Encouraging a difficult preschooler.

Jube's picture
Tue, 04/15/2008 - 22:44 -- Jube

My boy is a really wonderful sweet child. But he is stubborn. He's in the phase where he is very defiant, which I know is very popular behavior at this age (he turned 3 march 21st). I'm finding he just is not very persistent. We are seeing an occupation therapist for some sensory and fine motor issues. Like, he wont open a door with a door knob. It's too hard and he gives up right away. Sometimes he jiggles the knob but doesn't try to actually turn it. And with things like putting his shoes on, he'll try, and give up right away and ask for help.

So those are all small things. The big thing is with his leg. He fell down 2/3 stairs over 6 weeks ago and got a small stress fracture on his right tibia. He hasn't walked since even though the orthopedic pediatrician I saw said he was healed. He refuses to even try to stand. He crawls around and walks on his knees. I'm facing all this pressure from friends and family that it is my sole responsibility to make sure he's up and walking again. They are using scare tactics on me saying his leg muscle will degenerate and I'll be in even more shit if I don't get him walking right away (even though the doctors and specialists said nothing like this to me). I'm being pressured to give him "tough love" and "force" him to walk. I'm not even going to delve into how all this makes me feel as though my top layer of mom skin has been ripped off. This advice, primarily from childless people mind you. And notice how they say I have to do this. As if the child has no will of his own. It's as if by me wanting him to do something bad enough, he's just going to do it. He is a very young impressionable child, very mailable, but still has a will of his own.

This goes against all my maternal instincts. I can be strict with him and often am. But when he's been crying hysterically for 20 minutes screaming for me to pick him up, I hardly think any amount of waiting and watching his up-reached arms is going to have him walking. This method might very well work for other children with different temperaments. I'm his mom and I don't think it's the route for him. I think he's more likely to walk when he's in good spirits, not in desperation for help. I fear a small piece of him dies inside when he feels like his mom has abandoned him like that when he's screaming for help. I don't know, I'm probably being dramatic.

So I guess this kind of makes me naive and a little negligent. But I think this whole walking again is going to be a very slow process. I think it'll be much like the first time he learned to walk, first standing, then maybe walking along furniture, then maybe a few unassisted steps. I think it's very unreasonable for people to expect him to just be running again one day after not walking at all. I think harassing him and degrading him will only make him regress.

And I feel like I need someone to back me up.

I could use tips for positive encouragement. I've tried taking away toys or offering treats, and it's all felt cheap and wrong to me and didn't even work anyways.


huck's picture
Submitted by huck on

you know you boy, they have no idea what it means to be his mother. tey have no idea what it means to love and nurture him into a life in which e grows from that love.

i would set him up in environments that would make him want to use his leg more. i would go swimming. he can strengthen his leg without as much physical stress. i would also go to playgrounds with other children a lot. perhaps seeing the other children playing could motivate him to do the same. how about gymnastics class?

Enelesn's picture
Submitted by Enelesn on

You know your child. And YOU are his mom, not these other people. How dare they?! But they do. I've not gone through what you are expeiencing and my heart goes out to you. My 3 year old is also very strong willed and stubborn and I do not feel that forcing him to do things is always the way - other people do.. and if they want to force THEIR children to do things, fine on them.
I think just being encouraging, surrounding him with fun activities that may peak his interest into walking again are a great idea and they may not work right away, but being stubborn, he will probably want to reclaim his independence at some point and that will help his desire to try and walk on his own.
Don't give up on yourself Mama. You're doing fine.

Henry's picture
Submitted by Henry on

magic works on my stubborn, smart (and somewhat gross-motor delayed) three year old boy. I don't know how to go about it for your kid, but some sort of magic often comes in handy. Or songs. But yeah, you can't make them do much and there is a fine line between encouraging them and pushing them to do their best and just pushing them too much and making them feel like shit.
My son told me recently that he didn't want to build a tower out of blocks and I should do it instead because he didn't want to do it wrong (which is actually because of his OT who is always telling him to do things in these really specific ways) and I felt awful. And I get that he will face challenges in life, we all do, but this whole cycle of judgement because he can't do some stuff as easily or as well as some other kids his age just pisses me off. I am so beyond fine with him. He is great. He is brilliant and stubborn and hilarious and social but some stranger (or family member) always jumps in to judge me or him for some thing he has trouble with. It's crap. Maybe we could just hit the judgers with a stick. I'd have to hit myself too though. But not about my boy.

Birdie's picture
Submitted by Birdie on

playing on a playground or something, and don't bother him about it but just wait, and wait, and wait.... he'll try to join them, he won't be able to help himself if he's better... Kids at that age usually hate to look like babies around their peers. Apparently I fell off of a bed and refused to walk for a day and a half until my parents got scared and took me to the Dr.'s, where he smiled and got down on his knees and said dramatically "Birdie, walk to me!" and I got up and I did, because I loved my Dr. and thought he had magically cured me. But I agree with the OT folks- sorry, but I think you can be sweet and understanding and NOT pick him up. 20 minutes of crying is nothing in the grand scheme of things, even days of fits- he will get tired of it and eventually, get up and walk. You are not abandoning him, he is being unreasonable (sure, he is scared for his leg and worried but you are not helping by acting like there is something to be scared of by picking him up- you are reaffirming his belief that he can't do it.) And you do not always have to meet your 3 year old's demands! It sounds like he knows he's got you when he starts crying... I hate to write it, but you are letting your kid manipulate you here and it's not in anyone's best interests- the first day or so after the leg healed I would expect this but anything beyond that and it's time to put your foot down. He needs to get active and you need to not pick him up for that to happen- if it's too hard for you, let someone else refuse to pick him up- it's really not that cruel. Good luck whatever you do!

tired mama's picture
Submitted by tired mama on

I'm sorry-do you think he is afraid of the potential pain? Not that there is any, he just does not want to experience that trama-not that I blame him. You are handling this fine I think. What in the world do the non parent people think you should do? Yell at him to walk? He is a kid for Christ's sake!
give him a hug for me :)

Birdie's picture
Submitted by Birdie on

And I'm sorry if I came off sounding like an asshole. You had obviously posted to get support for your way of dealing with your son. In all honesty, I was feeling more bad for your back in having to pick up your 3 year old for 6 weeks or longer than I was for your son. If I could rewrite what I wrote, I would have written that I think you should listen to yourself and at the same time, try to find a way to encourage him to not be afraid to start walking again. Kids are funny about injuries- my son did NOT tell me about a terribly swollen and bruised ankle from jumping off of a chair at his friend's house (I was horrified to discover it and actually took him to the dr.'s to have it checked out), but he reported a scratch that his friend's cat gave him the very same day and cried repeatedly about the cat being mean to him. It was a scratch about 1/4 inch long. In my own experience as a child, the day that I refused to walk came back to haunt me- my mother told and retold the story and I was seen from that point on as the "squeaky wheel" and generally, ignored when I would report an injury- to the point where I had a broken growth-plate in my finger for over a month as a third grader before she finally would take me to get it checked, it hurt terribly- my mother told me I was just a whiner and bullied me on the way to the dr's, telling me what a waste of everyone's time it was and after they took the x-ray she was like- "I hope you're happy, you'll see how you should have let this go!" Well, the dr. told her that it was broken and if I didn't wear a splint until it was healed, my finger would not grow properly and would be shorter than the rest of my fingers when I grew up! Um.....point being.....it might have been nice to have a mom more like you. :)
Hope that everything turned out fine.