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What is 'normal' 3 year old behaviour?

(13 Posts)
christmasmum Tue 20-Sep-11 14:49:04

Ok, I know there's no such thing as 'normal', but over the last few weeks the pre-school teacher and now her childminder have both had to pull me aside for a 'word' when I collect my 3.5 year old DD to discuss her behaviour.

They say she doesn't listen very well, has a short attention span and can be quite rude/cheeky. I fully agree with the above but thought that's what 3.5 year olds were like? To clarify, she listens and does as she's told if you make it clear you're being serious, she can sit and do drawing or do a jigsaw for about 15 minutes on her own but is very easily distracted if me or my DS (19mo) are around and wants LOTS of attention. She can be cheeky and sometimes answers back but, again, apologises quickly if you call her on it. I have always thought she was on the more energetic side of the scale (she never stops!) but I don't have any experience with children of this age to compare her with.

What's normal for this age group? Does every child/parent get a telling off at some point?!

Madlizzy Tue 20-Sep-11 14:51:46

That IS normal 3 year old behaviour. They have the attention span of a goldfish and are still learning how to socialise. They can also be rude and cheeky, but it does depend on exactly how much. Do you call her on it every time or does she get away with it sometimes?

tryingtoleave Tue 20-Sep-11 14:54:07

I think maybe it is unusual ( but not abnormal) for a little girl to be cheeky to a teacher ( whatever they might be like at home).

My ds is energetic ( actually quite hyperactive) and the preschool teachers have not complained. Maybe this teacher is not right for your dd.

christmasmum Tue 20-Sep-11 14:56:26

I always call her on it in a very school marmy 'you do not speak to other people like that, young lady' type way and if she does it too much she gets a toy put up on the shelf - but I don't know how much she gets away with at school/childminder.

Apparently the cm asked her if she was listening to which my DD apparently replied 'NO' (which to me implied she WAS listening, just being cheeky - so at least that's a start!).

Her swimming teacher also said she doesn't listen so we had a chat about how she must listen to grown ups. I then asked her why she wasn't doing as she was told in her lesson, to which she said 'sometimes she asks me to do things and I don't want to do them' - which I found a bit tricky to answer!

tortilla Tue 20-Sep-11 15:07:14

The attention span thing seems relatively normal to me (have a 3.6yo DS) DS generally has a short attention span - 10-15 min absolute max on most activities I'd say. However, he can concentrate quite hard for quite a long period of time on one activity if he is in the mood and it grabs his attention. He can easily spend 30 mins or more building his train tracks or doing his jigsaws (his favourite things) with minimal input from us if he's in the mood. Could your DD do this? He also needs lots of attention, particularly when his sister (12mo) is around or if he is not completely engrossed in what he is doing.

The cheeky thing is a problem I would say - my DS can be a bit cheeky occasionally but is rarely rude and I pull him up on it straight away. They need to learn now that cheekiness is not nice and being rude is unacceptable.

Do you think preschool/CM were more concerned about the attention span (which I don't think is a huge problem on its own) or the cheekiness/rudeness (which I think they have every right to comment on as that needs to be stamped on if it is more than just the occasional lapse or is causing disruption)? Also be aware that they deal with lots of DCs the same age whereas I only have mine to compare to, so they may have insights that me and you as parents of just one 3 yo may not.

tortilla Tue 20-Sep-11 15:12:20

I had to smile at the 'i don't want to do them' comment. My DS will not do anything just because an adult asks; he wants to be certain in his own head that it is something he wants to do or is capable of or comfy trying. It can be frustrating, and it isn't conducive to being viewed nicely by swimming teachers etc. who would rather have a class of 3 year old sheep meekly doing nicely whatever they are asked, but I think assertiveness and not following the herd are actually good characteristics to have as they grow so I try not to stamp on that too much.

Lilyloo Tue 20-Sep-11 15:21:38

I have a 3 yearr old dd and also work in a pre school. I think if your dd can sit and engage in an activity for 15 mins that is nothing to worry about. However maybe she isn't doing this at pre school if she can get easily distracted by you or ds. There will be many more distractions at pre school. Have you spoken to the cm about her attention span ? Does she sit and listen to story / news time at nursery. We would expect most dc's of her age to be able to listen to a story for 5 mins and then do some singing etc.
The rude / cheeky is another point. This isn't typical of most 3 year olds. She should be able to follow instructions 'she listens and does as she's told if you make it clear you're being serious'. I think this is an issue if she only chooses to do as she is told when you have to make it clear you are being serious. I think saying 'no' to an adult when asked to do something is something she needs to be reprimanded for. Likewise when her swimming teacher asks her to do something.
I presume her hearing is fine etc

thecaptaincrocfamily Tue 20-Sep-11 15:30:02

Her attention sounds fine, the rule of thumb being about 5 minutes per year of their age.
Being cheeky can sometimes stem from someone finding it funny the first or second time and laughing, so they do it for fun.
All you can do is tell her firmly 'you don't say no to me/ grownups' and use time out. To be honest the removing toys I have never found that effective from people I know who use it. They forget the toy after an hour anyway. Withdrawal of attention is much more effective. It gives the message that if she speaks to you like that then she will not have your company.

christmasmum Tue 20-Sep-11 16:12:42

To be honest I'm not sure she could sit and concentrate for 30 minutes on an activity, I've certainly never seen her do that. She has always been very impulsive in her behaviour and does not seem to simply copy other children her own age - an example is when we used to go to playgroup (when she was 2), every child would be sitting eating snack and she would be jumping up and down from her seat, coming over to me, being put back etc until I finally stopped taking her. She did calm down on that sort of behaviour a lot but I would certainly never take her to the cinema or theatre where she would be expected to be still for any period of time - she simply could not do it.

With stories etc she can sit and listen to bedtime stories but often interrupts with irrelevant comments and I have to tell her not to. If she continues then I stop reading and put her straight to bed. From what pre-school says she does sit and listen to story time, but I don't exactly get detailed feedback so I'm not too sure. The one comment I get a lot is that she's very 'determined'.

I am increasingly concerned about the cheekiness after hearing your thoughts, she absolutely does not 'get away' with this at home and I do everything you suggest from removing attention, to removing toys, to no treats etc so I guess I need to give it a few more weeks to see how that develops. You say this is not normal for that age group - does anyone have any suggestions on what I should do about this then? If I suggest seeing a Dr my DH looks at me like I'm an overreacting nutcase (which I could well be!!) but would like to know your thoughts on the next step.

Thumbwitch Tue 20-Sep-11 16:20:28

Sounds mostly normal to me.
My DS is 3.9 and is getting increasingly cheeky, due as thecaptain said, to us finding it amusing in some instances. He has difficulty telling the difference between being cheeky and being naughty/rude, so I am helping him with that but it's wearing! He has recently learnt Defiance (not sure where from - gah!) and he is easily distracted from pretty much everything except his DVD. He can do a cinema visit but starts to shuffle on the seat after about half an hour, has to move the chair arm up so he can lie down, then sit up, then stand on the floor, then sit again, lie on me, etc. etc. But he'll watch the whole film.

The distraction bothers me the most - he does a couple of classes and is ALWAYS looking at the other children to see if they're doing something more Interesting than sitting and listening - and the minute one of them does something, he copies. Such a follower hmm. They could be older, younger or the same age - makes no odds to him, if they're up to mischief, DS will be joining them. <sigh>

I don't know how to deal with it on a daily basis so no tips from me, sorry , but I;ll keep checking for news from more experienced people!

lovingthepeaceandquiet Tue 20-Sep-11 16:37:11

Yes it sounds typical to me too. My dd was as you describe - always on the go and very cheeky at times despite me always pulling her up on it. To be honest, I might have gone ott with this as it probably made her do it all the more! That's just what she's like if you draw attention to anything. I started ignoring anything I felt wasn't tooooo bad. I don't know if it was that or just maturity, but she isn't as bad now (she's 4.6).

Her attention sounds fine too. I would expect her to be able to focus for 5-10 mins, maybe longer if it's something she's very interested in!

Tamashii Tue 20-Sep-11 17:07:27

Well, I was just about to start a thread about getting "into trouble" at DS nursery when I was pulled aside and offered a leaflet on a "Child Behaviour" course they are about to run at the nursery since my LO has been nipping at nursery which is brand new behaviour since he started there. So, thanks for your post as it seems to be completely along the lines of what I need to know too - what is a 3.5 year old supposed to behave like, what is expected of them at nursery and how the hell am I supposed to reprimand him when a) he doesn't do it at home and b) surely they are meant to be teaching the children how to socialise at preschool...

Anyway, my DS is also full of energy and hadn't really given up his nap when he got his 5 afternoons a week at nursery where they don't let them have a nap. This means if DS doesn't nap before he goes to nursery (which is nearly impossible to get him to do since he has only been up a few hours before nursery starts) he is WAY overtired when he gets home. He too is easily distracted by other children's behaviour and tends to join in on any silliness that is going on but when he is with me I will step in and reprimand him if he is getting carried away throwing himself about. My in laws think myself and DH are too strict with DS believe it or not but it seems DS is pushing all the boundaries at nursery and getting away with it. When they say "Is he like this at home" and I say "No way - he would be given a warning and a 3 minute time out if he misbehaved at home" they just look at me with that "Yeh, yeh they all say that" expression.

I have also read that boys go through a mini puberty type period between 3 and 4 where they get a kick of testosterone which can affect their behaviour and cause some aggresive behaviour and I have noticed he is a lot more kind of stroppy and moody from time to time but it comes in phases then he goes back to being his lovely little self.

Also, when I drop him off at nursery he is my little DS but when I go to pick him up (he has been going to nursery now for 3 weeks includinga settling in week so not that long since he is not used to being alone with a room full of other 3 year olds without me swooping down being over protective and pulling him up every time he misbehaves) he is the Tasmanian Devil, rolling on the floor, won't stand up, acting up and sometimes pretending to wail and cry in a really fake, loud voice. He is not like this at all at home but every day when I pick him up I wonder if he has been acting out all afternoon because this is not what he is like normally or what he was like before starting nursery. He also comes out with things like "X stole my paiting and ripped it up" or "Y pushed me over but he didn't get into trouble" along with "a dinosaur came in and ate all the crayons" so I am like what is he making up and what is real? I know the nursery teachers/assistants are really stretched with all these kids to look out for and can't be seeing every little thing that is going on but it just seems that after 3 weeks in a brand new situation where he is getting used to the structure of preschool, all these new kids, a whole lot of new activity and not having me breathing down his neck telling him off all the time (which I thought would help him learn how to socialise and behave properly) he would get a fair chance to settle in before they started sending letters home about "Child Behaviour" classes and such like.

Oh and yes I am being really quite over sensitive about all this because what am I supposed to do? Go down to the nursery and spy throught the windows and run in to tell off my little boy if he does something remotely naughty? I mean, I had to sign an accident form the other day where some other kid had thrown something at my DS's head but "it was a total accident" and I wonder if the other boy's mum/dad/carer is getting a Child Behaviour course recommended to them....

Sigh. Sorry that turned into a rant sad

christmasmum Tue 20-Sep-11 18:14:30

I know exactly what you mean - what are you supposed to do about behaviour when you're not there?!

I just picked up my DD from the childminder and was again told about her behaviour today which included shouting 'No' when spoken to by both the teacher at pre-school and her cm. The problem is I spoke to her about all this last night and she promised not to do it again and she just doesn't do that when she's at home. Now the cm is telling me ideas for disciplining her and I feel like saying, hang on love - she's doing it at your house not mine, YOU discipline her better!

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