3Yr Old Testing Limits HELP!!

Updated on May 20, 2012
B.L. asks from Blooming Grove, TX
8 answers

OK DS is just over 3yrs old. He has been telling me no & trying to hit me, screaming. Just being a 3yr old. I want to be able to get control over this soon. I know this is a stage, but just because it's a stage I am not going to let it get out of hand. I need advice on how to get this on track. Any reward charts, punishments, goal charts, something that I can be sure my child will understand, PLEASE!! Then I got another problem. He WAKES UP TO EARLY!!! My husband doesn't have a problem with him waking early when he's home. DH is only home on Sat & Sun. I however am home all week with DS & I do not want him up at 6AM in the morning!!! How can I get him to understand that he needs to stay in bed SLEEPING longer? If he took a nap during the day I wouldn't have a problem with him staying awake, but when he gets up that early & doesn't take a nap HE IS A PAIN IN THE BUTT!! With the way he is from the above post & then being tired too, that's just not a good mixture. Please help!!!
Wanted to add. ( He also sleeps in my room at night. We had a big issue with sleep & anxiety when he was 2. We are still working on getting him into his own room at night. He does sleep in his own bed in my room though)
I am not feeling frustrated with him. He is a very good kid, except on the 2 things that I mentioned. He goes to bed around 8 on the nights he doesn't have Daycare & the nights he does he goes to bed at 7pm. I have 4 teens & I do know what it's like to be frustrated around kids. I know that it don't make the child act any better. So believe me when I say I do not act frustrated when I am around him. I am only frustrated because I don't want this child to be brought up the same way as my older kids & that's why I need advice. I have been through terriable 2, 3 & 4's at lest 4 times so far, so I know it's tuff. I just didn't know how to handle it then & I want to make sure I do it better this time. Thanks

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answers from Detroit on

Okay..... keep telling yourself "He is three". And yes, it is a stage.

My recommendations are to introduce a distraction when he does this negative behavior and for you to remain calm and positive as your son will pick up your energy (Think Dog Whisperer~ LOL!)... however it is true.

Punishing a three year old is still extreme as they are merely observing their environment, learning about themselves and that is just the ride you are taking. He will not fully understand punishment until he's older and uses his words (and knows what they mean.).

Another thing to keep in mind~ you are his role model (as is his father). Make sure you are setting positive examples with YOUR behavior, especially with each other.

You really cannot control his sleeping schedule. This can only reflect the time he goes to bed and if he wakes up in the night. Typically, a child will be up by that time (6am) and I honestly do not view that as early. But I would wager he goes to bed early, too. Adjust his bedtime back and calm down...
Even tho he does not take a nap, there is no reason to give your son 'down time' in his room or bed to just chill out.

I suggest you calm down... just from reading this, I can feel your frustration. If I can, I am sure your son can. If that is the case, then yes... he will be a pain in the butt as you put it. (You're more than likely expecting him to be~ so you are going to self-fulfill that to happen.)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Parenting without punishment raises great kids. When we attend to the needs driving children's behavior and set limits with empathy, we're not only guiding immediate behavior, but also nurturing long-term emotional intelligence. So we're raising children who are more able to manage their own emotions, and therefore their behavior. There's no denying that punishment gets immediate compliance. When humans are threatened with force, they usually comply, right? And even a timeout is a threat of force, because if the child won’t go into timeout, you do have to use force to get them there. Which is one of the problems with punishment -- we have to keep escalating our use of force. Of course, we'd all like our children to just straighten up and do what they’re told. But even adults have a hard time with that. These are kids; their brains are still developing. (In fact, the way we respond to their behavior actually shapes their brain development -- do we help them learn to calm or to escalate crises?) It's a big job for kids of all ages to learn to manage the emotions driving their behavior.

2. Sidestep power struggles. You don't have to prove you're right. Your child is trying to assert that he is a real person, with some real power in the world. That's totally appropriate. Let him say no whenever you can do so without compromise to safety, health, or other peoples' rights.

1. Sidestep power struggles. You don't have to prove you're right. Your child is trying to assert that he is a real person, with some real power in the world. That's totally appropriate. Let him say no whenever you can do so without compromise to safety, health, or other peoples' rights.

2. Since most tantrums happen when kids are hungry or tired, think ahead. Preemptive feeding and napping, firm bedtimes, enforced rests, cozy times, peaceful quiet time without media stimulation -- whatever it takes -- prevent most tantrums, and reground kids who are getting whiny. Learn to just say no -- to yourself! Don't squeeze in that last errand. Don't drag a hungry or tired kid to the store. Make do or do it tomorrow.

3. Make sure your child has a full reservoir of your love and attention. Kids who feel needy are more likely to tantrum. If you've been separated all day, make sure you reconnect before you try to shop for dinner.

4. Try to handle tantrums so they don’t escalate. It's amazing how acknowledging your child's anger can stop a brewing tantrum in its tracks. Before you set a limit, acknowledge what he wants. "You wish you could have more juice, you love that juice, right?" (Look, you've already got him nodding yes!) Then set the limit: "But you need to eat some eggs, too. We'll have more juice later." (As you move his cup out of sight.) If he responds with his anger, acknowledge it: "That makes you so mad. You really want the juice."

With toddlers, keep the number of words you use pared down:

"You are so mad!"
"We don't hit."

5. When your child gets angry, remember that all anger is a defense against more uncomfortable feelings -- vulnerability, fear, hurt, grief. If you can get him to go back to those underlying feelings, his anger will dissipate. "You want that. You are mad and sad." or "You're mad at Mommy because you don't want me to leave. When I leave you miss me." Usually at this point your child will cry, and you can hold him while he experiences his sadness. After you've helped them get past their anger and discharge their sad feelings, kids usually need to snuggle a bit.

6. If your kid does launch into a tantrum despite your best preventive efforts, remember not to sever the connection. Stay nearby, even if he won't let you touch him. He needs to know you're there, and still love him. Be calm and reassuring. Don’t try to reason with him.

Think about what you feel like when you’re swept with exhaustion, rage and hopelessness. If you do lose it, you want someone else there holding things together, reassuring you and helping you get yourself under control.

He also needs to know that as soon as he's ready, you'll help him recollect himself. Afterwards, make up. Take some “cozy time” together.
After the tantrum:
First, make sure that your child gets enough “cozy time” with you that he doesn’t have to tantrum to get it.

Second, don't give in to the original demand that prompted the tantrum. Kids need to be reminded when a tantrum is brewing that if they have a tantrum you aren't allowed to even consider their request. Unless they are really at the end of their rope, this message usually helps them pull it together enough for you to address the situation (i.e., “I guess we can’t do a big shop today. We’ll just get the milk and bread and go home. And here’s a cheese stick to eat while we wait in line.”



answers from Dallas on

hmmm... If your husband leaves early in the morning, and your son wakes up shortly after, I suspect your husband is rousting him as he prepares to leave. If you could transition your son to his own room your problem might be solved quickly. If nothing else, perhaps transition him to his room after he is asleep. Waking up in the room might make it more comforting for him to go to be there later.



answers from Philadelphia on


Your son doesn't sound like a weirdo...he sounds like a regular typical 3 year old!! I'm sorry, but his behaviour is totally normal, and yes it can get frustrating, and at 4years old (my son is 4 1/2) it still gets even worse. Just remember they have to push boundaries and have to test new things and behaviours to be able to mature. However, you need to set limits and boundaries of your own. With my first son I had to make a reward chart...does he like stickers? You can use tiny stickers as rewards for good behaviour, he loved tiny shiny stars... at the end of the week we counted the stars and gave him a penny for each star, at the end of the month he had enough to go to the DOLLAR store and get something. Boys love rewards. Also, kids tend to be very intuitive, if you wake up feeling anxious about how your day will be....guess who is already absorbing this energy? yes, your kid. They are as intuitive as they were inside your belly.

The waking up part.. well I finally got my 4 1/2 yr old to stay in his room after he woke up.. but it took lots of patience which I hardly have lol! I know many mothers don't approve of a tv in kids rooms... and that's great for them, (please don't attack me) but it has worked for me. I set the tv at night on sprout on the cable box and just turn off the tv, not the cable box. He is aloud to turn the tv on when and only he wakes up. He can watch tv in his room until I go to his room in the morning. You don't have him going to your room but you go to his room. In no time he will get used to not going to your room and soon he will be able to entertain himself either with tv or toys until you say it is ok.



answers from Honolulu on

3 years old IS harder than 2 years old.
They are changing immensely.
Hence growing pains and the accompanying testing of limits.

Just stay consistent... ie: if you tell him No, then that's it. He may try to tantrum or negotiate... but don't engage. Just repeat yourself. Unless he is really in need of comforting or something is "wrong", just stand your ground. THEN he will yell/scream. But just stay "calm" or feign it.. .and sit down and read a magazine, or go about your business. A child WILL DEFLATE ON THEIR OWN... if you do not try and prevent it. They will know that you WILL not engage. OR, you tell him that if he must yell/tantrum, to do it IN HIS ROOM. Then if you have to, put him there. And let him get out his yah-yahs. WHEN HE IS CALMED down, then go and talk with him about it.

ALso teach him HOW to communicate and express his feelings... and the words for it.
A child this age, does not have FULL emotional development yet, NOR the "ability" to understand it or to "cope" with it.

When he wakes early... just tell him he can do QUIET things, no turning on lights, no tv, nothing noisy... and to just stay in his room & play, or stay n 1 certain room. That is what I do with my kids, and at this age they understand. And it works out.
My kids wake up at the same time every morning, no matter what, no matter what time they napped, no matter if they napped or not, no matter what time they went to bed. They just wake at the same time every day, since they were babies. I believe, it is just them and their own internal clock.

ANd for naps, yes, he should nap. An OVER-tired child does NOT sleep well, nor fall asleep well, and they wake more. So, naps is really beneficial and it helps their moods and development. You need to be consistent in their nap routines/times every day.

All the best,


answers from Philadelphia on

It may be a stage but without giving your son the tools to cope with upsetting situations it will not end quickly. The "NO"s can be helped with choices and logical consequences.
"In 5 minutes you need to clean up the blocks so that we can have dinner. If you would like to save one block building you may. "
"I hear you but you cannot move on to dinner and family playtime until the blocks are cleaned up. It is up to you but you must close the chapter on block time before you move on."
It is not about with-holding dinner or fun, it is just that you cant start something else until your finish or clean up what you were doing.

As for the hitting and screaming, no one deserves to be treated that way. You would not stick around and let your friend yell like that. No need to stick around while your kid yells.
"You sound very upset."
"You sound very upset and I would like to hear what you have to say but I do not like being yelled at. When you are ready we can talk about it."

You can remove the child to play in another room if they cannot safely be around the family. This goes for hitting AND yelling. Have them play by themselves because sometimes when you put a child in time out they are so focused on being in time out and the punishment of it that they do not internalize why they are getting T.O. in the first place and do not learn a lesson. If children get to play by themselves two things go on; They get some space and cool down time that they need and (if you explain that they cannot play with family members because they are not being safe with them) they will see that hitting gets them removed but they will be calm enough to internalize you message of " your behaviors are hurtful and the family does not want to be hurt". Give them chances to come back and play with the family but if the hitting continues they go back to playing by themselves. You can also try to walk away if your child is yelling. Try to figure out the triggers, tired, hungry, frustrated and head the behavior off at the pass.
As for early wake up give him some options of the things that he CAN do. Maybe read, color with crayons, play quietly, listen to a book on tape. You cannot make him go back to sleep but you can keep him in his room. Put a timer on a light and tell him when the light goes on he can leave his room, or an alarm with nice music.

B. Davis


answers from Dallas on

The parents on this site are a plethora of information...and I will not duplicate what they've said so far (but all good advice!!). I will say this tho...

Repeat after me: This is a stage and will not last forever. C'mon, you can do it...THIS IS ONLY A STAGE AND WILL NOT LAST FOREVER.

If you don't like that one...try: Alcoholism is not good to take up at my age. EVERYONE....

I am kidding of course. But after raising 2 of my own then starting over, I find that I'm learning all over again as well...

Good luck to you!!



answers from Pittsburgh on

Three is waaaaaay worse than two ever was! LOL
No matter what you decide as his consequence, stick to it and be consistent. Get hubby on board with the set plan.
At 3, time-outs might work. Or removing an especially beloved activity or toy. OR you could do positive reinforcement and he can earn a sticker that day by not acting out.
Write a list of house rules. Go over them with him EVERY day.
As for the early rising, some kids are just larks. If he's anything like my son, going to bed later makes no difference. He still gets up at the same time.
But with NO naps...that's tough. I used to have my son take at least O. hour in his room on his bed as "quiet time" after lunch. He could look at books or watch a movie. That might get him at least a little rest. Good luck!

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