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How to deal with a sassy 3 year old.

Please tell me I am not the only one with this problem. The last couple weeks DD has been so sassy and quite frankly I am sick of it. It would seem that most days I can't say a word to her without getting sass in return. She rolls her eyes at me, mutters under her breath, spits at me, and does that annoying whine/screech when I finally reach my limit and send her to her room. She finds any excuse to argue, and seems to think the world should be handed to her on a silver platter (which I don't understand since we have never given her a reason to feel that way). Seriously about to rip my hair out! Of course she does this to her brother too, which pisses him off and when he is pissed off he just screams.


Asked by AF4life at 1:18 AM on Oct. 24, 2013 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 44 (185,714 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (9)
  • May I suggest a gag?!  LOL - JK, altought I'm sure it's tempting.  It will take a lot of time & patience, but EVERY time she talks to you in a disrespectful way, tell her to rephrase it nicely or she will be in time out.  Model what you want for the first few times until she gets it.  Remind her "we do not speak that way to each other".  The eye rolling at 3 y/o- really?  Is she possibly seeing that from someone else?  Nip that now, since you shouldn't be seeing that little stunt til the teen years! lol ;p  And the spitting is totally disgusting & would earn her a drop or 2 of hot sauce on her tongue.  Of course if she likes hot sauce, then you're screwed.  lol ;p Just stay consistent w/ her & let her know it's OK to express herself, but it has to be done in a nice way.  GL


    Answer by mrsmom110 at 6:32 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

  • I'm going through the same thing with my 3 year old right now. Although, every time she gets sassy, she has to sit down on the thinking chair and think about how she could say something nicely. It seems to work, even if it pisses her off in the beginning. Good thing too, since my next step was duct tape.

    Answer by BeaverHouse at 9:18 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

  • I always had to remind myself to laugh at it when my kids acted that way. They are exactly what you said...sassy! They think they know it all. Better to laugh then cry!

    Obviously... laugh to yourself, not aloud. :D

    Answer by SleepingBeautee at 1:39 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

  • "reflective listening" would mean focusing on what's being communicated rather than focusing on how the form of communication is a problem. And it would consist primarily of acknowledgment--noticing the circumstances (what's triggering the reaction in her) and verbalizing that. One of the teachers at my kids' school commented to me yesterday that she'd taken Tues off for her son's 4th birthday, staying home. (This is the first full time job she's had since he was born; he's struggling.) She said when she was leaving for work Wed morning he said, "I hate you, mama!" and she said, "I know, you really don't want me to go." This obviously is a different situation but it's an example of not taking issue with the words & focusing on acknowledging the emotion the words CONVEY.

    Verbalize the annoyance or frustration she's communicating physically (eye rolls, impatient muttering, spitting) & while holding the limit that triggered it.

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:00 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

  • She's asserting her little self. I think the best thing you can do with a three-year-old is to model respectful speech, and ignore sassiness. Don't give her what she wants when she mouths off. With my daughter, since he was that small, I would say, "That's not a nice way to talk. Would you like to try again?" Over and over and over.

    Answer by Ballad at 1:38 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

  • Rather than responding in ways that keep her frustration & anger high, I recommend utilizing reflective listening at those times. Consider it primitive communication, but it's still communication. So "get" the message that she's sending, and respond in a way that shows you do understand. (This is called contingent communication.) It creates the conditions for developing emotional regulation in her because it focuses on 1) understanding what she's saying/expressing & feeling, and 2) modeling FOR her a more acceptable way of expressing the same feelings.
    This means that it has to be "okay" (with you) for her to feel annoyed, unhappy, angry, frustrated, disappointed, unwilling, sometimes, & "okay" to express her feelings when she is powerless/helpless to change things in her world. (She needs to grieve those losses.) If not, then she doesn't really have space to feel (express) whole parts of her inner experience.
    Responding with

    Answer by girlwithC at 7:57 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

  • LO got a drop of lemon juice on the tongue when there was sass, seemed to work. She would say that tastes yucky and I would respond with
    "what you said to me was yucky" if you don't want yucky don't say yucky things"

    Answer by luvmygrandgirl at 8:19 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

  • Don't engage her in argument. Ignore her. Yes I know it's easier said than done, but she is seeking your attention so don't give it to her if she's behaving badly. Non- specific attention given when she is being acceptable will help. ( hey I like the way you're sitting watching tv) She needs to learn that bad behavior gets her nothing. Going to be harder to teach her brother to ignore her. Perhaps if he moves to where you are if she starts bothering him. Again, it sounds as if she wants him to acknowledge her. So he needs to ignore as well and maybe interact when she is better behaved.

    Answer by 2autisticsmom at 9:37 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

  • I will have to try some of these things. Thank you, as for brother ignoring her, he is not even 2 years old yet and won't be ignoring her. We seem to have an ongoing thing where she does things she knows upsets him and he tries to dominate me to get back at her. (Like cuddling and pushing her out of my lap when she tries.) I think that getting some quality alone time with each of them might help them to not be so jealous of each other. They are both so sweet and amazing when the other isn't around.

    Comment by AF4life (original poster) at 8:02 PM on Oct. 24, 2013