My 3 Year Olds Additude

Updated on January 17, 2011
T.J. asks from Laurel, MD
11 answers

i have a three year old girl that has a very bad additude problem she does not listen to nobody. she acts up in public and in the house hold, it her way or the high way. she fall out speck bad language just dont listen. what can i do to change her additude

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answers from Modesto on

She's 3. Everything she says and does comes from her environment. Act and do what you want her to be like and she will follow suit. "Monkey see monkey do" lasts until they go to school and decide to bring home peer antics.

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answers from Boston on

At that age prevention can go a long way. When I see kids acting out in public, often it is really not their fault. Before you go out, make sure the kid isn't tired, hungry or overstimulated. Explain what is going to happen, what you are doing. I think it's unreasonable to go on a long day of errands and not expect a kid to wig out. Consider what reasonable expectations are for a 3 year old. Yes grocery shopping has to get done, but don't do it on the way home from work when you and she are very tired, hungry and irritable. Of course she will act out. She is 3 and doesn't have the capacity for control. It is your job to help her learn how to control herself. If you can minimize those situations that is a great start.

Often if my DD is "acting up" at home, it is because she needs a little attention. Negative attention (yelling at or punishing or fighting with your kid) is better than no attention to them. Make sure you are spending time with her, reading books, doing art, whatever or involve her in what you are doing. At that age they love to help. So you can get the laundry done while she "helps." Another thing to consider is her diet, if she is eating a bunch of processed food with colors and chemicals and no nutrition? That can have a definite effect on behavior. Make sure she has a good protein/complex carb snack every so often so her blood sugar isn't tanking. If she is watching a lot of tv, that also will create monsters of many children. We stopped having any tv in the morning bc my DD plays so much better all day if she hasn't had it on. As for bad language, where is she hearing that? If you use bad language, you can expect your child to learn bad language. If she is hearing it at school or something, you need to calmly talk with her about appropriate language. My approach with offensive words is to tell DD that is not something we say (without making a big deal of it) and then ignore it if she repeats it. Now she knows what words are rude, so for ex, when she hears someone say stupid, she points it out. At 3 it is natural for her to be trying out everything she hears and sees and how you react to it can go a long way toward controlling it. If it gets a reaction from you, she is likely to continue doing it.

I think the suggestion of "popping" her or "whopping" her is misguided. It will probably add hitting and bullying to the issues you have with her. Hitting a child is no way to teach them how to behave properly. Modeling good behavior yourself, minimizing the opportunities for her to lose it, and calmly correcting unwanted behaviors is preferable.

I think some kids are more strong willed than others. That's the impression I get from your comment that it's her way or the high way. One thing to consider is that children don't have any control over their lives, we control it all, so it is natural for them to try to exert control where they can. If you can find ways to allow her some control, but in socially acceptable ways (such as what she wears, how she spends some of her time, etc) then it can really help in removing a lot of the negative behaviors.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

You have to look at where such a young child gets a "very bad atitude". She is a sponge and a mimic. She see, she hears, she repeats. You are her strongest role model, so be sure she sees and hears kindness and respect. Don't develop the attitude that you are the "Boss" and she has to do what you tell her, when you tell her, whether she likes it or not. Be her teacher, and remember that behaviors are learned, good or bad. It's not about making her do what's right in the moment, it's about Learning what's right and what's not, and that takes time, energy, and consistency on your part.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

It will help people give you suggestions if you can provide specific examples of her behavior. We do NOT do 'consequences' or punishment with DS. We aim more towards a positive discipline approach. There is a great PD group on Yahoo if you are interested. It is more of an approach of aiming to connect with the child, model the desired behaviors, provide boundaries that make sense and to raise in intelligent, empathetic, questioning adult rather than just an obedient child who does behaviors to avoid bad consequences.

For example, when you are going out somewhere, make sure she has eaten and is not tired (both of those things make her more likely to behave badly). Discuss before you are going, where you are going and what you will do there - eg - we are going to the park - we will be able to play on the swings and the slide. When we are there, you will need to take turns if there are other kids who want to play also. Let her know what will happen if those things don't go well. eg - we will only be able to stay at the park if you are taking turns and there is no hitting. Mention the rules again when you get to the park. And then if she doesn't follow the rules - let her know you will need to leave if she doesn't take turns. Then if she doesn't - you leave. No yelling on your part you tried to coach her to get it right and help her to stay.

Again, if you can provide specific examples, people will be able to provide you with some concrete suggestions.

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answers from Portland on

These are completely normal behaviors. Your daughter is not "trying" to be naughty. Children don't really want to cause problems or get in trouble if they have any other way at all to meet their own growing need for autonomy, independence, and control of their circumstances.

Adults want everything to flow according to our grownup expectations. Your toddler doesn't know any of that yet, and she will probably have a couple of years in which she just won't see very much from your point of view. Thats' completely normal – she can't help it. Digging in heels and tantrums are a natural outcome of becoming more frustrated than she can stand. Being tired or hungry, or the stress of any big change or illness can make a child's behavior even more demanding.

Though you won't ever have a toddler who can behave like an adult and make all the choices you would make, there are tried and true methods for eliminating much of the mutual frustration that the mom and the child experience during the next couple of years. This may be challenging when you're also caring for a younger child, but overall, you'll expend less time and energy than you would if dealing with behavior that isn't evolving in a positive direction.:

1. Treat her as politely as you'd like her to treat you. And when she wants something, empathize in the child's language. I love the advice of Dr. Harvey Karp on how to get on a tantruming toddler's wavelength in this and several related videos: . Once your little girl realizes you do care about what she wants, she's more likely to be able to calm down and cooperate with what you need from her. And there are lots of positive ways to approach this, rather than just saying no to a child. They hear no so often, and they can be so frustrated. So look for ways of finding a mutual "yes," and save "no" for those occasions when children are trying something dangerous.

2. Keep it playful. Children lean primarily through play. You may need help with this if your parents didn't model a lighthearted and cheerful approach when you were little. The book Playful Parenting is a great resource. Your daughter's sense of humor is developing, crude though it may be.

There will also be times when you must have her cooperation, like diapering or trips to the store, so keep a special toy that she gets to play with only at those times.

3. Here's a big one: give notice ahead of time when you'll want her to be doing anything differently, especially when she's involved in her own activity/play. Children absolutely hate unexpected transitions. With my grandson, we let him know at least a couple of times that a change is coming ("We're going to go to the store / have lunch / take a nap pretty soon." … and then a second alert one minute before making the change.)

4. Whatever the next activity is, make it sound as desirable as possible. Give some detail about the ride in the car, or a favorite food at lunch, or sweet snuggles before nap. Be positive and enthusiastic. And be calm. Desperation will show, and even though she's too young to deliberately engage in a planned power struggle, she will quite naturally sense any cracks in your resolve. And this is where future power struggles truly can begin.

5. Try to keep demands low when she's tired, over-managed, hungry, or sick. An already frustrated child doesn't have any emotional reserves left with which to cooperate.

6. Get to know her most likely trouble-spots, and plan ahead. For many kids, it's when they want some tempting object or food they've seen. So keep those things out of sight when possible. Be prepared with a distraction – for example, another toy she likes when you have to take ______ away from her, or a healthy treat when she wants a junky snack. Laughter, introducing a new game, a few twirls and bounces, hugs or tickles, a goofy song, can help break into her determination to get something she wants (that short attention span is both a curse and a blessing).

7. Avoid bribes, but let her work toward occasional rewards. Don't try to buy cooperation with "IF you'll do X, we'll let you have Y." Instead, phrase it as if she gets to assist in advancing something good for herself: "Hey, as soon as you help me get X done, then we get to do Y." It sounds like a small distinction, but it's important. It gives the child a chance to cooperate in what feels like choice, even when there's no "if" about it.

8. Be sure she gets lots and lots of physical activity during the day. Time outdoors in nature is calming for most children. If she has pent-up energy, it will have to come out some way, and unless channeled in a positive direction, it will likely to add to both your stress and hers.

9. Whatever you are trying to teach will need to be repeated hundreds of times over the next few years. That's completely normal. Attention spans and impulse control are extremely limited in toddlers. Look at your parenting contract, and you'll find it in microscopically-tiny print under "I agree to the following terms and sacrifices."

Spanking and time-outs don't work for every kid, and will sometimes actually backfire over time. Especially with spanking: children may be scared, shocked, or shamed into compliance, but behaving for the sake of avoiding pain isn't the same thing as developing an internalized sense of "good." Consistent, calm guidance and demonstrations of what you DO want from her will work better in the long run than punishing for what you DON'T want her to do. See more on this by googling The Science of Parenting or Emotion Coaching.

I wish you both well. Pay attention to what you love and appreciate about your daughter, and make sure she knows. Children seek attention and approval, and if she knows you're noticing her good moments, she'll try to create more of them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Remember you are her model, she wants to be like you. Always re phrase her words and model the right way to say things. If she says "Gimme my juice" You say "I think you mean: can I have more juice?" wait till she repeats it then give her the juice. Always talk to her firmly but with respect. Never call her a brat no matter how bratty she is being, say firmly You WILL NOT act like that" Dont call her rude when she is rude say "I'm sure you can say that politely, try again" Be careful not to ask her questions that are yes or no questions like Are you ready to leave the playground? Do you want milk? Always give two choices that are OK with you, like do you want to brush your teeth with the new red toothbrush or the yellow one? Do you want to go down the slide one more time before we leave or swing one more minute before we leave? Do you want your milk in the blue cup or the purple cup? Keep her busy making these decisions so she THINKS she has some control over her life. Always be a good model for her to imitate. Dont let her hear you talk rudely about other people (if you slip and use bad words in front of her -remind her those are words only grown ups can use. We can't always have a nice attitude but try to save it for when she is not around. When I say some thing rude at the person who cut me off I say "OOPS I should have said that person needs help learning to drive" And be glad she is not a quiet, door mat type of person who will grow up to let people walk all over her. She will stand up for herself when she needs to !

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answers from Norfolk on

This is very typical behavior for a three year old. People talk about the "terrible twos." Then you have the "terrifying threes" and the "fearsome fours." Now we are working through the "sorrowful sevens."

When I took my daughter in for her three year old check-up, her doctor gave me some very good advice. If she speaks badly to you or whines, say the hardest words you can possibly say over and over until she can speak nicely to you. And the most difficult sentence to say? "I can't hear you!" It took me awhile, but then I got used to saying that and my daughter's whining and screeching stopped (I need to start saying that again).

Around the same time we started going to very desirable places such as bounce houses and the aquarium. I told her from the get-go that if she can leave nicely, we can come back to the fun place very soon. It worked. We saw many children screeching and crying while she happily put on her shoes or coat, knowing that she would be soon returning to the fun place. And I followed through. During that time I was not a stay-at-home mom, we went everywhere and I was confident that we could leave without a fuss. I need to start using that again, too.

And it's okay to use if/then on occasion. "If you clean up all the toys, then you can watch your favorite cartoon/visit your friend/etc."

Remember, all bets are off if your child is tired or hungry. And the worst of all, being ill and you don't know it. My daughter has been having behavior problems because she keeps getting strep throat. She was sick for a week and I didn't know it because she didn't have a fever! I've been trying to cut her some slack while not giving into her.

This phase will pass, only to be replaced by something else.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

3 year olds' behavior mimics a) what they see and b) what they are encouraged and allowed to continue. if she sees her parents speaking courteously, if she is treated with respect, if poor behavior results in immediate consequences, her attitude will reflect that.

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answers from Chicago on

Wow I'm glad caresse isn't my mom. Jeez. And um, I don't think stacey said to hit her. Then caresse mentions something about how the next thing that's going to happen is the little girl is going to start hitting. Hmm. It's not rocket science that hitting teaches hitting.

How about a little patience? How about trying to find the root of the problem instead of lashing out at the symptoms? If you can't do it yourself, or won't do it yourself, then please, PLEASE seek out help for the sake of your daughter. Talk to your pediatrician and be honest. Tell him/her exactly what you told us and that you're at your wit's end and need help. And maybe that you want to be able to help her to change her behavior but you don't know exactly how. Good for you for posting here. Unfortunate there are tyrants like caresse on here giving you such scary advice.

Also try doing more things together...make the time. I know you're busy like every mom. But maybe a weekly trip together to the library is a good idea...while you're there you can read up on other moms' and dads' opinions on parenting, and she can get an early start on reading and spelling. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Consistency & consequences have worked for us and our three year old. When she acts up there are consequences. In a stern tone (not yelling), tell her that whatever the behavior is, is bad behavior and why (get down to her level - physically and tell her). Then we give her the opportunity to change that behavior by calmly counting to 3. If you reach 3, there should be a consequence; sit by herself, no television, no desert... whatever is something that may make her realize that bad behavior has a consequence. Make sure you stick to it or she will not listen to you - i.e. be consistent! Patience is easier said than done, but very, very important with young ones. Good luck; sounds like your at your wits end.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

consistancy and consequences is absolutely right. You need to take the time and invest in training her. When She acts up you need to stop what your doing and punish her.

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