My three-year-old shows no affection and his behaviour is upsetting

Categories: Boys | Development | Preschool


I have a 3-year-old son. He shows no sign of wanting to start potty training, uses his soother all the time, and isn’t showing any affection, apart from when he wants something or is very upset, then he will come to me. He resists my hugs and the last few weeks he’s telling me “I don’t like you”. I’m finding this very upsetting. What could this be?

It is hard to tell what might be up for your son, as the various things you mention may or may not be all connected. Your son’s lack of interest in toilet training is not unusual for a three-year-old, nor is continued use of a soother. The fact that he resists your affection and your hugs, on their own are not unusual, but, depending on how long they have lasted, and taken with the other issues you mention, could indicate some kind of delay.

Given the current restricted circumstances with Covid-19, some of his reluctance to show affection, or his struggle to regulate his feelings might be linked to the general increase of stress all around because of the lockdown and the changes that is likely to have brought to your family.

Your son is due a 3-year developmental check, if he hasn’t already had it. Your local public health nurse (PHN) might be able to meet with you and your son to discuss your concerns. She will be able to observe your son (and will have details from the 9-month, and 18-month checks) and should be able to tell if some further assessment is required.