10 answers

3 Year Old with an Attitude Problem

I am having problems handling my 3 year old. I am a very laid back, fun mom most of the time, but she gets my temper up quicker than anyone. Though some of the stuff she says is hilarious and it's hard not to laugh at her. I know part of it is that she's a middle child and part of it is her age. The problem is her attitude. She frequently speaks to me as if she's mad. She puts her hands on her hips and tells me to do something. If I don't, she says "I'm going to tell on you!" or "Do I have to come over there and hit you?" She also will frequently whine and whine if I don't do what she asks immediately. She has such a short fuse and is set off quite easily.

Now, I have never spanked so I don't think she is modeling me. I am divorced though and not sure what goes on at her dad's house. I think she gets the telling on me part from her step sister and brother.

In the car is the worst. Today, on the way to her ballet class she told me to turn the music off because she didn't like that song. I told her that I am listening to it and she needs to speak to me in a nice tone of voice. She replied, "I don't want to talk nicely! Do I have to come up there and hit your seat?" I told her that she is not allowed to hit me, but she can hit the seat if she wants to. Then she kicked the back of my seat really hard. I told her that she needs to stop being a mean girl and to be a nice girl. I said that makes mommy happy when she's a nice girl. She just pouted and screamed at me, "I don't want to be a nice girl! I'll be nice when I get to ballet!"

Right now she is playing a game on starfall.com where you match a word and a picture. Every few minutes she yells "Come here mommy!" I walk in and she wants me to read the word to her. I can't stand over her the whole time and read every word to her. I have been with her all morning a need a break. Yet, I get up every time she calls. Maybe that's the problem. Though, ignoring her doesn't seem to help either. She is very persistent.

What makes it so hard also is that I have a 6 year old and a 7 month old. My 6 year old is an exceptionally bright child who outgoing and on the gymnastics team. She is very helpful around the house too. I feel guilty because it seems my girls have fallen into the role of good kid, bad kid. I don't know if maybe Jolie is acting out because of all the positive attention her sister gets. I try to give Jolie positive attention too, but obviously, it isn't enough.

Can anyone help?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

My son would say in appropriate things and one of the things I did was take myself away. It drove him nuts. If he was saying mean or disrepectful things in the car, I told him that he was not being nice and until he could be, I was through speaking to him. At home, I would walk away and tell him that I could not be around him until he was nice because I did not want to "hang around" a rude person. Most of the time it worked as he really wanted to be around me and my not talking to him was probably the worst punishment for him at that age. Now, he is a few years older and I just tell him his behavoir is not okay to go to his room until he is ready to be a polite person. As he is not so attached to me at this age, it works better because he keeps very few toys there and really wants to be out in the living room where the people are. He also must apologize for the the inappropriate behavoir before I would speak to him or before he can come out and join us in the living room. When he would hit at school, I used pretty much the same idea. I told him hitting was not appropriate and would not be tolerated. He was put in time out if he hit. If he threatened it in the car, I again would tell him that was not okay to say or do and I wanted nothing to do with him while he had that behavoir. Good luck.

More Answers

I would suggest "dating" your daughter. Set aside one time a week, pencil her in and take that time for just her. Even if you have to cut out some of the other activities she is doing (ex. ballet) in order to just get to know her, I would do it. Ultimately, she just wants you and while she cannot have your attention all the time, she can look forward to that special time where it will be just the two of you. For example, I have a four year old son, a two year old daughter and an almost 6 mo. old daughter. My middle child's tamptrums went way down when I started to take only her with me to the grocery once a week. I will talk to her, cuddle her and buy her a special treat there. It gives me peace of mind as well that I am making an effort to make her feel special and not left out. It has reduced my anxiety about her being the middle child and not having enough time to give to her. I hope this helps you. God Bless!

J. F.

It sounds to me like your being too easy on her. Dont be afraid to raise your voice. You need to tell her in a stern tone that her behavior is unnacceptable!!! I have a three year old girl too and she can test me but I let her know immediately when she's crossed the line. Dont EVER let your children threaten to hit you, whether you think its funny or not. Next thing you know she WILL be hitting you, or possibly other children. You wont be laughing then. Your also making excuses for her, being the middle child, or 3, or because your divorced shouldnt be an excuse to let her behave however she wants. Also I would investigate where she is learning these threats about hitting. Another thing, if she is acting terribly in the car on the way to dance, as hard as it is you should turn the car right around and tell her that her behavior has cost her a dance class. I've done this with my own daughters, both of them. Its tough but you have to be the BOSS always. Good Luck

Have you talked to your ex-husband to see if he is experiencing this problem at his house?
Have you asked Jolie why she says these things to you, that you don't talk to her that way and it is unacceptable? She may tell you where it comes from. Maybe she is upset at something or someone else and taking it out on you.
Lastly, I would implement a consequence for her when she speaks to you this way. Whatever is of value to her...taking a toy, the computer, whatever for a period of time as a result of her behavior.

I would say you are partially right, a lot of it is her age, he rest could be modelling someone's behavior, and being middle-child. I would suggest talking to you ex and asking what goes on at his house. Tell him straight out that she is having behavior issues you are concerned about and want to make a joint front to curb it quick. If it doesn't it may just get worse.
Don't feel bad about her attitude or personality, all kids are different.
You talked about your oldest and the attention she gets, there could be jealousy, does Jolie get personal attention from you? I have only 2 boys, and know juggling attention one-on-one is difficult, so I can relate, but maybe she could be begging for it the only way she knows how to right now.
One thing everyone keeps telling me is to not compare the 2, they are different in every way, let them be themselves, to an extent. Again, I know it's hard, I am trying with mine!!!

I wish you luck, and hope it is a phase and she grows out of it soon!!!

May I suggest picking up a copy of "The Brat Stops Here" by Mary-Elaine Jacobson at the library. Sounds like she's a power player - I have one myself who is 8 years old. Trust me, nip it in the bud now. What works best for us is to find "her currency", not to sound too Dr. Phil. If she loves ballet and she acts up, then she doesn't go to ballet. She goes home to time out. Be consistant and hang in there and she will learn there are bad consequences for bad behavior.

I have a 3.5 year old, He'll be 33 in March (hahaha). You have to be firm but you can do so without raising your voice or being mean. Make a special schedule with her ( i give my son homework everyday). Take away certain privileges if she refuses to listen. chose a time-out spot specifically for. It seems to me she needs a little one on one time. Also talk to her father to see if he's having the same problem

Hi S.,

I have a three year old boy. I can't really give you advice on the behavior part. But it sounds like the game she's playing on the computer is one she'd need your help with. Max plays on Nickjr.com and Disney.go.com and he rarely needs help. The games are really aimed at kids Jolie and Max's age.
Infact he plays games I never helped he find or play. No reading required. I helped at first and then he got the hang of it. I also have an 8 month old so I know how hard it is to find any down time for yourself, actually just a little peace and quiet. I hope this helps.


I completely understand what you are going through. I am a mother of a 4 year old (just like your daughter) and twin boys that are 2. My daughter acts out as well and I feel she does this for attention. How do you correct this? Time...She is still adjusting to being a big sister. I am a nursing major and when I had the twins I decided to add Early Childhood Education as well (for the understanding of my daughter). There for a while I insisted she was Bi-polar or ADHD and what ever else. But come to find out she is right where she needs to be. And same with your 3 year old. They are learning so much on a daily basis that their little brains and motor skills can't quite keep up. They get tempermental and frustrated so easily (which we think is a tantrum). I set aside time every night that we call "Mommy and Lexy time". It works after the babies are in bed. We go to the library, nature center at the park or what ever else. "Date night" we call it to. I can recommend this book we read in PSY 261 it is called "The Hurried Child". It has helped alot. I learn so much in school for this age group, sounds so easy to apply but when I get home it doesn't seem to work. So with that said "Time...Time...Time..." Each year will be something new! KEep your head up and stand strong. Keep them on a schedule, routine that helps too. Good Luck

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