Need Help with My 3 Yo Son!!

Updated on October 05, 2012
H.W. asks from Altoona, IA
10 answers

I have a very spirited 3 yo son who is driving me crazy over the past couple weeks! He recently got a big boy bed and we struggle some nights with staying in it...he likes to get up and read or play in his room. He has also not been listening when I tell him to do something ( get dressed, go potty, pick up toys, etc). He " doesn't want to" and if we push, he gets angry....yells at us and goes to his room ( of his own free will). He also gets angry frequently and holds onto it. I have tried a glitter jar to calm him while in the naughty spot, nope....sticker charts have never worked well for him. I am at my wits end! I get very frustrated and don't know if this is "normal", a stage, nor do I know how to handle it. Perfect example just happened, while I am writing this he asks me to do something with him, I tell him to hang on I am almost finished and he says no right now....fine I won't play anymore and gets angry. Please! Any advice, suggestions....I would love any feedback!

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answers from Houston on

Dr Sears is an expert in this area and he has some great advice here! And yes, frustrating, but normal.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

Good advice from the other moms! I've raised a two boys and they are SO different from girls!

One thing I must add: Catch him doing GOOD stuff and praise it. This takes practice on your part. For example, if you "catch" him putting a toy away on his own, say "I like that you put your toys away without being asked. Way to go!" If he asks for something without whining or getting angry, say "I liked that you didn't whine when you asked for that. Nice job!" Even if you see someone else's kid doing something good, mention it out loud! At age 3, kids really want attention from their parents. Give positive attention, but only when deserved.

Also, demonstrate that you're telling him to do things that everyone else in the family is expected to do. For example: if you tell him to brush his teeth, brush your OWN teeth with him and make it a game. Of if he needs to put away a toy, then you put away one of your "toys" at the same time. Heck, I've even gone potty at the same time he did--just to demonstrate that it's time to go potty and what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Finally, remember that there are some times when anger is perfectly justified. Stuff happens! When anger IS justified, say, "I understand. It's ok to be mad. That would make me angry too! Go punch that pillow. Then come over and give me a hug." Boys (and girls) do need to express their feelings. Just re-direct so no one gets hurt.

These methods, used consistently, really worked for my boys. And timeouts are pretty rare at my house.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Totally normal. I would first, take a deep breath :).

Second, I suggest taking baby steps with him and praise his progress. First, start teaching him patience. There are many techniques for this that you can find online. Basically, start small with something like, "You can have 1/2 a cookie now, or if you wait 10 seconds, Mommy will give you the whole cookie". When he waits, praise him and gradually lengthen the time.

Third, I suggest teaching him about anger. Young children feel all emotions, but they don't know how to handle them. So, when he gets angry, calmly ask him, "How do you feel? You feel angry? Grrrrrr. NAME OF CHILD is angry!" And go on about why he is angry and what to do when he is angry, ect...

Lastly, fourthly, take another deep breath. :) Good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on


They are trying out their wings, their independence. Testing boundaries.
They don't get the concept of time, like "wait a second". It's an eternity for them.

I still say "Hold on" or "wait 2 mins until mommy is done" because I need to finish things. Then, true to my word I give him my attention.

Timeouts still work at this age (so setting a 3 min timer for 3 yr old). Use them sparingly. Not for everything they do under the sun just because we are tired or busy.

My son does the same thing. It's a developmental stage they need to go
through to learn.

Hang in there & continue with saying hang on a min then give him your attention.

There are lots more of these stages like this as they grow.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

First of all, you have not taught your son to respect you. If you had, he would know better than to tell you no.

So, IMHO, that's the first thing you need to address - his lack of respect. Once you make him respect you, the rest will fall into place.

What I would do is to immediately and swiftly get up, swoop him up and deposit him in his room. The suddeness and swiftness of it will get his attention and being deposited in his room, door closed will make an impression.



answers from Minneapolis on

Ooh, I remember that age. My son was very independent (still is) and had a hair trigger with the anger. Sticker charts and time outs were not a good match for us.

Introduce him to a visual timer of some type. Use it for giving him a heads up about transitions (such as when it will be time for him to help clean up or time to leave somewhere). Give him 5-15 advance notice of transitions when you can.

Use an audible timer for the time you have available to play with him. If I had a lot of housework to do, I would set the timer for 20 minute intervals. When it would sound I would go play with him, when it sounded again it meant it was time for me to go back to work and so on. That way it isn't you saying that you have to stop playing, it is the timer telling you.

Instead of time-outs, we have a "cool down" spot. If DS got angry and worked up, I would tell him, "You seem angry. Find your place to calm down and then we can talk about it." For some kids, they need a hug when they are feeling angry. The goal is for them to get their emotions under control enough that you can discuss together how they felt, what made them feel that way, and how they can react more positively next time.

You will feel like a broken record but repetition is the key at this age. Repetition and consistency.

I also recommend reading "Raising Your Spirited Child"



answers from Phoenix on




answers from Minneapolis on

Please ignore the comment about your son not respecting you. Nancy C. said, 3 year olds respect no one.

My son was a very difficult 3-year-old. He spent a lot of time in his room, to say the least. He was testing his boundaries with us, and looking for independence. He is now 5 and is such a great kid. Actually, he was always a great kid, but just a little more difficult at age 3 than he is now at age 5 :-). My best advice is to take lots of deep breaths and try not to lose your cool. Trust me, I lost my cool so many times with him and I always felt bad afterward. So my husband and I talked about remaining consistent between the 2 of us for discipline, and try not to yell so much at our son, but get him to calm down before throwing his fit. "[Child], I know you're angry because you can't have a sucker, but let me explain to you exactly why." We would try to get him to calm down and listen before yelling at each other. We did take away some of his favorite things, like his Leapster or a favorite movie or his favorite nightlight (he has 2), or something like that that he would really miss. Best of luck! This will pass... :-)



answers from Pittsburgh on

Normal. Ugh. I remember 3 well. Thought I dodged the billet because 2 was t bad--WRONG!!! Lol
I'll tell you this much: post the riles and review them twice per day. And stuck to them! If you cave they're like sharks smelling blood in the water.
Charts & timeouts weren't effective here at 3, but loosing "the thing" was. You know, the "thing" they like above all other toys, stuffed animals, games? Yep. That O.! Warning then they lose the thing for an hour, a day, etc.



answers from Minneapolis on

Don't you just love the moms that have to put a little dig in there when they're offering advise?

Three year olds respect no one. That doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong. He's only just starting to realize that he's a separate person from you and he's testing the waters of his independence. That being said, you do have to let him know who's in charge. At this age, they push to find boundaries. If you don't give him the resistance he needs, he'll start to think there are no boundaries and he's the boss.

Time outs work, but the little talk afterward can set you back. If you're putting him in time out, that means that it's something you've corrected him for before. Therefore, he knows what he did wrong. What I've read is that by talking to him about why he was in time out, you're sending a message to him that you don't expect him to retain the knowledge of the previous corrections for the same offense. Also, time outs should be the first response. Don't warn him that if he does it again, he'll get a time out. If he does something he knows he's not supposed to do, there's no need for a warning.

I was doing time outs with my daughter forever and getting no results until I changed to this approach. My greatest endorsement that this works was the time that I put her in time out and she sat there for a minute and then said "Sorry Mom." This child never admitted that she could be responsible for her own behavior and the resulting punishment.

Read "Raising Lions" by Joe Newman, it helped us a lot.

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