How to deal with a impaticiont 3 year old?
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Amanda - posted on 04/02/2010
Demanding 3 year olds are pretty par for the course. I have 3 kids and I was floored when this behavior began at 3 with my first child. Everyone always talked about "terrible 2's" but never mentions the 3's which are way worse in my opinion (all my mommy friends agree.) By the time my second child came I was a little more prepared, but he is an easier child anyway. Now with my third he was just so sweet and past 3.5 so I thought maybe I would get away with no terrible 3's. Just as the idea sunk in the 3's hit... HARD. Now he is demanding and whiny, throwing fits and bugging to try and get his way. There is no patience or waiting, sometimes no calming him down.
I have found that patience for mom and dad, consistence, and being firm is the only way to go. It will not work right away, it takes time. At 3 a child is learning that with words and actions they can control things and if you LET them take control from you they will do it more and more. Give options such as "No you cannot have a cookie right now, but you can have an apple or an banana, which would you like?" If he still wants the cookie repeat yourself and make it clear that a cookie is out of the question, do NOT give in or it will be worse the next time. If after choosing a banana and taking one bite he starts to complain that he really wanted an apple remind him of his choice and don't give in and switch to an apple. If it continues a time-out or whatever discipline is in order. Since I have 2 other kids at times I have to remove my son from the situation completely to get through to him. Remember to talk about how he is feeling... "I understand that you are upset that you can't have a cookie, its too close to dinner time. You can be mad if you like, but screaming or throwing a fit will not get you a cookie." I usually add in that throwing a fit won't get the cookie but it will earn him a trip to time-out.
As frustrating as it is you have to stand your ground, even if it does give you a headache. Children needs limits and you have to enforce them. The good news is that this phase will pass. It was fast for my middle son, but took forever for my oldest daughter. I am hoping this phase will pass quickly for my youngest. I think a huge factor for why it was easier with my middle son is that by the time it started with him I had already gone that route with my own child and 2 or 3 others that I babysat. It was easier for me to say no, easier for me to stick to my guns, easier for me to tune out the pitiful cries of a child deprived of a cookie (or whatever.) Once a child learns that their attitude isn't getting them anywhere it makes sense for them to move on.
I know listening to your son cry is hard, but remind yourself that he is not an infant and at this point his crying is not out of need, but a ploy to get his way. The exception of course is injury or hurt feelings. If he is crying because his feelings are hurt (more often when other kids are involved) and screaming to get his way it is OK to sooth his feelings if you feel its necessary, but you still have to stand your ground. Some kids react well to a hug to calm things, some don't.
An example from last night. My daughter and middle son were playing in her room but kicked the little guy out. They kicked him out for knocking things down, screaming, and being...well a 3 year old. Troy was hurt and crying because he was being excluded, but he was also screaming at them and kicking the door which is not OK. I went with him to speak to the others about hurting his feelings and that helped. We were able to discuss why he was kicked out and what he could do (behave) to be given another chance. This showed Troy that his behavior was wrong, but his feelings were valid and helped him to find a solution that didn't involve screaming.
Parenting is really hard work...but you can get through this. It takes time, but its NORMAL and a part of childhood. Sometimes it goes beyond that, but usually you can't tell for a while (unless its extreme) which is why many things like ADHD aren't diagnosed until 4 or older. It sounds to me like your son is just being a 3 year old though :)
Stina - posted on 03/31/2010
When you say no, stand your ground no matter what so that he understands "no" doesn't mean "maybe if you pester me enough"
As for being patient about getting things like food or drink refill, with my kids, I explain that it's coming, I can only move so fast and I need them to be patient and polite. I explain what patience is "patience is waiting quietly, patience is not whining and crying etc. Reciting to them what patient behavior looks like helps me stay calm and patient myself.
Misty - posted on 03/31/2010
my little boy is the same way !we started this 3 things a few months ago and it has helped us (1) talk about feels ,we even used a chart,(2) TELL HIM WHATS GOING TO HAPPEN A HEAD OF TIME ,AND HOW OR WHAT YOU NEED HIM TO DO ,this works Great,And (3) Time Out for when he is real up-set,Not AS he was bad just a place he can go and be up-set,and came back when he not up-set,we all get up-set and have the right to,even little ones !I tell my older one you can feel any way just not act any way you want ,
Its hard and it not going the 1st time, maybe it will for you but it did not for me week after week you will see change ,And the sooner you help him find a way to express his feelings the happier he will be.Or at least it was in my case.I wish you the best of luck and i hope this helps .