3-Year Old "Normal" Behaviors?

Updated on December 09, 2008
B.H. asks from Montevideo, MN
9 answers

I am really hoping that somebody out there has been through this and can offer me some advice. My 3 year old son started hitting, kicking and being just naughty at home about 4 weeks ago. We have been consistent with time-outs and putting him in his room and the behaviors at home have stayed the same. Within the past week and a half, these behaviors have started to spill over into school and daycare. Today I got a call from his daycare teacher that he was hitting, pinching and back-talking the teachers. This is not the sweet boy that I had for the first 3 years! Even his teachers stated today that this is not the same boy that they know. Some people tell me this is normal and he will out-grow it and some people look at me like I have the naughtiest boy ever. Has anyone ever gone through this? What worked for you? For the life of me I can't figure out any triggers - it doesn't just happen at play times or down times... Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

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answers from La Crosse on


As everyone else has said, this is VERY NORMAL behavior. (I have 4 sons and the youngest isn't quite to this stage yet, but he's getting there.) Your son is just testing the boundaries. Continue to be firm and consistent. He needs to know what will happen if he acts a certain way. It is also part of feeling secure, knowing what the consequences of his actions will bring. This is part of natural development, even though not every child acts in exactly the same way. Stand firm now, and you won't have all the problems later when he is a teenager.



answers from Lincoln on

My son is 3 1/2 and is behaving the very same way right now! You are not alone. My daughter who will soon be 6 went through the very same "phase".

We do timeouts but it's extremely frustrating when you know they normally do not act that way. They are just testing the waters to see what they can get by with.

Good luck! :-)



answers from Appleton on

My son was the same way, everyone talked about terrible twos well I think 3 was worse than 2. I was the Mom also that would get looked at like I had the naughtiest boy ever. However, I would remove him from the situation and just have him sit and cool down (like a timeout). That was the best that I could do. There is not good way to sit down and reason with an active 3 yr old little boy. All I can say is it will get better with time but just have lots of PATIENCE and CONSISTENCY. Good Luck :)



answers from Milwaukee on

My son will go through spells like you are discribing, they started around three also. One day he slapped his daycare teacher and made her cry. That night I told him he would not be allowed to watch TV, as the eveing wore on he would ask me every so often if he could watch TV and I would remind him that he was not allowed to watch TV due to he had hit his teacher. The next day at school he gave her a hug and said he was sorry and from that point on he began behaving much better. Then about a year latter, just this fall, he started acting out again. This time I took all of his power rangers toys and clothes away and told him he would not be allowed to play with them until he could behave himself. He got over his funk within 24 hours and has been behaving very well at school ever since. So find your 3 year-old's favorite thing and take it away until he begins to behave. If things don't improve then talk to your dr. but chances are this is normal three year old testing. I would also recomend the book our Dr. told me about, "Magic 1-2-3". I've been using it with my 4 year old and it is a good tool.

As for people who give you the disapproving looks, ignore them!

Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

Yup, that is totally normal for many toddlers. Stay consistent with time-outs and not tolerating bad behavior. It's hard, but he'll learn. Also, be sure to point out and praise GOOD behavior. He needs to feel good about doing the right thing.
I wish I could help more, but I'm still trying to figure my own kids out and every kid is different. =)
Good luck!



answers from Duluth on

Is there something happening with your son? could someone be abusing him either physicaly or sexually? If in a quiet time ask him simple questions. I may take goig to a Dr to find out what is wrog but kids don't usually just change



answers from Minneapolis on

My son is going through the exact same thing right now. It was like the instant he turned three, his behaviors changed completely. I think it is important to remember that children are just like us. They are simply little people with much less experience. Don't lose your cool! I spent 18 years with a mother that did daycare and have seen many children grow up into young adults. They go through rough spots and with your support and understanding they will overcome this. Also try to realize how intelligent your little one is. It's amazing what a little reasoning can do for your 3 year old... try it, you'll be surprized when he understands how you are feeling. Hang in there mom!



answers from Minneapolis on

My 3.5 year old daughter is (hopefully) on the tail end of this behavior, too. I think it is a normal developmental phase.

Time outs did not work at all - meaning that they did not stop the behavior. I am now trying a different approach.

When she gets crazy, I tell her, "you cannot control yourself when you feel angry or stressed, so I am going to help you" And I hold her or sit with her in her room. And while I am holding her, I tell her "someday you will learn how to control yourself, but until then, I will hold you and help you". After it blows over, I talk to her about behavior that is acceptable when she is feeling overwhelmed and angry - smacking a pillow or the couch, yelling, running, drawing...I ask her what would help her, too.

It seems to be working much better than time outs!
Three is a very ROUGH year....
You are not alone



answers from Omaha on

So normal! I have a 3 year old daughter that has been very strong willed from day one. She started hitting, kicking, and biting like crazy at the end of the summer. The best thing we have found is to praise, praise, praise the good behavior. When the bad things happen stay consistant with what you are doing. Do not let him get the best of you. When he hasn't hit, kicked, etc at home for an hour...30 minutes...whisper in his ear like you have this huge secret and go, "I noticed you haven't hit. GREAT JOB!!! You are such a grown up boy!" Works for my daughter.

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