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Taming the Tyrant – Your Three-Year-Old

angry girl Taming the Tyrant   Your Three Year OldThe three-year-old development. . .  A wonderful stage where life is getting easier with your little one–they are now able to handle more responsibility, are going off to preschool and you may find yourself having more fun since they can participate in more “grown-up” activities. But, with this greatness comes a need for expressing their opinion (which many times differs from yours) and a want to do everything on their own, their way. Handling a three year old can takes a lot of patience and goodwill, so Breezy Mama turned to Dr. Fran Walfish for advice on overcoming the hardest behaviors. . .

Why are the “two’s” considered “terrible” when it’s really the three’s that are gnarly?

THE “TERRIBLE TWO’S” SEEM TO HAVE BECOME THE “TERRIBLE THREE’S” FOR THE FOLLOWING REASON.  ORIGINALLY, RESEARCHERS BELIEVED THAT THE RAPPROCHEMENT PHASE OF DEVELOPMENT OCCURS FROM 18 MONTHS- 3 YEARS.  IN MY LARGE PRIVATE PRACTICE WHERE I HAVE TREATED THOUSANDS OF YOUNG TODDLERS, I OBSERVE THAT THIS PHASE OF DEVELOPMENT RESOLVES CLOSER TO AGE 4 YEARS.  THAT IMPLIES THAT WHAT WE USED TO SEE IN TODDLERS AROUND AGE 2 IS NOW BEING OBSERVED AT AGE 3 YEARS.  THESE BEHAVIORS INCLUDE AN INCREASE IN OPPOSITION, DEFIANCE, AND CLAIMING ONESELF AS A SEPARATE BEING FROM MOMMY AND DADDY.  THIS MAY INCLUDE TEMPER TANTRUMS, HITTING, DELAYS FOLLOWING COMMANDS, AND GENERALLY REQUIRING MORE TEACHABLE MOMENTS.  THIS PHASE INVOLVES THE RHYTHMIC BACK-AND-FORTH MOVEMENT IN THE TODDLER BETWEEN ATTACHMENT AND SEPARATION.  YOU MAY SEE YOUR TODDLER HOLDING ONTO MOMMY’S PANT LEGS.  THEN, HE LOOKS ACROSS THE ROOM AND NOTICES AN INTERESTING TOY.  HE LETS GO OF MOMMY’S AND TODDLES ACROSS THE ROOM, BENDS DOWN AND PICKS UP THE TOY WITH CURIOSITY AND DELIGHT.  HE THEN TURNS TO LOOK OVER HIS SHOULDER TO SEE IF MOMMY IS STILL THERE SECURELY BASED FOR HIM TO RETURN TO.  HE TODDLES BACK TO MOM AND HANDS HER THE TOY WITH GLEE.  THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE TOY.  IT IS ABOUT THE CHILD’S PRACTICING SEPARATION AND ESTABLISHING SECURITY THAT HE CAN COUNT ON MOMMY TO ALWAYS BE THERE TO RETURN TO.  BECAUSE OF THE CHILD’S UNCERTAINTY OF THIS DEVELOPING SECURITY, I RECOMMEND NO “TIME-OUTS” ALONE WITHOUT A WARM, EMPATHIC PARENT OR CAREGIVER ACCOMPANYING THE CHILD AS HE LEARNS TO CALM HIMSELF.

Now that the child can talk AND has major will power, what is the best way to handle when they disagree with you?

THERE NEEDS TO BE A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF ZERO-TOLERANCE FOR PHYSICAL AGGRESSION, BUT AT THE SAME TIME YOU INVITE YOUR CHILD TO EXPRESS DISAGREEMENT AND ANGER DIRECTLY TO YOU. IN OTHER WORDS, PRAISE YOUR CHILD FOR HAVING A DIFFERENT IDEA AND OPINION THAN YOU.  PRAISE HER FOR TELLING YOU.  THEN HELP HER SHOW UP FOR THE TASK.  SHE CAN DISAGREE WITH YOU AND EVEN FEEL SUPER MAD AT YOU BUT YOU STILL WILL HELP HER DO HER JOB.  YOU ARE TEACHING HER RESPONSIBILITY.
Most three year olds are starting preschool—it seems as if they are perfect angels for their teaches, but unleash the “bad behavior” when they come home. Do you have any suggestions on how to combat this?

IF YOUR THREE YEAR-OLD IS A PERECT ANGEL AT SCHOOL – CELEBRATE!!!  YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.  MOST CHILDREN THIS YOUNG ARE STILL LEARNING HOW TO REGULATE STRONG FEELINGS INCLUDING FRUSTRATION, DELAYED GRATIFICATION, AND FEAR.  IF YOU LITTLE ONE IS MANAGING THESE THINGS AT SCHOOL HE IS DEMONSTRATING A CAPACITY.  THAT MEANS YOU CAN “BEGIN” TO EXPECT THESE THINGS AT HOME AS WELL.  IF YOUR CHILD UNLEASHES THE “BAD BEHAVIOR” WHEN THEY COME HOME, ENLIST A REST TIME AND SNACK BEFORE PLACING ANY DEMANDS ON YOUR YOUNGSTER.  OFTEN, THE CHILDREN ARE WORKING HARD IN SCHOOL AND USING RESTRAINT.  THEY COME HOME TIRED AND HUNGRY AND LET THEIR GUARDS DOWN DISPLAYING A SHORTER FUSE AND LOWER THRESHOLD FOR FRUSTRATION.  YOU MIGHT WANT TO SELF-EXAMINE TO EXPLORE IF THERE IS ANYTHING IN YOUR PERSONALITY STYLE THAT GETS CAUGHT IN POWER-STRUGGLES WITH YOUR CHILD.  DO NOT ENGAGE IN NEGOTIATIONS, BARGAINING, OR DEAL-MAKING WITH YOUR CHILD.  BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS.  THEN, FOLLOW-THROUGH AND TAKE ACTION TO HELP YOUR DO WHAT THEY NEED TO.

One mom wrote in and said there were problems with her daughter and her daughter’s father. She says, “She’ll [the daughter] yell, kick and hit him [the father] when she doesn’t what him around.  It could get sparked by something as simple as asking her to set the dinner table to waking her up in the morning to get ready for the day.  It’s getting so bad that John* is ready to leave and give himself an extended time out away from us.  I’m not sure what I should be doing, I don’t like the yelling and this isn’t good for John and me either.  From what we’ve been reading, it sounds like 3 year old behavior. Will Lucy grow out of it or do we need to do something else?
*Not their real names.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THIS IS NOT AN UNUSUAL DYNAMIC IN FAMILIES.  MOST OFTEN  THE MOM IS NOT TAKING A CLEAR SUPPORTIVE POSITION WITH HER HUSBAND.  TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND REREAD THE SCENARIO.  THESE PARENTS HAVE GIVEN A 3 YEAR-OLD TODDLER THE POWER TO MAKE HER FATHER WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE!  TOO MUCH POWER.  THIS MOM AND DAD BOTH NEED TO TELL THEIR DAUGHTER THAT DAUGHTER LOVES HER TOO AND WANTS PLAYTIME AND FUN WITH HIS LITTLE GIRL.  FOR NOW, START WITH JUST HAVING FUN WITH HER!  AFTER YOU DEVELOP A WARMER CONNECTION, THEN YOU CAN PLACE COMMANDS LIKE SETTING THE DINNER TABLE.  IT’S IMPORTANT TO MENTION THAT THREE YEAR-OLDS ARE OLD ENOUGH AND SMART ENOUGH TO PLAY MOMMY AGAINST DADDY.  IF ONE PARENT IS MORE LIKELY TO GIVE IN TO THE CHILD’S PROTESTS AND DEMANDS, THE CHILD MAY SHOW PREFERENCE FOR BEING WITH THAT PARENT.

Another reader asked, “My three-year old is an only child. Her terrible behavior is making us not want to have another child. Are we hurting her, in the short and long term, for not having a sibling for her?”

NO, I DO NOT THINK YOU ARE HURTING HER TO REMAIN AN ONLY CHILD.  THIS IS A LITTLE MORE COMPLEX.  THERE ARE OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER.  DID YOU ORIGINALLY WANT MORE CHILDREN?  IS YOUR DECISION TO NOT HAVE MORE SOLELY BASED ON YOUR DAUGHTER’S TERRIBLE BEHAVIOR?  WILL YOU RESENT HER DOWN THE ROAD?  I SUGGEST THAT YOU CONSULT A CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST.  YOUR FEELINGS AS WELL AS YOUR HUSBAND’S MAY CHANGE IF YOU CAN LEARN STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING YOUR LITTLE GIRL’S BEHAVIOR.  YOU WILL BE GIVING HER A CHANCE TO GROWN AND IN THE LONG-RUN HELPING YOUR MARRIAGE.

A mom of two boys, one 3 and a half year-old and a one year-old asks, “I’ve noticed that my older child is becoming much more aggressive toward his younger sibling—what can I do to correct his behavior?”

THIS IS QUITE EXPECTED.  AS YOUR ONE YEAR-OLD BEGINS TO WALK, TALK, GRAB TOYS, AND INTRUDE ON YOUR OLDER BOY’S WORLD, THE RIVALRY AND ANGER INCREASES.  YOU CAN NOT LEAVE THEM UNSUPERVISED FOR ONE MOMENT.  USUALLY THE OLDER CHILD WAITS FOR A MOMENT WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING AND WHACKS THE LITTLE ONE.  YOU MUST GENUINELY EMPATHIZE OUT LOUD WITH YOUR OLDER SON.  TALK WITH HIM ABOUT HOW HARD IT IS TO HAVE A BABY BROTHER WHO KNOCKS DOWN HIS BLOCKS AND LEGOS  AND GRABS TOYS.  TELL HIM MOMMY WILL BE SURE TO WATCH LITTLE BROTHER SO HE DOESN’T GET IN YOUR WAY.  BUT WHEN HE DOES, NO HITTING.  CALL MOMMY.  I WILL COME AND TAKE CARE OF YOU AND YOUR BROTHER.  THE OLDER CHILD WILL NEED LOTS OF OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS HIS ANGER AND JEALOUSY TOWARD THE BABY.  YOU CAN OFFER THIS VERBALLY OR THROUGH SPORTS OR COLORING AND PAINTING.

Some three year olds are starting to drop their nap, causing them to be really cranky between 5 – 7 PM. Any suggestions on what we should do to help the early evening go much more smoothly and peacefully?

FROM 5-6PM DO QUIET ACTIVITIES WITH YOUR CHILD.  THIS MAY INCLUDE PUZZLES, BOOKS, COLORING, FINGER-PAINTING.  BY 6PM YOU CAN BEGIN YOUR BEDTIME ROUTINE INCLUDING DINNER, BATH, PJ’S, BOOKS AND BED.  THE MORE STRUCTURED AND EASILY ANTICIPATED THE EVENING GOES, THE CALMER YOUR CHILD WILL FEEL.

One of the things that I notice is that parents are always shocked when their “nice, polite, and calm” child becomes a tyrant at three years old. What is the proper way to deal with this behavior?

EMBRACE THIS.  THE PSYCHOLOGICAL GOAL OF TODDLERHOOD IS TO CLAIM ONESELF AS A SEPARATE HUMAN-BEING THAN MOMMY AND DADDY.  THAT INCLUDES SAYING “NO”, TEMPER TANTRUMS, AND OPPOSITION.  INCIDENTALLY, THERE IS A PARALLEL PROCESS DURING ADOLESCENCE.  THE GOAL OF ADOLESCENCE IS TO RESOLVE SEPARATION AND SELF IDENTITY.  THAT INCLUDES HAVING DIFFERENT BELIEFS AND IDEAS FROM MOM AND DAD.  YOUR TODDLER NEEDS YOU TO NARRATE OUT LOUD WHAT SHE IS FEELING AND WANTING.  FOR INSTANCE YOU CAN SAY, “YOU REALLY WANT MORE TV VIDEO TIME AND YOU GOT SO MAD AT MOMMY WHEN I SAID IT’S BATH TIME!  IT’S HARD TO STOP WHEN YOU WANT MORE.  SHOW MOMMY HOW YOU CAN TURN OFF THE TV OR MOMMY’S IS GOING TO HELP YOU.”  YOU WAIT A SILENT COUNT OF TWO, THEN YOU TURN OFF THE TV.  WALK YOUR CHILD INTO THE BATHROOM AND DEAL WITH HER TANTRUM IN THE BATHROOM.  IT GIVES HER THE MESSAGE THAT WE ARE ONTO THE NEXT TASK.

MOMS, GIVE YOURSELVES ROOM FOR ERROR.  NO ONE IS PERFECT.  THE MORE YOU CAN CUT YOURSELF A LITTLE SLACK, THE MORE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DO THE SAME FOR YOUR CHILDREN.  GOOD LUCK AND ALL BEST WISHES!

FranWalfishPhoto1 240x300 Taming the Tyrant   Your Three Year OldAbout Dr. Frances Walfish: Frances Walfish, Psy.D. is the foremost Beverly Hills child and family psychotherapist. Her caring approach, exuberant style, humor, and astute insights have earned her a sterling reputation among colleagues and national media alike. A frequent guest on top-­tier TV programs, including NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and KABC-­TV in Los Angeles, The Doctors, CBS and often appearing in major publications such as Parents Magazine, Family Circle and Woman’s Day, Dr. Fran continues to lead the field with her expert insights and innovative strategies for parents, children and couples.

Her current book, The Self-­Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child from Palgrave Macmillan’s/St. Martin’s Press, December 7, 2010, is receiving acclaimed reviews. William Morris Endeavor and Lake Paradise Entertainment are presently collaborating with Dr. Fran to produce a television series offering therapeutic guidance and help to families in America. More information on Dr. Fran can be found online at DrFranWalfish.com.

To order Dr. Walfish’s book ($11.56 on Amazon), click here.

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Comments

  1. anonymous says:

    Why is everything capitalized? It’s like the interviewee is yelling.

  2. On this particular piece I was in a time crunch and didn’t have time to re-type the answers.

  3. Great article Alex!
    Thank you..

  4. Rey & Olga says:

    I agree with Kareen…Great article Alex! This sure explains allot on our 3 years old son’s behavior; And it sure helps us a bit to guide us to deal with such. Tks!!

  5. monica says:

    my 3 year old has over the past few months has been real mean to me and my mom. She has told her grandma that she wants to hurt her (grandma’s broken ankle known that it already hurts). An this last week thru something that hit the back of my neck while driving on the freeway. She bounces between her dad and myself becuase where no longer together and married to different ppl. She has took a liking to my husband. and when her dad comes to get her she thur’s a fit. An most rescently i found out from her dad that her step mom has kept her in her room for 4or more hours becuase she said she couldn’t deal with her. Needless to say she will not listen and act’s out alot. where at our wits end with her. any idea’s would be helpful. A dr. advice or another mother going thru the same thing would sure help me and the rest of my family. (note this has been goin of for almost a year, and never acted this way when my husband and i got together in march of last year) but only after her dad kept her from me for a month. HELP!!!!

  6. Dear Monica,

    You 3 year-old daughter has suffered mistreatment from her stepmom (4-hour isolation); a profound separation from you, her mom, for a month (a year to a toddler); and many difficult transitions including the divorce of her parents and reentry of new spouses to each of you. That is too much for a little toddler to take. She is clearly angry. My experience has been that young children act-out their anger and rage with the parent they feel most comfortable with. That’s you and Grandma. First and foremost, you must make sure you child is safe when she is in Daddy’s care. You can also help her by making a book that illustrates and narrates all of the changes your little has been through to help her organize and make sense out of the transitions. You will likely need the guidance and support of a well-trained child therapist. There are private professionals as well as low-fee clinics that offer this kind of help. If your child is in preschool, her teachers and director may be able to offer referral. You can also reach out to your closest university or hospital to request a good referral. Take action now while she is still young and pliable. Thanks very much for writing to us. All best of luck! Dr. Fran

  7. my 3 yo girl has always showed a preference for me (mom). She gets along well with her Dad a lot of the time and her dad is loving to her and really tries hard. However, she often just wants mommy – to unbuckled her from the car seat, or when she is upset….to carry her places..etc..
    She will kick, hit, and cry and and my husbands feelings are hurt and even when he tries to be funny it doesn’t distract. He then diciplines her (puts her to bed, takes her lovie) for hitting. He also wouldn’t let her come to me if she was crying. But I almost feel like it makes it worse the way we are handling it- the punishment/ keeping mommy away. Like she just wants me more. Its especially bad when she is tired or hungry. I find myself wanting my husband to just leave her alone in those circumstances. I tend to be a bit of a softy and my husband thinks I’m letting her get away with bad behavior – giving in to crying and not punishing hitting firmly enough. I think he it too tough. She has lots of positive times with her dad, but what should we do when she says I want mommy and crys? Help!

  8. my 3 yo girl has always showed a preference for me (mom). She gets along well with her Dad a lot of the time and her dad is loving to her and really tries hard. However, she often just wants mommy – to unbuckled her from the car seat, or when she is upset….to carry her places..etc..
    She will kick, hit, and cry and and my husbands feelings are hurt and even when he tries to be funny it doesn’t distract. He then diciplines her (puts her to bed, takes her lovie) for hitting. He also wouldn’t let her come to me if she was crying. But I almost feel like it makes it worse the way we are handling it- the punishment/ keeping mommy away. Like she just wants me more. Its especially bad when she is tired or hungry. I find myself wanting my husband to just leave her alone in those circumstances. I tend to be a bit of a softy and my husband thinks I’m letting her get away with bad behavior – giving in to crying and not punishing hitting firmly enough. I think he it too tough. She has lots of positive times with her dad, but what should we do when she says I want mommy and crys?

  9. Dear Mom,

    Thanks for sending your excellent question. Believe it or not, your situation is typical in my practice. You are not alone. First things first . . . you and your husband must get on the same page. You ARE too soft. It’s great that you love her but will also need to learn how to hold the line. And he is likely too hard on her to counter balance your softness. To be a good parent, you each must be “comfortable” doing two things at the same time – loving/nurture (YOU could write that book!) and setting/holding boundaries. If you do only one of those two things, you are doing half of your job as parent.

    Your 3 year-old girl cannot decide (control) which parent disciplines her or soothes her. She must be able to access both from each parent. It is this simple . . . whichever parent she hits, kicks, or has a meltdown with that is the parent who needs to deal with her discipline and calming her down. For instance, If she kicks Daddy then cries for Mommy and succeeds in getting Mommy, you are inadvertently teaching her that Mommy thinks it’s okay to kick Daddy (no matter what you “say” to her, that is her takeaway message.

    Finally, and very important, Daddy’s discipline consequences are wrong for a 3 year-old. Never take away her lovie. It is her beloved object that aids her settling down. She is too young for a Time Out by putting her to bed (isolation). This risks her feeling abandoned in her moment of struggle. Instead, Daddy should hold her in a containing and calming way while she is protesting and crying out of control until he feels her body relax, all the while supportively saying, “When you stop pulling on Daddy you can get up”. When she stops crying and her body relaxes, immediately let her go and praise her for calming down. Then, she can go to Mommy.

    She will test you a few times. If you and husband stay consistently supportive and on the same page she will quickly learn that she cannot pin one parent against the other to get what she wants. Very important childhood lesson. Good luck, Mom!!!
    Dr. Fran

  10. Wonderful article! I am having some serious behavior problems from my son who turned three 2 months ago. He is displaying very typical 3 yr old behavior with tantrums, agression and wanting things his way now. The largest problem i have is controlling his outbursts because of his size. He is a very large 3 yr old at 46″ and 45 lbs. Also, i am 7 months pregnant. When he has physical outbursts and tantrums it is nearly impossible for me to hold him still, let alone pick him up. He has done quite a bit of damage to me from bruises and cuts, and continuosly kicks my stomach. Of course, he doesn’t do this purposely, he only does it when he has a meltdown. But how do you control a large 3 yr old when physically he’s much stronger and can do far more damage than a normal child his age? Also, i am terrified of what he could do to my newborn. I will watch them like a hawk, but he could really hurt her due to his large stature. Any advice would be much appreciated.

  11. Dear Mom,

    Congratulations on your pregnancy and expecting a girl! Different sex of your second baby will make it a bit easier for your 3 year-old little guy to accept the entry of his new rival. Your physical limitations due to your pregnancy put you in special circumstances. Some time before reaching age 4 years, every boy and girl needs physical containment, a hold or restraint by their mothers and fathers. The psychological reason is to resolve the Oedipal Complex. In plain language, this means to intrude on their omnipotence and teach that they are not more powerful than you, their moms and dads. This is very important life learning. I have treated a number of toddlers who are too large to hold in a chair or even in Mom’s lap. In those exceptional few cases, I suggest that Mommy pins her little one on a comfortable carpeted floor face down (without anger, but swiftly not roughly). Mom puts her weight on her own knees and straddles her child around the buttocks area. Gently but clearly hold his arms down to keep him (and you) safe. This will escalate his rage. Tell him calmly and supportively when he stops screaming and pulling on you he can get up. This teaches your child how to regulate his powerful feelings including anger, fury, and rage. The moment you feel his body relax let go. He learns that you are supportively there with him flaws and all. When he gets up – it’s over. No lectures. You may talk about how angry he was at Mommy because he wanted . . . . .
    Because you are 7 months pregnant it may be wise to not try this technique. But, have your husband do it. Your son needs to know he is not King of the Universe. Better to prepare him for life’s inevitable disappointments now. Give him these necessary coping skills so that he is equipped to deal better as he moves through the school years. Good luck!
    Dr. Fran

  12. courtney steele says:

    I have two daughters 2 ye old n 3 yr old turning 4 next month. She(3) has been experiencing “bad behavior” at daycare for the past month. The teachers say she hits,spits,takes clothes off,throw toys and shoes at the teacher and other kids. I’ve tried everything from taking things away,talking with her,etc. But Nothing seems to be working. I’m mentally exhausted and frustrated.am I doing something wrong? She does not experience that behavior at home what so ever,please give me some advice.

  13. Hi there,
    I am an occupational thearpist who has worked in the schools for many years with many different children with disabilities, however this is my first time being a mom with a typically developing 3y 3mo. old boy and his 22 month brother. My boys are very tall for their age and my older son has a great command of language and bargining/debating at 3. Am I still right to think tha the does not hold the concept of time to remember if he had a good/bad morning by the afternoon? My sitter wants us to impliment a reward/punishment at home, but I think he still needs the immediate feedback. He apparently has been the “time out king” (that comment made my blood boil) over the past few days and has had issues with throwing toys(never really did that before), taking toys (does take from his brother but i think he is asserting himself with the other 3yo boy at the sitters), and definately arguing with the sitter. I think he would get the idea of a sticker chart for “no-time outs” and if he gets 4/5 stickers in the morning he can have a reward half way through, but i cannot seem to get sitter on board with this… she is very much concerned with keeping things “even” between the kids (2x3yo., 3×1.5yo, and 1x4yo) . Am I on the right track thinking that he may not understand the “at home reward/consequnce” thing at this time? Suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  14. September Reeves says:

    My 3yr old daughter is displaying typical 3 yr old behavior. I see now I need to change how I react to it. My most difficult problem with her is that she constantly talks and when my husband and I try to have a conversation she always interject. How do I deal with this power struggle especially in public.?

  15. my 3 yr old granddaughter has begun to say things like I’l get a knife and cut off your head, I’ll bite off your foot, I’ll chop off your arm etc! I think she may have have heard it on tv, but I’m not sure. Is this normal behavior or is it cause for concern? Thanks.

  16. You ask a great question, dear Grandma! I wouldn’t describe this as “normal” behavior, but it is not unusual. Your 3 year-old granddaughter is simply trying to exert her power over you when she is angry. At age 3, this is not necessarily a sign of future sociopathy or delinquency, so no need to worry. You and I both know that you are bigger. If she ever tried to pick up a knife you would take it swiftly out of her hands and stop her. The key is how you respond to these comments. Try to identify out loud what your young granddaughter feels and wants in that moment. For instance, you might say, “You wanted more playtime before dinner, and you got BIG mad at Grandma.” You may add, “Some kids use strong words to try to get their Grandma to change her no to a yes. I’m not that kind of Grandma.” Say these things clearly and supportive. Never scolding, accusatory, or angry. She needs to see that powerful words do not control you, make attack back, or collapse into tears.
    Good luck!
    Dr. Fran

  17. My granddaughter has ben acting out ….Her mom left her with my son she move with her boyfriend so my granddaughter says her mommy left her she don’t want me …..breaks my heart.but my son has a new woman in his life which they have a baby now and my granddaughter has ben acting out which is normal she wants to be the baby she does everything she not supposed to do my son doesn’t no what to do she wont potty trsin she hoes pee but not poop she well play with her poop in her room she puts it all over her walls toys and my son and his wife don’t no what to do I told them to go to parenting classes my granddaughter does hit her new brother and she screams a lot and back talks I have had 3 children never have I seen them act like her.

  18. My Daughter will be 3 the end of September, It is now only July. about a year ago she used to have really really bad tantrums, she would go into convulsions almost. She would get so worked up that she would pull her hair, scream and scoot herself around on the floor and it would last up to an hour sometime. No matter what my husband and i did, nothing helped. Then one day it basically stopped and she hadn’t done it again until recently. (she will throw a fit but not full on tantrum). we started potty training a week ago, we had tried a few months ago also but she didn’t care for it. now she loves it, so we thought. yesterday she had 2 break downs. Once was for a reason we have no clue of. and then once was because we wanted her to try and go potty. it had been about an hour and she had liquid to drink, so we knew if she tried she would go. it turned into a huge power struggle. and she ended up on the floor next to her potty freaking out, she kept sticking her fingers in her mouth and pulling down on her jaw, screaming, crying, kicking, slapping herself in the face, and that’s after she tried breaking her back by starting the melt down on the potty. then my husband picked her up to try and restrain her a little bit as well as calm her, because he didn’t want her to hurt herself. she still continued to scream and continue her melt down for 20 more minutes. even when i tried to sit on the floor with them (10 minutes into my husband holding her) to help calm her she still continued on with her melt down for at least 10 more minutes. and then it was like “click” she was done with the melt down and was completely happy, bubbly, and more than happy to sit on the potty and she even peed within a minute. and she was an angel again. she has been doing these melt downs for a few weeks now again. one second she will be happy go lucky, the next minute she will be having a complete melt down, it is like she isn’t even in her head anymore. My husband and I are at a loss as to what to do. because it has been going on for over a year and we had thought that melt downs like this were a thing of the past, and now they are back with a vengeance and even worse than before. and it could be as simple as she wanted a toy, so we grab it from the shelf for her and then all of a sudden once she has it she doesn’t want the toy anymore and she goes into full blown melt down. We know that her behavior is not normal, not normal for her. and it worries us even more so because of the “she is not in her own head” when the melt down is happening. any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  19. Hello,

    As a full time stay at home Dad I appreciate the above advice. That said why does everything always have to be addressed as if your only speaking to Moms? I mean this IS 2012 and it is becoming more and more the norm to have Dads stay at home.

  20. Hi Tony – so glad you appreciate the advice. Yes, this is 2012 and, as a result, there are several sites for dads. As far as I know, moms don’t complain on sites geared toward dads – including stay at home dads – that they aren’t geared toward moms. Interesting, right? Though a large part of our audience is also dads (and we love them!), we started this particular site specifically to share with other moms. That being said, we love that dads read it, too!

  21. Vanna's momma says:

    I too have a daughter turning three this month. She has been throwing these kinda tantrums for over a year, in other words she has complete control, I am a single mother and live with my mom step father(whose always away at work) and mu aunt who is 54 suffering Alzheimer’s dementia disease to the fullest which my daughter is witnessing not to mention my mother and I are so worn out taking care of my aunt alone that we fight a lot and I know Vanna senses all the animosity! This has been horrible though I try everything ,time out , I do yell too much but I’m running out of ideas because she is so abusive now and I’m so worried that it’s because I’m not being a good mother and im at the point where I didn’t even know now where to begin, she gets a ton of positive attention so I know it’s not because of that but it breaks my heart to scold her being she only has me and no daddy ….,,,,IM SO SCARED!

  22. Dear Vanna’s Momma, I am truly sorry to hear how hard things have become at home. Indeed, a long year filled with out-of-control tantrums are too much for Vanna and for you, not to mention the other family members living within the home. With every good intention you made the error of using negative consequences and punishments with Vanna. You now have arrived at the frustrating point where too many negatives have created a situation where “nothing works.” In order to be a good parent you must be comfortable doing things at the same time – love/nurture (which you are doing quite well!) and setting/holding boundaries with a follow-through action plan. The latter has not gone so well. Below are my Top Tips for you with Vanna in bullet-point form.
    * STOP fighting in front of Vanna. The anger and hostility can only fuel her tantrums and raise her anxiety.
    * Do Special Time with Vanna. This means 15 minutes of daily one-on-one uninterrupted Mommy/Daughter time in which you do fun pleasurable tasks like scooping and eating an ice-cream with Vanna in the kitchen. The idea here is to re-establish the warm bond.
    * When Vanna gets out-of-control or aggressive (hitting, biting, throwing toys), Momma should immediately drop to the floor sitting criss-cross applesauce (Indian style) putting Vanna in your sitting lap facing away from you (so she doesn’t hurt herself or you). Calmly, tell her “Momma will let go when you stop pulling on me and screaming.” As soon as her body relaxes, let her go, praise her for settling down, and no lectures or anger or punishments. You are her supportive companion.
    * Get support from a professional. Consult a child development specialist, parent education group, Vanna’s teacher, or a therapist. Parenting is difficult. Get the help and guidance you need now while Vanna is young enough and her personality and character are still pliable while emerging.
    Good luck!
    Dr. Fran

  23. I have one son turning 3 December 31st . He has been experiencing “bad behavior” at daycare for the past month. The teachers say she hits,spits,takes clothes off,throw toys and shoes at the teacher and other kids. I’ve been called up to his school twice now to reprimand him, at school they use time-outs & talking with him, and at home we have tried time-outs & spanking as well as talking with him. But Nothing seems to be working. I’m mentally exhausted and frustrated.am I doing something wrong? His behavior at home is nowhere near like the actions they describe him doing at school, please give me some advice.

  24. Hello all. We are having a problem lately with our 3 year old daughter and her reactions to her grandmother (my husband’s mom). Lately, she cries every time grandma walks into the house, tells her “bye bye”, screams and basically is rude and unkind to her in every way. This is very upsetting to me and my husband, and is especially hurtful because my mother in law is a very kind and loving grandmother in every respect. This seems to have started after an overnight stay she had at grandma’s when my husband and I were away for a night, but as far as we can tell she had fun that weekend with her grandparents, not even upset that we were gone. The following week my daughter got sick and grandma babysat a few times while I ran out for medicine and groceries, so we are thinking that maybe she is now associating grandma with us leaving. We are trying to have more quality time together with grandma, but I don’t know how to discipline this behavior. I don’t want to make the situation worse by disciplining her every time she sees grandma, but I don’t want her to think this behavior is acceptable either. Like I said, she is three but does have a speech delay so some complex forms of discussion are not likely to really be understood. Please help. I don’t know how to handle this and it is beginning to cause some emotional strife in my family. :(. Thank you.

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  1. […] (For those of you who want some advice on three year old behavior, click here to see Breezy Mama‘s past coverage.) […]

  2. […] been so excited to get to this age. Granted, “they” don’t tell you how much more challenging the three’s can be over the two’s, but with those periodic tantrums that can give you a run for your money, […]

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