Anger, Whining, Cuddly Purgatory & the Star Chart

First of all, thank you all SO MUCH for the encouragement and cheers on starting my weight loss goal!  I really appreciate it, and it means so much knowing I have all of you in my corner rooting for me.   I did 36 push-ups last night for the second day of the push-up challenge.  Boy, do I feel it today.  I knew I would, but it’s nice too.  In high school I got really good at doing push-ups, so hopefully some (long dormant) muscle memory is returning.

At the beginning of January, Daniel turned 3 years, 7 months, and I have to say that life with him is never, ever boring.  If you follow me on Twitter,  you’ve seen some of my tweets.  We have good days and bad days, and they seem to alternate.  What amazes me is the anger and the rage he displays.  He knows what he wants, and he will let you know if his will is thwarted.  The anger I can handle.  It’s shocking and a bit distressing, but it’s also rare.  The whining, though, is driving us up the wall.  It is like nails on a chalkboard.

But that’s been our experience with 3.  I wrote about how the candles on his cake had barely cooled before the switch flipped, and he became a cross between Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and a 14-year-old girl going through puberty.  He teases us with weeks of calm, leading us to believe maybe the stage has passed.  Then BAM!  Next thing you know he’s sobbing because he can’t have a granola bar for dinner or wear the pajamas he wants despite them being unavailable because they are in the washing machine.   The other night he was so exhausted and upset that I swear he was speaking in tongues and I wondered briefly if he were possessed.

Faced with this 3-year-old volcano, we walk a tight rope.  The whining raises our hackles, and we attempt to reason with him and use logic, which is ridiculously impossible.  Our goal becomes getting Daniel to stop whining while maintaining control of the situation.  Appeasement is NOT an option.  Of course, later, when you are faced with a sobbing child, you regret every time out and worry you are breaking his spirit and being too “mean” to him.

Over the holidays we instituted a behavior chart.  It was initially to help Daniel earn back his train table which had been removed due to some major infractions.  It’s working well, mostly.  We have 6 “tasks” for him to complete each day; one of them is an easy one so that he always earns one star easily.  The others target behaviors and tasks that are challenging for him AND us.

Daniel has started to understand that refusing some of the tasks like changing clothes, brushing teeth and feeding the cats will result in no stars.  We have seen definite improvement in those areas. The whining one is a LOT more difficult.  He understands, but it hasn’t sunk in yet.  That one is probably our biggest challenge. What genius does a 3-year-old possess that allows them to whine at the perfect frequency to rattle your nerves and piss you off in about 4 seconds?

His Name

The behavior that causes our blood to boil instantaneously is his refusal to be called by his name.  We could really use some advice from more experienced parents on this issue.  In the last few months, Daniel has decided that he does not want to be called Daniel but instead wants to be called something else.  It’s usually Diesel but could be Kevin, Flynn, Thomas or Cranky.

What usually happens is that when we talk to him about a behavior or comment and then call him Daniel, he becomes upset and demands that we call him by the other name because he is NOT Daniel.  This demand is frustrating for us on a few levels.  First of all, the tone.  Daniel gets SO angry about the name issue, insisting he is NOT Daniel.  We don’t respond well because our knee-jerk response is telling him that we named him Daniel and why we love that name. Secondly, he tends to bark this “demand” at us.  Grrrrrr.  At that point, the last thing I want to do is call him by another name.  Finally, Daniel loves the diesel trains on Thomas.  My only issue is that the diesels are portrayed as major asshole bullies.  WHY does he want to be called a name associated with an asshole bully?

What should we do?  Do we accept his request and call him Diesel or Kevin or Flynn or whatever?  Do we insist on him being called by his name?  Do we work with him on how to request politely that he be called by a nickname?  I’ve done some frantic Googling, and I haven’t found much that would.  What would you do?  Should we just get over it, call him what he wants and work on the other issues?


Daniel has a lot of stuffed animals in his room.  We bought many of them for him, but some were gifts as well.  They all lived happily on and around his bed until recently.  Daniel’s new thing is to throw the “cuddlies” he doesn’t want into his closet.  They have been convicted of being nuisances or disruptive according to Daniel.  OK.

It was really sad tonight, though.  He sent a few more stuffed animals to purgatory.  Some of them Jimmy or I had cuddled with as a child, and it was weird seeing them in stuffed animal jail.  Some of them we had bought for Daniel, thinking he’d love XYZ stuffed animal but apparently not.

I felt so bad for those stuffed animals!  Stuffed in a closet!  I kind of want to rescue them and see if we can find them good homes 😦

Three has been very hard.  Very hard.  I’ve never felt so lousy as a parent before.  I think it’s rough because children can do so much at this age but they are also still immature and it catches us off guard.

Feel free to suggest any survival tips you have. 



  1. Fucking 3. We have the whining and bossy voice. That is the daily complaint “use your nice words. We don’t respond to whining.” I have no clue if it works. But I feel ya. Also the anger is strong in L. Lots of violence. We just take things away and remind him over and over. Oy

  2. ‘I think it’s rough because children can do so much at this age but they are also still immature and it catches us off guard.’ We came to this same conclusion recently. The problem is, knowing that doesn’t *help*. We’re at 2 and 8 months, but we struggle with some of the same things, like the name! Argh! And we didn’t even choose her name.

    I wish I had suggestions, but I think I’ll just wait and see what you get. 🙂 Good luck!

  3. We are in the middle of this, too! He will not get dressed, he does not want to go to school recently. He will not follow directions. If things do not work out the way he wants it to, he will cry and rage. I get so tired of fighting. I have just started to leave the room if I get too frustrated with his behavior. I figure he needs to learn to cope, anyway. Usually me leaving is enough incentive to get him to do what I wanted him to do. Most of the time. If not, then I get a break and can go do something else for a few minutes.

    So not really any advice, just commiseration!

  4. Three is the worst age. The worst! Until six comes along. . . but we are talking about three. All the things he is doing are perfectly natural. Personally I would call him whatever name he wanted to be called, but only if he asked nicely. If you have not read 1-2-3 Magic–really read it, not just read a summary–I would do that now. Also Between Parent and Child is a totally fabulous book that turned my parenting ideas on their head. I learned several strategies that have worked extremely well for my child (now 7). The best strategy is verbal wish fulfillment. Instead of saying “no” all the time, I say “Wouldn’t that be great? I really wish we could do that! What do you think the best part would be?” I thought that sounded like a truly terrible idea b/c it would him want the thing more, but instead it defuses the situation.

    As for the stuffed animals. . . just don’t let it bother you. If it truly bothers you, put them somewhere you can’t see them.

  5. As someone on the other side of 3 (which now would be an awesome time to give me prop for TWINS and traveling husband) my perspective is age 3 is when you pick the hills you are willing to die on. 3 year olds love to fight. They will fight just to fight. So you need to decide what is important to you as a parent.

    Is it REALLY important to you to always call him by his real name for this very brief phase? Maybe it is. But if its not, this is the age to learn to say yes to things like this. I truly believe age 3 is there to help you figure out what is important to your parenting so you can stick to those guns.

    I also agree with the above commenter – 3 was my least favorite until 6. You couldn’t pay me enough to have two 3 year olds. It’s the only age where I wanted to give them both away some days.

    1. Laura, I shudder every time I think of having 3-year-old twins AND practically solo parenting. You deserve a medal. No, in the scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter whether he is called Daniel or what he prefers. I think we’ve been struggling to figure out where the boundaries of control lie. SHOULD we insist on his name, etc. The star chart has been great to help us clarify what our sticking points are, so your point is well taken.

  6. Here We Go A Jen recently posted something about choosing your battles – for me the name thing has been a non-issue and we just go with whatever she wants to be called (part of this is because I was sooooooo relieved that she had finally started doing pretend play). It does get annoying sometimes. Our huge hot-button issues revolve around hygiene – bathing, washing hands, brushing hair. That is a CONSTANT battle in our house.

    1. Tooth brushing is my very least favorite activity. He wants to play and spit out toothpaste. SO IRRITATING. I hadn’t thought of the name stuff as pretend play, so I love it! And yeah, I need to choose my battles. It’s not a big deal in the scheme of things. Perspective is good.

  7. No advice here either. But I did have a special needs kid once who refused to be called by her name, only her last name. We just kind of ignored it and carried on calling her by her name! And the phase passed.

  8. On the name thing: It sounds like one of the times D insists on being called by a different name is when you’re trying to correct one of his behaviors. (If I’ve misunderstood, just ignore the following).

    My guess is that he feels (at some level) guilty about the behavior and wants to disassociate himself from it. So, what he’s thinking is: It was Daniel that said/did that bad thing. *I* didn’t say/do it, because I’m Diesel.

    So, basically, the demand to be called by a different name (although not the way he’s expressing it) is a very good thing. It shows that he wants to meet your expectations, even if he’s not quite there yet.

  9. Oh the hellacious 3s. Yup. Been there (in duplicate), done that, dreading doing it again!

    I agree with the above commenter – pick your battles. Does it really matter if he has a granola bar as part of his dinner? Probably not. If the pjs he wants are in the wash, have him help you get that laundry going and say that if he’ll wear these other pjs for just a little while, if he wakes up and wants to change when these others are dry, you’ll come in and help. (I have yet to have a child wake up and insist on changing.)

    I would also call him by whatever name he wants, and probably not even insist on it being said nicely, because … well, if someone called me by not-my-name, I’d be pissy too. I think I’d start out the day asking who he is today – and then if later he says “I’m not Daniel, I’m …”, say “oh I’m sorry, this morning you told me you were Daniel! Next time, could you ask nicely, because I really didn’t know.” and then switch to the other name. Both my kids have long experimented with trying on other names/characters (most often, trading names with each other … I also get called Daddy a lot, etc). Captain Hook and Mr. Smee are big ones, and even though they’re the “bad guys”, I go along. (I’m Sharky. Ahem.) To me, it’s just role playing, and it’s not something I’m going to lose it over. (Also – maybe try switching him from Thomas over to Chuggington. EVERYONE on Chuggington is a good guy, I really like it a million times better.)

    Deep breaths. Offer him as many choices as is feasible – blue plate or green plate. Bath before story, or story before bath. Brush teeth before or after story/bath. The more control you give him over the little things, the more control you can exert on the important things. This phase does not last forever. Pinky swear.

    1. Thank you for your advice! I’m definitely beginning to see it’s not a big deal to give in to whatever name he wants to be called, and I hadn’t even thought of it as a type of pretend play. That’s wonderful. You are so right that we need to choose our battles. It truly doesn’t matter if he eats granola bars 14 days in a row as long as he’s eating. We try to give him choices, but it’s clear we need to provide more opportunity for him to choose.

  10. 3 totally sucked. Oh, it was just endless battles and bad attitude. 3 year olds are assholes.

    I was thinking the same thing as MM mentioned above. Daniel seems to be trying to separate his “name” or self, from your conversations about his behavior. I would suggest that you try to not use any name for him when having that kind of discussion. It’s triggering a distraction from the point you are trying to make with him, allowing him to defelct the conversation from his behavior to your behavior. If you do need a way to address him during the conversation and “you” won’t work, I’d suggest using words like “sweetie” or “honey” which are not person specific.

    As for what to call him during less stressful moments, call him whatever he wants. It’s not a battle worth fighting.

    1. Yeah, I’m thinking that calling him by whatever name he wants is fine. I think you make a really good point about D trying to separate his “name”/self from the behavior. Thanks!

  11. Yeah. This sounds like Will from September-December of this year. It seems to have abated a bit. I’m not taking off my bullet-proof vest yet, though. We reinstated 1-2-3 Magic with a vengeance and bred it with the Supernanny time out structure. The Full House Bob Saget touchy-feely talk after time out seemed to help him understand where he screwed up after his rage had passed. My biggest problem is that Will cowers to his father when corrected by him, but fights with me. Nonetheless, I’m the favorite parent right now. Will likes me to make up stories at night after we read books and so I started telling stories about a boy named Will and the key conflict was something that the real Will had done that day that pissed me off. Then in the story, I told what behavior the fictional Will did to correct the one that he had gotten in trouble for. For example, Will considers it a personal affront if I don’t know what he’s talking about. He starts screaming and kicking and all other sorts of Linda Blair antics. So the other night the fictional Will learned that the way to deal with being misunderstood was to calm the hell down and try to give more information to help the other person understand. The real Will has been internalizing these stories and he’s been using that strategy the past couple of weeks and we’ve all been happier. I mean, he still acts like an ass sometimes, but those things seem to help. Beyond that, I got nothin’ other than my kid acts that way too.

    1. First, I am so happy other people’s children are acting like assholes at this age. Yay! I love the story idea. He wants us to have a chat w/ him once he’s in bed, so we’ll work in a story and I’ll look for other opportunities to work in a “teachable moment” as they call it 😉

    2. We did this too (fictional kid in bedtime story has a problem and then fixes it in an appropriate way), and it works wonderfully almost all of the time. Oh 3 year olds. I’m really glad I have friends with teenagers because we could commiserate on equal terms about how awful the kids were being. I think my kid has stayed 3 for a bonus year just to irritate us for making her move away from everything she remembered (don’t recommend that) although she has more good times now that she’s 4. Also not fighting back when the kid tries to pick a fight has helped some. We send her off for a time out and when she’s “steady” and can tell us why she went on time-out she can come back (and if her reason is totally wrong, we talk about the real reason with her). I also put myself on time out when she’s making me insane with whatever it is.

  12. Have you read Happiest Toddler on the Block? Those techniques helped us a lot with Sam. But I think most of what you are describing is annoying but normal. Sam used his own name refused to call his siblings by their names and made up names for them. He got mad at us for calling them by their given names. Very annoying. But he got over it.
    And little boys want to be the bad guy sometimes. Don’t worry about him wanting to be Diesel. You didn’t want to be Melanie Wilkes did you? No, you wanted to be Scarlett. Way cooler. But she WAS kind of an asshole.
    Sam also punished his stuffed animals. It upset both of us, but we tried to use it at a teaching technique. I told Sam that he didn’t have to be friends with his animals he was mad at, but he couldn’t be mean to them either. If he told me they did something bad, I’d ask him what it was, then go all defense lawyer in favor of the stuffed animal. If he insisted he was still mad at them, I allowed them to come live in my room.
    Now, if you have any advice that will get my 10 month old to sleep through the night….

    1. You’re right: the assholes are always way more interesting 😉 I haven’t read the Happiest Toddler. I had the Happiest Baby and liked it, so I need to get the toddler book. Thank you for reassuring me that everything is OK 🙂 I’ll try to think of some advice for 10 month olds who refuse to sleep. Oh, I love you playing defense lawyer with the stuffed animals!

  13. Oh! Totally forgot this: one of my friends from back in junior high now goes by Diesel. It’s Facebook official and everything. He is an MMA fighter, though, if that makes it better? Lol!

  14. Oh wow – this does not make me excited about Matthew growing up 😉

    I have no advice for you since I have not parented a 3 year old, but I have assvice on the name thing 🙂 At this moment in time, I am reading this telling myself, “there is no way in hell I would call Matthew anything than his proper name – no way would I call him what he wants me to call him.” So there you go – I would insist on him being called by his proper name. But ask me in 1.5 years when I have a 3 year old who wants to be called Jim-Bob, or something like that.

    I feel bad for his stuffies too. Breaks my heart!

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