20 answers

Needing Help with Defiant 3 Year Old!

Hello to all you moms out there! My three year old is really into the "terrible Threes". She is hitting, spitting, saying no all the time, defiant, talking back, crying and whining all the time. I'm at my wits end with her. She used to be my "easy baby". Laid back, always smiling. Now it's nothing but whine, complain, talk back, and nary a smile to be seen. I know this is just a phase...but I'm really getting irritated. I am finding that I am losing patience with her more quickly than I used to do. It's not the terrible twos...it's the terrible threes. I want to teach her to listen and be respectful without crushing her spirit. Any advice?

3 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Diane gave some very good advice which I also try to follow with my spirited 3 year old.
One of the key points to remember is to stay calm. You can make the situation worse by battling with a 3 yr old and you will never out last them.
The one thing I would add is the 1-2-3 Magic also worked for us. We found that daughter is very bright but impulsive so if she is acting up and I start to count she usualy makes the right choice by the time I get to 2. There are things that are "deal breakers" like hitting, spitting... that they go right to time out but for most things I ask her 3 times to stop and if she doesn't then she goes to time out. The other thing is consistency, if you start to count you better be prepared to pick her up and take her to time out. It is not always easy but they know when you don't back up what you say.
Good luck

2 moms found this helpful

Three was really the testing age for my daughter and the little boy I babysit- Just be firm and consistant- I find that if I nip it in the bud, then I am more able to keep my temper, it is when the whining goes on and on and on... then I snap! I swear in one week I put the two of them in constant time outs for about two days for backtalk, hitting, etc. but after they knew I was serious about following through, it seemed to taper off- she is 4 now and doing great!

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More Answers

My oldest daughter started acting up about 8 months ago. I have a benefit because I know the cause (or at least PART of the cause) of this phase -- I've had 3 more kids in the past 22 months, so she went from being an only child for almost 3 years to all of a sudden having all these little sisters around fighting for attention.

My techniques don't work every single time (what does?) but I've been pretty successful.

When Sarah is being polite and well behaved, I load on the positive attention and give her some extra one-on-one time. I also use this opportunity to teach her about treating people the way she wants to be treated. No name calling, no hitting, taking turns with her sisters, being respectful, being polite and answering someone when they are talking to you (her biggest problem!).

When she's whining, I tell her "I can't understand you when you whine. Please talk to me like a big girl so I can help you."

If she's being difficult or annoying (but not harmful), I usually ignore her behavior. For some reason, she likes attention, even if it's negative. So if I don't give her an audience, she will change her attitude and try something else.

When she's harmful or disrespectful, she goes to the corner for a time out. (Again, there's no audience but there are consequences.) If she hasn't pulled herself together when the timer goes off in 3 minutes, she gets another minute to calm down. Then she must apologize and hug the person that she tormented.

To try to avoid these meltdowns, I stick to the schedule as much as possible. Every afternoon, when the 3 little ones are napping, Sarah goes to her room for "quiet time". She doesn't have to nap, but she does need to wind down. At least half the time she does end up falling asleep. I can definitely tell a difference on the days that we're away from home and she doesn't get her quiet time.

Have you tried removing yourself from the situation if you're getting overwhelmed? I've done that before. And I don't always hide it from her. I say "Mommy's going to take a break and when I come back, we're going to talk about ______. I want both of us to calm down so we can understand each other." That explanation has helped her realize that I am upset. I'm not running away and she's not getting away with it -- it will simply be addressed when we've both had a moment to settle down.

At for crushing her spirit, I don't think you have to worry about that. Teaching her to behave and be respectful won't crush her -- it will just make her stronger. Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful

Yes, I don't really remember a terrible two phase....it's the challenging 3 phase that was rough. No easy antidote but it does help to remember that the stubbornness that you see, now, could actually be a benefit into those preteen/teen years. I really miss those young ages but I do love the age of my kids too!

Just do your best to personally use the mantra..."respond - don't react". When she's yelling or defiant, don't yell back (your two older ones are watching you constantly). I learned from my dad that, the more heated the situation, the softer and slower I speak. I use this in a classroom situation all the time or when I am speaking w/ a roomful of noisy kids. It's a good tool to master. Positive reinforcement can go far but use it when you are NOT in the heat of the moment and use it often. (i.e."Wow, I noticed that you were: sharing nicely...using your manners...speaking nicely... you were putting your toys away promptly...., then "Thank you!") Give options.... "you can do this or that"....however, my son, used to come up with option #3 all the time so, if it works in your schedule, consider it.

She should be disciplined and have "time outs" and your older ones expect her to get it, too, so, there will be those moments. In order for them to be effective, find her "achilles heel".... what makes her tick. Maybe if she is not acting nicely, her favorite "lovey, stuffed animal, blanket" gets grounded for an hour! (For my daughter, this was a killer! Once she hit 6 years, the writing assignments were very effective.) Make sure she knows exactly why she is grounded, then administer the punishment. Lastly, end the punishment my saying, "Why were you grounded?" and let her tell you. If she can successfully tell you and say I'm sorry to the offended person, then say, "Your grounding is over. Now you can be good." Don't keep bringing up the event.

I never tolerated bad behavior in stores. When my children were 3 years old and 6 years old, they witnessed me leave all my stuff in a cart, in the middle of the aisle at Target (most of the stuff I was buying was for them - that helped!) and walk out the store. Sure it was inconvenient for me but .... it only took one time! They were given a couple fair warnings, then...without yelling (just a little drama!) I took my oldest's hand and the youngest was carried out, under my arm like a sack of potatoes. To this day, they remember it. However, they still love going shopping with me and on a good shopping trip, a hot wheel car, pack of gum or some trinkety item gets purchased at the end of the trip.

One last thing, kids know that it is the Holiday season and they can sense our tension, tiredness and stress. Just try to do your best to put aside a little quiet time with the kids and read a book or play a game of UNO or something. (I'll heed that advise too, just as soon as I'm done decking my halls! Best of luck to you.

3 moms found this helpful

Diane gave some very good advice which I also try to follow with my spirited 3 year old.
One of the key points to remember is to stay calm. You can make the situation worse by battling with a 3 yr old and you will never out last them.
The one thing I would add is the 1-2-3 Magic also worked for us. We found that daughter is very bright but impulsive so if she is acting up and I start to count she usualy makes the right choice by the time I get to 2. There are things that are "deal breakers" like hitting, spitting... that they go right to time out but for most things I ask her 3 times to stop and if she doesn't then she goes to time out. The other thing is consistency, if you start to count you better be prepared to pick her up and take her to time out. It is not always easy but they know when you don't back up what you say.
Good luck

2 moms found this helpful

My son is the EXACT same way! He was such a sweet two year old and just turned three and it has been incredibly challenging! We use 1-2-3 Magic with mixed results,constantly teach appropriate behaviors and do use some time-out but limit that. My son is pretty bright and quite verbal but has been a challenge. Our issue is going out with others, he likes to push where he is pretending to be a car, has a hard time sharing and taking turns. We go out, but I have to be prepared as it is very stressful. Good luck, if you want to chat would love to!
T.

2 moms found this helpful

SUPERNANNY, SUPERNANNY, SUPERNANNY. I can't seem to say it enough. Watch it on Friday nights on a.b.c. It teaches all the techniques a mom and dad need to handle these out of control kids. I don't bleieve that's normal behavior for a 3 year old. I've only seen this of late, never when i raised my kids or any of my friends kids. I think children today have too much to play with and not enough structure to keep them occupied and they strike out everywhere...you're the one being hurt and that one time darling little child. Hope this helps mommy; honest.

1 mom found this helpful

Check out the following books: "Smart Love" by Martha Heineman Pieper and William Pieper and "Unconditional parenting" by Alfie Kohn. These books are full of great summaries on clinical research on child development. It sounds like you little one is somewhat stressed. The best you can do is to avoid giving her any time outs - no punishments or rewards and instead give her more hugs etc and look for the triggers that are stressing her. Also, for many children 3 is a harder age than 2. The books by Ames and Ilg are pretty good on this topic. they have a book for each year ie 1 yr olds, 2 yr olds, 3 yr olds. for the hitting and spitting etc, it is hard but keep telling her why she shouldn't do that and model a gentle alternative. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Diane said it all! Well done!

1 mom found this helpful

You should read "1, 2, 3 Magic!" I found that it improved our situation of terrible threes significantly.
And it can be used with the older children as well.
Good luck!

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