Help! 3 Year old...nothing I Do Works!

Updated on September 28, 2008
J.M. asks from Clackamas, OR
28 answers

Hi, My little angel finally reached the defiant stage on me! They say two's are bad..well three has been the most challenging for me! I can totally understand she wants her independence and wants to do things for herself. I'm having trouble because as I give her choices she still whines and wants to go against what choices I give her. Does anyone have any solutions that have worked for them? Also, what has everyone done to end whining. I've tried to explain and sound out to her what whining is because i am trying to curb it. Any tips/techniques is greatly appreciated. Thanks Moms!!

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C.J.

answers from Eugene on

My daughter was the same way, still is at age 20. When she was 3, I tried to ignore her temper tantrums or just put her in time out. The whining is so aggravating, and it is no longer "attractive" on a full grown woman. Be tough and just say no.

Good luck,
C. J

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D.R.

answers from Seattle on

My daughter has become a whiner recently. Well, in fairness, whining has always been a little issue, but she made a new friend a few weeks back who uses methods I don't approve of to get her way, and my daughter has picked up on it. So we're back to my old method of dealing with that.

When they whine, I give them NOTHING. No request that's made while whining is fulfilled, and I frequently will tell them I don't speak "whiney" so they need to try again. It works for us.

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J.K.

answers from Bellingham on

I have that problem too. *Sometimes* what helps is for me to give her a third option "a time-out, and THEN I choose which chore you do".

Good Luck!

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

I think I tried too hard at that age. This is what works with my grandkids even now at 5 and 8. I give two choices. THAT'S IT. I may repeat the two choices a couple of times or I may not depending on the situation. Then I stand, without talking, until they decide. If the don't decide within a few minutes, I walk away.

Whining, mostly, does not seem to affect me. Mostly it goes over my head. If I'm aware that they are whining I don't respond. It's like I'm not able to hear. When they were younger I told them to speak in a big girl voice so that I can hear.

For me whining is mainly an indecation that they are hungry and/or tired. Since I'm the grandma I'm usually able to sit down and hold them for 5-10 minutes. Then I address whatever they wanted with the whining. If I know they're hungry I give them something to eat. If it's before a meal it could be a small piece of cheese, a few crackers, or a handful of grapes, slices of apple, a carrot stick or a part of something I'm preparing. For example the carrot stick comes from the carrots I'm putting on to cook or grating into a salad. After they've had a snack I return to what they are whining about.

When they were around the age of 3 and it was somewhere around the time for a nap, I'd put in a quiet video (they have a TV in their room because it's a small apartment)and the next time I looked in on them they were asleep. Little Bear still helps my granddaugter go to sleep. She'8.

I can only do this if I'm not feeling pressured by anything else. When I have too many things going on, I get whiny too. That certainly doesn't help. When I discover I'm doing this I stop everything and focus on the kids if it's possible. It it's not I set them up in the bedroom to either watch a video or play with toys. Quiet music also helps. I have to be calm while I'm doing this or they'll keep coming out of the room to "check on me." They can sense when somethings wrong and they don't want Grandma to be angry with them.

Summary: 2 choices stated firmly 2-3 times while looking at them on their level. Then wait a few minutes without saying anything. They walk away from them.

Completely ignore whining. "I can't hear you when you talk like that." Once or maybe twice. Then completely ignore them. If they're hungry or tired give them a snack and settle them in a quiet room with something to watch or listen to while they play with the toys that they choose.

These techniques take time in which to train you and the daughter. I think it was a month or more before we could be mostly consistent with them. I was training myself as well as my grandchildren. I'm a get right in there and get the problem taken care of. Can't be done in many situations. I had to increase my patience abilities.

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C.P.

answers from Portland on

Let her know what needs to be done and then stick to your word. Ignore tantrums. If she is a truly independent spirit, don't crush it, try to curb in as many situations as you are able, it but remember NO is NO. You are the captain of the ship.

If she tantrums in public, let her. But when at home, explain the consequences of that type of behavior for future outings. "If you do this then this will happen.... when we get home....or whatever"

DO NOT tolerate it for any reason. As difficult as it may be, if this doesn't doesn't stop now, it will be carried into adulthood and then it is really ugly for everyone.

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J.C.

answers from Seattle on

Oh, my - a full time job, and a second job you are trying to launch ( which always takes so much time and attention and energy) AND a 3 year old??? Any chance she's being difficult because it is the one way to get you to really focus on her???? Children are canny little guys- they would rather you be mad than focused on something besides them.

Regarding the whining- don't use too many words- try '''' that voice is hard to listen to- when you can use a big girl voice - I'll listen - '''' and then follow through- if she continues to whine - ignore it ( tough but very effective)
Be very careful with this strategy that you pay attention if she turns down the whine - and then the next time ''hold out''' for a more pleasant tone- -- it's baby steps. you do NOT EVER want to teach her that the way to get you to drop everything and pay attention is to be difficult and whiney - that is NOT what you want.

Blessings,
Old Mom

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B.D.

answers from Seattle on

I have an incredibly defiant son. A lot of it has to do with the fact that my son has Sensory Integration Dysfunction/Disorder. As a single mother dealing with a child with behavioral issues, I've learned that the first step was to control me. I had to change everything I was doing in order to change my son's behavior. I stopped yelling for one. Before, when I yelled, I sounded as though I was in a yodeling competition. I purchased a kitchen timer. I would give my son a time limit for almost everything. At this age, they don't understand time limits, but the timer gives them a sense of what time is. I use it for his time out spells. I also learned to ignore the little things. If he's just whining, I try to distract him by having him play in his room or read a book. A lot of the time it's just because they are hungry/tired. I have a "3 Strikes or Your Out Rule" in my home. First time I tell him not to do something and why, 2nd time I tell him not to do it and what consequence will occur, and the third...I follow through with the consequence. Remember to stick to whatever consequence you are giving. Learn to ignore the whining...that's very important. :D

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J.M.

answers from Seattle on

When my oldest was three, I just picked my battles. If it wasn't a health or safety issue, I wasn't going to get into a battle. If he wanted to wear two different shoes? Okay. If he wanted to wear regular clothes instead of pajamas? Okay. He didn't want to wear his seatbelt? NOT okay. I wouldn't be a short order cook for him either. But otherwise, I would just ask myself if this really was a big deal. If not, I wouldn't let it become a power struggle.

I don't "hear" whines. I just don't understand what my boys are saying when they whine. It's all a big confusing mess! I just say: "I'm sorry, sweetie. Mama doesn't understand you when you use that voice. Can you please use your big boy voice? No? Okay. Well come find Mama when you can, okay?"

I got the throw-yourself-to-the-ground-shrieking temper tantrums at first, but I ignored those completely. I just stayed very calm, and very firm. I simply couldn't understand what they wanted when they used that voice. Since they didn't get any type of reward (not even attention, because I'd just tell them to come find me and would go back to doing whatever I was doing) for whining, they didn't have any incentive to do it. One of my 2 1/2 year olds still tries to whine - usually when he's tired. But I stick with the program!

(I have had a whining return with my oldest. He just started Kindergarten and the whining started during week one of school. (This was NOT what I was hoping he'd learn!) I ask him "are you whining?" - and he immediately says NO.)

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S.C.

answers from Portland on

If you have a spare second to read Parenting with Love and Logic: For Early Childhood, I think that it might have some of what you are looking for. My sister-in-law read it and it transformed her truly impossible 3 year old into someone we all enjoyed being around. I just finished reading it and my husband it now, so that we can be on the same page as our family grows.

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Logic-Magic-Early-Childhood/dp...

Hope this helps:-) S.

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C.T.

answers from Seattle on

I've an almost 5 y/o who I've been trying to break of whining for 2 years. I've tried just about everything mentioned (I don't do nose in corner as I was traumatized by that as a child) but what's helping currently is I deliberately misunderstand her. If she's whining she wants a cup I'll respond with you want a truck, duck, etc so she get's the point that we don't understand whining. After a little bit of that she usually starts laughing.

Hope that helps!

C.-WAHM of ~5 y/o virtual twins
Owner: http://www.BeHappierAtHome.com

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D.H.

answers from Portland on

I totally know what you mean. Let me tell you, it will get better. I did realize that 2 choices are better than a lot of choices. Too many meant she had to make a decision that was overwhelming. Be consistent. I can't stress that enough. If you don't like the whining, don't put up with it. I got so that I told her I can't hear her when she whines, so she needs to say it in a normal voice. She also hated when I mimicked how her whining sounded. Also, sometimes using her Mommy skills helped. Would you let your baby have that? Why would you? Do you know what would happen? Sometimes I think my daughter totally ignores me and then I catch her saying the same things to her dollies. When you get on the brink of screaming....STOP and say, "Mommy needs a time out can you go play with your dollies/toys and let Mommy have a time out please?" Don't let your anger get the best of you and remind yourself she is only 3. What can you overlook? Mine is now 6 years old and I know she hears me, but I also know she hears me all the time since I'm the talker in this family. Sometimes I let Dad take over when things get too out of hand. My Husband will also react quickly if he thinks she is being disrespectful too me. My daughter never had the terrible twos either. She was an angel until three, but it got better. Good luck.

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M.S.

answers from Portland on

Hi! To the point... my now 4 1/2 year old was INCREDIBLY defiant! A friend gave me the idea of nose in the corner for time out. Ok, so some people may look at that idea as over the top, but honestly, IT WORKED! She was spending more and more time in time out, which is the bottom step in my home. There is nothing whatsoever attractive about my bottom step, believe me. But for some reason, she challenged me on it and would come around the corner or disappear upstairs. At first, I had to hold her in the corner. And it was HARD. I would say there were probably 3 or 4 times that we were there for probably 10-15 minutes as myself or husband held her there. She HATED it! Once she was calm and stopped fighting it, she had her 3 minute time out with her nose in the corner with one of us sitting right there. She figured out that she was not going to win the time out battle anymore. That was over a year ago and she rarely goes to time out anymore. The nose in the corner doesn't happen anymore and needless to say, we never needed it for her 2 older brothers. Good luck!

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J.B.

answers from Medford on

I didn't read everything here so far, but I have read lots of good ideas. I told my son when he was that age that I could not understand his whiney voice and he needed to speak to me without whining. I would demonstrate what it should sound like. Also, the whining was sometimes vague, like, in a whiney voice, "I'm thursty." I would say, "Well, what can you do about that?" Then I would give him the words, "Can I please have some water?" Sometimes they whine because they are frustrated and don't know how to communicate their need. So redirect their communication and show them what it looks like. Good luck with that.

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B.L.

answers from Jacksonville on

John Rosemond is a parenting wizard and I love his time-honored approaches. Check him out at www.rosemond.com. His books are available for cheap on www.amazon.com. His Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children is full of practical wisdom for getting and maintaining control. I have to agree with the previous respondant, though, that perhaps your daughter needs you, and attention from you. These first few years will set up a lifetime of a warm loving relationship, or one with difficulties, because she feels neglected, and then perhaps you feel guilt and indulge her inappropriately, when all she needed all along was your (reasonable) time and attention. Good luck to you.

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T.E.

answers from Seattle on

The book "Positive Discipline" is really helping me change the way that I discipline my child. No more time-outs in our house as it is punitive and less effective that discipline, which actually means "to teach". When he whines, I just say I don't understand whining. And he then stops and says it again without the whining.

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B.C.

answers from Seattle on

We had 2 phrases in our house "Decide now or it's Mom's choice" and "Whiny kids get nothing." Sometimes my husband and I would ask each other "What do whiny kids get?" and the other would answer "Nothing!" As time went on we'd ask the non-whiny child and they would answer for us (more effectively than we could) so it was obvious the girls knew the answer of how to behave. Then (the hardest part) we had to follow through with leaving the situation if they couldn't behave in public. So if we were at a store buying groceries and they whined for a a treat, or to get out of the cart, or whatever, we'd ask for "normal voice" and if we didn't get it, we'd go to the checkout right then.

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B.L.

answers from Portland on

My daughter is also 3, and I tell her I can't understand her when she whines. I ignore any request she makes when she whines. If she keeps it up, I imitate her REALLY LOUDLY. Then I quietly say her request how I want her to say it. She has turned into a great parrot. Once she said "Mommy don't do that it hurts my ears!" when I whined back at her. I said, "yeah, well your whining hurts MY ears. If you don't want me to hurt your ears then don't hurt my ears." I have never allowed her to throw tantrums. The first time she ever tried to throw a tantrum, she learned that it was unacceptable real fast! She'd not even allowed to throw herself down on the ground or run away from me. Again, I give her the right words to say. If she throws a fit, she must do it in her room "Because I don't want to hear it!" If she throws a fit in public, we instantly leave wherever we are, and she knows how mad that makes mommy! BE FIRM!!! You are the boss. You dispense the goodies, and if you give ANYTHING to her when she's not requesting it in the manner you wish, you yourself are REINFORCING behavior you don't want to see. Don't let your kids do anything in public that you wouldn't let them do at home. Hello: Double Standard!

Also, this may make you mad, but you are working a full time job and a part time job and trying to give your daughter the time she needs? Um....

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M.T.

answers from Portland on

I sympathize across the board. Just wait until 3.5 years old, and I hear 4 is a doozy too with the little girls!

The other moms are giving pretty consistent advice around consistecy, ignoring the tantrums and whining, telling her (and showing her) that tantrums/whining do not get her what she wants, modeling proper tone and ways to ask, etc. My daughter also tries to change the choices "Mommy, I have a deal for you...or No, that is not the choice, the choice is..." As another mom said, it is really important to offer reasonable choices and then tell her that if she doesn't make the choice, you will make it for her.

The one other thing we did that made a HUGE difference was to write House Rules TOGETHER and put them on the wall in our kitchen (or any public place that works for your family). We have No Whining - Ask Nice, No Talking Back, Do As You Are Asked by Mommy/Daddy, NO MEANS NO - don't keep asking, Be HELPFUL, etc. Three are 10 rules that we wrote together and she really enjoyed the process of writing rules...she made up a few of her own that we also included such as No Calling People Poopy-Head, No Spitting or Hitting. The power of the list is that when she is misbehaving or not heading, you refer back to the rules, thus deflecting from you to mutual agreed rules (something more neutral). Our discipline for not minding the rules is the use of consequences and depends on the rule (rather than just using time-outs). For example, one of our rules is Use Good Manners; if she ignores our gentle reminders at the dinner table, she is given a choice to follow the rules (e.g., use her fork/not eat with her fingers)or leave the table. One time she decided to get cocky and chose to leave the table. As soon as we walked her away to the other room she broke down and wanted to come back. I told her kindly that she made this choice, so she was not allowed back to the table. She never wants to leave the table now, so reminders to use her utensils (not hands) and other simple manners are generally minded.

Hope this helps along with the other great advice.

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K.B.

answers from Portland on

I just wrote this long beautiful letter to you and my kid erased it!!!!

Again,

Options:

Time out: Hands behind back, feet against wall, nose to corner for age of child, that's how many minutes child has to be there.

Whining control: Don't give into your child. If she continues to whine, let her know that it is "unacceptable" and that she will not get her way until she "uses her words". This will help her understand what is expected of her, as well as let her know that she has to communicate with you to get what she wants. It is a great way to introduce her to new language too. Ask her questions by naming what she might want (i.e. when she starts whining, ask her if she wants a drink, or wants a snack, or are her pants dirty, etc). If none of those basic needs need to be filled, then determine if she is too tired, or if she just needs more one on one with you. If not, then see what other options there are. What is SHE trying to tell you?

I learned this with my son due to many daycare problems (not to scare you), as well as the fact that he couldn't communicate properly due to ear problems. Once that was fixed, he didn't whine as much. Now we are working on expanding hi vocabulary so he can continue to communicate properly with us.

Best of luck and if you need anymore suggestions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]____.com

Have a blessed day.

Kim B.

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D.F.

answers from Spokane on

Hi J.! You have some great responses! I feel your pain. When my daughter was that age, I felt like I was always repeating myself!!! I talked with my mom about it and her response was that at this point in life, you are a broken record. I expected my child to get it the first few times I told her things and then move on. I realized that I had to just keep repeating myself in order to be consistent. As hard as that was, when I thought I would just about loose it if I had to say it one more time, my child would then, and finally then, start to get it. Be ready to be persistent and trust me...when you least expect it, your child will get it! Hallelujah!

:) D.

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M.G.

answers from Seattle on

I agree, the terrible three's are way worse than the 2's. When she whines, do not acknowledge her. The first couple of times, explain to her that you will not answer her when she whines (trust me, she knows when she is doing it). Then, stick to your guns, do not answer her until she speaks to you in a normal, respectful voice (don't acknowledge yelling at you either). It will be hard sometimes but I guarantee that if you do not acknowledge her (completely ignore her)until she speaks in a normal voice the whining will quit fairly quickly. As soon as she speaks nicely, answer her right away and praise her for using a big girl voice.

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N.N.

answers from Seattle on

Hi J.,

I agree that 3 was worse than 2. Check out the book 123 Magic. It worked well for us and other friends that used the method. The main thing is to stay consistent.

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T.B.

answers from Seattle on

Hi J.,

Okay - here's mean mom advice #12...

If you and I were whining all the time, would we ever imagine anyone would want to be in the same room with us? The way I see it is that it's our job to help our kids figure out how to manage their own behaviors so that they can function well in the world beyond our doorstep. All kids go through these phases - my first was like yours - no terrible twos - it came later. But what I've done with all three of our kids is 1) be consistent and 2) mean what you say and 3) offer them two alternatives - one that sounds terrible and another that sounds appealing.

They can either do "x" and enjoy the following OR they can choose to continue their behavior, in which case, they will be removed from what the rest of the family / group is doing for as long as it takes for them to decide they want to be in the company of others. It's simply not okay to scream, for instance, so that other people have to suffer - so, until they choose not to scream, they can go and subject themselves to that behavior, but not everyone else. Then, if they choose the negative option, remove them to a place where they're safe and solitary - their bed, whatever. It's not a punishment - it's a choice - if they really like screaming, they can do it as long as they want, just not around the rest of the family.

Kids are super smart - if you are CONSISTENT, they have no trouble figuring it out, eventually (and each child is different, of course - some are truly more stubborn and will test you more times - but you can NEVER allow them to squeak through even once, as that will undo your hard work at consistent boundaries and rules and consequences).

Oh - and another terribly mean thing I have been known to do is to move on to something fun with the rest of the family while the one is sitting on a bed hollering - like play a game of Sorry or whatever. You'd be surprised at how 'missing out' can motivate.

h - and the best effect is when you're calm and even - matter-of-fact about the whole thing, even when they're at the peak of their worst behavior - it doesn't give them any emotional junk to feed on from you and things go more easily / faster that way (chances are, when they realize they're missing out, they'll still be in an unappealing mode of behavior but wanting to get out of the emotional corner they've put themselves in so if you're totally calm and say, "we'd love for you to join us - as soon as you're calm and quiet, we'll be more than glad to invite you to join us.").

Last but not least - a funny story - we were in a Bob's Big Boy restaurant when I was a child. One of my cousins was with us and he stood up on his chair at one point and started singing. My mom leaned over and said to him, "I want you to look around this WHOLE restaurant...do you see any other child standing on his chair, singing at the top of his lungs?" And he stopped - looked all around - and responded, "no." And she basically said that's because this is not the place for standing on chairs and singing! He sat down and behaved. I still chuckle at that lovely little story! :-)

Okay - that's what I got. Hope it helps - and I wish you joy and patience in this process that does have an end.

Best,
T. B.

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E.L.

answers from Seattle on

HUH good luck I have a 5 yr old girl and she is no better than your 3 yr old I have 2 boys and her and boy I dont know which is worse but I think she wins that one she is the youngest and wants to act like she has the run of the house. Good Luck I have learned that you can NOT always give them choices sometimes it has to be what MOM/DAD says. :) We do time outs at our house.

GOOD LUCK...PATIENCE :)

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B.P.

answers from Seattle on

I remember that time. Mine was 3 1/2. Before that, he was an angel. If you give her choices, stick to that. Either she chooses, or you choose for her. If she doesn't like it, into the time out even if it takes 2 hrs to make her stay there. It is time for her to test your limits. BE CONSISTENT!

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S.M.

answers from Portland on

I try to deal with my daughter's whining by telling her that I can not understand whiny voices and that she needs to use her big girl voice instead. It seems to work most of the time, I got it from her preschool teacher. And yes it really is the terrible threes not the terrible twos.

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L.S.

answers from Seattle on

First of all congrats on your sweet family.
Whining works if we let it.
Zero attention...Mommy time out...remove yourself from the whiner... no audience... not so much whining occurs...if she has to do it, you don't have to listen.
Some use mocking but I think that is kind of mean, she is only 3 and I know plenty 40 plus year old whiners (myself included).
Let's face it we all need a good whine once in awhile.
Ask her if she wants some cheese to go with it...code in our family of secret codes. She'll get it when she's older and hopefully self correct.
Good luck!
This too shall pass, until she hits 13 and then eat your wheaties girlfriend!
:-)Mom of 17 year old son who just moved out, wants to be a Navy Seal, pre-empty nester and one 15 year old cranky boy, husband of 20 years...tired and whiny lately too...

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S.M.

answers from Medford on

I agree 3 is definately worse than 2. I used to tell my son and step-daughter that I did not understand "whinese" and that they need to speak to me in their normal voice. I would not answer them if they kept whining. I don't know if it will help, but it worked for me.

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