How to get a 3 year old to listen more effectively?

Holli - posted on 07/29/2012 ( 23 moms have responded )

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I'm at my ropes end. My almost 3 year old daughter does not listen to anything I say, her father says, or any relative. It started as a nice calming sit down and explain using small words and examples on "Do not touch, or you get owie", to I'm going to count to 3, and if you do not stop or go do it, you'll get Time-out. Then she has been in time out in her room, in a corner, in a chair secluded with nothing around her. All she does is kick scream and yell. When she's in the corner she bangs her head on the wall screaming. Once her time is over, which means she is no longer screaming or yelling I explained what she did wrong and told her I loved her and kissed and she'd say "Sorry Mommy" and not even an hour later she'd do it again, or back talk to me when I asked her to do something!

I don't ask her to do much, I do expect that if she pulls all of her toys out that she put them back into the bucket once it's clean up time at the end of the day. She likes to pull everything out into the floor, included clothes, toys, blankets, pillows, shoes, dirty laundry, anything in her room. She has a table that she sits at and colors she'll tip that over and throw things. She tips over her play kitchen set and kicks it screaming. Mostly all of these things happen at night when she should be sleeping. I'm done.

She will blatantly tell me "No Mommy!" to anything, whether it be I'm on the phone, doing the dishes, anything she doesn't approve of at the time. I grew up being spanked, so I did do the butt popping thing, but nothing is changing the way she acts at home. We go in public and she'll get so many compliments on how behaved, and quiet she is. I don't understand!

Anyone know of anything, it gets to the point that now my depression is back and it's affecting me when I punish her and she cries I cry right along with her feeling like I am a failed parent. Me and my husband both.

Please help.
Also, don't be rude, or sarcastic, or condescending, I get enough of that from my family. I am asking for help and advice!

-Thanks.

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Dawn - posted on 07/30/2012

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How do you know my daughter? Ha! She's almost exactly the same. She's been three for two months, and it definitely started before she hit age three. I actually posted something very similar to what you posted a coyple weeks back. Some advice I received that has been very helpful is to anticipate the argument or problem and clear the obstacle before she hits it. At this age, our girls are asserting their independence. They want to do everything themselves, but their development only allows for so much.

Example: My daughter wants to put her own shoes on. I sit with her and allow her to try. When she has trouble and starts to get frustrated, I calmly ask if I can help. If she says no, I wait. I don't force my will on her. I show her how to do things and allow her to try. I buy shoes with velcro instead of buckles because it will be easier for her to manage. I tell herto look at how the shoe curves to figure out which foot it belongs to. I get socks with different colors on the toe and heel so she can learn how to put them on right.

For the disrespect stuff, which I also get plenty of, you have to remain consistent and calm. I know it's hard. I've screamed and cried right alongside my daughter, too, so I know where you're coming from. But, the fact is, you are the mom. You are the stable one. You are the guide. If she sees you freak out, she'll feel even more helpless and act out even worse.

Stay calm. Whatever it takes. The other day, I had to lock myself in the bathroom, punch the wall a couple times and scream a couple obscenities. I would much rather do this where she can't see or hear than right in front of her. When I came back out, I was better able to calmly deal with my daughter's bad behavior.
My pediatrician told me on Maya's third birthday that this is as easy as it gets. As our kids get older, they'll get more complex. As parents, we have to set the standard now. In other words, pick your battles wisely. If it's a matter of her obeying you to keep her safe and alive, fight that battle. If it's really important to you, be consistent and stand your ground. Be patient and understanding, say it lovingly, but mean exactly what you say.

For the screaming in time out, what my pedi told me is that she's not in pain, she's trying to manipulate me. Put her in her room. Shut the door. Walk out of the house if it helps (as long as she's in a place where she can't hurt herself). Don't scream back. Let her know the screaming and crying will not get her what she wants.

Most importantly, remember she's three, not thirteen. She's a toddler still. She wants to do more, say more, and be more than she's developmentally capable of. She needs you to show her how to do it, then step back and let her try. Let her know you understand her feelings and frustrations, but that acting out will not make things better. Let her know you're there for her.

I hope things get a little better for you.

Alda - posted on 08/05/2012

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I have 3-year old twin girls - you can imagine how manic it gets in this house! It feels like we always have to threaten to get them to listen. Seriously though - Shauna mentioned 123. We used to say - 'I'm going to count to 5. If you're haven't stopped/aren't here/haven't put your shoes on etc by the time I get to 5 you're going in the timeout chair. Now, all I have to do is say 1..2..3 - they come running, believe me, I never make it to 5! Also, we made a big deal of them being in 'big girl beds' now. We have a travelcot at the ready, and if they cause trouble during the night they get one warning and then they go in the 'baby cot'. They hate it, so they listen. Also, if they don't behave they don't get pudding the next night/don't go to ballet class etc. It's a very effective deterrent to misbehaving, believe me. Hope it all works out for you.

Also, if you don't have one - I found a stairgate in their bedroom door is amazingly effective. If they want to scream and shout we let them (we did controlled crying when they were younger). They can't get out and soon realise they're not getting anywhere and just fall asleep because there's nothing else to do.

I often raised my voice to them which got me nowhere. I've had 5 migraines the past 4 days, so I haven't been able to shout for fear of my head falling off lol, so I've spoken to them quietly and calmly. The difference has been amazing. Since I'm calmer, so are they, and they have to be quiet to hear me, so there is a lot less noise :-)

Shauna - posted on 08/05/2012

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1-2-3 Magic (www.123magic.com) was the trick for us. We have 9 kids & honestly, every one of them are strong minded children; 1-2-3 Magic was a God-send for us!
I don't even have to speak to them for them to know to listen to me; I simply give them a prompt (I hold 1 finger up, which simply means,""That's one...", I rarely ever get to 3 fingers, because they know that if I put up that third finger they will have to "Take five..." (Meaning, time out for 5 minutes, or however many minutes I say.)
You can use 1-2-3 Magic on children as young as 2 yrs old! It's truly is an amazing tool for parents, even if they have "perfect" children. :0)
Good Luck!

Shauna Nilsson
Layton, Utah

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Bobbie - posted on 09/02/2012

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I have a completely different take on making this all stop. It works and I have applied it to children with the same issues with great success. I will try to be brief and to the point.

People are very complex creatures, and so are little people. They don't realize why they act and react a certain way just as we don't realize or understand why we act or react to them in ways that just don't seem to be getting through to them.

First thing, remember that tomorrow is a new day. Since the ways you and your husband have used simply don't work it they should be replaced with new tools to work with, agree?

Secondly, she loves you and you both love her. She didn't come with a manual and we all make mistakes and will continue to make mistakes even though we are doing everything out of love.

We raise our children the way were raised. I however wasn't raised with love so in I read deeply into child development and emotional development to make sure I didn't screw up my kids too badly. I learned a lot. Believe it or not, without knowing it, your interaction with her currently is causing her to react. Too deep to explain but here is the fix. It is hard work. It is a heck of a lot easier when you have someone like me step in and get them on the right track and then you step in and take over. They won't know what to make of the new you at first but believe me, you, your husband and your daughter will respond immediately and constantly if you stick with these few pointers.

Learn real Calm -

** your voice level, NO MATTER WHAT SHE IS DOING, speak the same. The same calm tone, the same calm volume.

** To correct her - you walk over to her, you must be physically near her whenever you are speaking to her. say "let's not play with that, it isn't for little girls, lets come over here". You must redirect her attention. At her age to simply say no and leave her fixated on the item she is not to touch is like putting chocolate in front of me and telling me not to want it!

**Redirect your awareness of her. Learn to observe her in times she is being good. Every little thing she does right should be noted in the same calm voice of happiness. It is important to learn to do this. It isn't a natural way to react because we were brought up to EXPECT good behavior and CORRECT bad behavior. There is a big imbalance there. We should DIRECT ATTENTION to good behavior so they know what they are doing right! When they know they are doing something right and they get a simple smile and praise it feels so good that they do it again and again. (right now she gets the attention when she gets people focused on her behavior but it is given when she isn't being good. That is just the way we are wired as children. Attention is attention good or bad, we crave it.

EXAMPLE: she is walking with you the car. you say "look at you being so good holding mommy's hand like a big girl". This has to go on all day. It will not only teach you to focus in on all that she does well but it will elevate the stress you both are under from the fall out of correcting her.

Opposite behavior Example: She lets go of your hand and runs to the car grabbing the car handle to get in. You say in the same voice. "that scares me. I don't like it when you let go of my hand, I want you to be safe". Then you calmly put her into the car. It is forgotten. Move on to the next event in your day and don't keep score of how often she didn't behave. That must stop. We shouldn't hold grudges against our children and keeping a score card of their misbehavior does just that.

**Environment - Something is not working well with her being in her room and destroying it. At her age I would be taking her from room to room with me as I moved through the house to do housework. I can't remember my children playing alone at that young age for more than mere minutes out of line of vision. I suggest you speak to her like a little person. She is a little person after all. I would take a few toys from her room, close the doors to the rooms and take her to the room you will be in. engage in play for a few minutes with her and then tell her what you are doing. say, "you play and I am going to be right here washing dishes. You can tell me a story if you want". This keeps them engaged, happy and feel good about themselves. If she wonders off, you go find her, smile at her and say, "I want you to play with me in the kitchen so I see you, okay?"

**Lastly, you and your husband both are not there to correct her, you are there to guide her. At just under three years old she hasn't developed emotionally to know that she is frustrating you or making you angry. Your spanking, yelling. long time outs and counting are confusing to her. And by the way, NEVER should a time out be longer than the age of the child. 3 minutes tops! AND,,,,,most importantly, all time outs and corrections, if you decide to still spank, should be done in complete calm. If you correct her with anger the message she is getting is that you are bigger and stronger so you can hurt her whenever you want to. This leads to talking back. Her survival instinct kicks in and her frustration at being bullied (that is how they view it) causes her to lash out. At first she will demonstrate self harm, pinching herself, banging her head, these are all cues that she can not handle the stress and frustration surrounding her. Then, if she is a head strong child she will fight back and start to kick, bite or mouth off. Children with other personalities that can't handle the same feelings but are not head strong do things like chew their nails, play with their hair, chew on their clothes and even pull their eyelashes out.

I have attached a website on what your child should be doing at age 33 months.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.



http://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler/33-m...

Laura - posted on 08/21/2012

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I deal with something similar. My 3 year old boy AND my 2 year old daughter get into those sorts of moods (almost all the time lately). They feed off each other's naughty behavior. When I tell them not to do something or discipline either of them in any way, I get a loud burst of scream of protest from them. I have noticed that this behavior has escalated in the past weeks. It wasn't always like this. I can only continue with my routine and disciplining try to maintain my sanity, and hope they grow out of this soon! Good luck!!

Suzie - posted on 08/18/2012

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The more I read these posts... I think we are all parents of strong willed little girls which are entirely different in itself. I was with my mother today and she reminded me that my daughter is just like me and my sisters daughter is just like her- you tell her no or get on to her and she instantly bursts into tears. Personally even though my daughter can be exhausting at times, I wouldnt have it any other way. I like that I will never have to worry about her standing up for herself or having her own opinion and not just adopting others all the time. So just remember as frustrating as it can be to raise a sassy, independent, strong-willed little girl, it will be that much more gratifying when they are young ladies.

Dori - posted on 08/18/2012

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holy crap our girls are two peas in a pod i swear not only will she EVERYTHING you posted but what really drives me bonkers she will look directly at me and do exactly what i just told her not to do with a and what are you going to do look on her face so glad I'm not the only one with a devil child most days shes more work then my ASD son . ok now going to read all the responses lol i just had to coment first

Tracy - posted on 08/12/2012

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its an age thing alot of them are like this. just keep doing what your doing and remember she'll soon grow out of this faze into something equally annoying. all i can suggest is pick your battles when you can.

Kristy - posted on 08/12/2012

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Start to take stuff away from her. I do that to my three year old somethings. Or put her in time out. Hope that helps..

Alda - posted on 08/12/2012

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I just wanted to follow up on my post by saying that I hadn't started out putting a stairgate in the girls' bedroom to lock them in lol. It was to stop them coming out of their room and falling down the stairs in the dark in the middle of the night (their bedroom is at the top of the stairs). It just happens to be a good thing in stopping them causing chaos during the night as well :-)

Katie - posted on 08/12/2012

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When I'm having parenting issues I stop and think is this an endurance exercise or if the tools I'm using are just not working. I think with 3yr olds (I'm on my 2nd and I agree that 3 is much worse then 2!) it is more of an endurance exercise. Set clear consistant boundries (if hitting is wrong it is always wrong and you always go to time out), enforce them 100% of the time. Teach her to have a time out. Seems silly but explain the rules/rituals of time out and stick to them. You make a bad choice, you go to this spot and sit, Mommy will tell you why you are in time out, you will sit quietly for 3 min, time out will start when you are quiet, Mommy will set timer, Mommy will come back and you will tell me why you are in time out, Mommy will help you think of a better choice next time, Mommy will give you a hug. Practise it when she is not in trouble, 3yr olds love role play. Keep in mind her impulse control isn't fully developed yet, she isn't a little adult. From you post sounds like she's getting into the most trouble when she should be sleeping, maybe she isn't getting enough sleep? Consider her bedtime routine and tweak if necessary. I also think if you're gong to have a stick (negative reinforcer) you need a carrot too. We use a jar and a bucket of beads. Good listening and following directions the FIRST time I ask gets a bead. x# of beads gets a prize for the box- a bunch of toys/puzzles etc from the dollar store. Had worked wonders for response time to washing up for meals, and getting ready for bed. Good luck!

Holli - posted on 08/07/2012

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I luckily caught on to the counting down. Even in stores she'll come running. Which is nice, sometimes she'll push my buttons to 3 but I am believer in a swift pop on the butt. And she knows it. Honestly, I don't beat her but its enough of a pop to feel it, and moreover just hurt her feelings not her physically. Since reading some previous posts about how she bangs her head in the corner, pulls her hair, or smacks herself I stopped worrying so much it was her hurting herself and just more for show and that's been wonderful as well because I am actually able to walk away from her without any worry. Bed times aren't too much trouble she as of late has had no nap which come ten o'clock if she makes it that long she'll be begging to go lay down. Everyone you all have been so helpful, and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Also I want to say thank you AGAIN for not being judgmental or mean. Now if only I could get her to stop pooping in her panties I think we'd be good. Thanks again Mom's, you all are fantastic! :D

Lori - posted on 08/06/2012

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The day my daughter turned three it was like a light flipped on inheritance head an instead of the terrible 2's I got the terrible 3's. I know its hard an you hate to make them cry ( I'm a single mom and hate hurting her feelings) but the only way to get through to her was to spank and now she will be 4 in September and now all I have to do is tell her that I will take her to the restroom. I also did the time out and if she did something wrong she would not be allowed any treats through out the day such as candy or icecream ect. Days that she would do good I would always reward her with a prize. All children are different but they all crave discipline. I really believe its the age and she will grow out of it. Good luck!

Sinclairbrooks - posted on 08/06/2012

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It's the age. Try everything you want, but there is nothing that is going to change it. They are curious & their brains aren't developed enough yet to do what you are wanting. There will be several of these stages. Parents think that children are small adults. They are not.

Amber - posted on 08/05/2012

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Getting a 3yr old to listen is like expecting a man to put down the toilet seat lid. It just doesn't happen.

Suzie - posted on 08/01/2012

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Seriously... I have been there. I yelled at my daughter on the way to school the other day telling her I was going to give all of her toys to the poor kids because she is so demanding and unappreciative... and she is 3! Like any 3 year old would comprehend what being appreciative means.... hahaha

Let me know if it works for you!

Zanele - posted on 08/01/2012

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Gosh Sarah thank you so much, I will try this trick tomorrow night and hopefully it will work :-(. I just really lost my temper this time and I can't believe Ismacked her that much. I have loads of work waiting and Other house chores to quickly get out of the way whilst they sleep.

I pray it works...Thank u i feel better :-)

Suzie - posted on 08/01/2012

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Can she nap in your room so your son can sleep peacefully? I swear by this.... I found a trick from a french parenting book that really works. I always tell my daughter before she goes to sleep. You do not have to go to sleep. I understand you might not be tired. But you must stay in your bed. Then if she gets out of bed, you just put her back in and remind her...

And my daughter is just like yours... I need a drink, I need to go potty, I'm hungry, I'm not tired as she wails hahaha It was just one excuse after another. But after I tried this whole, that's fine.. I understand you aren't tired. You don't have to go to sleep. But you must stay in your bed and you must be quiet.... It takes the excuse out of it.

Every once in a while I have to go in there and remind her no talking... she will have an entire city going on in her bed with her stuffed animals.

Just remember its a stage and it will pass... it won't be like that forever!!! But it sure does feel like forever when they are out of control and wailing!

Zanele - posted on 08/01/2012

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Oh Gosh I feel soon soon bad right now, it's been two hours trying to ignore my moaning almost 3 year old daughter. She just never wants to go to bed lately and she wants noodles, water, potty or banana everytime she hears the words bed time.

She shares a room with her almost two year old brother who never protests to sleep he simply just goes to bed I tuck him in and I leave. He falls soundly asleep and now ever since his sister started these bedtime tricks he also is woken up by the sobs.

I smacked her soo hard and now she is crying her eyes out and I feel really really bad now. I don't know what to do anymore because all this just makes me very angry. Tried sitting in the garage to avoid hearing her with hopes she will fall asleep but it's just not happening..... I'm soooo tired, PLEASE help.

Kristin - posted on 07/31/2012

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My 6 yr old was like that and I found what worked for me is to make everything into a game. If I wanted him to pick his toys up I would say ok lts race to see who can clean up the toys the fastest? I alwasy helped him until he said no mommy i do and you time me and then it became a race to beat his old times lol but whatever works right. If he had temper tantrums which he had plenty he cleaned his messes up and I canceled a trip to the park for that day. I taught my son in a gentle loving way that bad behavior had bad consequences and good behavior had good consequences and I never wavered (very tempting to waver sometiems but I didnt) Worst thing you can do is cry with them, I used to discipline my son and then cry in my room away from him. It broke my heart to see him so upset because he lost a privledge or a treat due to bad behavior but gradually he learnt that if he was a good boy who listened than we could do lots of fun things and if he was bad then we did nothing. My son is very active and loves outside thats why i use the park or bike rides or swimming as those are his favorite things to do. If he tripped over his own mess and got mad I would say well mommy told you to clean your mess up so you dont trip so you have no one to be mad at and he would realize that and he learned to clean up after himself. I also had him help me wiht housework, told him if you help mommy dust or something than we can gop to the park fastter, Their are a lot of different things to do you just have to find something that works for you and your child and be firm and consistent with it.

Suzie - posted on 07/31/2012

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My daughter turned 3 in May and we definitely have our issues. She isn't quite as direct as your daughter... she is a little more crafty about it. She is the ultimate negotiator but either way its the same issues... when she isn't getting her way, every pays for it!

She is great when she is at school, all of her teachers love her, she is fantastic if we go to the grocery store, gymnastics, out to dinner... but when we get home, everything is a battle. Basically if she asks to do anything and I tell her no, she melts.

I put my daughter in her room on her bed. She doesn't have any toys in there so it works. I also tell her you can be sad but you may not scream like that. She usually cries for a little while- 5 minutes or so. When I go talk to her about whatever just happened, sometimes she is over it but sometimes she will say "But I just want to .... "... I tell her obviously you need more time to think and I walk out and shut the door. She doesn't get to come out until she is ready to "give up" whatever I said no to... I am telling you she can be relentless. It might seem mean... but at some point she has to accept no for an answer. Sometimes it takes three rounds of her being in her room before she lets one small incident go.

I always try to put things in perspective for her. I tell her stories about grownups who never leaned what I am trying to teach her like how I saw a grownup eating with her mouth open and nobody wanted to sit with her at lunch or what would happen if my boss told me no and I threw myself on the floor and cried... She seems to like these little antecdotes are funny and it does make an impression because she asks about them later on.

I never did the whole time out in a chair thing. I felt the bed was a better option. It was comforting, it was soft... no hurting herself... and it was calming versus the time out chair.

If she is being destructive at night... I think you need to work on keeping her in her bed or if you have the space move her toys out of her room altogether. I found a trick from a french parenting book that really works. I always tell my daughter before she goes to sleep. You do not have to go to sleep. I understand you might not be tired. But you must stay in your bed. Then if she gets out of bed, you just put her back in and remind her... It only takes a few days and I am sure she will get it. This is the only thing we never have a battle with.

When you need time to do things around the house for just for yourself that matter ans she tells you know. I would just tell her if you are going to be sassy, you are going to sit on your bed. Tell her why you are doing what you are doing... I am doing the dishes. Do you want clean dishes to eat on or do you want dirty dishes to eat on? Do you want to help with the dishes? OR I am doing the dishes right now, do you want to play with your toys or read a book? These help me... my daughter suprisingly enough always respects what I am doing... she just wants me to quit everything I am doing when she needs something! haha

Chaya - posted on 07/29/2012

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With children that age, they're more likely to want to do something if they see you do it too. It worked with naps for me too.

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