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I Have a 3 Year old...enough Said :)

OK, mainly I'm just venting, but of course would love any ideas, input, etc. from those who have or have had 3 year old boys. My biggest frustration is...why in the world does he have to be so difficult with me? The simplest of instruction from me becomes a big issue. "Honey, please come here so I can change your diaper"...."no" (and runs away). I am firm with him, I use positive discipline, rewards, consequences, time outs and anything else I have learned, but it just seems like EVERYTHING little thing is a battle. By noon I've had it. I get tired of playing the game and using all my Mommy tools. I also have an infant I'm tending to, so just some cooperation would be so appreciated. I get so frustrated! I know that maybe he's a little bored as he's usually in preschool... I'm sure summer is hard for all moms and dealing with this... I try to take him to the park several times a week or let him ride his bike or play in his pool or occupied with things inside too. But, I can't keep him occupied all the time...like I said, I also have another child and a big house to keep up with....HOW DO YOU ALL KEEP UP WITH THINGS? We're also working on the potty training thing. I know he's ready... some days he's gung ho... especially when my husband is home and other days he wants no part of it... so frustrating!! Anyway, I'm just frustrated, as a Mom, and would like to hear from other Moms who are feeling the same way :) Thanks!

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Thank you so much to all of you who've taken your time to let me know you relate and to respond with such great advice!!! I've taken lots of notes, believe me! ;) Ya know, he is such a wonderful little guy, and I DO appreciate him and try to take time each day to realize he IS just little and he won't be little forever. This is usually before a tantrum or when he's asleep that I do this...ha ha, just kidding. Anyway, I've gotten some great ideas and websites to check out and just wanted to thank all of you for responding and letting me know I'm not the only Mommy who gets frustrated sometimes :)

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Wow- I'm so nervous from reading the responses!!! My son will be 3 in September and I am due with my 2nd child on his bday. So I'm reading about what I have to look forward to. Oh boy!!!!!

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I feel exactly the same way! We had a behaviorist come for evaluation and her report said he would not listen 90% of the time. He kicked me when I had to change his nappy(after having to catch him) and I just don't understand how people could actually have a second child. I mean, how do you do it?

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I know you were just thanking the group and already had a lot of ideas, but the potty training...I wanted to let you know what my son did. He didn't want to stop playing to go potty, so I got a glass coke bottle...remember this was 25 years ago, and he would tinkle in the bottle and I'd get all excited and mark how high he wet in the bottle. He couldn't wait to do it again to see if he could go past the mark. Sounds silly, but he loved it. By the way, he was potty trained at 18 months. He could talk really good too. He use to tell people "I'll be two in July" and he was only 18 months old, so he may have been a little ahead.

K. A.

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Wow! I just finished reading all the posts and feel as though I just attended a support group! :) What a great resource. I sooo get your problem(s). My little guy turned 3 in June and daughter turned 1 in July.

There were tons of great ideas and helpful reminders about 3yr olds. I took a few notes, too!

A few things that help us/me. My kids respond amazingly to music. Just having fun or calm music on in the background puts everyone in a better mood around here. It's like flipping a switch when you put it on.

When I take them for a walk in the mornings it helps me let off some steam and they get out for a bit of fresh air before it's too hot. It helps me maintain my cool a bit longer. (Though I'm impressed you make it to noon!)

I did a much better job balancing all my responsibilies when I was working and had more of a structure. For me, personally, having free flowing days can be really rough. Their schedule helps me (eating/naps/etc) but I've added a few things to help my sanity. My daughter naps 1-2 hrs in the morning. I use half of that time to spend with my son with no distractions. No multitasking. He gets my full attention and it has been great (though doesn't solve everything, of course!). The other half I use for myself to feel more organized about the day. I take a shower, throw a load of laundry in, unload the dishwasher. Whatever. Then when she's awake at 11 I have life a litte more organized and I'm ready to direct my full attention to them again.

The main thing I have to remind myself is to be "present" in whatever I'm doing. You can't do anything as well when you're thinking about the other 10 things you need to be doing. So, when I'm with the kids I try to be with the kids fully and I'm sure they know the difference. Most of the household tasks get put off though I try my best. I keep reminding myself, though, that I'm a stay at home MOM not a stay at home house cleaner/cook.

I recently started a tasks of the day kind of thing to help feel less overwhelmed with everything and break it down. We have Mirror,Dustmite, Microwave Monday - Trash and Toenail Tuesday (of course Fingernails and Floors are Friday) :) It helps me and for my son it's just less of a power struggle and more fun with the alliteration. When it's Fingernail friday in the universe there's just not much to argue about. He gets to pick the time he likes. He also helps with dusting and sweeping so it's become a fun family thing instead of just my responsibility to squeeze in my "free" time. Ha,ha. What on earth is free time? Sunday is "supper Sunday" when we plan our meals and shopping for the week. Now, mind you, these things do not actually HAPPEN EVERY day... I try but you know how life works. It just helps me feel more in control of the little things.

For potty training, he wasn't interested enough months ago when he was still 2 and it became a struggle for everyone. Instead I totally dropped trying and explained that 3 yr olds use the potty and made a big deal of it for months. The day after he turned three it was fantastic and has been ever since with very few exceptions. When he thinks it is just how the world works he doesn't resist so much. When he thinks it's my agenda, oh, man, what a stubborn little guy. We're still working on pulling pants up/down and little things.

For my sanity I sometimes choose a theme week and get books from the library (like dinosaurs, zoo, bears, alphabet) and we do one activity a day that relates. More work in some ways but really is less stress overall because he's engaged and we spend fun, creative time together.

One other thing I do to stay so in love with my little rebel is to look at him sleeping every night before I go to bed and count my blessings. And hope that overwhelming love I feel helps me make it through another crazy day!

Thanks for posting, it helped a lot of us! Good luck!!

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Two books have immensely helped me. We still have our challenges with two boys aged 5 and 2, but these books have made a huge difference. The first, that I've read separately for each of them, is Making the Terrible Twos Terrific by John Rosemond. He's a parenting expert/family psychologist and has a weekly newspaper column. You can get a feel for him on www.rosemond.com. He advocates the kind of commonsense parenting that our grandparents used, and they sure didn't have the behavior problems that are so rampant now (he's not much into spanking, so it's not that). Since your son is three (not two), the book is still applicable in a lot of ways, but another of his books is John Rosemond's Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children -- worth its weight in gold.

The second book is Toilet Training in Less Than A Day. I happened across it in a used book store after we'd been trying to potty train my second son for about 5 months. I followed the procedures, and it worked, in less than a day. He's now 34 months, and has been potty trained for 7 months. I did do a refresher course a couple of weeks after the first training because he was only about 95%. It works if you follow the directions precisely!

Good luck. I think a lot of us wonder how other people do it. Another couple of tidbits of advice that help me are that: 1 morning hour is as good as 3 afternoon hours (for getting things done around the house), and put things away when you're done with them. Those things really help. Good luck!

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Hi Jackie, I got your post late but I can't help responding. Seems you are not alone by all the responses. I was right there with you a few years back.My first born daughter was as easy as they come and still is to this day. My son who is my second born was such a challenge at a young age. I spent many a day crying with self doubt that I was cut out to be his mom. I never second guessed myself more. Here I am an educated person in early childhood development, former preschool teacher,nanny working with children for over 10 years, and nothing I did seemed to work. I felt like everyday I had to put on armor and prepare for battle because everything I did or asked of him was challenged by him.But I learned a couple things. One was I saw that these diffucult times came and went and there would be times of piece in between. They seemed to happen every 6 months. 2yrs,2 1/2 yrs,ect... I really felt my struggles with him were power struggles. Setting boundries that I could keep was very important. No wishy washy or giving in. He'd get worse. And I had to be prepared for what felt like a battle when I set them. He would try every thing to get what he wanted or not do what he didn't want to do. So I was careful. I practiced something we learned in school in dealing with children during diffuculties and that was to become a thrid person. If I stayed emotionally involved with him as mom I'd get sucked into the drama and lose my temper and that never helped the situation. So to stay cool headed and firm I detached emotionally and stayed focused on the boundry I was holding to. I hope that makes sense to you. I don't know about you but shockingly my son would come at me hitting and crying like a wild animal. Time outs were impossible because he'd go banana's kicking the door the wall. I'd just be crying ,not when he could see me . But I have to say that what ever I did worked. One moment that I'll never forget was after he throw a huge embarassing tempertantrum at a book fair because I wouldn't buy him a pen he wanted.It took all I had to not give in he'd already picked out and purchased a little note book and a women tried to help by just offering to give him the pen but I wouldn't let her. I carried him kicking and screaming to the car my 6 yr old daughter in tow and then had to sit in the parking lot because I couldn't get him in the car. She waited calmly with me while he's going crazy and finally she said James look I'll share my paper with you and we can get a pen at home. Hearing his sister's offer started to calm him down and within a few minutes he was climbing into his car seat and I finally took in some oxygen and we started home. As we were driving he say's to me so sweetly, "I love you mommy, Your the best mommy".And I replyed I loved him too, tears rolling quitely down my face. I knew that I was doing a good job. He was telling me i was. Over the years those times of diffuculties with him got fewer and farther apart.Almost dissapearing by age 5. I read many great books that helped alot. "Easy to love diffucult to disapline", "Love and logic" is one of my favorite books. The strong willed child, Positive displine. I say read as much as you can. It helps keep you reafirmed that your doing the right thing and freash with ideas. My son is now 8 1/2 years old and I know he's mine but he is one of the nicest boy's I know. So respectful and kind. I couldn't imagine life with out him. I get compliments all the time from his teachers , coches, neighbors, about what a great person he is.No one would ever believe he was the diffucult little kid he was. He is such a good person and attracts really great friends. And now my third child another girl has shown me some of the same behaviors as her brother and I've thought what is wrong with me as a parent ,why can't I have an easy going preschooler? But doing this a second time is easier. I know the end will come and it's oh so rewarding and worth every bit hanging in there. There is 6 years between her and her brother by the way. We tried for another baby sooner but I think God knew this boy needed all I had to give. And now with baby number 4 on the way I am telling myself that Malia just knows it's now or never so she's getting it out while she can. I see the same pattern where the diffuculties come and go like the the tides of the ocean. Hang in there, I am sure your doing a great job. Blessings to you, R. Someone just reminded me that we really noticed that James really needed Quality time with us. Not nessasarly a large amount of time but really focused quality play time doing something he liked. We called it filling up his love tank. When his behavior started to slip we know the love tank was low and needed a fill up of special play time. It really worked.

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I have a 3 year old boy and baby too, and have found that the more vague his boundaries are (due to my laziness enforcing them), the more he gets on my nerves and I don't want to be around him. I spank him, but in a loving way (not in anger, but a little swat when he doesn't listen and then a hug and explanation). I don't have a long list of rules but only two (and he clearly knows them) 1) Do what we ask WHEN we ask, and 2) doesn't tell us NO. Those get a swat if disobeyed immediately and the behavior is changed before I ever need to raise my voice, yell, bribe, appease or use any other "Mommy tools" (as you call them). After many months of inconsistency due to tiredness/a baby that doesn't sleep it only took one day of me and my husband being consistent and our 3 year old is on track and a pleasure to be around all day every day. A couple of very helpful websites that I love are raisinggodlytomatoes.org and nogreaterjoy.org. The first website woman has 10 kids and knows what she's talking about. Your problem is mostly that you are changing action but not attitude. (timeouts, loss of priviledges) Attitude must be changed from the inside out in a loving way. Hope this helps.

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I'm 6 months pregnant with my first child, but I've been an early childhood teacher for almost 8 years. I've worked extensively with 2's-5's.

I could spout off lots of advice to you but I'll just keep to two simple points.

1. The "fighting" thing is a three-year-olds way of asserting their independence and control. Especially if they are in the middle of some "important work" it's really hard for them to understand the importance of a diaper change. Give him the choice. "We need to change your diaper because it's wet/messy/whathaveyou. Do you want me to change your diaper now or in two minutes?" He'll probably say "two minutes" which will result in you reminding him, "Okay, I know that in two minutes we'll change your diaper." Then, two minutes later (or however long-they don't know time) you say, "Okay Billy, it's been two minutes. Time to change your diaper." Remind him that HE made that choice and that he can return to what he's working on when you're done.

This may or may not work, depending on how spirited your child is. Keep at it, keep giving him a "choice" which is ultimately the thing you want him to do with two options so he feels like HE'S in control of himself.

2. Potty training. Oh, the joys! Well, remember that boys take longer. I don't know why, it just is that way so don't get discouraged. Ask him if he wants to use it, if he doesn't, don't push it. HE has to be ready and want it. A lot of times it's linked to the social aspect of things. Have a play date with a mom with a boy your son's age who IS potty trained and wears underwear. Most likely it will have some sort of character on it (Thomas, Nemo, Lighting McQueen.) Let you son be a part of the "going potty" routine that boy does and see what his reaction is when you talk to the other boy about his underwear and who's on it and how he puts his pee and poop in the potty. The attention you give that boy will sink in to your son. He'll want that same attention too!

You'll be surprised at how much "peer pressure" at the young age of three is very REAL!

It's a thought. Sounds like his preschool might be a good place for that as well. Keep offering him the option even if he says no every time, and say, "Okay, maybe next time." When he starts to go-even if he just sits and no pee comes out-make a big deal out of it and talk about underwear and being so big and all that jazz. Eventually, you'll get to go on a trip to the store to get some special underwear to wear when he puts his pee and poop in the potty. And always remember that when he has an accident, he is NOT doing it on purpose. Just keep it really light, "Oh, I see your pants are wet. We'll need to go sit on the potty and then change our clothes." Make sure that when he does have an accident that you always sit on the potty after and "make sure all the pee came out." Never make him feel bad about having an accident or accuse him of doing it on purpose. This will only make him backtrack.

Okay, that's a lot for two simple points. I hope some of that was helpful, and not too foward of me.


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Hi Jackie,

I'm a grandmother and a parent counselor. Try this - every day find 15 minutes that you or your husband can devote solely to this little guy for special play time just for him, maybe when the baby's taking a nap. Just 15 minutes - even 10 minutes to start. Set a timer so that both you and he know when the bell goes off that will be the end and then you will do something else. Tell him with real excitement that you and he are going to have a special play time and then when the bell rings you're going to go and do the next thing - whatever is next in your day.

During this special playtime enter his world with real curiosity and enthusiasm. Make sure that you're in a safe space and then jump in full steam - it's only for 15 minutes ;-). During this time, he leads. He's in charge. He chooses what to do and you follow him and join him in his excitement. This is not a time to teach him, correct him, show him a better way. So if he wants to play with his trucks, you rev those motors. If he wants to play blocks and knock them down - go for it. If he wants to ride a broomstick like a pony you ride something too, hooting and hollering beside him. Have it be fun for you too and let him see that. An important piece of this is that you don't pretend to jump in. Really play with him wholeheartedly doing what he wants. Be curious. Be excited. Find real delight in what he loves to do. It's only for 15 minutes - although you may want to make it 20 or even 30 minutes after you see how much fun you're both having. Be really present with him. He will feel it.

Your child will have your full attention, with no distractions. You will have a fresh look as if you are seeing through his eyes. You will both have fun! Do this regularly for a few weeks. Little by little you will begin to see a change in what looks like defiant behavior. Track it. Notice what is working. Save your big responses to him for this joyful happy time. When he does things you do not want, give him a very small, flat yet firm and clear response - without anger as much as possible. Try it! It works! If you have any questions let me know. I'd love to know how it goes.

All the best!

Happy Parent - Happy Child!
L. Astor
Counselor & Coach for Parents

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God bless you!!! We have been there, my friend! :) Please remind yourself that your little boy saves his most "special" behavior for Mama because he knows that you love him unconditionally. (The same reason we tend to be more courteous to the grocery store clerk than to our own spouses sometimes...) You sound like you are doing a great job, and "this too shall pass." As for keeping this somewhat organized, may I recommend www.Flylady.net It is free, but it has helped me in more ways than I can tell you. It is a method of encouragement and babystepping towards organization. Let me also tell you that although I have a houseful of 3-year-olds, (I have a daycare and preschool,) my own children are teenagers now. The days can be so long sometimes, but the years really do fly. I can scarcely believe my kids are as tall as I am, but they are. Nobody is climbing up on my lap to beg for me to read "Oh, Little Rabbit" for the umpteenth time, or asking me to sing lullabies while we rock in the rocking chair. Yes, this is making me tear up just to type this. Remember when they are clinging to you so tightly you feel like you will never have any personal space again, that they will be grown and gone sooner than you can imagine. You will soon be chasing after THEM for some time together. In the meantime, maybe get a children's CD of movement-type music...? (I know this helps tremendously with my daycare kiddos.) The songs tell you how to move your body, and the first time or two you may have to do it with him, but soon he will start to do it on his own whenever you put on the CD. If you want specific CD ideas, feel free to reply. Take care! :)

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Hi JL, I feel your frustration, been there, done that. Around 3 is the first time when the testosterone hits theirs little bodies. Welcome in the manhood. In fact the percent of the testosterone in that age compare to theirs body mass is much higher that when it will be in the teenage years. Believe me, they don't know what to do with it either. It is very hard for them too. The best way to deal with that is physical exercises - running, swimming, cycling, anything will help. 2-3 times per week in a park is not enough, you need to get him working out every day. Keep him busy physically is the answer. He needs to vent too. Discipline? Give him choices, give him control as much as possible. He won't learn if he gets hurt, he will try again, this is the mother nature call. How you can help? The only thing you can provide is guideness to help him stay as save as possible. He will push boundaries, he will push all the limits. Just think of everything as it is his first time, because it is his first time with the testosterone in his body. He needs to feel powerful, he needs to control. Set rules and be consistent. For simple things try the "First we need to do this, than we can do that.". Another good method is "your way, my way", "what is your idea", "so every body will be happy" and etc. If he can't come up with his own ideas, help him with the ideas, soon you will be surprise what his little mind will come up with. If you can't do what he wants now, let him know why you can't do it now and when you will be able to do it and keep your promise. Understanding, giving him more power and control will make your life easier. Give him words to describe his feelings and needs and talk about them. Acknowledge his feelings and let him be a big boy. The specialist says not to use the "big boy" pressure on a 3 year old, but this is what really worked for us for two major steps - the potty and giving up the Binky. He got potty trained for 2 weeks and gave up the Binky over 1 night. I just figured out that he needed to be recognized as a big boy and explained him that doing the "big boy" stuff comes with a "big boy" responsibilities and acts. Hope I was helpful. Good luck!

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