Three Year Old Acting Out Only to Mom

Updated on October 19, 2009
K.M. asks from El Dorado Hills, CA
7 answers

Hi all - I am mother to three amazing kids (2 girls and a boy), but am at my wits end with my three year old son. He is very active and very smart, and when he is with other people (grandparents, teachers, babysitters, etc.) without me around, he is wonderful. Or so, I'm told. I'm told that he is very good, a good listener, is helpful, and very nice. When, I'm around, it is the total opposite. He won't listen to me, he whines, he tests my patience on everything. I imagine that whatever I'm doing is working to some degree if he is good around other people and children(and I appreciate that fact that he is good around others), but how can I get him to be good around me? Sometimes he can be a darling and very loving, but it seems like most of the time he is just being naughty. Any suggestions??

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answers from San Francisco on

he is being the perfect 3 year old.. wait until 4!!! he is just testing where it is safest. my kids teachers said this is the most normal. the kids they worry about are the ones that are nice at home and mean at school! the only thing i could do thqat worked was to walk away from them. not put them in their rooms or anything, but me leave the room, they would follow but finally get the hint that they couldn't be around me and be mean.

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answers from Sacramento on

Is his action out around you only when you are with some of the other adults, or his sisters, or does it occur also when you are alone with him?
All children have a tendency, when with several adults who each sometimes are in charge, to test who's in charge. What I mean is that when he's been with a sitter or with grandparents or at school and you come to pick him up, during the time you are conversing with the other adults your son is testing to see which of you is really 'in charge' of him. If this is the problem, the trick is to talk with the other adult ahead of time and both of you be on the same page as to which of you is in charge and act on it. Sometimes it's better for the parent to take charge immediately, but sometimes it's necessary for whoever has been in charge to stay in charge until you have actually left the premises and are on your way home. For instance, at grandma's house, her rules may need to be a bit different than yours at home. If he is doing things that don't fit her rules, she needs to be the one who reminds him. You can back her up, but that's all. The same may be true in each other situation. You will just have to decide together what's best in each situation.

It also may be that your son is at a stage where he's feeling the need for more of your attention. He may be testing to see if you love him as much as you love the sisters. Assess how you respond to him, and be sure he is getting enough of your attention.



answers from San Francisco on

I was told at one time that the fact that they act out with Mom means that they are most comfortable with you and can "let go" a bit. They get stressed, too, and need to let off steam. Unfortunately for moms, it is typical that you see THAT side. That does not mean that you let him off the hook, but you can take it as a good sign. And yes, he does know good behavior, so you are doing a good job!

When he is having a hard time, maybe if you can stop for a minute and explain that Mommy needs some time to do some things and that you need him on his "best boy" behavior, and then you will be ready to do what he wants more quickly. (I know he is 3, and this will take a while for it to sink in with him). When he gives you 10 minutes of good behavior, praise him and do something fun for a few minutes. If there is anyway to involve him with helping you, that might help him feel like a big boy, too. My almost 3 year old will help more often than my 10 and 12 yo children :-).

Hopefully, when they get older, they will still be more comfortable with coming to you when they are having a bad day, and "letting go" of their problems.



answers from Redding on

How much one on one time do you give him? with three kids, I'm sure you have your hands full. Most likely grandparents, etc are spending time focused on him. I know my son is more naughty and irritating on days that I am busy and don't have time for him. It is hard to do, but try to schedule time for just the two of you. Even 15 minutes 3 times a day will help. I also have gotten my son to tell me that he feels he needs more attention. As soon as he says that, I stop what I am doing and visit with him for about 5 minutes. I only let him do that once an hour though or I won't get anything done. Usually he will do it only a couple times a day.



answers from San Francisco on

You can get tougher, but he acts out more around you because he can get away with it. It's normal enough.



answers from San Francisco on

Greetings K., Welcome to the great and exciting world of parethood. This is more exciting than any theme park ride.
I have 5 children, and now several grandchildren.
Power, Control, Boundries, Who is in charge? These are things that my boys/girls all had to test on a regular basis.
Children just need to know who is in charge and who they can get things over on. Mom, is the constant, the one that is either firm about things or is an easy touch. I know that once I caved in on something esp. as they got older it became the norm to have them say BUT" you did x, the last time".
It is clear that the others have a firmer hand than you or at least firmer boundries and the child knows it.
Good Luck, Nana G



answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.,
I'm a stay at home with three kids (12 (girl), 10(boy) & 4(boy)) and I find that my youngest (boy) acts out more when he doesn't get enough one on one time with me and finds he's pushed aside for the older siblings. Also, he gets a case of the crabs after school when he realizes he's tired and hasn't seen me all day. All children are on their best behavior for people they don't know (aren't we all) so it's no surprise he's an angel baby for his teachers. And naughty? Welcome to having boys, they can't help themselves for trying out everything, taking things apart, and testing your patience. It's not deliberate, read Michael Gurian's books, it's about how the boys brains are developed versus the girls brains and what drives them to do the crazy things they do--just think of your husband.



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