How to get a 3 year old to listen to me instead of crying and moaning for small things.

Cheydee - posted on 03/18/2010 ( 21 moms have responded )

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My 3.5 year old boy always cries if i tell him not to do something. Even though i am only talking to him, than he moans and moans and irritates everyone in the house so they tell him to stop and he just carries on louder. Is there anything i can do to stop him from doing this. Or is there a way that he can start listening to me instead of crying.

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Adrianna - posted on 03/18/2010

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I, too, have a three and a half year old and I do not interact with her when she decided to whine or cry. If I ask her to do something and she insists on moaning and whining, I send her to her room to finish whining and crying and ask her to come out when she is ready to be a big girl and talk ("use her words"). I really have to get myself mentally prepared to be calm and cool as this behavior truly gets on my last nerve! When she has had some time in her room (2-3 minutes) I get myself together to talk to her and tell her that there is no need to whine, I know that she is a good listener, and that, if she is ready to act like a big girl she can come out of her room. If she continues to whine and moan, I let her know that she can stay there until she is done. We don't take any whinng or kicking off in common areas in the house (lol, which is anywhere that is NOT her room). The key has been giving her some cool off time, because, as Beth says, it is really hard to reason with them when they are like that!

Donna - posted on 03/28/2010

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The key is to try avoid using the word "not". Give him the opposite instructions.
Don't run in the house = Walk in the house, please.

Use positive directions. "NOT" is considered a negative direction. Our 11 yr old son is in behavior therapy and this is what his therapist has told us... (over and over- as it is a tough lesson to learn and an even harder habit to change). If he is doing something you don't approve of- try redirecting his attention... this can bypass those fits altogether.


We send our daughter (4.1 yrs) to her room, and actually put up the baby gate in front of the door to keep her inside. She knows that as long as she is throwing the fit- all priviledges are gone. No TV, no toys, no playing with friends- NOTHING. When she has calmed down, and ready to try again, we take the gate down. She then has to apologize to everyone involved during her fit. "I'm sorry for throwing a fit." is usually what she says. After she apologizes we give her back her priviledges.
And encourage good behavior... try not to focus on the negative behavior.

We have 3 kids- 11, 9, 4... and this is the technique we have used with all of them.

You have to be consistent and you have to follow through. Hope this helps... and good luck to you.

Jenniffer - posted on 03/27/2010

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@Rebecca - I totally agree you about them testing our boundaries. My 3.3 year-old son has been doing that a lot lately - testing my boundaries. I have learned to be firm and consistent with the rules and the discipline. I also learned to recognize "signs" of an upcoming outburst.

@Cheydee - I think that discipline is sometimes a trial and error. What works for other children may not work for yours.

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Katrina - posted on 04/09/2010

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I have 3.8 y/o twins that are running me ragged with the same problem! They are the youngest of my 5, and instead of having more patience with them after the other 3, it seems my patience has run thin. Nothing seems to work, not even sending them to their room. I'm pretty much by myself on the whole parenting thing & I am really struggling right now! I can't even keep their attention on an activity for more than 5 min. w/o them running around acting crazy! and that is while the other 3 are at school. When all the kids are home, it gets even worse because my 6y/o son (& only boy) seems to help find trouble for all of them!

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I tell my daughter i can't understand her when she is talking to me like that.. i wait till she speaks to me in a normal voice and i say to her thats so much better and yes i would love to do that for you... or i ask her is that how we speak if we want something and if none of that works she gets sent to her room with a timer then when it goes off she has to apologise if not back in... but boy there are days that i wish i could run away.. I have a two year old that picks up on the behaviour.. Good Luck

Charlotte - posted on 04/04/2010

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It is so good to find this thread, I was so concerned my 4 yo had some sort of psychological problem!!!! I will try the going to her bedroom technique from tomorrow - but what about when we are out? Any suggestions????

Michelle - posted on 03/29/2010

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i feel your pain. my son goes to his room slamming the door, kicks and tosses thing but remember its his room, if you put him in like a bathroom would it be different?
or sit with him while ina "time out" dont talk use a timer(like a microwave) for 3 mins. and when the time is up then talk about the behaviour and move on with a hug! good luck

Michelle - posted on 03/29/2010

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I would say ignore it, tell him to stop by looking right at him and have a mad face then if he continues send him to his room or a chair for a little time away and say this is not appropiate 3 year old behaviour you need to stop. my son trys to do it too and the way it looks all 3 year olds are just testing us!

Anja - posted on 03/27/2010

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Try to avoid the word "not", try to put it the other way round. F.ex. instead of "don't talk my ear off" "let's play a game: Who of us can longer be quiet?"
You see, "not" cannot be cnsumed by the brain. The sentence "Don't think of blue elephants" will make you think of - blue elephants.
And give him a time out to get in balance again is a good thing, too.

Rebecca - posted on 03/25/2010

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@Becky: don't give up if it doesn't work the first couple of times --- consistency is needed ... if you give up, they learn that you give up easily and therefore they can manipulate you easily.

Rebecca - posted on 03/25/2010

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p.s. it doesn't have to be their own room if there's too much they can break by throwing stuff around in there ... you can try the bathroom for example, if you don't have to many things in their reach in the bathroom... well really any room that doesn't have too much they can break or too much harm they can do to themselves.

Rebecca - posted on 03/25/2010

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with my 3 year old we do close the door (otherwise she just runs out and clings to the nearest parent -- literally hanging onto our leg) and she does sometimes throw things around (we intervene if it sounds like she's getting to wild with the throwing). after 3 minutes (1 minute per year of age) i go in and say: "you can come out if you are ready to calm down". if she starts screaming hysterically, it's another 3 minutes of the same ... it rarely takes more than 2 lots of 3 minutes ... if she shows any sign of wanting to calm down, she gets picked up and soothed and cuddled (because they do find it hard to wind down from emotional outbursts). by the time those 6 minutes have passed, she's normally forgotten whatever it was that set her off in the first place and won't go back to asking for something she can't have or doing something she isn't supposed to do.

what is actually happening is that he is testing your boundaries -- when they were babies, crying was a way to bring you running to attend to their every NEED, so they still try it as a means to you to attend to their every WANT (they also can't distinguish real well between NEED and WANT at this age). they also don't have impulse control, so if they are doing something that you don't want them to do, it is hard for them to stop sometimes and they therefore will defy you.

if you stick to your guns, the behaviour drops of radically as they get older, but you'll still have the occasional similar outburst ... but nothing like the level of screaming and crying. if my 6 year old starts that kind of behaviour she gets sent to her room and told she can come out when she can act reasonably. she goes into her room, slams the door and comes out when she is ready -- the worst thing she does now (which we think hilarious) is draw angry pictures which she post under her bedroom door to us. when she calms down she apologises for her outburst AND the angry pictures.

if you keep reasserting the boundaries and be firm about them, they do eventually learn that those strategies don't work ... the more consistent you are the quicker they learn.

on the issue of feeling cruel ... well, we've probably all been there .... but haha, it's my 2nd time thru this and i don't feel remotely cruel with my 2nd child. you are programmed to respond to the cries of your baby and it takes some getting used to the fact that they're not a baby anymore and it is no longer your job to respond to EVERY cry. it is still your job to see to their needs, and it behooves you to attend to some of their wants, but it is not cruel to not give in to EVERY want ... and it is NOT cruel to take time out (by giving them time out in their room) from the hysterics this causes in them.

sometimes i do sing to my kids: "You can't always get what you want, but you get what you need." My 6 year old now sings along LOL but it took quite some years to get there.

Suzanne - posted on 03/25/2010

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Send him to the stairs until he is ready to comply. Don't get into a verbal argument. If he doesn't comply give him a non-verbal cue (like pointing) to where you want him to go. I have 4 kids and my 3rd is also a 3 1/2 year old boy. He will often go to the stairs and then when he stops crying will say he is ready to do whatever he was asked to do.

Becky - posted on 03/25/2010

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Well when I put my little girl down for time out she just gets right back up. Making her sit still is an act of congress. We will go back and forth for 10 to 15 min. and then I just give up b/c she wears me down. She never takes it serious when I discipline her.

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I put my 3 year old on the naughty step and tell her she needs to calm down and then she can come off......sometime takes up to 10 minutes but it used to be longer......

Becky - posted on 03/23/2010

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Im not sure either how to deal with this behavior, I have sent my little girl to her room and all she does is throw her things and kick the walls. She acts like she is in a life long prison or something, I have been struggling with her behavior for a while now and most of my in laws say i dont discipline her enough, I feel like I discipline her too much or maybe not enough of the right way. I have tried several technices, but I'm to quick to give up when something doesnt work right away. I have no help, as her farther works long hours and when he comes home from work he just tells her that she shouldn't act up with mommy and here recently he says i'm too mean to her. I am at my wits end with this, I dont know what to do with her, I dont want to turn to spanking.

Alison - posted on 03/18/2010

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I totally agree, send him to his room. That teaches him that the behavior is unacceptable and will not be rewarded. I am struggling with my daughter was well and it drives me so crazy! I have been told that I am too patient and should be quicker to discipline.

Adrianna - posted on 03/18/2010

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I don't close the door to her room, I just kind of deposit her on the floor or walk her to her room by holding her hand and talking the entire time really calmly....the calmly is the challenge!

Cheydee - posted on 03/18/2010

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Thank-you for that advice. I will try that. I used to put him in the room but he used to go crazy and fight with me, so i thought i was being mean. But i am going to give it a try again.

Beth - posted on 03/18/2010

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I am soooo glad you asked this question and I hope someone has some answers!! My daughter who turned 4 in Feb, also does this. You can't reason with her when she's like that.

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