15 answers

3 Year Old Does Not Listen

I am not sure how to handle my 3 year old lately and I would really love some suggestions from experienced mommas. He is into everything, is not listening to me, is becoming quite rude - I ask him to pick up his toys and he tells me no so I put him into his bedroom for a time out where he proceeds to pull his pants down and pee on the carpet in his room - I mean what am I supposed to do with that? It is not that he can not hold the peepee. I asked him to clean up his books and he tells me no so I told him I would take 5 away each time I came in the room until he started picking them up and it did not bother him one bit, each time I asked if he was going to pick them up he said no. He is a very sweet, smart boy, very loving and generally very good with his brother. It is just lately he is so hard to deal with. I know he is showing his independence and testing his limits but how am I supposed to get him to understand the rules and that certain things are expected of him like picking up his toys and doing as he is told. Please no one beat me up on this, some kind support and encouragement would really be appreciated thx

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Hi V.,

Thanks so much for posting this request. It was like you were talking about my little 3 year old boy! He can really be a handful lately and I'm going to try some of the suggestions below.

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I have two suggestions for you. I hope they work like they worked for me in the past. First off, I know that sometimes people confuse being firm with being mean and that's simply not the case. My first suggestion is to get to his eye level, speak in a firm but calm voice, and tell him he needs to pick up his books or whatever you want him to do. Give him time to respond or act. If he doesn't listen, then gently guide him to what you want him to do (sometimes you have to pick him up if he starts acting out). Now if that doesn't work, just let it go and tell him that you are not happy with him and leave him to himself (he's trying to get attention but not reacting to the negative behavior confuses them and they don't like it). Don't give up, it may take 20 times for him to respond like you want and believe me, he eventually will. Also, he will want you to play with him or do something for him. This is what I do. I simply remind them as to what I had asked (told) them to do earlier (like pick up the books and how he refused). Then I'll say, i can't do what you want because you couldn't be obedient (whatever words you want to use) and suggest that he does it now. If he gives in, go with him to do whatever BUT still don'e do what he wanted. Reward him another way. Then, maybe later you can do what he wants. But just keep at these too and he will eventually do mostly what he is supposed too. You can't give up and they won't hate you. they will just be upset for a while. Stay calm and firm (you're not being mean) and you will eventually be less stressed and frustrated. Also try this when your 17 month old is sleep and engaged in something else so that he won't distract you. Hope this helps.

2 moms found this helpful

Hi V.,

Thanks so much for posting this request. It was like you were talking about my little 3 year old boy! He can really be a handful lately and I'm going to try some of the suggestions below.

1 mom found this helpful

First - be consistent. No matter where you are or what you are doing, the rules need to be the same.
Second - Time out needs to be in a chair or on a step or a mat. NEVER in the bedroom.
Third - Tell him what you want him to do before he is upset. I always said something like "at 1:15 we need to clean up". Then at 1:15 I'd say, "the clock says it is 1:15 and we need to clean up."
I recommend Karate classes. They teach discipline and structure and all in a positive manner. AND, when they are done, they are tired!!!
YMMV
LBC

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Hi V.,

In my house, I give the kids a certain time frame in which they have to clean up their room and I put a white trash bag hanging on the door. I tell them that whatever hasn't been put in it's place will go to salvation army. a few times, they didn't finish (because they were goofing around) and I went in, without a word said, and started picking everything up to put in "the bag". It only took a few times! As for the peeing on the carpet, I would have my son cleaning up the mess!! In my opinion, you should not give attention to your son when he is acting out. Lavish him with praise and attention when he does things well. Also, does he have big bins in which to toss his toys? That helps alot with the cleaning up process with little ones. You could not only have consequences for undesired behavior but a "treat" chart for when he finishes his chores. For example, "when you finish picking up your toys in your room, we can go to the park". Or go for ice cream or go to the library, the possibilities are endless! Just make sure that you follow through on both consequences and rewards. Consistency is the key to good behavior! Good luck. This too shall pass!! :o)

1 mom found this helpful

I have a 3 year old and a newborn and have notice some attention getting behavior. So I had to take a real good look at myself and husband did the same thing are we giving him enough attention that is positive. It was a rude awaking for me to notice that I focus on negitive more than positive so if thats how we give pur attention to him he is more going to latch out in that way. I know being a sahm can have it's moments but it can also have it rewards. I to choose to be home with our boys. My 3 dosent like to clean up either. So what I do is sit in his room with him give him a pile of toys to clean up while sitting in there with him. When he sees that I do chores he is very interested ion them so I try to get him to help me and then move it to do something in his space as well. Like making our bed he likes to help so I let him and then we go to his room and make his bed I do one cover and dose the next It's not done the way I wanted it but at lease he shows an intrest in doing it so I praise him for doing it his way nd leave the cover the way he has done. it. Hey it's better than nothing. Hope this helps.

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Well, I'm happy to hear that I am not alone. I don't have advice for you as I am in the same boat! My boy is 3 and he is doing much of the same things. He has also told me that he doesn't love me and wants a new mommy. Little sister is only a month old, so I know a lot of this is jealousy, but it doesn't make it any easier. Most days I want to pull my hair out but I have been told to take it one day at a time and I have been promised that it WILL get better. But just know that you are not alone, and if anyone does have advice for you, I would love to hear it too~!

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hi V.,
congratulations! you are at a crucial stage of your son's autonomous development, and you have the opportunity to guide how he reacts to 'stuff he doesn't want to do' for the rest of his life! many parents at this point get incredibly creative in coming up with new ways to punish. that's one response. a better one is to work with him on knowing just where the boundaries are, and how life can be simultaneously harmonious and within his ability to direct, to some degree. i very much agree with the advice not to have time-outs in his room. get a chair or find a spot somewhere you can keep an eye on him, leave his room as his own private place of solace. the peeing seems to be the stumper for you, so quit worrying about it. he is quite aware that this is your tipping point, so disarm it. if he pees, calmly have him help you clean it up and say no more about it. excellent on taking the books away. he's got you faked out into thinking it has no impact, but it does. take away all the ones he refuses to pick up next time, staying calm and quiet, and allow them back one at a time in return for cooperative behavior. when he runs out of toys and books, it will matter, i promise. it may involve actually giving some to goodwill. have him go with you if that's the case. obviously you're doing a great job, demonstrated by his attitude toward his brother. continue to nurture that independence while you calmly and quietly dissuade the defiance. you really can have the best of both worlds.
khairete
S.

1 mom found this helpful

The joys of age 3!!!.....sorry but it is worse than 2. Anyway as you clearly cannot put him in time out in his room because of the peeing incidents you should maybe try a naughty mat (piece of rectangular foam from Michaels available in many colours). Choose an area where you want him to stand on it (within eye shot) and make him stand on it for 3 mins (1 minute for each year of age). Before putting him on the mat though you can warn him to stop the unwanted behaviour or else he will be on the naughty mat. For trying to get him to help tidy up , you could make a game out of it , for example say were going to tidy these toys away now , shall we see who get's the most in the box (make it like a race). Or you could try a reward chart (printable on supernanny.com) for his age he would need to get to 10 , once at 10 he get's a reward (can be something small like some candy , or a new pack of crayons) , if he misbehaves don't move him to the next number , or if he repeatedly misbehaves then move him back a number (trust me they hate that more than not moving at all).

Hope this helps

K.

1 mom found this helpful

We have all been there. I have a boy that just turned 3 and I often feel the same way. Sometimes I think the problem is me. I have a hard time remembering he is just 3 and I expect him to do what I ask exactly when I ask. As I have read some about development at that age it is really hard to expect that kind of behavior at that age. My son is very verbal and intelligent so sometimes I equate that with being able to understand and act like I want. Tasks like "clean your room" seem overwhelming to a 3 year old even though he understands the concept. Try breaking things into small steps. The other night when I wanted my son to pick up all the toys he was crying and saying he couldn't. When I ask him to pick up 5 toys and then I would come check on him he was very willing. Of course it took longer that I would have liked but he did it all by himself. Try breaking down tasks and praising him for completing each of them. It makes them more willing to help. And as others have said, be consistent. If he knows that things must be picked up before he gets a book before bed then it will be less of a battle over time. Celebrate the small victories and try not to focus on the all the times he doesn't listen. As long as you are consistent and realistic I believe that with time you will get more and more cooperation. Good luck! We all need it.

1 mom found this helpful

My advice is similar to the others... but perhaps leaning a little more to the gentle side. He is only 3 -- a direction to "clean up your toys" can be a little hard for him to understand how to go about it. Think of yourself as a manager and he is the employee -- he's going to need some training to learn just how to do something, and even after you've shown him once, he's going to need a bit of hand-holding until he's really got it. So ask him to "help me clean up the toys" and start by putting some of them in the box. You could practice with a ball bucket first and use throwing to make it even more fun. Then transition to toys that should not be thrown and model gently putting them in. Hold books aside on the bookshelf so that he can put them in. When you are finished, "team work, high five!" While you are doing the cleaning, you could try singing the clean up song: "clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere, clean up, clean up, everybody do your share." Singing seems to be extremely effective for whatever reason! Later when he's starting to get that there's a method to cleaning up, you can ask him a very specific task like "throw the balls in the ball bucket" or "put these books right here on the shelf." Eventually (maybe next year or so!) he might be able to respond to "clean up your toys." Also, give him a head's up that it's going to be time to clean. "After you finish your drawing, it's going to be time to clean up your books, do you understand?" I do like the idea of taking books if after all of this he still refuses to help -- make sure you put them "up high" -- where he can still see them but can't reach, that way it's more frustrating! Oh, and your 17 month old helps too, right?

I say try not to use time-outs unless he's done something really dangerous. Keep up with the putting things out of reach. Have you tried counting to give him a warning? "If you don't start helping me clean up your books by the time I count to 5 I will put all the books on the floor up high." I have to count for lots of things -- my three-year-old becomes so involved in her activities she has a hard time really hearing me until she hears the familiar sound of counting in my "you're almost in trouble" kind of voice!

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With my son, he didn't know how to follow general directions - I had to get specific. "Put the books on the shelf." then after he finished that "Put the cars in their bin." then after he finished that "Put the blocks in their bag." etc. Give directions for one step at a time. When you give instructions, make sure you have his attention. Have him look at you, then ask him to repeat what you said to him, then tell him to go do it. A child who's deeply concentrating in play is in a world of his own and won't hear you. We are fortunate to have enough room for a separate play room where the toys are kept and we don't keep toys, TV, computer games or books(except for his night time teddy) in his bedroom, so being sent to his room never turns into play time. Often a time out turns into a nap, which is probably what he really needed anyway. Just once or twice when he was really young I had to put him in his bed and tell him it was vital for his bottom to stay there because Mommy was close to exploding and needed some time to get under control and calm down. They teach circus animals that staying on their perch is the safe place for them to be - it works well for kids, too. As for the deliberate peeing on the carpet. That's not independence - that's spite. Tell him pee/poop belongs in a diaper/pull up or the potty - no where else. If he can't handle being a big boy then he'll go back to diapers until he IS ready, and he'll be helping you clean up any pee/poop messes he makes and a privilege will be taken away. Do not reward bad behavior. Also - NEVER threaten a punishment you are not prepared to go through with. Just once I said "No TV for the rest of the day" - which effectively meant no TV for me either.

1 mom found this helpful

Just to say, my 3yrs dog pees on my bed if I leave him in the room by himself. Is this you first child? I would sugges making his chores a positive experience. Negetative is taught. I set in the floor with my now 5yrs old, and talk to him while he puts his toys away. When he was three, it overwhelmed him if there were to many toys out on the floor.. remember even the room looks huge to a small one. Make a game out of work. I would never put him in a room by himself at that age, maybe leave the door open. Put some of his music on and make his room a positive experience. hope this helps

I'm in the same boat. My 3y -going on 13 - daughter is being just as stubborn. When I ask its nothing but trouble. When Dad asks, she jumps right away.

Last night I pulled the Santa card. I'm going to start counting and whatever number I get to, that's how many presents I'm telling Santa to keep. She just stood there smirking with hands on hips. When I got to 4, her brother said, 'oh for crying out loud S! Just go to sleep!!

He's getting attention for acting out. My son is three and a half and time outs didn't work for us because he would get attention from me as I tried to implement them. So I tell him I don't want to be around that behavior (whatever it is, screaming, etc.) and I leave the room. It makes him so upset that he stops. (Of course he screamed the first few times and I literally had to hold the door handle closed of the room I was in, but now he knows I mean it). And now if he is starting to get upset I tell him that he needs to get himself under control or I'll leave and most of the time he gets it together. Twice he's even asked me for help! I give him a hug and help him take deep breaths and he can move on. At this age I've been helping him clean up his toys and FINALLY at 3 1/2 he wants things to be neat and I can clean the kitchen while he cleans the living room. But I alternate days with that so he knows he has to really clean up, not shove everything under the couch. When I was helping him he HAD to help or we'd skip games before bedtime stories. Doing that one night causes screaming, but cooperation for a few weeks to come. If he purposefully pees and it's after 5 pm, I'd tell your son he is obviously too tired to make good decisions and has to go to bed. I would warn him about this consequence ahead of time if you think he'll do it, and know that he'll test you. (Don't warn him early in the day or he'll pee at lunch and see if you put him to bed.) Our evenings have gotten much better since we put my son to bed about 15 minutes early twice after he was making poor choices. And twice he's said "it's time for stories" and taken himself to bed because he's tired! That sort of thing won't come overnight, but I have found that consequences of what was to come next (no games before bed for example) is more effective for my son than time out. If you have desert, have a break after dinner, have him help you clean up EVERY room he's played in that day, then desert if he's really helped. If my son is fussing during the mid morning, we have a snack and that really helps. I basically DO NOT tolerate being around a cranky kid and will leave the room after giving him a chance to make his choice (pull it together or not). He's starting to say excuse me when he wants my attention now, please and thank you on his own, etc. I have on my calendar every week "say it one time!" to remind me to have consequences. Kids want limits to know that the world is predictable and safe and that we are strong parents. When I give in I show him he needs to push and find those limits and it's a downward spiral. When I tell him one time and then take action (maybe just going to him and giving him loving guidance, maybe helping him complete my request, the action varies), he is generally pleasant and sometimes even helpful. And his attitude changes in a day or two when I start getting firm!! I hope this helps! If you have other instances of him being rude or not listening and want to brainstorm consequences with me, let me know. (Sometimes it's a reach, but the very best ones are immediate. Not telling him no desert if it's 10 am). Good luck!!! D.

Sometimes it is helpful to give him a choice...I would struggle with my DSD and tell her what to do - but then she is dilly-dallying, begging to do something else, etc and then my mom showed me a trick - say - you can either go to bed now or go to your room and read before bed - then she will gladly go to her room to read before bed....so give him some alternatives - like - would you like to pick up your toys now and then have a snack/watch a movie, etc...or would you rather not pick up your toys and take a nap instead? Something along those lines...whatever fits in your schedule. Or you can ask him if he wants to pick up his toys now with your help, or do it by himself...that way he will know he has to pick up his toys, but you will give him the option to decide whether or not you help him. Sometimes this is all it takes for them to feel independent like they can choose for themselves. If he continues to resist you, then you can give him a warning and count to three - if he doesn't choose to start obeying, then follow through with the consequence given in the warning, like time-out. And stay firm - put him in the kitchen or whatever room you are in and ignore him till he sits there for 3 minutes and apologizes...or, you can make his time-out in the bathtub so if he pees it will be easy to clean up....or make him go to the bathroom first and then do time-out....whatever you have time for. He will eventually grow out of this bad behavior, but you have to stay consistent and be firm - don't let it get to you- you are the mom and you are in charge...you're the boss, not him!! They want to have the control, but you simply won't give it to him...and by bargaining with him he will push it as far as he can....good luck!! :) Let us know what worked.

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