I Feel like a Yoyo...

Updated on October 26, 2009
P.R. asks from Newport, KY
13 answers

My 3-year-old and I are having multiple episodes daily of "I
want" when I give it to him, he doesn't want. For example, before bed, he will
say read to me mama. I start to read to him, and then he says don't read.
Earlier today he wanted a flosser. He chose red. I gave him red and he said no,
blue. If I give him blue, then he says no, red. These are just two examples. It
is constant with nearly everything you can think of. If he wants to play or eat
or you name it. The constant back and forth is driving me crazy. He has a fit if he can't switch. But, if I let him switch, he has another fit because he wants to switch back. I don't know how to get this under control. Ideas please?

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So What Happened?

Thanks, Ladies! I think I just needed a reminder of things. Also, to realize that some of the ambivalence was mine. I think on some level I was empathizing too much. You know how when you choose one thing, and you immediately feel "Oh, I should have have chosen the other one." I hate that feeling, and I think that is why I would give him the inch, and he, of course, then wanted the foot. I think I will have to go more in the direction that Jenny has and just eliminate the choices. The fits just aren't worth it for me at this point. We will try choices again later.

Featured Answers



answers from Cleveland on

Let him throw the fit! Make him make a choice and tell him he has to stick with whatever he chooses. This is nothing more than a power struggle. Once he makes a choice, make him stick w/ it! If he throws a fit...ignore him. Tell him he made his choice!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Columbus on


I don't mean to laugh, but this is exactly what my children are pulling on me lately. It makes me chuckle a bit and I'll share a story my Mother In Law shared with me.

My dear sweet patient husband who I love without limits tried the same thing with her. Two and a half years old, in a high chair and the battle was 'white milk, chocolate milk'. Now, my wonderful mother in law - who I call Mom, she's so great - went patiently back and forth, back and forth bringing the two different cups to the high chair. Finally, she dumped the cup on his head. We tease my husband about it to this day.

Now, I am not suggesting anything so drastic, but this amazingly patient and loving woman went through the same problems you and I are having and handled it with no further arguements from her son.

Let your son know you're not a waiter, short-order cook, butler and have him stand by his choice. No arguements. No anger. No emotion. Just 'that's that', you made your choice. Walk away if you have to.

I have started taking away the options. No more "do you kids want water or milk, I just bring what I bring and that's it. If they don't like it, I calmly take the drink away. No more "do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt" I just bring them what they're wearing. And that's that.

When they can start making choices again without the yo yo effect, I will open the door up a bit on their choices.

And if all else fails, dump milk on his head.

Good luck,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Wayne on

This is what I've heard referred to as a "dance". You're totally falling right into your 3 year old son's hands. If he says he was a blue flosser, say "say please". Then give it to him. If he says "no red" than say "Nope, you asked for blue" and walk away. You are basically arguing with a 3 year old, which is something that if you realize, you'll also realize that it's silly to do since he's 3, and he's not going to have the capability to compromise, understand your side of the story, or know when to back down. All a 3 year old wants to do during an argument is get their way. YOU ARE IN CONTROL, don't forget that. Take a stand with him. If he throws a fit, so what???? Let him throw a fit, you can't give into a child just so they don't throw a fit, and you can't allow a behavior just because he may throw a fit if you don't allow it. Parenting isn't easy, so normally the hard way is the right way.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

When each of my children went thru this stage this is what I did. At the very beginning, when the FIRST decision is being made, remind him that HE is the one making the decision, and he will have to live with it, there is NO changing your mind in a minute. Ask him 'are you sure, there's no deciding you want something different after I get you the blue one' etc. I am still working on it with the youngest, who will be three in a few weeks. I believe it is important to teach our children about consequences; and living with a decision after it has been made is the consequence of having made the decision. That's how life is, and being taught that reality at 3 is probably easier than learning it later from someone who doesn't even care about you, much less love you! I hope this makes sense and good luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

Kids need boundaries and are happier with them. With boundaries come consequences. He may not be happy at first but if you are firm and not give in to his every want, then he will quickly learn this and be smarter about what he chooses. I believe there are too many kids today that are given much of what they want because parents want to please them and don't want their kids to not like them. Unfortunately, this is not a wise way to raise our children.
Good luck with your journey!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

with my kids, if they don't say thank you and take it than i take it away. they soon settle for the other color or whatever (after they scream a bit... but it didn't take too long for them to figure out that i'm not their servant--i'm their mother they better show a little gratitude and respect) my daughter went thru a pink phase at the table-- her bowl, spoon, cup HAD to be pink! sometimes i'd get her a yello one, and it was sooo sad.... but i didn't give into her whining and if she complained i'd just take away her food. after a while she decided every color was her favorite and now it's not an issue!

for bedtime, maybe a very predictable routine would help--- brush teeth, pjs on, read books, lights out. instead of letting him pick when/if you read books...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

Congratulations! You have a perfectly normal three year-old. He's testing your limits and learning how to push your buttons. If there's a choice between A. and B. when he wants something, let him make his decision Then, when he says no, remind him that he made the choice and he can try the other option the next time. He will learn that you are the mom, and that you have limits.



answers from Indianapolis on

We have a 3 year-old, too. It's a constant battle of wills. At the end of the day, you are the parent. Part of this stage in their life is learning boundaries - you have to be the one to set them. Of course, pick your battles. But be consistent. They will forgive us for not giving them everything they want. They need to learn that they can't always have their way. Even when they're upset with us, they still desperately love and need us (as well as us for them).

Good luck!



answers from Indianapolis on

He is testing you big time.
Give him a choice and INSIST that he stick with his first choice.
The more you waffle the more he will try to exert his control over you, with the result that he will be the one in the family who is running the whole show.
Do not let this happen.
Also, I recimmend the book RAISING BOYS by Dr. James Dobson.



answers from Dayton on

I think at this age it's alot about flexing muscles. For one thing, there is power in choice. For another there is power in telling you what to do and watching you do it. Power is a heady thing for anyone, but especially for a young child that for the most part is powerless over almost everything in his/her life.

I think you have to set boundaries, but I think it also helps if you give him choices at every opportunity. Set out two outfits on his bed and let him choose. Set out two books and let him choose. Set out both flossers and let him choose. I mean actually pick up the one he wants. I agree that before he picks you need to let him know that HIS choice is final. "When you pick your clothes the other ones are going to be put away and you can wear them tomorrow if you want." "When you pick your flosser the other one is going away until tomorrow." If he decides he doesn't want you to read anymore say "That's your choice, but if I close the book I am not going to ready anymore today and we will have to read tomorrow."

Let him know the limits before he chooses. Give him the power to choose in everything you can down to the color of cup he drinks from. The more power you give him, the less he will try to grab from you.

Also three is old enough to start time out for fits. He has words, and if you tell him to use them and the words he can use, and he still refuses I think a time to calm down is in order.



answers from Cincinnati on

I have the same issues with my 3 and a half year old, though your seems a little worse. I too am 40 and waited a long time to have him. Since he will be my only child I have to do it "right". I pretty much give him a choice and if he doesn't want it I just take it away, This usually results in a high pitched scream and tears. What I have to work on is my reaction. I tend to not be patient and yell sometimes (father's temper) I feel like I need to offer him a choice of 2, and if I pick for him or when I only have one thing to give him (out of the other) he can have a fit too. I guess its being 3. I will be interested to hear other Mom's stories.



answers from Youngstown on

Surely the back and forth is difficult. The childs behavior is in reality doing nothing to us. We react because we are in a hurry or other reason. a child needs to know he has choice in a world where adults make most all the decisions and are changing their minds a lot as well. One approach is to say "you can switch colors as much as you like but by the time the light goes off you need to be ready to leave the bathroom and head to your room for story time." take his game to the next place you need him to go. since you are in charge and keeping the pace of the bedtime routine he gets a much smaller time frame in which to explore decison and indecision. Three-4 year olds are exploring so much. They are not going to give us the adult response we sometimes need.



answers from Toledo on

P....Make the choice for the poor little one and stick to it or nothing...it will take some time to get use to but he will learn accountablity in the long run. This is about the big picture...now you are teaching him control tactics instead of responsibility of his choices. Good Luck

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