My 3 Year Old Little Girl Has an Attitude and Thinks She Is the Boss!

Updated on January 01, 2011
M.G. asks from Miamisburg, OH
17 answers

My daughter is 3 years and 4 months old she is an extremely smart and a happy child. But she has an attidtude and trys to run the house. My husband and I have tried many different forms of discapline from taking away a certin toy to putting in her time out chair for 2 miniutes. When she starts acting out and talking back almost screaming it. For example tonight she was laying in her room during bed time. She hears me on the computer and says I am trying to sleep turn it off! Is this just a girl thing where they get an attitude and think they are a diva/boss? Any advice on how to disapline or get a 3 year old like her to listen and not try to boss people around would be wonderful. Thanks

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answers from Philadelphia on

I have a 3 yr old too-and an older child and can tell you that this behavior is fairly normal at this age. However, that doesn't make it acceptable. I let my little guy know that it is not ok to speak to me that way or to act that way. One thing that seems to help the most is to point out his good behavior. When he is acting the way I want him too, I try to let him know and praise him for it. It seems to help the most for me.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Wow. I haven't read the other answers yet.
I don't think the 2-minute time-outs or taking a toy away is working here.

When you have a nice quiet everything-is-fine moment,
you need to sit down with her for a BIG GIRL CONVERSATION.

Before you do this, you'll need to think/plan ahead of time w/DH
just WHAT you want, what needs to change, etc.

you're going to tell her that from now on
this kind of screaming (and whatever other behavior)
will no longer be tolerated in your home.

Your home will be a quiet, well-mannered home
where everyone treats everyone else with respect and dignity.
You understand that this will be a big change for her
so you're going to give her opportunities to learn new ways
to speak and behave.

And, in this BIG GIRL CONVERSATION, you will demonstrate
various ways of speaking politely, asking for things (please and thank you), etc. You will help her learn this new way of being.
Also, you'll explain to her how much happier everyone will be
from now on after you have all switched
to this new way of treating one another.

And then, still in this BIG GIRL CONVERSATION,
you'll do a little practice session.
Set up various situations and have her practice with you.

I think I'll stop here and see what the other moms have advised.

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answers from Honolulu on

You either let her act that way, or you don't.
Many kids, at that age, are like that.
Mine included. They are both very bright imaginative outspoken articulate and wise kids.
But NOW is the time... to teach them MANNERS, how to talk, boundaries, right/wrong, and if they can or cannot "boss" YOU around.

Once a child is older, say 5 years old... this type of behavior... is NO longer "cute" nor.... excusable. And, by this age they are in school.... acting like this or not, too.

So... you choose... what to teach your kid at this age juncture and phase... picking your battles etc.

Being a "Diva" at any age... to me... is NOT cute. Nor an indication of how successful a child or adult is.

You show your kid limits/rules/consequences... and do it consistently.
No yelling needed. Just consistency... and follow through.... keeping things... age appropriate.

all the best,

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answers from Austin on

You could ask her to use "polite words." Please. thank you, etc.. we do this in our home for every transaction. it comes naturally to us, because we have always spoken this way..

Also a "smarty pants tone" can be treated like whining.

"I do not understand your tone."
"Please say that again using your regular voice.. "
"Please go to your room and find your regular voice."

If your sounds bother her, close her door, or purchase a sound machine for her room.. She sound like a hoot!.. I am sending your strength..

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answers from Portland on

Mmmm, exceedingly common in the age group. Kids are little tape recorders, and they record what they hear from the god-like adults in their lives and play back their own childish version thereof. It ends up sounding sassy and bossy and loaded with attitude. It can be sobering to realize where they got that from in the first place.

Parents who are polite toward their children usually hear politeness back. But many of us just parent the way we were parented ourselves, flinging demands and snapping out orders to our kids and expecting instant compliance.

If you'd like to try an approach that has lots of positive research behind it, you can probably eliminate diva attitudes from your house in a few weeks at most, and replace it with thoughtful kindness. I'm NOT advising pushover parenting, but rather a practical, empathetic approach that takes your needs AND your child's into account. If this interests you, find a copy of the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish.

This workshop-between-covers is oozing with real-life examples of how real, everyday parents made positive, empathetic connections with their children and got unexpectedly great results. By the end of each chapter, you'll be equipped to put the lessons to work in your own family. I can't recommend this gem highly enough.

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answers from Bellingham on

Oh boy is this part of the age! It isn't just your daughter, it's most kids, especially around this age. I think it's because they're learning what they can and can't control. They have this huge amount of emotion rolling in them and they have yet to acquire the tools necessary to deal with and acceptably express those emotions.

I've got a daughter working her way through the same stage, and while I don't have wise words of easy answers I will say - be patient with her and with you! Remember that while she's learning to cope with those emotions (and you're trying to teach her that) you're learning to cope with her! One of the things we do with our daughter is that we expect to receive and to give respect. We all have feelings and whether it's a Mommy talking to a kid or a kid talking to a Mommy there is a measure of respect that is imparative for a healthy relationship. Something we find that works most times is we refuse to resond to any rude demands eg "Mommy, turn of that computer RIGHT NOW!" is ignored completely, however "Mommy, could you please stop until I'm asleep" is met with praise and often a "yes". If we can't answer yes, we praise for the words and explain the answer. It takes a lot of reminding but it's helping us both. In return, I do my best not to demand things of her "Put your toys away now" and instead, "please put your toys away" to show the same respect.

At the end of the day (when I'm often haggered and exhausted from praising, helping, punishing and loving) I want to raise children who are strong, willing to voice their opinions and stand up for what is right, who know how to respect those around them and who, in turn are given respect back. I remind myself of that as I bang my head against the wall and it all feels a little better :-)

Good luck! Hang in there, it's just a phase and remember, no matter what you do, if you love her and we know you do then that makes you a GREAT MOM and you're doing your best!!!!

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answers from Redding on

I'm not sure it's a girl thing. Kids are either given the chance to think they are the "boss" or they aren't.
I know a little boy who was so bossy that his grandmother called him "The Judge".
That kid thought he needed to tell everyone what to do, where to sit, when to eat. It really wasn't cute.
His parents allowed it though and couldn't really figure out how he became that way.
Your daughter is still little. There's time for you to teach her that her job is to worry about what SHE is doing and not telling others what to do.
It's her job to be in bed asleep and it doesn't matter what mom and dad are doing. It's not her problem or worry and she doesn't get to say what you do. It's not nice.

If your daughter is really super smart and I have no doubt she is, a two minute time out might not be enough for her.

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answers from Las Vegas on

I'd say it's a learned behavior... Most of what my boys do and act If I really think alot of times is something I've acted out or done, however it is still no acceptable and the child needs to know it's role no matter the gender! You called your daughter a diva, I've called my the man of the house, lol but I have had to set boundaries. And I would never let either of my children or neices speak to me that way, I do too much for them and sacrifice too much to be treated poorly by them, I want to enjoy them. Honestly your not doing her any favors by letter her act that way, if it bothered you enough to ask ab it here, think ab how society will like her-not that we are completely adapting tonplease society BUT you don't want to train her to be a menace to society either...

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answers from Pocatello on

haha k this kinda made me laugh....only because she sounds like my daughter. I totally know what you mean! I think it's a girl thing really. But it passes. I really believe the saying that the age of 3 is just like the terrible 2's but with attitude. My daughter just now turned 4 and for the last few months I have noticed a change. She is very sweet and loving. But from about 3 to a little over 3 1/2 man did she have an attitude. For me it just kinda depended on the some things I would let slide and just ignore her because I think she was doing it for attention. Other times I would just send her to her room. So yeah she has had plenty of time outs in her short little life. But like I said for my daughter it was a phase. She is so much better now. So just keep doing the timeouts and make sure you always explain to her what she did that was wrong after her timeout so she fully understands why she was punished.

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answers from Lafayette on

I've read most of the responses, and I think I have some helpful advice. My daughter is a bossy one -- or, a natural born leader, depending on how you look at it. I say often that this quality is terrific & will help her later on in life!

She's 7 & we've struggled with this in preschool, at home, and in each grade so far. (Take my advice & ask for a strict teacher when your daughter gets in school. The teacher should still be nice & loving, but will know how to handler her bossy-ness.) Anyway, in Kindergarten, we had a whole committee get together (including the principal!) to decide how to handle my lovely lady. They were all so loving & really trying to lay out a great path for her school career. One of the things they came up with was allowing her specific times where she could be in control. She is very smart & would always goof off & then finish up her school work (perfectly, but in a hurry) -- getting trouble along the way. So, they decided to let her do her school work first, then she could help grade the other classmates papers. That really made her feel important!

You can do something similar at home. Be firm, and remind her that you (and other adults) are in charge. But you can give her some decision making opportunities -- like her clothes, she can pick one meal a week (according to the food pyramid), bath or shower, carrots or corn, letters or numbers, etc. I really think this'll help!

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answers from Cleveland on

I noticed you posted 3 posts today. Be careful how you balance both her abilities with her attitude. A good book is Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr Kevin Leman. I think we all want a kid with good character, behavior and attitude. Those are the one's that will go far and can handle any types of situations. We all want the best for our kids we just need to be careful how we do it.

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answers from Houston on

Welcome to my world!!!! Only my young ruler is a boy :D He really thinks he runs the universe I think. We just check him constantly. We tell him he is a child and not in charge of the house. When he tries to boss his brother we remind him that he does not have any children at this house. When he tries to run me I tell him that I am the parent, he is the child and he can respect that boundary or go to his room. He usually chooses the former but it is an everyday thing. He is just a strong willed dude who is learning respect and boundaries. I feel it is his basic temperament and it is my job to teach him how to handle it so he will have a successful life. It is VERY draining some days.... But hey, this is the job right? All I can say is hang in there and you aren't alone and it sounds like you are doing a great job not spoiling your child. Take care!

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answers from San Francisco on

No advice, but I think your little girl is going to run a corporation someday! (I'm trying to sleep, turn it off - LOL.)

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answers from Cincinnati on

monkey see, monkey do.

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answers from Eugene on

You will need to let her know who is the boss of the house and where she sits in the pecking order. Be stern, stick with the discipline too. Consistency is crucial and key. She is also probably pushing your buttons to see how far she can push mommy and daddy. Every few months they test their boundaries to see how far they can go and get away with. Just stick with the plan that you and your husband have put into play on raising your child. If you want to take a toy away, take the toy that will break her. It kinda sounds My son's is his Legos and his security stuff animal...but I don't think I could take that one away - that's his night night security thing....but his Legos - I have no problem "grounding" him from them.

When my son (4 will be 5 in Jan.) starts getting bossy - we just put him in check. I will ask him "who's the boss?" sometimes he says he is and sometimes he says Mommy and Daddy are. Once we have laid down the law and pecking order in the house - he then realizes that he has stepped over his bounds. I'm pretty relaxed as a mom. He has a lot of free reign, but he does knows his boundaries. He also knows when I say he needs an attitude check - he knows what I am talking about. Lately we have been dealing with him not listening....he gets one warning after that his legos will be taken away for a period of time. His warning was two days far so good. ;)

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answers from Indianapolis on

I don't discipline my kids for acting their age, but I don't give in either. I think it's fair that if your computer usage is keeping her up, you figure out how to rectify that. Close a door, move the computer, whatever. When it comes to other things, I try to give them a choice so they have some power over what happens and explain why they can't have their way and why they aren't allowed to tell me what to do.
You need to be consistent. Nothing you do will work al the time, but if you keep changing how you react, she'll never learn.

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answers from Indianapolis on

This is clearly a battle for control. You need to make sure to take every opportunity to talk about appropriate and inappropriate behavior/tone of voice, attitude, etc. If she does not "respond" appropriately, tell her that you'll address her/listen, etc. WHEN she addresses you appropriately - changing her attitude, using manners, etc. If you don't, you're setting yourself up for ALOT of problems. You also need to help her understand what compromise is. Sometimes in life, this is absolutely necessary and you'll get further by trying to compromise than demanding your own way.

You need to remind the child who is in control. You also need to teach her what respect is. Respect is taught, not inate. Talk about it with respect to you and your husband, her siblings, neighbors, strangers/people in the line at the grocery, etc. FAR TOO MANY people don't have coping skills nor do they understand HOW to handle situations without being controlling, demanding, entitled, etc.

Trust me when I tell's worth EVERY second you put into it. They will get to the point where THEY will talk about someone showing or not showing respect, etc.

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