I have a 4-year-old son who although can be very kind, thoughtful and lovely to be around, exhibits difficult behavior at home and at school which I think are related to power struggles and control.
When asked to do something he does not want to do, such as tidy up, get ready for school, wait in line at the park etc., he runs away and gets very angry.
He'll go an find something to hide behind or under and he'll shout at us, things like, "You're not coming to my birthday party.", "I'm going to throw your laptop in the bin then!", or "I don't care!". He'll pull the most angry faces and get himself really worked up.
Trying to gently coax him out of the situation only agitates him more. Obviously, shouting at him to stop is not and has never been an option. Ignoring him does work, but it can take a while. When he's ready he'll snap out of it and come crying to you.
The problem is worse at school or when out shopping or at a restaurant, because ignoring him is not really an option when the environment is not safe to leave him. For example, at school he may not want to come in from playtime, so when told to do so he will run away, hide, get angry and shout at the teacher. The teacher then really struggles to get him out of the situation and therefore it is worse.
Here's an example of something that happened this morning. It was cold outside, so he asked to wear his gloves, which I got for him. When we arrived at school he said he wanted to leave his gloves on, not put them in his bag. I said, no you can't leave your gloves on, you can put them in your bag and wear them at playtime. That was a trigger for him "Well I'm not going to school then. I'm keeping them on! I hate everybody! I don't want any friends! No one's coming to my birthday party!" - he promptly ran off and hid behind a wall, cue ten minutes of me following him round trying my best to keep my temper and coax him back. In the end I had to leave him and go to work hoping the teacher would be able to get him inside.
He's not tantrumming, he's not even crying. He's simply running away, shouting and angry.
When left alone to stew, it will eventually lead to tears and after that he'll be more manageable until the next time.
It seems to me it's all about power with him. Today he wasn't keen on going back to school after the holidays. He had also made a deal with himself that he would go if he could wear his gloves, so he had created the terms to which he would control the situation.
When challenged he exhibits this behavior. He does similar things when challenged by other children. For example if he is playing on his own and another child comes over to him, he will happily play as long as it's his game, on his term. The second the other child changes the rule, he gets angry and runs away and we're in this situation again.
I need to know how to manage these little episodes to firstly manage them effectively so there is a positive outcome, and secondly work my way towards stopping them from happening in the first place.