Need Advice on 3 Yr Old Being Really Testing Me, I Don't Know What to Do!!!!

Updated on November 13, 2009
K.B. asks from Oklahoma City, OK
9 answers

Okay so my son has always been really good, I mean he had his moments every now and then but we did not have "terrible twos" but since he turned 3 on 9/28 or a little before he has been driving me crazy. He seems to be so hard headed, he used to always listen to me and comply very easily, now it seems like he does not care what I say he is going to do what he wants on his own time. I mean getting out of car, walking to the house, eating dinner just about anything, don't get me wrong we do have some good days and I always tell him when he is being good and will say thank you for listening that was very nice, and when daddy gets home I always tell him (in front of our son) when he has been good. He wants to do everything on his own, which is great but sometimes I know I have to help him, when I try he throws a huge fit, I mean jumping up and down, throwing himself on the floor, and screaming/crying at the top of his lungs. In addition on most occassions, lately, he throws one of these fits when I tell him no he can't have or do something.

I have tried time outs when he acts like this, I have spanked (I hate to do this and I always feel terrible afterwards, usually hugging kissing and apologizing to him after everything has settled down, I don't want him to hate me becuase I spanked him) but nothing really seems to work, or maybe I don't know what to do, I have never had to deal with this and I am really lost on how to handle this. I have heard of the "strong willed child" could my son be one?

Any advice or reassurance anyone could provide would be great, I just hate feeling like I am yelling at him all the time, I don't want things to be that way I just want us to be happy and loving. What can I do or is this just a phase??? Thanks

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So What Happened?

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to respond. The main thing I learned is that this is normal and to be consistant, so I told him there is a new rule and we wrote it down and put it on the wall so that he could see it, the rule is that if he throws a fit because he is told no for whatever reason, or whines about something because he can't have it or if he does not listen to me by the 2nd time I ask, he goes straight to time out. I talked to my husband and he is on board because neither one of us really like to spank. So its been 2 days and we have had about 5 time outs but last night was pretty good and so far this morning things are going well. Also, just so everyone knows, my son started this about the 1st part of Sept, we didn't move until the first of October, I started a job on Monday 11/9 and now everything is now as it was before, so I am not stressed about finances, as I really don't have to work but this offer was too good to pass up, therefore I don't think it has anything to do with me, I do think this is just a phase based on what I am reading, so hopefully we will get thru it and everything will be good. Thanks again!!

More Answers



answers from Oklahoma City on

It's a phase that pretty much every child goes through. You are doing the right things by being firm and consistent with punishments. He won't hate you for punishing him. My daughter is 4 and we still have problems with her being stubborn. We have let her start doing some things on her own and tell her that as she gets older she can do more and more things without our help. Most of the time she is okay with it, but we still have screaming fits at least once a week. Things will settle down with your son.
P.S. Welcome to Oklahoma!



answers from Fayetteville on

Well, I can say it does get better! My son had been great since birth and when he didn't hit the "terrible twos" I was ecstatic! Well, right brfore his 3rd birthday he turned into a terror! It lasted for a good 6-7 months. It was awful, tantrums, screaming, the whole bit. All I can tell you is how I handled it and you'll have to decide what's best for you. Being consistent is the most important thing! He has to get the same reaction/punishment every time he does what you've asked him not to so he'll know what's going to happen. He's testing you a lot and if he thinks he can get away with it at all he's going to keep trying. I was spanked as a kid and I do not hate my parents for it! I have spanked my son and he is 5 and a half now and he does not hate me. Obviously, spanking is not the first solution most of the time. If he showed aggressive behavior, he got a spanking no matter what because in our house that is not tolerated at all. If he is whining, crying, screaming, throwing a tantrum or not listening he would get a warning and then if he didn't comply he would have a consequence. The consequences ranged from having a sticker taken off his behavior chart to time outs to having a toy taken away to early bed time etc. I tried to make the consequences match the unwanted behavior. The 123 Magic program works for a lot of people but the reason we didn't use it is because I don't feel like I should have to ask him 3 times to do something before he does it, asking once should be enough and now that he's older it's super easy especially since we implemented it early. Sorry for all the rambling! I hope it helped some! Be patient and be consistent and everything is going to be ok!! He will get over it and be that super sweet boy again, lol! Best of luck to you!!



answers from Fayetteville on

This is just a phase, but he needs to know that you are in control and NOT him. He is doing these things to be in control. He wants to know if you mean what you say, and when you do not follow through with what you say, then he wins. It is not a game, but you have to "Say what you mean, and mean what you say". There are some things he can do by himself. Let him dress himself, bath himself (with you right there to watch), he can even pour himself something to drink (you need to put the drink in a smaller container then let him pour it). He is trying to be independent and this a normal part of growing up. It will end when he is about 4, then it goes back to they think can not do anything.
The fit throwing is not acceptable. For this you need to make sure he is in a place that is safe, he can't bang his head or something like that. When this is established, calmly let him know that you are going into the other room and when he is ready to talk calmly then he may come to you. It may take him a while or he may come right to you, but he has to know he has to talk calmly. If he stays in the room and screams, you just have to go to that room and ignore the screaming. If he says things, you can talk to him after he calms down then punish him then for those things, but wait until then.
I do think spanking is an appropriate form of punishment. The only exception to that is when punishing for hitting. This has to be timeout or taking things away and letting dad handle this one. Always when giving a spanking you must explain why he is getting into trouble. This way he learns which behavior gets him into trouble and which behavior does not. Hang in there! I hope this helps!



answers from Oklahoma City on

He sounds like an absolutely perfectly normal 3 yr old! Sweet, loving, and cooperative one minute. Independent, defiant, and raging the next. It has probably been an adjustment for you to be home all day with him too . . . dealing w/ him all day can be exhausting (esp on the rough days). You can read some parenting books on toddlers (Love and Logic, 1,2,3 Magic are a couple classics) to get some tips for increasing the cooperation and decreasing the fits. But I doubt any parenting trick will completely make the defiant/angry side completely go away. Stay calm. Allow more time when you need to go somewhere (they always seem to know when you're in a rush and choose then to argue/fight every single thing). Let him "win" sometimes - pick his clothes, pick his lunch, anything that you really don't have to win - let him win (w/in reason ie do you want noodles or a sandwich for lunch - cookies is not a choice, do you want to wear your red coat or your blue coat to the store) And keep praising the good behavior, they do love that!



answers from Tulsa on

Sounds like you are in a pretty stressful period of your life. You lost your job, moved and are now taking care of your 3yr old full time. Maybe your stress is being picked up by him and he is acting on it. I know dealing full time with children is a big change from working and having them part time. I have raised 4 of my own while working full time, working part time and not working. I am now taking care of two grand kids full time. Hopefully, you have some mommy time for yourself. If not, then try a mothers day out and do something for yourself a few hours a week. It really makes a difference. If you get 'recharged', I know it helps me be more patient and that helps the child's behavior. I don't believe spanking is the best approach. In my experience, it only makes matters worse. If spanking worked, we would all have perfect children. Also, don't yell. Been there also. Eventually, they stop listening to you. If you have trouble controlling yourself, pretend you have an audience watching how you handle being the mom. That is a real eye opener. In fact you do have someone watching you - your son. He is learning how to deal from your example. Your son is this age for a very short time, try to find enjoyable things to do with him.


answers from Tulsa on

Hi K.,

Let me start by saying that he is acting very normally for a 3 year old. Generally in a child's late 2's through their 3's they have hit the FIRST independence phase that they will go through. It is very typical for them to want to do things for themselves...even when we, as mom's, know that it's going to be difficult for them. To increase their learning skills we have to give in to their attempts and let them try until they either accomplish the task or ask for help. Easy to say, tough to do. You can offer verbal advice but it's in your child's best to let him attempt it on his own.

Learning to try and do things on their own is a good skill to have. It'll be an asset all through their lives.

The best advice I can give you is to pick a punishment for those times he does act out and stick with it. Be firm and consistent. He's testing you right now and will continue to test you if you send mixed messages. Believe it or not a child wants to know that when you set guidelines you'll stand by them. You can do so without spanking...I, too, spanked in rare occasions but it accomplished nothing except making me feel guilty. Give him timeouts, take away a favorite toy or priveledge and stick to it...every time. Don't count to only let's him know that he can continue doing wrong until you say three. (Funny story...I know this little girl who wouldn't say 3 when she learned to count...she knew what would happen when she said 3!)

K., you aren't on your own with this. Every child, in their own way, pushes the envelope sometime during their childhood. Consistency is the key. Welcome to the terrific three's.

Good luck and blessings...

W. Q



answers from Tulsa on

I also have a very headstrong daughter and this is what worked with her....Giving her choices. Many times children feel like they have no contorl over their lives, mom or dad tell them what to wear, when to eat, what to eat, etc. By giving the child choices, they feel like they are in control (when actually, you still are!). The key is to give 2 choices with each question (and ask as many as possible to give them more choices), either choice you are happy with.

When your son tells you he is thirsty, you say:
Would you like the red cup or the orange one?
Would you like juice or milk?
Would you like a lid or a straw?
Would you like to drink it in the kitchen or at the dining room table?

This works with discipline too...
When your son shows inappropriate behaviour, you say:
That behaviour is not acceptable in our home (or at church, or at the supermarket, etc.), would you like to spend 5 minutes time out on your bed or in the dining room chair? If the child refuses to choose, you just up the time and repeat the same question. Again, if they refuse to choose, you just up the time and repeat the same question. Eventually they will see that the time is getting longer and longer and will choose.

The tough part is sticking with it in the beginning. When they refuse to choose (when it's not discipline) or try to give another option, you choose for them and STICK TO IT. This teaches them that if they won't choose from your options that you will take control back and choose for them. It won't take very long until they will choose because they will learn that if they don't you will choose for them and take the control away. If they refuse to choose (when it is discipline) you just keep upping the time and at some point you just stick with it so they will remember the next time that the punishment is worse if they don't choose.

My daughter is now 18 and a wonderful young lady, however, at 2 she was driving me crazy because she was so stubborn and strong willed. This method worked wonders on her. These children won't do what you want them to do just because you want them to do it, they won't do it until they decide to do it and that can be quite frustrating!

Good luck!!!



answers from Jackson on

could be b/c of the move. my 20 month old went from the best child ever, to a little monster! ha! i can't wait to read the advice given to you!



answers from Texarkana on

Hate to break it to you, but it's not a phase, it's just the beginning. They call the twos "terrible twos" because the babies get more mobile and are into everything. But the threes are really the "terrible threes" due to new behavior. Everyone I have known has had the "terrible threes". 3 is when children start pushing limits! They want to push their independence. What children thrive on is limits and boundaries. You must guide your child or he will become even more terrible. Trust me I have found out the hard way! Spankings are a good way to guide the child. It's not a beating, it's a spanking. Time out is good too. Good luck to you, keep up what you're doing, the praising is great!

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