7 answers

Behavior Issues with 3 Year Old

My 3 year old is having a hard time listening to mommy, obeying and not acting out. I feel all I do is yell at her, put her in time out and feel angry and frustrated myself. And it's the simplest things that she can't seem to understand or do! Now, I will say she had a stroke at birth and her right side of the brain was affected. I am aware that sometimes these kiddos have cognitive difficulties and she goes to therapy for her motor and speech issues. But this is a behavioral issue and while I did have a behavioral therapist work with my daughter for a few months, nothing seems to be working. I'm looking for advice on how to parent kids who: have meltdowns constantly, temper tantrums where they point their fingers at you and yell at you (stick their tongue out at you, etc), over things as simple as not wanting to do something mommy asks, after being scolded for taking her sibling's toy from her, etc. She doesn't seem to respond to time out well. I feel like I am at wit's end.

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My daughter is not yet as old as yours but I have been reading two books recommended to me by mamasource moms for meltdowns, tantrums, etc. They are called, "Becoming the Parent you want to be," and "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk." I found that just reading them was like therapy for me. I picked up a lot of habits from my own parents (yelling about everything- even the small stuff, trying too hard to control her behavior, doing everything for her instead of letting her get frustrated once in a while, etc.) Sometimes it's helpful just to get a better idea of what the appropriate expectations should be. Good luck with this.

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You talk about a sibling, so you have more than one child. I assume that child is younger. It sounds to me that she is looking for attention, and unfortunately, negative attention is better than none. I don't mean you don't give attention, but she sounds like she wants more. I have a child with special needs who would act out in school. The specialist who saw her recommended "catch her being good." She might be having a tantrum on the floor. You ignore the bad behavior but praise the good. Oh, good girl, you are not kicking your sister. You find anything possibly good that she is doing, but you ignore the bad. It catches her offguard and changes the mood. Therefore, she gets attention for good behavior and for the bad, she gets nothing. I know it sounds crazy, but it does work. Good luck.

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You won't like the answer but it is most likely you that needs to change behavior, Constantly punishing because she points or sticks her tongue out or calls you names will only increase the battles. She can understand the "simple" things but she is angry and frustrated at you. She is doing a wonderful job being three years old and you don't seem to understand that so she acts out. That's her job! Congratulate her on being a wonderful three year old no matter how frustrating it is to you. Stop worrying about the little stuff and only punish her about big stuff e.g.hurting her sibling, deliberately breaking something etc. The battles won't stop until you realize she is normal and that she has to be three with all it's struggles before she can be four when things get better. In the long run, you will lose a battle of wills with a three year old so don't even play the game.

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Have you tried catching her doing good method? Of coarse punishment when behavior is poor, but catching her doing good and making sure she knows how proud you are of her can really change things around. This is how we have done it. We have amarble cup that our daughter deorated herself (this gives her ownership of the cup) for good things we put marbles in- cleanign up toys, helping mom etc... For poor behavior we take some out. We do the 3 count and depending upon the "crime" would determine the # of marbles we take out and also the same for the # of marbles put in for good behavior. She needs to put the marbles in and she needs to take them out when she is bad. I keep the master bowl of marble sup high and I had them to her and she has to hand them to me when she is bad. Hold her accountable for her actions. Then when the cup reached a certain level or had so many in the cup, we would do something special. We started this when our daughter was 3 and she is now 7 and she still loves it!!! The rewwards have changed over the years, from $1.00 store toy to sleepover with friend.

Good luck!

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Three is an incredibly difficult age for many children, especially the second half of the year. I think that there is a lot of cognitive development that happens at three, and it can really affect behavior.

You've already gotten some really good suggestions, but I'll just add mine for what its worth.

First, definitely read the two books Rachel suggested. I found the "How to Talk" book especially helpful. You might also try "Playful Parenting" by L. Cohen, which can give you some strategies on interacting with your daughter to find out what she is really thinking. At this age, her actions still say more than her words, and you may be able to find out what's behind her misbehavior through play. If you don't have time to read any other book, then read "Your Three Year Old, Friend or Enemy" by Ames and Ilg. This is part of a series of books on child development. It explains what behavior is appropriate at this age, what you can expect your child to be able to accomplish, and what coping strategies you can use for getting through the tough times. This book saved my sanity!

I will second using a rewards system rather than punishment. Stickers, the marble jar, an extra book at bedtime, special time with Mommy, whatever works. Definitely save time-out for the really big offenses, like hitting, and completely ignore something small like sticking her tongue out.

When your daughter refuses to do something you ask, or just ignores your requests, try asking in a fun way. Sing your request, or whisper it, or call it a super secret mission. You can also make a game of things like picking up. Ask her to pick up all of the red toys, then the blue ones. Or have her race against the clock.

I just remembered one other book -- "Raising Your Spirited Child." I haven't read it, but I've heard it is excellent.

Good luck. Three is tough, but it can be fun, too. Try to focus on your daughter's special qualities that make her unique and wonderful, even when she is frustrating you. That might make things easier.

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My kids did not have terrible 2's but they had horrible 3's. Could be your child is trying out her independence a little later just like mine. The only thing that my kids responded to was taking away something they loved" TV. I would give them a warning and then say: tomorrow no TV. I only had to stick to my guns a few times and then they responded. Time-outs did not work since I spent the whole day walking them back to the time-out spot. Spanking did not work since they would hit back and what do I say then? Mommy can hit but you cannot? Taking away TV was the answer for me. Hopefully it is just a phase and your little darling will be back soon. Hang in there. Cato

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I don't know if I have great advice, but you're not alone. My daughter turned into a monster at 3. We stuck with trips to the naughty spot for misbehaving, but you could try other consequences that work a little better. One thing my daughter hated was the silent treatment, but on a couple of occasions I had to say to her "I do not speak to people who treat me like this" and then just let her stew in it for a while. As soon as she needed something and I wouldn't respond she started to get the picture. One other thing that helped a little was to once videotape her having a tantrum. A while later I showed it to her on the computer and she was actually really embarrassed. It was a little shaming, but I think it did help. Good luck. She reduced me to tears a couple times. (But she's 4.5 now and mostly pleasant, so they do grow out of it!)

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