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Are all three-year-olds a parent's worst nightmare?

I love my son to a ridiculous point and I have spent the last three and a half years trying to find a balance between spoiling and teaching good manners and respect. That said the last few months have been the worse so far. Everyday I get up and tell myself I will not yell today and then one hour, two new bruises from chasing my son, and three time-outs later I am yelling at my son as he runs through the house refusing to wear clothes or eat his eggs (which he specifically requested). There are days where I feel like all I say is no and I swear he spends at least 30 minutes in timeout before the day is through. At times, I want to backhand him so I end up in the bathroom, screaming into a towel with the vent on and the water running to drown it out. Please, other moms with sons (or daughters) this age, what did you do?

I know this a normal part of growing up. His world is growing and he's hearing no more and more and "no" is like love being taken away from him. I know that he is exerting his independence and self-reliance but how do we, as the parent, deal with that? I know all the reasons behind these behaviors but there's nothing to tell ME how to deal with MY response to these behaviors. HELP PLEASE!

**By the way, before anyone goes nuts, I do not "backhand" my child. Never have, never will. But that doesn't mean I don't understand the urge.


Asked by jessflynn at 3:54 PM on Mar. 13, 2013 in Preschoolers (3-4)

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Answers (9)
  • I think I hear what you're asking. How to to cope & how to BE what you want to be as a parent, when you are in the thick of it & feeling the way you feel. When you feel OK & he is delightful, or when patience & compassion are coming easily to you, you don't need to know how to "be." It's when you are feeling a lot of things that drive impulses you do NOT want to "act out" that you wonder things like "how to be," how to live out the perspective & insights you know are true about the situation & child when your reactions are much less measured, balanced & logical.

    I think you're talking about the inner work of parenting. I know engaging in mindful parenting has helped my life become a lot easier, and my parenting more consistent (even under stress). It has made the difference for finally being able to live my values.

    Maybe take a look at something like "Parenting From The Inside Out" by Dan Siegel & (?)Mary Hartzell

    Answer by girlwithC at 5:40 PM on Mar. 13, 2013

  • My opinion is pick your battles. Don't chase him around the house to eat something he asked for. After a few warnings just dump the food and don't make anything else. They learn quick.
    Maybe instead of saying no all the time, explain to him why he shouldn't be doing what he should. get down to eye level. I have found it very effective to whisper to them rather then yell. It scares the hell out of them.

    Answer by LostSoul88 at 3:59 PM on Mar. 13, 2013

  • I recommend a book called "Have a New Kid by Friday" by Dr Kevin Leman. It recommends stopping the yelling and threats since they do little good. If the child disobeys, make the punishment immediate. We are working on his recommendations now with my 5yo.

    Good luck!

    Answer by anng.atlanta at 4:34 PM on Mar. 13, 2013

  • My son is 3 and there are times when he can really be a handful. Here's some things I try:

    1. Again, pick your battles. Some things aren't that important. If he doesn't want to eat, fine. Move on with the day. Another meal time will come along later. If he doesn't want to get dressed, fine. Unless you have to go somewhere and then just dress him yourself.

    2. Don't chase him. That makes it a game & he has control of it.

    3. When I find myself saying no too much, I try to temper it with something he CAN have/do/play with - No, you can't put the cars in the toilet, but you can drive on the coffee table. No gummy worms for breakfast, you can have cereal or waffles.

    4. Make time for hugs, cuddles & being silly. Sometimes I stress out because I feel I HAVE to get the dishes/laundry/chores done and he's just getting in the way. Leave it. It won't go anywhere and your little guy needs you too. They're only little once! GL

    Answer by hootie826 at 4:57 PM on Mar. 13, 2013

  • How did you parents deal with you? Did they yell at you, did they spank you? I think the way we handle situations comes from how we were dealt with when we were children. My mother came from a huge family.... they yelled... OMG did they yell. Therefore, that's all my mother knew was yelling. Mostly threatening. My dad on the other hand learned from being spanked. Therefore, that's what he used on us. I am not angry about that... it made me who I am today.

    All children are difficult. How did you deal with him when he was starting to get into things? Did you have help? Perhaps you need help now. There are crisis hotlines for you to call. I think anyone in their right made would rather you call that hotline than hurt a child.

    There seems to be a lot of questions pertaining to this stuff the past couple of days.

    Answer by m-avi at 4:01 PM on Mar. 13, 2013

  • I agree that "pick your battles" is an important life lesson. I certainly wouldn't have chased my daughter around to get her to eat eggs, even if she requested them specifically.

    Answer by SWasson at 4:03 PM on Mar. 13, 2013

  • Anyway, you have to remember that children are not stuffed animals that you set in a corner. They're minds are sponges and they NEED to know things. That's what makes us, as parents, invaluable. If you can't teach him, you need to think of what you want to do.... adoption? If so, that's okay. But only you can make that decision.

    Think of it more of a "how much can I teach this child in one day" rather than "he's driving me crazy". Some of the most brilliant people were crazy little toddlers.....

    Answer by m-avi at 4:03 PM on Mar. 13, 2013

  • 3 yrs olds in general are difficult but, honestly my 3 yr old isn't that bad. Sure she has her moments and, maybe she's just easy to be because her big sister was a handful at her age & still sometimes is. Even right now, yes she's being whiny but, she's sick so, it's expected.

    Answer by 3libras at 4:31 PM on Mar. 13, 2013

  • Dr. James Dobson has some great parenting pointers in his books too. I think if you are consistent w/ your expectations, rules, etc. & offer rewards/punishments consistently, things will settle down. Kids need structure. For example, Breakfast is served at 8am. If his butt isn't in his chair, then whatever you fixed for his breakfast will be served at lunch time. Don't chase him, unless you are specifically playing a game outside that requires running after him. We don't run or play ball in the house. Sit down with him & talk to him about helping set up the rules & consequences. And as for rewards, praise, hugs, etc. ARE rewards. They don't need a new toy for doing what's expected of them every time. Hang in there mama. It will get better.


    Answer by mrsmom110 at 5:49 PM on Mar. 13, 2013