24 answers

Unruly 3 Year Old

I wrote a couple of weeks ago and i really need some advise. My 3 year old girl is completely out of control. She does not listen to anyone, she is horribly bratty, and has no regard for anyone else. When we are with other children, she will rip toys away from them, push them, and is ALWAYS the boss. But, she is the first to cry when someone else does something to her that she doesn't like. She has started talking baby talk all the time. It's not an attention thing, because I give her attention 24/7 and try very hard to be patient. Lately, my patients are thin and I can't take it anymore. I find myself walking away so that I don't blow up,but 9 times out of 10 that backfires, and makes her act out more and I end up yelling. Right now I am listening to her whine and cry in her room, it has been almost an hour. I am at my wits end and could really use some advise.

What can I do next?

More Answers

Your daughter needs for you to be the strong parent. She needs to have boundries, and consequences, That means that you have to be stern and follow through with punishment as well as bedtimes(naps)!! That is the hard part. I know how easy it is to ignore, because you have had it. You just do not want to hear it anymore. That means they win and have complete controll. Which is bad parneting. That just makes everything worst!! You need to have a plan (consequences) when she misbehaves. Kids also act up when they are over tired. If she acts up, first try to remove her from the situation or distract her. However, if her behaveior continues with the same siutation or if she is being mean to someone, calm her by holding her on your lap or hanging on to her, with her at your eye level(besure you have her attention by reminding her to look at your eyes),explain to her that it is unacceptable, and explain how it could hurt someones feelings (perhaps use her) ask her how she would feel. Then tell her if she does it again she will be punished and speak of the punishment(what it would be). Perhaps by taking away something she loves (blanket, toy, binky ect..) Each situation needs to be addressed ASAP!! Do not wait 15 minutes or longer. She will not remember. That is not fair to her. Do not yell you must talk calmy, with a stern voice and directly to them at eye level. To calm my daughter I would put her on my lap and try to distract her crying to calm her by telling her she must sit still and relax while hugging her. I would say do I have to tickle you silly to get you calm down. That would make her smile and I would have her attention. I would then tell her to look into my eyes and I would then explain, what she did and why mommy was upset and why she shouldn't act that way. If she wasn't looking at me I would stop to have her her focus on my eyes. Tell them exactly like it is. If they act poorly to others, no one will want to be friends with them. Kids want to have friends and play mates. If she doesn't relax and still is high strong. Put her in time out, time it and tell her how long she has before she can get down. With anything. That means no, toys blanket, and not talking to her either for the remainder of the timeout. Then try to talk to her in the same mannor as explained above. It worked for me. It got to the point with my daughter when I would say "do not make me count, and I would start and she would say, no,no,no, ok, I am sorry, do not count. She would know what was next. It got much easier. She was a very well behaved little one, After I got how to play the game. I always gave her lots of hugs and thanked her for her good behavior and also for being a good listener. My daughter also behaved better ,when we would go out, if I would tell her what we were doing and what I expected from her (behavior wise). Like if we were going to the store, I would tell her what we needed to get(often she would be my reminder, my list) and that we cannot ask for things in the store. We need to spend the money on the important things food ext.. I would however allow her to pick out fruit or veggies she liked. She to this day doesn't ask. But she knows if there is extra we will take a day and get something for ourselves. I hope this helps you out. GOod luck and do not give up.

2 moms found this helpful

Some days I can really relate to that with my 3 year old. I have been really scrutinizing what causes a bad day vs. a good day...

Bad days involve poorly scheduled meals and sleep, watching movies, not going outside, and not having him by my side as I do housekeeping.

Talking through my frustrations really helps. Whenever I do lose my temper I tell him "You are the first little boy I've ever had, and I don't always know how to be the best mommy. Sometimes I make mistakes and I would like for you to pray with me that I will learn to be just the mommy you need". This might sound silly, but it works for him because he becomes sympathetic with me instead of adversarial, and it works for me because it reminds me to be compassionate towards myself and look for spiritual guidance instead of focusing on my negative emotions.

Our best days are days when we do something together for half an hour or so, then do our own thing near each other for half an hour or so... I call it "breathe in, breathe out". I got this and many other helpful viewpoints from waldorf inspired educators, and I love the book "Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing our Children from Birth to Age 7".

I am also finding that the less confrontational and emotional I am when dealing with him regarding disobedience, the better. Staying objective and not taking disobedience personally, but rather looking compassionately at him and saying "He needs discipline for HIS own good so he can lead a productive life" instead of "Why is he disregarding ME, why doesn't he listen to Me, why is he always getting into trouble", etc... helps me to remain calmer. I have been utilizing a meditation in which I reflect on my day as if I were a different person looking in, not judging myself but objectively watching what I did and said. When I remove the emotion from the battles I often have "aha" moments on how I can handle things better next time. And I'm reading a book called "Non Violent Communication" which is excellent.

The other thing I have been doing to help him with his emotions is taking pictures of the faces he and I make. When I notice he or I am angry or bratty, I get the camera and we look at the picture. Then we compare it to happy pictures of us. Ok, this sounds funny too- but since little children mirror us so much, I am using all of his 3 year old emotional problems to help me address my own. So we talk about how the angry or sullen faces don't look very nice at all compared to the happy faces, and we talk about what we need to do to change our faces and make them happy. It's funny, but when he or I see our nastier expressions on the digital camera it makes us laugh at ourselves and try to smile. =)

Anyways, I guess I could sum it up by trying to keep our interaction creative and lighthearted. I have had to let go of a lot of other things that would drain my energy and prevent me from having the vitality to deal with him since we are two peas in a pod and I find myself facing my own issues when I deal with his. I trust it's all for the best... hang in there.

1 mom found this helpful

HI D., sorry that you are having a tough time with your preschooler. I would say that it's time to set a firm disciplinary plan in action. Let your daughter know what is and is not acceptable behavior, and when she behaves in a way that's not appropriate, take immediate action. If she grabs a toy away from another child, take it from her, give it back to the other kid and put her in a 3 minute time out. If she does not listen or is defiant, time out again. Don't yell, don't make an argument or a contest here, simply take action right away.
Also, I've noticed that sometimes parents just expect kids to know what the correct behavior is, and that is not always the case. You may need to discuss how to behave when playing with friends, rules about obeying adults - and not just as a reprimand when she's done something wrong, but as an ongoing discussion. Also it can help to do some role playing with dolls or stuffed animals, acting out behaviors that you'd like to see changed and what you would like to see.
Also, you mentioned that she has your attention 24/7. This can feed into her behavior as well. A 3 year old does not and should not need your attention every moment of her day. She needs to learn how to entertain herself. She will not learn that you (and others) have needs too if you always put hers first.

1 mom found this helpful

D.,
Does she get enough sleep/still nap? Even if not everyday she should still be on a nap schedule...tired kids DON'T behave. I would also suggest a very structured daily schedule(it's hard in the summer, but things go better if you're on a schedule)...for example...only schedule playdates, dr apts, errands etc...in the morning...this is when most kids are at their best...then be home for lunch and nap/rest(play a music/lulaby CD in her room if she doesn't nap...this way you get 40mins to recoup and if she's really tired she'll pass out)after nap/snack should be the more unscheduled play like the park or backyard/bike rides...and then your dinner and evening routine....my kids know they can get up when the clock say 7:00 (3 is the perfect age to train this and with a new baby on the way it's important she's not up too early and making noise)they watch t.v. from 7-730 while I make breakfast, at 730 t.v. is off they eat and we start our day...kids are better behaved and more secure in themselves when they know what comes next...as for playing nice with others, well that takes time but when you're on your way to a playdate is when you review the rules...we are going to share their toys and play at their house and this is what 's going to happen if you don't play nicely, and if it's not going well LEAVE (once you drop everything and leave a couple of times they know you're not kidding and they straighten up)....if someone is comming to your house prepare, again with the sharing talk and put away those really special items (she shouldn't have to share everything)...last but not least, give her chores(3 and 4 are tough ages because they are too big to be little and too little to be big). Chores help, they build confidence and they want to help mommy so let them...she can make her bed(it won't look made, but it's fun to see them arrange it just so...don't "fix" it)she can sort socks, if you have a front loading washer and dryer she can help with the transfer from one to the other to the basket, all my kids put their own clothes away I fold them and put them on the beds and even my 23 month old picks them up,I open the drawer, he throws them in...again not the neatest but the pride is incredible, she can set and clear her place at the table...all these little things she can help with...in a little while when you're busy with baby you'll be glad she's so independant! One last thought, a baby is a big change for everyone...you're a grown up who knows what to expect, she's three and totally in the dark...go to bild a bear and make a bear for her to give to the baby, get lots of books and tell her baby won't come home and play right away...include her in some of the decisions(like what blanket to buy)and take lots of deep breath together. I hope this helps a little bit. Good luck, C.

1 mom found this helpful

wow... this sounds like the intensity of what I went through with my 3-yr-old boy two months ago when our 2nd child was born. It's so hard. It seems like our guy is 6 weeks on, 6 weeks off with behavior -- like he processes new things (baby, or him gettings new abilities) by becoming a monster. But for us he has his "on" times when he's really fun to be around; still, that doesn't make the 6 weeks "off" any easier.

One thing we tried was having more structre: at this time of day we watch one video; just before dinner we do a sticker craft (the same craft each day) together; bedtime and naptime are strictly enforced (even if he isn't sleepy, he's in his room expected to be quiet). That way we built times in that I could find something positive to talk about with him, instead of saying "no,no,no" all day.

Our guy is also used to having attention all the time -- he couldn't play by himself at all! We started having him play by himself in his room for 15 minutes, and sending him to his room to "cool down" alone when he misbehaved. It weaned him from expecting attention all the time, and now he will go to his room and come out when he is ready (after hitting, throwing things, not listening, etc.) But we had to have a gate at his door to teach him to separate from us a bit.

E-mail me if you have any questions or just need some support.
--Wendolyn

1 mom found this helpful

OOOOOhhhhhh D.! Welcome to the club. I have a 4 year old drama queen who is a handful. I keep telling her that she is lucky that she is BEAUTIFUL!
Anyway, we went through the terrible 3s (the 2s were great in comparison) and they pretty much ended on her 4th birthday (we would say stuff like, "that's what a 3 year old would do"). We were doing fine until 2 months ago when we had baby #2 and she regressed.
So, yes, we are bigger and smarter (my response to a comment below) then our little ones, but that doesn't stop the drama. The best advise I can give you is to pick your battles (some things are not worth the aggravation), follow through with the discipline (time outs in a naughty spot), rewards for good behavior and enjoy a glass of red wine (it's OK for the baby in your belly).
Your little one will drive you crazy, but we (myself included) do have to remember to enjoy them at this age because they are fantastic and creative and loving and wonderful. Lots of luck to you!!!!

1 mom found this helpful

Hang in there! I thought I was in the clear when my son got past the terrible two's....then came the three year old tantrums. My son is now four but it was definitely a battle of the strongest wills for awhile there when he was three. I don't doubt that you give enough attention at this point it is the battle for independence. You just have to remember who is the boss (you). When you lay down your punishment (for me it is time out) you need to stick to it no matter how much they fight. (We did time out for an hour b/c he would not stay in time out-it was exhausting for me but it proved a point) Also, be aware if you are punishing too much. I found that I was saying "No" to so many things that he was tuning me out. Now, I put him in time out for hitting and back talk to me or my husband. When it was a fighting over a toy issue, I put the toy in time out or tried to distract him with something else.
I will warn you though, just when you think you have it figured out they get into a new phase!

Good luck!

I tend to think you need to stop her at the time of any wrong doing and bad behavior....for an example, give the toy back to the child she had taken if from and hand her another toy....if she doesn't except this, take her out of the situation....and try a time out. Tell her calmly what she had done isn't nice, that she needs to be nice and share. If you give in, give up on making corrections, her behavior will only get worse....
Make sure you don't stay angry with her for to long as children also need loving hugs....

Also try to remember you are pregnant ..hormones fly, your patient level is low and I'm sure she's feeling your frustions. So maybe you need more time for yourself. Get a sitter, grandma, a friend or neighbor to stay with her...get out of the house and do something you might enjoy doing that will lift your spirits or will in fact relax you.

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