Stressed Out with My 3 Year Old Daughter

Updated on September 28, 2010
J.B. asks from Garfield, WA
8 answers

hi mamas! as most of you know i have a very strong headed 3 year old daughter. as of about a month ago she really started acting up. she now hits, kicks, yell, screams and talks back. tonight she hit and kicked my mil (who just laughed at her) and i took her and put her in her room where she yelled and screamed for 5 mins before i went in there and told her to stop and that its not ok to hit and kick anyone. when she came out she immediately was sent to apologize and only then did my mil try to correct her behavior (saying it wasnt nice). i am the main (basically only) person to disapline my child. my husband sleeps all day and my in laws must not see it as an issue even when i correct my child infront of them.

here are some other things that are going on in the home-

* my husband and i are fixing to move out of state at the beginning of the year (mil and fil dont know this yet so its not a stress issue)
* i have taken a much more calmer approach to disapline so i am not swatting as much.
* daughter has seemed emotionally unglued at times (crying for no reason in her room and acting out)
* daughter uses a lot of excuses on why she cant do what she is asked (to try and go potty etc. she says shes tired of it, she has had enough, and her back hurts (gets that from daddy)).
* she has to play with loud excessive squeals and such and gets mad when asked to quiet down a little or to go play in her room.

i dont know what to do with her. she really wants to goto school but we cant afford to do that and i dont know if it would be a good idea to put her in when we are moving at the beginning of the year. what is your take on it. is this just a phase? will it get better? should i seek help for her or find some way to get her into some sort of activity?

thanks in advance

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answers from Chicago on

What seems to work for me is teaching my child positive conflict resolution skills instead of negative.
For example: Do not punish for kicking MIL by sending her to her room, for example. After she kicks - remouve her and sit down with her, ask why she did that, if she doesn't know - help with identifying the cause: are you angry? are you upset grandma laughed? You will get to the root of the problem, most of the time it is some strong emotion your daughter does not know how to handle (may be your daughter thought that MIL's laughing was inapropriate for the comment she made). Then you teach her what to do - if you do not like that grandma laughing you say "grandma I do not like when you are laughing now " . Then review again that hitting is not right. Then teach your daughter to apologise to MIL and to say what you taught her, and may be MIL will say "I am sorry, I did not mean to hurt your feelings by laughing at you".
On the other hand if your daughter just being moody and does not want MIL to laugh, make sure the child understands that she cannot tell grown ups what to do and needs to sit with you until she promices she will not kick in the future.
It is a very delicate ballance on what to do and how to punish. Every time your child misbehaves - identify the cause and then your experience and your heart will tell you how to proceed. Do not be quick to punish. Take time to hear her out and incourage her to express feelings verbally.

This way you show your child and give her experience in resolving a conflict in a positive way. The more experience she has the better she will get.

Punishing and sending her to her room will not teach her any skills except for bottling up anger and that adults can get away with things kids get punished for.

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answers from Houston on

Well I also have a shall we say a, "spirited", three year old boy:) They are so awesome and challenging all at the same time aren't they? I think you were so right not to allow her to hit her grandma, no way baby!! So I say good job on putting her in her room. I got a book a while back called "Temper Your Child's Tantrums" by James Dobson. Here is the link:
GREAT book for all of us with head strong children who might want to take another look at how to parent these tiny tyrants before ordering all the medication on the free market!!LOL:D Anyway, I digress...this book has helped me so much. Like it talked a lot about the difference in childishness and rebellion and how to handle each. I found that letting my child be childish helped him to be less rebellious but out and out defiance has to be disciplined. I have done a lot better at consistency with my child as well. It also talks about how people who do not have a strong willed child will give you the most lame ideas about how to handle them!! So you will feel so validated and encouraged just from that point! Anyway, if you get the time to check it out, it might help. To me she sounds like a strong willed girl who will need some extra help navigating her childhood years but will do just fine. Hang in there and good luck!!

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answers from Detroit on

Is it possible your daughter is sensing some stress from you guys regarding the move and feeding off of it?

She sounds like she is actually really smart and very active and she might be bored staying at home. I would try to look into options as far as preschool, etc. and what might be affordable on your budget. There are also classes in swimming, gymnastics, etc. that might be good because these are physical activities that might help her get out of the house and burn off some energy. I take my daughter to the local park and playground all the time so she can "get the wiggles out". She also likes going with our dogs on walks. She just really enjoys being outside and being active and also being around other kids. One of my really good friends has twin 4-year-old sons and we get together all the time because the kids play together really well and she needs to wear hers out on a daily basis too.

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answers from Portland on

Three years is really harder than "the terrible twos" for many, probably most, children. So to some extent this is age-related behavior. Still, a child who is swatted, bossed around, laughed at or yelled at, especially if these punishments are inconsistenty applied in the moment by an angry or disrespectful adult, is more likely to use childish versions of these behaviors themselves, resulting in hitting, screaming, and back-talk. She's doing her best to imitate what she hears when grownups are imposing their will or frustration on her.

I may have suggested before that you look into Emotion Coaching, which explains what all the latest research tells us about child-rearing: kids who are raised with respect and empathy learn better control over their emotions, have better relationships, are more resilient with life's ups and downs, do better in school, and a whole list of benefits. And this approach is wonderful for parents, too, because you learn so much about meeting your own emotional needs as you gain skills and confidence with your child.

Here are some resources that introduce this approach in easy, practical terms and examples: google Emotion Coaching for useful links and book titles. Here's one very informative link to get you started: . There are also some terrific books working with these techniques. One of my favorites is by Faber and Mazlish, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk. I've also seen Playful Parenting recommended highly, and the book "Raising your Spirited Child" by Kurcinka.

Right now, you can probably begin to shift your daughter's behavior by making a point of noticing and commenting on the things she does that you like, more than correcting or punishing what you don't like. So, playing calmly for 10 minutes gets a positive comment, like, "Sweetie, I feel so happy when you are playing so well!" Also mention things like "You brought me my ______; thank you!" or, "I see a girl who is hugging her daddy!" or, "You picked up that toy without being asked. How grown-up that was." or, "What a good job you did at dinner tonight, smiling and talking to us." or, "Will you help me wipe up this spill? … Hm, that was good work!"

Another thing that helps lots of kids in this age group is LOTS of physical activity. Play, play, and more play. Even on rainy days, my grandson can be happily worn out by a good pillow fight, "fencing," or running an obstacle course of pillows and chairs.

Good luck. Things will eventually get easier. That will happen faster if you can keep it as positive as possible.

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answers from Houston on

You are sooo not alone! My daughter is 4 1/2 now and is also very strong-willed. She is insanely smart and could talk in full sentences a few months after turning one. She started mother's day out at 3 1/2 and I felt that she really needed to start at 3, but we had our house on the market and were planning a move. We also, like you, could not afford school or other activities for her any earlier. My daughter also gets very weepy for no reason and cannot let an argument go. If I tell her no, she will drive it into the ground. I don't usually give in. She was very difficult to potty train, which took me by surprise since she is so smart. She finally was potty trained at nearly 3 yrs., but still had tons of accidents for almost an entire year after that!! She just couldn't be bothered to use the potty. If she's like my daughter, she needs lots of attention and stimulation, and acts out because she's bored. Try putting her in school even if its just 2 days a week. Some of it is a phase - at that age my daughter would pitch the hugest fit anytime we had to leave somewhere where she was having fun. She doesn't do that anymore. Some of it does get better with age, just be firm (something I need to work on as well!!). Some things that helped my daughter was High Five magazine by Highlights and getting lots of books from the library. I would like to read the book that Jen suggested. I've also read Dobson's The Strong-Willed Child, but could use to re-read it. Good luck!

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answers from San Diego on

Hello, I think this sounds like the 3 year old power struggle. She has a strong personality. My husband and I had custody of our now 11 year old grandson when he was an infant until he was 3 1/2. He was very strong willed and very angry at times. When we found out that we had to transition him to his parents I took a time to explaing this in a calm way. He had made a lot of progress with his anger issues and upon hearing that he was going to end up living with them the anger came back. I ended up taking him to see a counselor who helped me to help him. The decision was made to put him in his room EVERY time he had an anger issue. I explained that he would just walk out of there. The counselor told me to hold the door shut and that as soon as he calmed down, to open the door and let him out. I would do this and each time, I would take his little hand and tell him that we would try again. He eventually returned to the sweet boy we had gotten to know before. He is now a sweetie and would never disrespect me.
As far as school goes, are there any parent participation classes near you either through the public schools or through your local rec. center. I found them to be very cost effective and my kids all had fun there.
Good luck with your precious little girl.
K. K.

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answers from San Diego on

Hi J., I read the other posts before posting,and as an experienced mother of 27 years, it seems that there are so many excuses given as to why these children do not behave. I had 3 of my own and I have never had any of these issues. I think in your case J., it has a lot to do with your living situation, I think once your family moves and you and your husband are in charge of your own house hold you will be able to parent and discipline on a consistant bases, with out interference from your inlaws. The behavior that has been described here is not do to the child's age, (I'm speaking about the other posts) it's the parenting, I on top of being a mother for 27 years I have also ran a home daycare for 13, and my daycare children do not behave like this, I have only had 3 children in the past 13 years who were 3 and not potty trained, two of them had autism, and the other one, the parents would not work with me, cause they said they were to tired after working all day to deal with potty training. I have tol you a few times before that i think you are a good mother, your situation is hard. So make plans, house rules, and things that you can do differently when you get in to your new place, I think that will help her. Also a daycare that has good structure and bounderies I think would be really good for her. Just a thought. J.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I have a friend whose daughter does the same thing..i watch them go head to head ..parents think they should discipline and send them off to rooms..fight anger with anger..
try this for awhile..when she acts up ..HUG her..hold her and tell her that you love her..then explain to her why its not good to may be hard and at first you may forget to do that and just go head to head with her..but i'm telling you this works.

my friend let me demonstrate and when her daughter flips out at my house i hug her and hold her...i carry her and respond to her in a positive way..then i explain why she can't do something and i tell her that we all love her very much and that something she is doing may be dangerous and that mommy loves her so much and doesn't want her to get hurt ..etc..
also get these books and read them to your daughter.."Hands Are Not For Hitting" "I Can Share" "Mouths Are Not For Biting" and "Excuse Me"
i quote these books when my son tries to son is 4...and he will sometimes get mad and want to hit me..i respond with .."lets hug" and he instantly calms down and hugs me...he responds quickly to this b/c i've been doing the hug thing for over a year now..
he goes to preschool 2 afternoons a week..maybe you can get your daughter into a school for 2 afternoons too..try its in pasadena..check out their website..
they also nurture when a child is having a tantrum instead of punishing..

my son used to be a wild child..still is but he doesn't hit and i can calm him down without having to send him to a room or scream or ??? 4 is becoming a fun age...he tells me he loves me all the time and says.."mommy i just want to give you a hug"
They just want love...if you MIL had hugged your daughter and told her it was ok..i love you...instead of laughing i think that would have been much better.

good luck



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