Help with My 3 Yo

Updated on May 06, 2009
S.A. asks from Rice, MN
14 answers

I am at my witts and with my almost 3 year old son. I do not know what to do anymore with his behavior. I feel like I am not in control, also I am 33 weeks pregnant. He does not listen, he hits and screams and throws a tantrum at least a couple times a day. He also is having problems at daycare with not having nice touches. Please help not sure what to do anymore. Timsouts not working and taking privelages away not working. I just want my sweet boy back.

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answers from Omaha on

I would recommend the catching him being good idea. We have tryied that recently with out boys (4&8) I can tell a big change overall.

We have a glass jar and colored rocks, everytime that I catch them being good or they listen the first time they get a rock in their jar. then we came up with a list of rewards such as extra movie time, or picking a game to play with mom or dad, a veggie free meal, 30 minute later bedtime, that they could trade x amount of rocks for. Basicly it is an allowance with out money and they have to earn the rocks with good behavior.

we still do timeouts for the really bad stuff but for the most part we try to ignore the bad behaivor and emphisis the good.

We haven't done it yet but after they are used to the idea we are going to start taking rocks out for really bad behavior- like hitting, throwing temper tantrums, or refusing to do something they were asked.

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answers from Bismarck on

Dear S.--You must be so frustrated with this stage! It is difficult to decide which punishments to try when nothing seems to be working. One thing we work REALLY hard at our house is catching our boys being good and PRAISING them for it--even if it is something really small!! You might be surprised the pleasure and good behavior that results from boosting your son's confidence and letting him know that you noticed. I had to work really hard at this--I expect my boys to be good and don't expect to have to tell them about it. But it has really been eye opening for me. I know this doesn't help the behavior situation when it does happen, but maybe it will help to think about it from a different angle. Good luck with your new baby, too!



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi S.!
I understand right where you're at...I have a 3 year old and am due in June with our 2nd child as well. You've already received alot of good advice. I'm just adding that it has helped us to focus more on and reward my son's good behavior as well. We have used a sticker chart, etc...for every time my son exemplifies "good behavior" (i.e. gets ready for bed without a tantrum, listens/does what I ask the first time, etc) he gets a small sticker on a chart where he can see it, then after so many stickers earned he gets a reward (for example, he just got to get a Curious George game that he really wanted). Just use whatever motivates your son. My son's behavior isn't perfect, and we still have to use some time-outs, but it is SO much better than it was!



answers from Davenport on

You've probably already gotten a lot of advice, but I wanted to recommend a very easy to read and follow book called, "1-2-3 Magic, Discipline for 2-12 yr olds" by Thomas W. Phelan, PhD. My son is also 3 (I am 29weeks pregnant) and since I've started using his system, I feel better and more in control and he hates it because he knows nothing he does will get him what he wants = an end to all the hitting and whining and attempts at arguments. I know you've said time outs don't work, they didn't really for me either. This is a little different spin on the how to's and REALLY makes a difference. There's not spanking involved, which is great cause that only seems to make me feel bad and him feel like hitting back. Sweet, Simple, and to the point! Seriously give this a try!



answers from Milwaukee on

Not sure what to suggest but wanted to let you know you are not alone. My 3 year old daughter has a constant attitude. She begs all day every day to have playdates and as soon as someone comes over she acts beastly towards them and totally embarrases me and stresses me out. We, too, are dealing with CONSTANT time-outs that seem to have absolutely no impact and I feel like pulling my hair out on most days! I am feeling your pain!



answers from St. Cloud on

I feel like you copied my request from just a few months heart goes out to you! My son was identical to what you are describing. The responses that I received were so comforting and supportive - I'll join in with the others to say that it is normal and that it does get better. My son will be 4 in a couple of weeks and his behavior is just now starting to turn around. One thing that I did do was talk to the school's occupational therapist. We found with my son that he is a very sensory kid and was having a difficult time figuring out how to release his energy appropriately...she has given us a "chewy" necklace and it has made a WORLD of difference. That may be one option for you. Also, having a small trampoline at home or having your husband (not you being so pregnant) sit on the floor with him in his lap and "hold" him in a bear hug until he finds his control. He just may be getting over stimulated and doesn't know how to release that built up energy. If you would like to talk more about this, let me know!



answers from Minneapolis on

I TOTALLY hear you on this! My almost 3 year old is the same way, so don't feel a lone. I try my best to direct his frustration and give him chores to do, help mommy, play outside, and just redirect any negative behavior. We do use time outs and recently began using a dab of soap in the mouth with the sassy mouth. It works. I hate it, I hate disciplining, but that is what they need. They look for discipline, routine, and consistent expectations. Hang in there! Our Pastor told us 3 and 13 are the toughest ages due to new freedoms!



answers from Minneapolis on

I just scanned the other answers, and it looks like you got some good advice already, but I just had one thought. My 3-year-old son has always been a handful (I like to say he was born two years old). Some time ago I took a class based on the book "Transforming the Difficult Child." And the premise of the system is that you don't reward misbehavior with strong emotional responses; you reward proper behavior that way. So overreact to good behavior (gentle touches, listening, putting things away) with extreme praise, etc. And when they don't listen or misbehave, you very calmly and quietly go through the consequences, whether that's putting them in time out or taking away a toy or whatever it happens to be. If you want to, you can certainly get the book and try to use the entire system. But I have found a big difference, just incorporating the ideas there. He has also developed habit of responding with "I'm not going to," when I tell him to do something, which drives me absolutely up the wall. So one thing I've been doing lately is telling him calmly that I'm not going to fight with him; he can listen or I can put him in time out. That's been helping a lot because I don't get sucked into an escalating fight with him.

One last thing about time outs: you may want to experiment with different kinds of time outs, depending on what motivates him. Some kids will respond to having a designated time out chair or other place. Some kids need to be confined, either in a playpen or on your lap (I'm not talking about restraining them in a way that is painful or dangrous, of course, just holding them by the waist on your lap, for example, so they can't leave until the time out is over). And when my son gets time out, it's in his room. He likes to play there most of the time, but being told he has to be there is enough to make him pretty mad and works as a deterrent. Good luck!



answers from Madison on

Thanks so much for writing! It's great to hear others' stories and know you're not alone. I am 36 wks pregnant with a wonderful and challenging 3 yr old - in your boat and totally sympathizing. The costant testing of boundaries, frequent whining and tantrums, compounded by my increasing tiredness and lack of patience was a toxic combo. I am lucky enough to be at home this pregnancy and manage to take naps occasionally, but am battling some insomnia while at the same time my husband's been having to work late/extra hours and hasn't been able to to contribute as much as normal.

The worst came a couple of weeks ago where within the space of 4 hours my normally sweet, beautiful, smart, fun son sent an umbrella through a screen door, finger painted with poop all over the bathroom, during his nap tore the sheets and blankets off his bed along with his clothes, and ripped all the pages out of a book.

I'd tried hugs and calm re-stating of boundaries and expectations and timeouts until I was worn down. Then descended to yanking and yelling which didn't help at all; just made him escalate and me feel both guilty and incompetent. But then the ripping incident sent me right over the edge. In an icey rage I took all of his books away for a couple of days which actually did have an impact. But what helped the most had less to do with him than me. I told friends and family and anyone who'd listen what a hard time we were having and heard their stories and suggestions. This took my stress level down a lot, things mellowed down and within a couple of days both of our moods improved incredibly.

I know that the testing and questioning is normal, necessary and age-appropriate. And as he understands more about boundaries and challengess them it's got to be very frustrating to not be able do what he wants. It's also normal for us moms to get angry and tired of all the manipulation. Unfortunately:) I'm the adult in the situation and have to try to model appropriate behavior even when, or especially when, frustrated.

I can also tell that I am pulling away from him a little too; encouraging him to do more on his own to ready him, while also rushing to get everything finished and prepared before the baby comes. That's got to be hard for him. I'm sure that he can also sense our uncertainty amidst the excitement about the upcoming change. Just when he needs more patience and reassurance, here I am jealously guarding what little autonomy I have before an infant joins us!

So sorry for the long blab fest:) You've gotten lots of advice; but just keep trying to be patient, remind yourself that this stage too will pass, try to get as much rest as possible and be kind and forgiving to yourself and your toddler.

best wishes,



answers from Duluth on

its almost like he senses hes going to 'lose' his mama you know? try to be understanding, try to be patient. this is typical behavior, though you dont have to put up with it. dont let him get away with it, not ever. make rules and stick to them like glue. the more he gets by with here and there, the more hes going to test you ..... ;P
good luck



answers from Milwaukee on

My husband and I are feeling the EXACT same way with our 2.5 year old boy. We just discussed this morning that our follow through needs to be quicker and more consistant.

We too count to "3" -- and up until 2 weeks/month ago this worked like a charm. Now our son waits to see what happens and then reacts when we move to take him to time out. If we do try and give him "another chance" after we already hit "3" he pushes things further to see what we'll do.

This is our first child so I can DEFINETLY say I am frustrated. We are having issues at bed-time, nap-time and with the word "NO" specifically. Not to mention all the little things through out the day.

Hang in there. It will get better.



answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter is 3 and I am also due in June and I have noticed her behavior has been worse lately. I think a lot of it has to do with the pregnancy and her not being sure about what is going on. I think she knows things are changing but because her brother isn't here yet there is nothing tangible. She is worse for me than for my husband and I think that is because I am slower to react now that I am a big prego person. I have been counting her.. 1,2,3 time out but since I don't move as fast or don't pick her up as much she is starting to ignore me because I am lacking follow thru. I am working on being more consitant with her, this might be what your son is picking up on too. About daycare I'm not sure. I have been reading a lot of child discipline books lately. I really like "How to make kids mind without loosing yours" and "1,2,3 Magic" both have things that I am trying to incorperate. I think the biggest thing is consitancy and I know I have been behind in that as I get more exhausted everyday. Books work well with my daughter so maybe a book on other people's feelings or playing nice mught help him at daycare. has he been at this daycare long? Maybe he is uncomfortable there and that is why he is acting up? I hope this helps some and I totally understand your pains!



answers from Minneapolis on

You might want to also read my response to today's post by Jamie as there is some info in there that might apply to you as well. But specific to your situation, you need to take a hard look at the daycare setting and whether it is appropriate for your son. Some hitting and rough behavior is normal at this age but if it is getting way out of the norm like it did for our son then there are some underlying issues.

Read up on sensory processing disorder (SPD) because for kids with this, the typical daycare setting is a torture chamber.We ended up having to pull our son out of daycare for this reason and I am soooo glad we did. We also sought occupational therapy which made a huge difference in our lives.

Personally I found that punishment based life with my son only blew up in my face and made everything worse. We started focusing on love flooding when things were really bad (giving tons of hugs and snuggle time that are not dependent on behavior), talking about expectations for behavior ahead of time, making sure all sensory needs were satisfied, and respect for the fact that they are still little kids at age 3 and have a hard time understanding let alone remembering all our rules and expectations (they are still very idea pops into their brain and they act without being able to reason it through to the end result).

Teaching kids to start recognizing their emotions and how to deal with them in a positive manner is much more productive than sticking them in a time-out corner and hugely more productive than spanking. Time-outs can be used but they should not be used in a way to be punitive, instead they should be seen by the child as a way for them to get control of their emotions so that then you can process the problem together.



answers from Davenport on

I have a 3 yr old daughter. We use vinegar on the tongue when she's being sassy or bossy or talking back- usually just the threat of it is enough to stop the behavior. We also use a "jewel jar"- kind of like the previous postor using the rocks. If she's good she gets to put a "jewel"(we use those decorative glass rocks)in the good jar and if she's bad she has to take a jewel out. When the jar is full, she gets a reward- right now she's waiting on a pair of cowboy boots. I've also started taking away "things"- special dolls, toys, anything of importance to her will get a time out for a few days. One word of warning, I wish someone would have told me- I have a 10 week old son and her behavior during my maternity leave was awful- I couldn't wait for her to go back to daycare. I wish I would have started working on her behavior/discipline techniques before the baby arrived, because it didn't get any better once he was here and I was unable to truly enjoy my being off work with the new baby. If at all possible, when you are on maternity leave, send your older child to his daycare a couple days a week. It will give you a break and he will enjoy spending time with his friends and teachers away from home.

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