around the house when we’re visiting someone because, like I said, it’s not if it’s when he’s going to tear something up. Day to day life at our house can be called mass chaos. My 8-year-old, Josiah, and Samuel fight constantly because Samuel aggravates and beats up on Josiah. Yes, my 3-year-old beats up on my 8-year-old. There are many days I’m exhausted to tears because I don’t know what to do.

If you’re thinking, “He just needs a good spanking,” trust me we’ve done it. It doesn’t phase him. If you’re thinking he needs exercise, redirection, rewards systems, or any other discipline technique, trust me, we’ve done it. Nothing is working. 

Many times when I try to voice my concern or frustrations to others I’m met with well-meaning comments like:

“He’s three, he will grow out of it.”

“Mine was like that and he’s just fine now.”

“He’s all boy, that’s for sure.”

“It will get better. You’ll laugh about this someday.”

There are many people in my life that love our family that say these types of things. Honestly, though, there are days when I feel like I’m physically drowning and everyone is saying, “You’ll learn to swim eventually,” instead of throwing me a life raft. I have felt like a failure as a mom because even with my loving, disciplining household, my 3-year-old is still out of control.

There have been a few people in my life though that have said this is not normal 3-year-old behavior. Many of the behaviors are, but the extreme nature and frequency of these behaviors says there is more going on here.

I have always thought that children were diagnosed with syndromes like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) way too much. My opinion was the majority of these children needed better discipline or were just displaying normal developmental behavior. I still believe that there are a lot of children diagnosed with these syndromes that don’t have it, but the syndromes are real. There are children out there than cannot get through the day happy and healthy with the rest of their family because of these disorders.

Samuel was seen by his pediatrician and then evaluated by a Behavioral Therapist. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD and he will start weekly therapy to help with these behaviors. He will also be referred for a medical evaluation to see if medications are necessary (non-stimulatory medications only). We’re waiting for diagnostic testing to confirm the therapist’s diagnosis.

I don’t want Samuel to be labeled a bad kid. I don’t want to be labeled a bad mom. I want my house to function without daily destruction, tantrums, or blood. I hate the idea that Samuel might need medication while we get him through the next few years of therapy. However, I hate the fact that we avoid church functions, homeschool functions, and even family functions because it is too physically exhausting, stressful, and sometimes a little embarrassing.

I love Samuel. He’s really a loving, caring kid. He’s resourceful, helpful, smart, and will make an excellent leader some day because of his leadership skills and strong will. He just honestly has trouble controlling himself. He is missing out on so much because he can’t stay still long enough to do it.

If you’re the well-meaning person that knows a mom and child like this, tell her it’s OK to talk to her pediatrician and get some advice. Sometimes it only takes one person to make her feel less crazy and more hopeful that there’s a way to fix things. Don’t say things that might make her feel worse, even if your intentions are to be encouraging they might not be received that way.

If you’re the mom that feels like she’s drowning or feels like a failure because your two, three, four, or five year old is out of control and you’re concerned — get some help. Ignore the well-meaning people that tell you this is normal and they’ll grow out of it. They only see what’s going on the short time they’re with the child. You’re with them all the time and know it’s not OK. It’s better to get them checked and be told they’re fine than to wait until they’re 9 years old and completely out of control and dangerous.

I hope this helps a struggling mom know she’s not alone.



One thought on “When it’s not “normal” behavior

  1. Pingback: Choosing medication for your ADHD child | The Mom Odyssey

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