Help My 3 Year Old Doesn't Respond to Dicipline

Updated on December 13, 2006
C.B. asks from Royal Center, IN
11 answers

My 3 year old doesn't listen to me or my husband at all! we have stood her in the corner, done timeout, spanked, taken toys away, put to bed, grounded her to the couch, anything we can think of and nothing seems to work. We are very consistant with anything we try, but she still does unthinkable things!!! I thought maybe she's ADHD or something else, cause she just doesn't seem to respond to punishment or praise like other children. She is very smart, she can carry on a convo with you with no problems! And the way she talks to me and her dad is hateful at times, you'd think she is 13!

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So What Happened?

to everyone who responded, i want to sincerely thank you all!!! from your messages i found a lot of useful information and a lot of new things that i am excited about trying! i am consistant, but maybe her behavior is from not getting enough attention, i do work about 50 hours a week and go to school full time! she is my world and when i think about it maybe i don't make her feel like she is my world as much as i'd like to! thanks again to everyone and i'm sure all your advice will help in one way or another!

Featured Answers



answers from Wheeling on

The one thing you need to do is be consistent, you have to pick one punishment and stick with it sometimes it takes a few days or weeks to work but she will get it sooner or later!! Just remember she is only 3yrs old at that age it's their job to test you.

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More Answers



answers from Fort Wayne on

I don't envy you at all. When Erin was 3/4 she acted the same way. It made anything a major chore. I stumbled on this by accident and it worked (thank GOD!). When Erin would talk back she would have a choice on what she was going to do about it. Or if she refused to eat something on her plate...I would say something like, you can either eat your green beans or go to your room for a time out. Your choice. And there were sometimes she would pick the punishment instead of the action to keep her out of trouble, but she CHOSE it, so she did it. I don't know why it worked. My Erin is really smart (almost too much for her own good). She is now 5 and in kindergarden, and we still use this method with her. I am really curious if this works for you. Can you let me know, please?
Good luck,

[email protected]

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answers from Lexington on

LOLOLOL...welcome to the unending joys of parenthood!!!!!!

At 3 years old she is going to test you at every opportunity that she can get. Believe me when I say her attitude isn't like when she will be 13...just feels that way to you now because you don't have anything to compare it too.

Be consistent...NEVER tell her that you will do this if she does that and then don't follow through. At this stage of development she is trying to learn if your yes means yes and your no means no...always. Once she is sure that the rules won't change and that you won't change she will learn to trust you...for a few blessed years...then when puberty hits you'll be dumber then a rock and she'll be amazed how you made it so far without her "helpful" advice and/or "guidance". It is a very NORMAL and FRUSTERATING stage of development for you and your daughter.
This stage lasts about 1 4 years old if you've been consistent...she will become your helpful child and will believe you when you say no...won't always like it...but she will believe you. It's tiring to be consistent...and when you are tired it's easy to let things consistent. I have 4 children, boys and girls...oldest is 18 and youngest is 12...I feel your pain but enjoy these years as they fly by so fast!!! You are going to wake up one day and wish for the "good ol days".
Good Luck and remember this too shall pass.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

As it was said in an earler response....welcome to parenthood! I had this problem when my oldest child was that age. He seemed impervious to all forms of discipline, and it took hubby and I what seemed forever to figure out how to work around it.

For every "I hate you!" and "I wish I had a different Mommy" and every other comment along those lines, you can reply with "But I still love you and that's not going to change." Or any other comment like that. It will irritate her to no end at first but when she learns that ugly talk will not get a rise out of you, she'll stop.

I gave up on time outs in corners and bedrooms, or anywhere comfortable for that matter. There's simply too much to distract a child in those situations. Our time outs involve them standing in the middle of the living room, with thier back to the television and nothing in easy reach. It will drive her crazy and she'll hate it and probably screech at the top of her lungs the first few times, but after awhile even the threat of a time out may curb the behavior.

Finally, this may seem odd, but it's worked wonders for us. We invented the "Naughty Bobs" (you can choose whatever names works best for you.) The Naughty Bobs are mean little gnomes that sneak up on a child and hang onto their ankles which makes them misbehave. (I know that sounds odd, but bear this out.) If the Naughty Bobs have made an appearance, ask your child to kick those mean gnomes out of the house (throw them in the trash, out the car window, etc.) because you want your sweet little girl back.

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answers from Charleston on

C. ,if you know you are totally consistant then, you may need to have her tested .I had been having problems from my 15 year old people would say are you consistant I would say yes ,but I took a long look and to find sometimes I was and other not !My 8 year old is adopted and our Dr put him on meds and I hate the way it has change him ,so try everything before meds ok ,Take care good luck and God Bless

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answers from Indianapolis on

A 3 year old is WAY too young to even begin to think about ADHD!! Most experts in the field agree that you can't truly diagnose it until at least age 7 (anything earlier is just guessing) and even then you can only get an accurate diagnosis with a brain scan. There are way too many kids mis-diagnosed with it!
Most 3 year olds are stubborn and a little strong-willed at times. You need to be consistent... since you said you've tried so many things, you aren't being consisent enough. I was told by our early childhood teacher to pick something and stick with it for at least 6 months. After 7 months we saw some improvement with our son (he's now 4.5). All preschoolers are mouthy/sassy and strong-willed at times. If you think your child is alot more than 'normal' you should request an evaluation through the early childhood program. It's like First Steps for kids ages 3-5 with developmental issues. My son was diagnosed with being extremely strong-willed, speech difficulties and having social/emotional developmental delays (which contributed to the super-independent, super-strongwilled).
Do you watch Supernanny? Last week there was a 7 year old girl who took 3 hours to stay in time-out. Everything thinks that is extreme or that she was strong-willed. I was laughing at how easy that was.... I go through a 6-8 hour battle to get my son to stay in time-out (sitting on bottom step) at least once a week! He's at the point where most the time he'll go quietly with only a 15-20 minute battle before settling down and staying... but about once a week he has to "re-test" the rules to see if we still mean what we say. *sigh* Now THAT is a strong-willed child!

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answers from Lexington on

Most doctors will tell you that ADHD can not truly be diagnosed until a child is at least 6 or 7. sounds to me like she is just a very strong willed little girl. no child likes to be punished and they will always rebel against it. just continue with the time outs. when time out is over make apologise for what she did wrong and then give hugs. she will evenually get the picture. also make sure you are on the same page with hubby on what she is and isn't allowed to do and on the form of disacpline to use. if she is not getting the same thing from both, then she is getting mixed signals.

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answers from Indianapolis on

I have been there! My son was terrible when he was 18 months all the way up to 4 1/2. And I did everything I could think of! Finally, I was talking to a woman who my mom worked with and she said, you are going to have to love it out of him. When he does something wrong, give him a hug and tell him you love him. Assure him no matter what that you love him. And after a couple of months, it actually started to work! Slowly! I eliminated set ups! I didn't take him out to eat, I didn't take him shopping, or anything. I eliminated opportunities for him to embarass me!! Now if I take a toy, or he gets spanked, or timeout it works!! Pray your way through!! You and your husband both. I got involved in my MOPS group, I got involved in church, and I loved him (like everday was the last!). Good luck, and God Bless!!

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answers from Wheeling on

Parenting is the most difficult job you could ever imagine...

Does she act like this with other adults or is it just you and daddy?

I ask this because it is important to get a view of the whole situation...If she doesn't then she is getting the attention she wants from you thru her behavior.

You sound like you have tried many avenues... Here is a new one for you and if it works once stick with it..... When she is acting up ignore the behavior and tell her that you are not paying attention to her because you do not like what she is doing. Tell her to go to her room and when she is ready to be sweet she can be with you again. When she comes out of her room and stands in front of you ask her if she is ready to be sweet to you now and when she replies yes then ask her why she wasn't being sweet before. As parents it is our job to make out children think about what they do and how it affects the people they are around. You can use this when you are out somewhere also...In a resturant put her in the booth next to you or turn the chair away from the table. In a store turn the cart around so she is father away from you and not facing you. When she is sweet again you can readjust her seating. You said she is smart so use that to your benefit. She needs to learn what you are and are not willing to accept.

An important thing to remember is that she is 3 and she is finding her position in your house hold. The best dicipline is natural dicipline. If you don't like the way she is acting and you won't let her be with you when she in being unkind or not sweet then she will adjust herself appropriately.

Good luck and believe me 13 is something special. Hugs M.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

She sounds like a very spirited kid!

Perhaps the issue at hand is why she is behaving that way to begin with? Are mom and dad really busy and don't give a lot of attention? I can tell you I work about 50 to 60 hours a week and go to school part time while I raise my almost 5 year old on my own. Poor kid gets little good quality time with me, normally just negative attention for the things he does wrong. But for most kids, as long as they get it in some form, they don't care.

To combat his acting out issues, I try (not very successfully, but it helps tremendously when I do this consistently) to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes of Mommy & Matthew time each day. We play a board game, like Chutes and Ladders, or some other game he wants to play, or even just sit on the couch and watch a little TV together while we talk about stuff. His day, his friends at school, the kid is a fountain of information at the end of a day! And then before bed we always brush our teeth at the same time and read a story before lights go out.

Even if you are a stay at home mom, you have to think of your time with her as "real" quality time. Have tea party with her and her stuffed animals. Have her help you bake cookies. Play dress up. Do play dough modeling. If my son wants to do laundry with me, by golly I will hand him the clothes while he dumps them in the washer! It's little things that, over some time (and sometimes even noticed immediately) will help rectify her behavior. Believe me, I KNOW how hard it is to find extra time to really focus, even for 20 minutes, on your kid. You have dinner to cook, laundry to wash, homework, work work, etc, and for the love of god when do I get to relax a little? just have to try to give her more of your special mom time and some positive reinforcement too. If she's playing nicely, tell her how happy it makes you when she plays so nice, or says things like please and thank you, or what a good little helper she is. You'll make her feel good because she'll know she has pleased you!

She is only 3...she's not going to stop not listening to you. Just do more to notice when she is behaving, and try to do more with her, give her more positive attention. Good luck!

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answers from Indianapolis on

Dear C.,

What this sounds like is that she is trying her bounderies with both of you. And it may sound strange but she is getting the attention she needs when she it talking hateful to you. While it may be early to think that she may have ADHD, you should seek professional help. It may be something else.

Because if you are giving her the attention she is needing then definitely look to someone professional that can give her the help that she may need. What worries me is that she isn't responding to the praise. All children need that. I know. I had a bad relationship, but I tried my best to leave my daughter out of it. She is what I call a "Trooper", she tries to be strong, even though she is a child. And at night, I can see that. At times, she wants to talk when she is going to bed. Professional help has helped some with this, but I still know to watch for it. So look at both of you, and see if it could be something that you and her dad are doing with each other. Again, professional help will help to identify those areas that you maybe overlooking.

But on an up note, hurray! That both you and her father are keeping consistent with punishment. I couldn't get my Ex to do that all the time. But keep on trying to find out what is bothering her, if that is the problem. But keep it in a child way. At least she can try to tell you what is going on. But keep an open mind. And try to understand it from her view. Some things may need to be explained. Things maybe going on that she doesn't understand and it could be scaring her. To an adult, it may be nothing. But to a child, it could be disturbing, especially if they don't understand.

Try your best. You are trying. And that's all anyone can do. Keep working with her and things will work out. :-) I wish you all the best. And Happy Holidays! I yours is a joyful one.

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