what are some good ways to punish a 3yr old with a sassy attitude and back talk

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Sylvia - posted on 10/04/2009

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How come you want to punish her? What I mean is, is your goal actually to make her feel bad, or do you just want the annoying behaviour to stop? And can you define "sassy attitude" and "back talk"? I'm not sure what exactly either of those terms means, although I'm guessing part of it is responding to requests or instructions with "No!" -- which is just something three-year-olds do, I'm afraid, the best treatment for which is time ;^).

If you want the behaviour to stop, one thing that often works is to just not respond to it. This doesn't necessarily mean ignoring it altogether (although it might mean that) but it could mean, for instance, "not hearing" or "not understanding" what she says until she uses her polite voice -- that technique works very well with whining at our house. If you don't ask politely for the thing, you don't get it. Period. (Sometimes you still don't get the thing if you do ask politely, because the thing is something like candy before dinner, but FOR SURE you never get the thing if you demand it rudely or whine for it.)

Modelling the kind of language and tone of voice that you want her to use is also really important. She's still in the process of figuring out what behaviours are and aren't acceptable, and you can help her learn the words, tone of voice, and behaviours you consider polite and acceptable by (a) using them yourself when you talk to her and to other people and (b) giving her the words she needs to use: "I can't understand you when you speak disrespectfully. Did you mean 'Please may I have a glass of milk, Mommy?'?" or "Whining hurts Mommy's ears. You need to use your polite voice." or "How do you ask politely for what you want?"

Another thing I've found really, really important to remember is that when I tell my daughter to do something, I have to tell her; it can't sound like a question, because then she has the option of saying "No." And never offer her a choice between two options unless both choices are equally acceptable. (This is something I promised myself I would never do -- asking fake questions -- because I hated it so much when my mom would ask, e.g., "Would you like some brussels sprouts?" and then give them to me anyway when I said "No, thank you." It turns out that never offering false choices is harder than I thought it would be, but remembering not to do it helps a lot in dealing with preschoolers.)

Cindy - posted on 10/04/2009

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Wow. Are you sure you don't have my child? I swear he can drive now, he knows all the words. He will mirror all of the Adults around him. One word that slips out is all he needs to add a "Mommy" word to his repitwar. And then there are songs on the radio or tv shows (such as the news.) He even picked up on bad words in the movie Monsters vs Aliens.

Now you know his Sources of words. And he will use his new words in the proper context. Such as saying "F*ing people." When mommy and daddy are stuck in a traffic Jam. When you have stopped laughing, read on...



Trust me it's so hard not to snort with laughter when he does this. Then we have to explain that when he says those words he's not cute anymore. When he figured out it was funny and not bad he started using his new words in the house too.



So what do we do? We have the Time out chair. He not only has to sit on it. He has to count his toes. And if he miss counts, he has to count them again. By the time he counts his ten toes 4 minutes has passed. And we're not done yet...Now he has to tell us why he was on his chair and he has to promise not to "do that again." Then he is allowd to go play.

There are days he is so sassy, he catches himself, and he goes to his chair, sit, counts and we don't even know why until he tells us what happened.



When he asks us why he can't "do that?" we go down to his level and we explain why he can't do things that we can. And we have used the term "When you are bigger, you can do it. But right now, you are not big." And we don't know why, but it works.



I do know the "Santa" punishment works extreemly well with kids who can read and write. If you have a naughty child who loves santa. You can write a letter FROM SANTA to your child. And Santa can tell your child they are not getting anything from Santa. When the child recovers from the shock you can have the child write a letter back to Santa promising a change in attitude. It seems wierd, but it really works.



Good luck. Just remember kids are mirrors of ourselves, and they will test out new words. They aren't born sassy, they learn it from us.

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COMIS - posted on 06/22/2012

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Say no, distract them, and if they say it again put them in time-out for 3 minutes. Just keep in mind that they may want you to go in time-out too if they hear it come out of your mouth! ;)

Madi_cakes - posted on 10/04/2009

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Quoting Anna:

This might sound bad, but I have a squirt bottle that I keep on hand when the cat gets into trouble. Well my almost 3 year old was having the same problem, I had been getting after him all day everyday and I was at my wits end. I squirted him on the forehead out of frustration, boy was I shocked. He was so upset that he cried for at least 5 minutes. It was so effective that I kept squirting him for 2 days. And everytime the same result, he hates it! The end result for me, after 2 days my house became relatively attitude and back talk free! Good Luck!



Oh my gosh, I'm sorry, but I about spit out my drink as I read this....lol.  I can certainly understand being at wits end and doing this.  I have a five year old who, thankfully, is backing off of the sassy mouth now, but OMG, before it was torture .  What worked for me was time out, and taking away things that she liked. 

Debbie - posted on 10/04/2009

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time out is a good thing but if it still continues after time out. I did this with my four year old and it has stopped her I over exaggerated my feelings like I know that her sassiness hurts my feelings so I let her know but with tears and tell her how much what she is saying hurts.

Desiree - posted on 10/04/2009

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Use what I call the naughy chair or the naughty spot one minute for each yr old If they get off put them right back and keep up repetition I know it works my daughter stays in the chair now! I learned this off of nanny 911!

Teri - posted on 10/04/2009

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Our kiddo doesn't do time outs....so what we do is, wet the tip of your finger....then dip it into salt and put the salt in his/her mouth. It is the same concept of what our parents used to do with soap. Everytime he/she lips off....just ask....you want some salt!?

Anna - posted on 10/04/2009

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This might sound bad, but I have a squirt bottle that I keep on hand when the cat gets into trouble. Well my almost 3 year old was having the same problem, I had been getting after him all day everyday and I was at my wits end. I squirted him on the forehead out of frustration, boy was I shocked. He was so upset that he cried for at least 5 minutes. It was so effective that I kept squirting him for 2 days. And everytime the same result, he hates it! The end result for me, after 2 days my house became relatively attitude and back talk free! Good Luck!

Balinda - posted on 10/04/2009

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I would encourage the opposite. Everytime she or he is polite or listens w/o back talking....make a HUGE deal about it. Then when the "bad behavior" happens remind her/he of what you do expect. I'd be firm and also I always gave rewards/consequences when we went out. I'd remind them before we went. I usually didn't have any problems with it then. Sometimes bad talk is a sign of being tired etc..too. A time out in their bed is a big one. Sometimes I'd find them asleep after such a time out and the "sassyness" would be far removed from their minds. I always made sure they apologized too..and forgiveness was always there. Also spend more time with a child who is being disabodient it might be a sign that life is too busy and they need some one on one time. =) Hope this helps

Ashlie - posted on 10/04/2009

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Utilize a small chair or step for time out. Name it the naughty step/chair. This cannot be used for anything else though!

Heather - posted on 10/04/2009

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I use a time out chair. It sits in a kind of open area. I don't like the fact of a corner and makin them face it. I make him sit there and be quiet for 3 mins cause he is 3.

Bianca - posted on 10/04/2009

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time out. spankings dont work too much bcz it's like 5 sec pain then they are back. but if you put them in the "time out spot" they get hurt bcz they are all by themselves and they learn their lesson! but choose ONE time out spot. if you are out in public...tell them time out when you get home.

Jan - posted on 10/04/2009

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Hi Jackie, some great advice has already been given. I whole heartedly agree with the naughty step, I used it with all my kids long before super nanny was out of nappies herself!!! Another thing you could try is at bedtime make up a story to tell your child starting with once upon a time...there was a naughty little girl who was so rude to her mummy that santa decided not to bring her any presents. End on a good note by saying how the little girl became good & stopped being rude & back chatting..worth a try! good luck. x

Colette - posted on 10/04/2009

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sometimes my daighter gets sassy too even tho she isn't two until december. She might not have the vocab of a three year odl but she can certainly give back talk. Although time outs work soemtimes plain ignoring her works better.
She doesnt like being ignored and often she is being rude for the reaction. I simply walk away. finish talking and she often comes running with a better attitude and manners back in place. It doesnt work for everything. Its definitely picking battles and seeing which different punishments work for different incidents.

Cristina - posted on 10/04/2009

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Time out is the way, and if it doesn't work, take away the things she enjoys like toys ,tv. or going to the park, for an hour or a day, she'll get the point sooner or later, it has to be stopped nowi f not, it just gets worse as she ages.

Good luck.

[deleted account]

these ideas r great, but make sure u r consistent with the punishment...that is key! also, have you ever seen the show Supernanny? She uses this technique and you can watch her disciplining techniques in action.

Kerrie - posted on 10/04/2009

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definatly has to be the naughty step or corner sit them there for 1 minute per years in age, this has always worked wonders for me

[deleted account]

the naughty corner!! my partner's son hates it and it definatly works. one minute for each year ...so 3 mins for ur little one. good luck!!

Colleen - posted on 10/04/2009

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get a time out chair or mat ... and every time she sasses you make her go to time out ...

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