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Help! Need Discipline Techniques for 3 1/2 Year Old!!!

I have a very active 3 1/2 year old little boy who is really testing our limits. He is a very happy child until he is told "no" or is instructed to stop doing something. He will either pretend he didn't hear us or will argue with us. His teachers at preschool told me to be on the lookout for behavioral changes at home because he is learning bad behavior from some of the other kids at school and she was right! We have tried everything we know! Time out, spanking, taking away things he loves when he misbehaves, long talks about his bad bahavior, giving him check marks toward a treat when he behaves well...everything! Does anyone know any great discipline techniques or books on discipline? He is getting older and I don't consider him a toddler anymore. Our home has become a war zone and I desperately need help! I have a sweet 1 year old daughter who is constantly seeing this and I'm afraid she will think this is the correct way to behave! Please help!

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Have you tried Love and Logic? The parents who have used it love it and I have heard there are classes to learn the technique. Also, you can order CDs.

Since you were forewarned by the pre-school teachers, that's where I'ed start. How many children is he learning bad habits from and how many other children are also having these problems at home. It might be that a serious talk with the director of the pre-school is in order. The director may not be aware that there are trouble makers at the school. If you don't get results there, you might want to look for another school.

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A friend of mine was having the same problem with her 3 1/2 year old boy. He was "hanging with the wrong crowd" at preschool and learning to say nasty things and just be downright disrespectful. She bought some hot sauce and told him if he kept talking like that, she was going to put some on his tongue. She calls it naughty sauce. she only had to do it once...now, all she has to do is say "do you want some naughty sauce?" and he shapes right up. It sounds a little cruel, but one little drop on the tongue doesn't hurt them at all (I think it's just regular old Tobasco sauce), but really gets their attention. I am not having this problem yet, so that's all the advice I have for you. Whatever course of action you take, you just need to be consistent with it so that he knows what to expect. Good luck! I hope you get some advice that works for you.

1 mom found this helpful

Since you were forewarned by the pre-school teachers, that's where I'ed start. How many children is he learning bad habits from and how many other children are also having these problems at home. It might be that a serious talk with the director of the pre-school is in order. The director may not be aware that there are trouble makers at the school. If you don't get results there, you might want to look for another school.

My favorite book on discipline is Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay. I think they have a website, too.

I only have one suggestion, my little man 35 months old has just started acting like a monster. He doesn't seem to care how I punish him, but if Daddy does it he cries and cries even in a simple time out. So now we write a note for Daddy when he is bad and Daddy sits down with him to talk about what he did wrong.

I kind of felt like I was copping out at first, but I am with them almost 24/7 and Daddy is only home evenings and most weekends and when Daddy get's mad it is a huge deal for them.

It seems that he tries really hard to behave all day so that he can play when Daddy gets home and not have "Bad Boy" time.

We also just implimented that if he goes the whole day with no bad notes then he gets a quarter for being so good. If he helps clean everything up before bed he gets another quarter. When his piggy bank is full he knows he gets to go shopping and buy something.

Hope you find something that works for you guys. It can be rough!


Sounds like my kid (also 3.5). We found "Parenting with Love and Logic" works - to a degree. After trying pretty much everything out there like you have, I've discovered there's no "magic bullet." There's not one single technique that will turn your little hellion into a perfect child. BUT - you can make things more bearable. L&L works more for the parents than for the child. It gives you a response to every action the child does. So you never, ever lose your temper, you maintain control of your household, and your younger child sees that there are consequences to poor choices. My kid is a lot better behaved with L&L, but he still has his moments (or days). But on those days that he's out of control, *I'M* not. And I think my calmness helps him calm down faster.


Hi M.,
Here are some books that helped me with my active 3 year old. This one was easy to read and had some great information, Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman is great! Also look for books by Alfie Kohn.
I hope these help!

Have you looked into "1,2,3 Magic" or "Love and Logic"? I was able to check out "1,2,3 Magic" DVD's from the public library for free, and they were good. Many of my friends swear by "Love and Logic."

Have you tried Love and Logic? The parents who have used it love it and I have heard there are classes to learn the technique. Also, you can order CDs.

I went through something similar with my daughter just last year and have had my own daycare.
Time outs and natural consequences coupled with time and responsibility. Spanking shouldn't be on the books just yet, as this causes him to feel out of control and the horrible 3's are all about gaining control of their environment.
First set up a sticker system. Written offences and consequences that are clearly defined for all care-givers to see next to the sticker chart. If he commits an offence, he gets sent to timeout. 3 min (a min for each year, but "the time doesn't start until the tears stop." He may need a reminder of this, but try to avoid engaging him while he is in time out.) If he continues to scream, cry, or throw a fit, give him a count to 3 with about 30 sec between each number to give him time to calm himself. If he can't start the timeout by "3" then take a toy. He is allowed one time out a day (time out= X instead of a sticker on the chart) go in blocks of time "morning routine, breakfast, school, lunch, afternoon dinner bedtime, or whatever works for your house. When he makes it through a time period without time outs he gets a sticker. The sticker is all of the incentive that he gets. If he gets 2 time outs, he loses cartoons, 3 timeouts he loses a toy, ect.
The goal is to avoid further punishment, not to reward good behavior. He is old enough to know what is expected of him and that people do not get rewarded for good behavior with anything but happiness and pride, however people get punished for bad behavior.
At the same time you should give him jobs to do around the house. Feeding animals, cleaning his room, helping to put away dishes, help cooking, ect. Something to help contribute beyond himself. This will give him a purpose and a place in the house, as well as control over his environment that they long for at this age. Give him praise for good days, good behavior and completing his responsibilities. He needs to gain a sense of self pride and self worth, especially if he is being easily influenced by others in class. If the problems continue, I would look at switching schools, as a good preschool would take control of the class rather than warning parents that they may pick up poor behavior from other children in the class. The example should be, "Johnny did this so this happened. I don't what that to happen, so I won't do what Johnny did." It may be a great preschool, but just not the right preschool for you and your family. Good luck, big hugs, and lots of prayers. Four really does get better if you nip this in the bud now.

you should check out the book and or classes for Redirecting Childrens Behavior. There are many RCB classes in town, and once you've gone to the class you can reattend free when a problem arises. Check it out, you will be glad you did
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Sorry I don't have time for details, but "Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm" by Beth A Grosshans, PhD works wonders. It's right on. Trust me! It helped me not confuse my child with other loving techniques. This works, just be consistent. And it creates bonding opportunities.

The best advice I can give is whatever method you chose, be firm and be consistent. He may be testing his limits to see what he can get away with. The most effective tool in my arsenal is revoking privilages. For a 3yo you may just have to revoke them for a day since any longer is over their heads. Also, ask the day care what techniques they are using. It is often good to have the same discipline techniques for continuity.

Good Luck!

Dr. Phil has several books on challenging behaviors. Check at you local bookstore.

I would also look into placing him in another room, if possible, away from the other children who are not setting good examples. Talk to the director for advice. Our son was going through the same thing. My husband and I did not know what to do. We placed him in another kinder class, and it was a wise decision. His behavior IMPROVED drastically.

Good Luck.

P.S. You may have to look for another preschool.

I really like the book "Positive Discipline." It helps to teac you how to diffuse a situation before it becomes a power struggle. Good luck!

It may seem stone age compared to all the new lovey dovey ways to raise a child these days, but I count to three and then if no compliance a spanking follows. My daughter is a very intelligent strong willed two year old and acts like most 3 and 4 y/o do. I will count 1..2..3, no repeating numbers or starting all over again, if she doesn't go to time out she has to opportunity to go with an easy slap on the bottom. Like I said a lot of parents aren't into spanking their kids anymore, but this is what I find works for my kid.

I don't think pawning the responsibility on Daddy as mentioned below is the answer. Children should respect all their elders, and, have consequences from all who are in charge of them. Teachers, babysitters, grandparents, and, Dad AND Mom.

We have an almost 5 year old who tests us daily. I do the time-outs and, the time does not start until she is quiet. She has to sit for 4 minutes, not playing with anything. When done and calm, we talk & she she apologizes, and, we hug. I usually have to do this at least once a day with her. It takes over an hour sometimes because she will scream, hit the wall, kick around, throw herself around, but, she eventually stops, calms herself, and, realizes she can't get up until she sits for 4 minutes. I pay her no attention when she is acting out after being put in time-out.

At Pre-K, she has her consequences and, the teachers have to follow through with their techniques. I would ask his teachers how they are handling the misbehavior at the center, or, do they do nothing? If he is seeing the children act out and not get punished, then, of course he will think it is OK and start trying it.

Also, we started watching Super Nanny so she can see how she looks when she behaves that way! She says it is ugly and, she actually is embarrasses that she looks that way when she throws a tantrum.

Children are visual. Rather than reward good behavior, as, we expect our children to behave, we take away for bad behavior. She has something special that she gets to do each weekend (a commitment), and, if she misbehaves, she does not get to go. We hang something on the wall. Each day that she does not get a naughty note from school, she gets to take one down. If at the end of the week, she has taken 4 down, she gets to go. If she still has more than one hanging, she doesn't get to go with us and must stay behind. It may be harsh to some, but, we expect our children to behave in a way that not only we are proud of, but, that they can be proud of as well. It is not too much to ask for children to act in a nice manner at all times. There are too many children bossing their elders around these days!!

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