Yes, I do think that you should be concerned! And, how do you know he over exaggerates about being whipped? You are not him! You have no idea what it feels like to be a 3 year old and be whipped by the one who loves you. And still crying in preschool is also troubling. There seems to be a lot of anxiety going on.
Here are two links which I think will be worth your time to read. The first deals with what to expect from a 3 year old in terms of self control and ways to develop self control. the link is
The second link is ways to guide a child without punishment which has a lot of very helpful ideas!
I hope this helps!
It's really a terrible idea to hit a child. I can't make this statement strongly enough; it is just a bad thing to do. Parents usually do it because it makes the parent feel better (relieves their anger), not because it instructs or informs the child in any way. It merely makes the child feel anxious and unsafe.
In simple terms its him, not you. Spanking isn't the end all. But what you have to remember is that the situation (no matter what situation ie spanking, punishment etc) is big to him. He's only three. His life revolves around him. He reacts the way he feels it effects him. Some kids go ballistic over time out, because they feel restrained physically. Remember that he is learning how to communicate not only verbally, but physically as well. Sometimes, though they seem to know a bazillion words, they don't make sense speaking. Emotional development is slower. It takes time. Especially for males. Everyone has days similar to this. You ever have a day where the most random thing sets you off crying or screaming, and when you look back you say "Jeez, it wasn't actually THAT bad, I may have over reacted?" Same principal. Remember that when he falls and gets hurt and screams and cries he is comforted. Well, in his eyes, he is getting hurt and wants to be comforted.
Things YOU can do...
Never compare your child to other children. It does you both a disservice.
After a spanking or swat or any punishment really, get down on his level and look him in the eyes. Explain why he was punished, that you expect better and that you want him to apologize. Then tell him you love him, and give hugs and kisses for the apology. Make sure he understands what he did wrong, and why its wrong. That you still love him even though you must teach him right from wrong. And you as mom need to remember that most tantrums are attention seeking. Children are taught from a young age that if they are hurt, mommy will comfort them. This is no different.
I was always the pro spanking mom. Spanking never caused me any damage as a kid, so it's fine for my kid. I rarely ever spanked my kid, I didn't have to. She's 6 now and I can't spank her anymore. She is like your son. She has ODD, which is completely unrelated to the spanking, but by spanking her, it makes everything worse. It makes her feel unloved and it makes her want to be more bad. She looks for attention, much in the way your son does, in a negative way. She becomes emotional and hard to calm down. So we changed to time outs, but we call them quiet time. I know I sound like a hippie, liberal arts wacko, but it works. I put her somewhere quiet and I tell her to sit and think about what happened and I will too. It gives us each time to calm down, so no one reacts in the moment, and I can think if more punishment is needed for the particular offence (i.e. no screen time for x amount for time). There is no yelling and she will usually either ask if it's time for us to talk about what happened yet, or if she's taking awhile with her thinking, I will go ask if she's ready yet. I don't put a time on it. It's whenever we are both calm and ready to talk.
When she's ready, I go in and we hug and she sits in my lap and she will almost always immediately tell me she's so sorry for *blank* and she will usually cry. So then I will calm her down and then we talk. I ask her why she did what she did, how she would feel if someone else did that to her, etc. It is extremely effective.
We started this when she was around 4, when I realized the spanking was just causing more misbehaving. She was diagnosed with ODD earlier this year, which also helped explain the misbehaving, but honestly, when I stopped spanking her, the outbursts started getting less and less. I wasn't so angry about every little thing anymore because I had a cool down period before punishment. She wasn't scared of me anymore. It's just been 1000x better. When we first started, it was hard. She wouldn't say sorry, so she spent a lot of time in her room. Our talks weren't as long because of her age, but I've tailored it and improved it over the years.
Knowing what I know now, I wish I had never spanked her. I think spanking is fine for some kids, but other kids, it just isn't. And mine is one of those kids who can't handle it and your son sounds eerily similar to my daughter, in regard to the reaction.
I'm not trying to tell you how to parent or discipline your child, that's not my idea of a good time. I can't stand when parents preach to other parents. I just thought our situations sounded similar and I wanted to share my story and if it sounds like something you want to try, I'm glad to be of help. And if it doesn't, well you have just gathered a bunch of info you might never use!
Good luck with your son though, you will figure it out. That's the great thing about us parents, we always do.
Please don't spank your child. There are about 200 studies ranging over the past 100 years showing that it increases mental illness, aggression, and lowers IQ permanently. It is also build distrust. Children need to be able to trust their parents more than anything. A child behaving this way is in serious mental and emotional anguish. Your reactions to his anguish, according to you, is to ignore it! This is why he behaves this way. Instead of hitting, actually teach the child. Instead of ignoring, comfort the child. Otherwise, his reversal problem now will be incredibly worse in 20 years. I say this as someone who's worked with children for over 20 years and seen what this type of parenting turns into.