Disrespectful 3.5 Year Old

Updated on June 23, 2010
K.J. asks from Tucson, AZ
6 answers

My three and a half year old has been contrary since he was two, so him not listening or arguing is not a new thing. However, his behavior has been getting worse and worse lately with regards to disrespect. He has started teasing whenever he feels he has gotten the upper hand or won something, disagrees with everything anyone says and does the exact opposite of what he is asked to do, without fail. He literally never does what he is asked to do when he is asked to do it. He also hits and does things specifically to hurt people and does not care when we tell him that our feelings are hurt. We have tried taking away things he likes, time-outs, etc. but nothing seems to work. He just cries and screams and carries on and would for hours. And when he is done acting that way, he just goes right back to disobeying and being disrespectful. I am at my wit's end. I do not agree with spanking or physical discipline but he has seriously gotten me to consider it several times lately. Can anyone tell me if/when this will pass or what I can do in the meantime?

Also, his father (who I am no longer with but who has contact with him twice weekly) is literally a sociopath. I am concerned that my son's behavior could be the beginning signs of siociopathy and although I have read books regarding parenting at-risk children for this disorder, I do not want my son to turn out to be uncaring/disrespectful to people. Please help!

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answers from Chicago on

Sounds like he's feeling out of control, so he's trying to control things in the only way he can!

Are there some ways you can let him have control? Could you let him wear whatever he wants? Could you let him eat anything he wants for dessert?

He might just need a "chill out" day. I've gotten at my wits end with fighting, contrariness, etc. and I finally gave a "chill out" day. I let her do whatever she wanted. She slept as long as she wanted. I let her wear whatever she wanted. I let her eat whatever she wanted (cupcakes for breakfast). As long as she wasn't destroying anything I let her do it. She just watched TV until that got boring. Then she was hungry and decided suddenly she wanted healthy food! I didn't engage with her, and I didn't do anything with her.

By mid-afternoon she had suddenly put on nice clothes, combed her hair, asked for a nutritious meal and wanted to go to the park. The week before I couldn't have gotten her to do ANY of those things and all she wanted was to watch TV.

Once I removed the barrier she suddenly wanted to do the right thing. It could work with your 3.5 year old, but you'd probably need a few more rules than I had. Still, see if letting him have his way in some things helps. A heavier hand isn't working, maybe a lighter hand is the answer?


answers from Phoenix on

To add to Rebecca's response...attend Love and Logic training.

My husband attended the classes and I stayed home with our 3 year old. The videos and workbook were helpful and though it was tough to change our behavior with her we quickly saw results.

The Awakening Seed School (South Phoenix) offers the classes periodically.

Good luck.



answers from Raleigh on

"Parenting by the book" by John Rosemond.....a must read!!!!!


answers from Washington DC on

Structure and discipline.
Time out - will work if you are consistent and you do it right. You put them in a chair. You start the timer (one minute per year of age). If they get out, you start the timer over. If he talks, you start the timer over.
You need to show him NOW who is boss. YOU are the parent. He is the child. YOU are in control.
The second he starts the bad behavior, he goes in time out. You cannot let it escalate.
You might consider Karate classes - they emphasize structure, discipline, honor, and respect.
I spent many an hour putting my willful son in time out, taking his precious tv away, and basically being the mean mommy. It has paid off in spades! He is a responsible, respectful, sweet teen.


answers from Phoenix on

I didn't know Love and Logic offered classes locally... I am currently reading their book and LOVE it in anticipation of future parenting ideas and discussions with my husband.

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. Might provide you with some ideas and structure to start with.


answers from Portland on

Hi K.-

3 was always my hardest age group to work with, they are at a stage where they have learned so much and want to share, but do not know how to communicate that sharing in an appropriate way. Additionally, they have a need to be in control and dominate the situation, which only creates more issues.

First, I'd like to suggest some reading:

Anything by the Love & Logic series, these are great books!
From Defiance to Cooperation- John Taylor
Taming the Dragon in you Child- Meg Eastman- This book is great for learning to work with different personality styles.

As for what to do, I suggest to many of the parents I work with as a parent coach to make household rules and here is how:

1) Create a list of non negotiable rules, these are based on respect & safe, they will not change.
2) Create written consequence for those rules
3) Together you & your child create rules and consequences which are negotiable & will change over time
4) Post these rules in your home
5) All family memebers must obey the rules

When you have consistent & written rules, kids know the boundaries and (eventually), push the limits less. This will take time, but that is where I'd start. It sounds like he needs some structure and rules.

Good Luck

R. Magby

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