Discipline for a Three Year Old

Updated on June 04, 2009
K.H. asks from Sacramento, CA
5 answers

Hello Moms out there:
I have a very active, head strong 3 year old little girl. She is really very funny, clever and smart. She is also a child that does not listen to me or her dad, her older sister or even grandparents sometimes. Meaning, she will ignore or "pretend" not to hear instructions from us when we need her to either stop doing something that is wrong or do something (like pick up a toy, give back a toy to her little brother, etc...). I have tried the naughty spot like from Super Nanny Show. I have tried sending her to her room with her light off so she can't play (she can still see a little in there of course). I have taken toys away and she doesn't care. I have even tried swats on the bottom and it really doesn't seem to curve the behavior at all. I have lately been raising my voice to the point of yelling, hoping the "mommy voice" will let her know how serious I am (that is all I had to do with my 13 year old is use the "voice" a few times and she always did what I asked or stopped doing the unwanted behavior). I'm at a loss and I start to feel like other people don't even want to be around my little girl because she is so disruptive and clearly gives me a run for my money. Is there anyone out there that has some advice or a good discipline strategy for me. It really hurts me to be frustrated with her everyday.

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answers from Sacramento on


As a mom of 23 yrs let me tell you I have had the same struggles you are dealing with now. :) The other poster had a very good point - consistency is the key.

When we swat bottoms (and I did until I learned another way) all we show our kids is that we can hit them - which many kids then turn around and use back on us or on others and then they get in trouble for hitting...very confusing for them - if mom can hit why can't I?

When we yell we have lost control and all we teach our kids is how to yell and that mom has lost control.

I have zero respect for the Super Nanny - She has no background in child development at all and I can't even watch her show she just makes me want to puke. I have a degree in child-development and she is no expert. She is simply a good babysitter who auditioned for a show and got the part. No kidding!

Now - what to do? I found a book many years ago that saved my life and eliminated the yelling and swatting and frustrations. And as a result, taught me consistency, and my kids to behave. :) At 12 and 14 (my 23 yr old is on his own - we didn't have this book for him and I really wish we had!) my boys are really well behaved and we have a fabulous relationship! :) The book is called 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan. VERY Good. I just got his one for adolescents - not because I really need it but because I figured my boys are older and it could be helpful. It has proven to be so.

Give it a try...it is worth it. It teaches the parent how to work with their kids different personalities, and how to stay in control of your own temper, how to be consistent and how to develop a relationship of respect with your kids...

Good luck!




answers from Sacramento on

Hmmm sounds like a tough one and you are doing the right things, but I might suggest finding that "toy" or "thing" that she does care about losing.... maybe a tv show, dessert, outing she has to miss.....Also, do you try the warning first....ie. if you dont stop, then this will happen. Or maybe a postive thing, if you do what mommy says you will get a jelly bean or something.....good luck > L

I have a just turned 3 yr old and she is starting to test a bit, but time outs are working for me at the moment. My older one, I have to take away something or keep her inside like no riding your bike with the kids, no swimming .....no tv.....she does NOT like losing priviledges.



answers from Sacramento on

I feel your pain. My son is now 6 and very strong willed. It has taken me along time to figure out that if he feels empowered by his choices, he tends to be more compliant. I still give him timeouts, and have spanked (which doesn't work), but the most successful I have been is to have the rules known, and then when he is getting ready to break them, I remind him that he is picking to have a timeout, not have a dessert, or whatever the consequences are. I put it squarely back on him and then enforce it swiftly and firmly without emotion. Your child will do all kinds of drama to try and get you to break it down, but just keep reinforcing "you picked this when..." and saying it in a calm matter-of-fact voice rather than yelling or blaming.
Good luck, you can get through this.

M. S



answers from Sacramento on

Just a suggestion... something my husband has done successfully with our headstrong granddaughters (this hasn't worked as well for me as it does for him) is to simply say 'we need to sit and talk'. He doesn't even necessarily talk about the behavior issue at hand, but has the girl sit with him somewhere out of the way of everyone else (the front porch step seems to work out well for him) and they talk for a long while. The girls like to be active, so having to talk with Poppa for a long time can be a deterrent to the behavior. He does bring up the behavior before letting them up, but as I said, it isn't the main topic of conversation. He talks until he senses that the tension in the girl from her behavior has subsided and that she is ready to go back and behave better. Sometimes I think that just the extra adult attention helps to settle the child too. As I said, this doesn't work out well for me, but it's another idea you may want to consider trying.



answers from Sacramento on

With my own son and with my studnets I've found that it is MUCH more important that you are consistant with what behaviors you will and won't accept than what you chose to do about the unacceptable behaviors when they come up. By that I mean, if x once it better be okay every time, and if x is not okay, it can't be okay even this one time.

But as a method, time-out is convenient because it can be done easily and immediately in any situation (you don't want to be screaming or hitting in the produce section, but you can easily have your child sit on floor by your feet for a couple of minutes).

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