Mom of a Three Year Old Needs Help

Updated on October 06, 2006
C.M. asks from Havertown, PA
13 answers

Any suggestions for a once calm, easy going little boy now a raging 3 year old who fights me on everything! I am a believer in routine to a degree and have noticed that he is asserting his independance about everything! example...fights me to take clothes off and get in tub or shower then fights me about getting OUT of tub or shower. I tried offering options, I have tried letting him get it out of his system but he seems super stuborn. Any good advice here? Very frustraited.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for the great advice. We are doing a bit better and know that I can not loose my patience during one of these situations. If I feel myself loosing patience now I walk away when I can and let him cry it out.

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answers from Allentown on

Hey C.,

I really don't know why they call it the "terrible twos", three is far worse in my opinion. It really is a phase. I went through it with my daughter who will be 4 tomorrow. I think they are just testing their limits.

Unfortuantely, we are the adults and sometimes have to lay the law down. Timeouts worked sometimes, but taking something away seem to work better. eg. the TV, computer, a toy whatever.

Good luck to you! It does get better!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Dover on


You sound like you are describing my son to a tee! He is three years old, too, and EXTREMELY independent. He insists on opening and closing all doors himself, everything is "I can do it!" I was having real behavioral difficulties with him, but lately things have gotten better. I try to give him choices frequently. IE, I let him choose between two outfits in the morning, two types of jelly on his sandwitch, let him pick the direction when we are taking a walk. I've also established a list of house rules that we have posted in several places. I included about 6 easy to understand rules that I felt were most important. (Be a good listener, no screaming at another person, hitting or biting, say please, thank you, excuse me, etc.) If he breaks the rules I give him an instant 3 minute time out. However, if he listens to the rules he gets a marble. He saves his marble and can trade them in for treats and privledges. I start with small things at 5 marbles and work up to progressively bigger privledges and treats. He always has the option of saving or spending. Today we are going to Chuck E Cheese because he saved 20 marbles. :)

I think the real key is to give him more positive attention then negative attention. If he is behaving well, I now make it a point to make eye contact, tell him how proud I am of him, and give him an hug. When he is misbehaving I stay calm and ignore him during his time out. Things have gotten SO MUCH better for us. We still have rough days, but in general we are much happier.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

He is testing you, and he is waiting for you to break down....Dont do it...Be firm, and stick to what you know best...Women are strong, women know how to deal with alot....Dont let him bring you down...Tell him what you expect to be done, and if it is not done, he suffers the consequences....Plain and simple...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on


3 year olds are tough...especially boys. There are days that I wish for the terrible two's back. Logan has the same problems, but I just stick to the schedule and routine and he knows tha tthere are consequences. His big thing is crying hysterically at bed time. I just keep him moving and try not to let it affect me at all. If he chooses to show his truely stubborn side, i will pick him up and carry him to where he needs to be and this lets him know that i am in charge, I make the rules...not him.
Having a 6 year old has let me see first hand that this will pass so it does help on those days when I feel as if i am at the end of my rope.



answers from Harrisburg on

Hi C.,

Sounds like you too have a strong willed child. My daughter is 4 1/2 and around 3 she started showing her true colors. I too and very routine person and my daughter works well with routines. Consistancy is key at this age. Do not let him dictate how things are going to be. If you hold up and hold out you will prevail in the end. There are good christian books on the market today for parents of strong willed children if you are a reader. Hope I could help you.

Also, feel free to check out my personal business website. I ship / deliver to you for free.

Keep up the great work being a mom,
B. sue A.



answers from Salt Lake City on

My three-year-old daughter and I are going through this battle right now as well. And it seems like she always knows when I'm trying to be on time somewhere, because that's when she's at her worst! :) I have found a few things that help, at least to get us where we're going reasonably on time.

1. Distract her with a side issue.

Since she's keen on battling about *everything* right now, I often give her a side issue to battle about, while I quietly go on with the real problem. For example, if I'm desperate to get her clothes on her, I may distract her with a discussion about what we ought to have for breakfast. "Toast?" No! "Cereal?" No! Meanwhile, I am quietly helping her to step into her pants and put on her shirt.

2. Let her win sometimes.

Some things just aren't as important as others. There are plenty of times when what my daughter wants and what I want differ, but when it really won't hurt anything to let her have her way. After all, we want our children to grow into responsible, independent adults, and that means they need a bit of independence now. Sometimes that means that I take my daughter shopping in some outragious outfits, but big deal. As long as she's not trying to wear shorts in the snow, it probably won't hurt anything. That way, I can save my strength for the battles that really do matter.

3. Find excuses to praise her.

This growing up thing is hard work, and even when our children are fighting with us, they still need the reassurance that they're doing okay and that they're loved. Of course it won't always seem like it's helping--sometimes I'll tell my little girl that she's pretty and she'll say, very obstinately, "No, I'm cute!" Still, I think that it balances out the times when I need to be firm and set down the law.

4. Take an occasional holiday

I know, easier said than done, but if you can manage it, do it! Last week I had to appear for jury duty, so my husband and a babysitter got to take our daughter. That day was a godsend! I spent all day happily reading my novel, and when I finally got home, my husband told me about how difficult she had been, and how hard it was for him to get to work on time. I just smiled.

Good luck.



answers from Philadelphia on

I say stick to what has worked. My experience tells me that kids will try you at all ages. Bet it hasn't been that long since you were a child didn't you try your mom? If routine is what you feel is best stick to it. He can say what is on his mind respectfully but you are the law.



answers from Washington DC on

Hi, C.. I'm Mimi.

Perhaps you've tried this, but my suggestion is to imitate his behavior, in other words create a game with him, since that is the game he wants to play!

Also, you could play a game like rescue the animals, where he could rescue his bath time toys from the water. (You could go into or near the bathroom once the water has been run and use funny play voices imitating the bath characters. which may make it fun for him.) Use can use hand puppets too.

Play favorite songs just like the clean up song when it's time to get kids to clean up.

Also, I recently saw something interesting in the store. It's a sort of bathe time crayon where kids can draw on the sides of the tub, but it is washable, but don't get it on clothing. I think it's a little tougher to get out. Let me know how this goes!



answers from Allentown on

I wish I had advice to offer you - but I am in the exact same situation! My son will be three on Halloween and he is at times the sweetest, most polite and charming kid. However, lately, he fights me on ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. He is super sweet if he is doing exactly what he wants to do, but if he is asked/told to do something he does not want to (come inside, go to the potty, brush teeth, get dressed, get undressed, I could go on!) or not to do something he wants to do (not to have a treat right now, not to touch something, not to open the front door, go to the potty, etc) he becomes downright nasty. He screams, kicks, tantrums...

I have tried the same tactics as you - redirection, offering options - and just nothing is working. I have just decided that he needs to learn the lesson that What mom or dad says, goes, even if you don't like it. It's not the way I intended to parent, but I worry that some day he might be running towards the street when a car is coming and just scream "no" and continue on when I tell him to stop, which is pretty much what he does with most everything. He has been getting a lifetime's worth of kicking and screaming time-outs, which don't seem to change the behavior (and honestly make me feel horrible), but I am hoping that it teaches him that it is unacceptable, that there is a consequence when he doesn't cooperate, and, maybe, in time, it will start having SOME effect to make these behaviors stop.

Honestly, I really think it is the age and the temperment and, in time (hopefully quickly passing time) will pass. I hope out of all this you know that your kid is not the only one doing exactly this at this age! Let me know if you find anything that works!!




answers from Philadelphia on

Does your little boy have an anger problem? It sounds to me that he's upset about something. I have a 7 year old daughter and she acts kinda in the same way. When she flips out; she takes her clothes off and she likes throwing stuff down the stairs. My daughter's sister has ADHD and I'm not sure if my daughter would have that or not so that's why we're getting her tested. Did he ever get tested for anything? You might want to decide on getting him tested if he keeps acting up like that; just to be sure that he has nothing serious. I wish you the best. Take care and God Bless!



answers from Philadelphia on

hi C.,
I was just telling my sister in law who is going through the same thing.....3 yrs old is the worst. been through it twice now and I feel your pain! The only thing that I can offer is to stick to a routine,don't bribe him,and don't loose your cool every five minutes. Stay calm using the same tone with him and no matter how much he fights you on every day things just dress him and don't speak to him, put him in the bath and don't offer a fight with him, take him out, and don't fight w him. if you give him no attention to his fights he will realize that it's no fun to fight with himself! The more you fight back and yell the worst it gets . Good luck



answers from Allentown on

Hi C.!

As a mom of 2 children (8yo and 13yo) and a home daycare provider- its been my experience when dealing with this type of behavior, to let the child know he has choices, but with the wrong choices, their are consequences.

For example:

If your child doesnt' want to take a bath when you ask, you tell him that's fine, but he'll have to sit in time out and do nothing for 10minutes ( or however long you do it) Then when he comes out you try again, if he still refuses then you up the anty: no tv then no computer, then no play time with daddy and so on. Keep reminding him that he was given a choice- and this is what he chose. When you ask him to get undressed for a bath and he refuses- you can say something like " Well, okay if that's your choice- but you'll have to sit in time out for 10minutes. Are you sure you don't want to change your mind?" When he gives you a hard time coming out of the bath- turn off the water, drain the tub and let him sit there until he realized that being wet and cold is no fun!! But- give him a choice. " I understand you don't want to come out, but bath time is over so if you choose not to come out of the tub, then you'll have to sit there with no water or towel."

I would also give him some small chores to do around the house to make him feel that he's in control of himself. Give him a laundry basket full of socks and ask him to help you fold the socks. Ask him to help you put napkins on the dinner table etc... And praise him for helping you and making the choice to be helpful.

Good Luck!! And remember- this phase won't last long once he realizes he has some choices to make!!



answers from Pittsburgh on

I have an (almost) 2 1/2 year old girl who is giving me the same troubles. She's a great kid & then all of a sudden seems to "rear her ugly head." She's a generally good listener who likes to help mommy - but she definitely knows how to push my buttons. It takes forever to get her moving - especially when you are in a hurry - like needing to leave for daycare & work - & she won't get out of the car, won't go into the house when your arms are full of everyone's things from the day, won't get in the cart at the store, won't wash her face, brush her teeth, let you change her diaper - the list goes on & on. I feel your pain! Lol! I have been reading various books on discipline from the library. One thing I have learned is to ask her, "Are you being a good listener?" She stops & thinks - "No!" Sometimes that is enough to turn her around as she knows that if she is not she's going to lose some privilege. If that does not work I give her two chices - you may do "this" or "that" - sometimes a choice & feeling like they have made up their own mind will do it. Lastly I will tell her that she is going to lose something because she is not being a good listener & doing what mommy askes. EX: "Lambie cannot go to daycare with you today because you will not brush your teeth." Once I physically pick up the toy & place it away from her this usually gets a more helpful reaction. I know these things sound simple, but we've been working on them & they are starting to take effect. I hope some of this will help...

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