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Defiant 3 year old.

(29 Posts)
imwithspud Mon 07-Dec-15 03:43:12

Dd1 turned 3 in October and quite frankly since then (probably a bit before too) she has become a nightmare, definitely living up to the term 'threenager'.

Some days she is absolutely golden but other days it's just tantrum after tantrum. I try a 'pick your battles' approach but at the same time I don't want to be one of those parents who just gives

imwithspud Mon 07-Dec-15 04:05:41

Posted to early... Who just gives in for a quiet life.

I'm really struggling to keep my temper with her lately as I'm sick of the often pointlessly defiant behaviour when it would be much simpler for all of us if she just did what she was supposed to in the first place. She's started lashing out and hitting/kicking and throwing things on occasion when she doesn't get her way and we usually deal with this by using warnings and the naughty step. I'm not proud but I also find myself shouting more than I'd like, especially if her behaviour impacts dd2 in some way I.e if it's the middle of the night and she wakes her up (like now). I know shouting isn't effective but I just feel completely useless and a bit rubbish to be honest. Nothing seems to sink in with her, we tell her not to do something, and then literally 30srcomds later she's doing it.

I know it's probably all normal and it's just a phase, I know that she still doesn't have the same level of understanding that we have and that she it's a struggle for her to understand and control her emotions at this age. And whilst I do try to remember all that the majority of the time I feel like sometimes I'm not dealing with her very well and I'm probably letting her down. In finding this age really, really difficult and I am dreading the prospect of going through it all again with dd2 in a few years time.

Please tell me it gets easier? I always thought I'd enjoy my daughter more at age 3 and I do most of the time but I found age 2 much more enjoyable. Don't get me wrong she's amazing and funny and smart, she gets praised for good behaviour etc. But when she's bad, she's really bad! I'm worried people will think it's to do with how she's been raised, maybe it is?? It always seems to be my child kicking off in public afterall.

Sorry if this doesn't make much sense, it's the early hours and my mind is all over the place.

Atenco Mon 07-Dec-15 04:26:43

No brilliant advice, but first of all, forget about the what will people think bit. All children can be difficult at times.

Is she getting enough sleep? Is she maybe stressing about something?

imwithspud Mon 07-Dec-15 04:44:13

Well she recently dropped her nap, she will have one maybe once a week but she refuses most of the time, I very rarely try now as its a huge waste of time. It often results in a later bedtime as well. She's ok during the night but sometimes gets up because she needs her covers 'sorting out' or because she's 'really tired'confused she can also wake quite early, sometimes as early as 5am, then complains that she's tired. We have a gro-clock which helped initially when she went through months of 5am wake ups when I was pregnant but now she pretty much ignores it and if we put her back to bed it results in screaming which then wakes dd2 (they share a room).

Her behaviour is much worse when she's tired but in a different way. She becomes a lot more sensitive, things like refusing to bathe even though she loves baths, refusing to have a bedtime story which she normally loves, stuff like that. It's different to when she's being defiant at other times although she will often say 'I'm tired' as an excuse even when I know she's not tired I.e right after a nap.

I don't think there's anything worrying her. She attends pre-school 3 mornings a week but she adores it and has come on a lot since starting.

blackteaplease Mon 07-Dec-15 04:52:46

I have no advice just sympathy. Ds1 is exactly like this at the moment. I know it will pass as dd is lovely (most of the time) now at almost 6 but I cannot remember when things improved.

Nothighgaphere Mon 07-Dec-15 06:44:48

I'm sat here with a lovely ds who is just four. I was trying to think the other day as to when this transformation occurred. It was about 3 and a half I think. Last year when he'd just turned 3 we had the behaviour lady in to preschool, at our request as we couldn't deal with his behaviour at home. Anyone outside the home did not realise how awful he was making our lives. The behaviour lady saw no problems either. Looking back with dh we can't believe that was us only a year ago. So I'd say it is a phase and that something happens between now and 4, they just seem to grow up.

We have a dd aged 2 who is a bleeding nightmare, again very bright, and we're telling ourselves that it will all iron out in the end.

imwithspud Mon 07-Dec-15 07:49:09

Thanks, to just know that things will get better is a huge help. I'm so tired today! She's already had one tantrum and ended up hitting dp, it's out of frustration but she knows it's not ok to hit, kick etc. Hopefully in a few more months she will start to calm down a bit. She's never like this with anyone else, we stayed at dp's parents a couple of weeks ago and they were shocked when she kicked off over something. I guess it's kind of a good thing, as it shows she's comfortable enough around us to be herself and let it all out. But I've never been so exhausted/frustrated.

PennyHasNoSurname Mon 07-Dec-15 07:53:15

Could you start the whole bedtime routine earlier?

Does she like stickers? DD went through a phase of needing tucking in etc and we just did a sticker chart for every morning that she hadnt disturbed us in the night.

imwithspud Mon 07-Dec-15 09:38:20

I'll have a think Penny We already do staggered bedtimes because if DD2 isn't asleep by the time DD1 comes to bed then it's a nightmare trying to settle them both.

Sticker chart could work!

uhoh1973 Mon 07-Dec-15 13:07:35

First of all - dont beat yourself up. We are all doing our best!

I would suggest keeping to a fairly regimented routine to avoid child getting hungry / tired or both. This will help to maintain an even keel. And then you can assure yourself child is not hungry / tired ;-).

Definitely persevere with the gro-clock as an early morning start is bad for everyone's karma.

Keep up the nursery to give yourself regular breaks and help you stay calm when you need to.

Other than that when she does something really mean. Be Firm. Do not give way. DC1 bit me once and I was furious. It was after her bath and I had already dried her so I dumped her naked in her cot. She was v cross but I left her there for 5 mins whilst I could cool down. It worked in that she never bit me again. DC2 started biting me around 18 months and I had to try similar to get him to stop. As long as the child is safe they will learn not to repeat the behaviour. When she is good remember to praise her. She may just be trying to get your attention and find that it works?

Bumpsadaisie Mon 07-Dec-15 14:11:57

Hi OP, I think you just have to give it time and hang in there and she will get through it. They grow up a heck of a lot between three and four.

My DS was a forceful threenager - not naughty as such but just incredibly strong willed and unwilling to fit in. Honestly it was like locking horns with a bull some days, a constant negotiation. I had to let some of the smaller things slide or we would have been in 24/7 confrontation. But I insisted on the big things, e.g. bath nightly, teeth brushing, treating others nicely, table behaviour.

Now he has just turned 4 and is much easier. DH and I went to see him in his nativity last week and were commenting on HOW much he has grown up since turning 3.

- he is still strong willed but is now more willing to "let it go" and move on if the answer is "no" (rather than howling!)

- he has started to be able to show empathy (e.g. I was ill recently and some of the time he was able to understand that I couldn't do much with him, whereas a year ago he would just have made a fuss and not understood)

- he sits at the table and eats a variety of foods with reasonable manners (this is a total revolution from a year ago!)

- he trots off to nursery without a backward glance and is grown up enough to go to friends' houses and parties alone (i.e. be dropped off). Last year he was still clinging to my leg!

- he was a star in his nativity, knowing all the words, singing out and having a whale of a time joining in (last year he sat on my knee in the audience having flatly refused to have anything whatsoever to do with performing!).

- He has even learned to negotiate turn taking with his elder sister (most of the time).

- he can now read simple CVC words and write his name.

Basically in a year he's gone from toddler to being pretty much ready for school.

Thank the Lord.

Kismet9 Mon 07-Dec-15 14:25:13

Hey, just thought I'd write and say I can empathise! I am really struggling with a two and a half year old and have just posted a separate question as I didn't want to hijack your post, however a lot of the themes are similar and I too am questioning my own parenting abilities. One thing that has helped me is reading a lot of the other posts/questions in this section which makes me realise there are lots of other mums who have experienced similar issues, which has helped to put things in perspective somewhat. All I can say is hang in there - I bet you're doing a great job. x

lenibose Mon 07-Dec-15 14:32:43

Ok, something I have noticed with friends is that the ones who were angelic at 2, were more troublesome at 3 and vice versa. So it's a stage and they come through it. Mine is nearly 4 and was a horror between 2 and 3, and then sort of woke up on his third birthday and was far more sensible.

What helps:
1. It's developmental- so the nap dropping takes time to settle down. Once she is used to it, it will really help. In the meanwhile try and enforce some quiet time instead maybe a couple of times a day.

2. Keeping to a VERY fixed routine. Lots of warnings about what will happen. So we would begin the day with we are doing this, then this, and then. It's not the most thrilling existence but it avoids those small irritating tantrums. There will still be the big ones, but take the stress out of the small ones. For getting dressed, bath, putting on shoes, again lots of warning and very specific instructions, so 'we are going out. You need to wear, shoes, socks and coat. Socks, shoes, then coat. Socks, shoes, coat. Which socks would you like: blue or red? Blue? What a clever choice you made there? No, red? Ah, that's an amazing choice too..Socks on now? What a brilliant girl. Shoes done- you are genius, Coat now? (And lots of wine to cope with the tedium of this). If you get refusal at step 1, just walk away and do whatever you were doing. I got into the habit of making a cup of tea and just ignoring the raging tantrum. DS soon figured that my stamina was greater than his, and I could just leave him with one sock on, raging at the door, for nearly 90 minutes. He got to the point where if I walked away and began putting that kettle on, he would promptly finish the task.

3. Lots and lots of praise, sticker charts, treats. Outright bribery. We also did a list of 'all the things you did brilliantly today' in the bath every day. Some days it was a struggle, but over time he would do something and say, 'you can tell me about this in the bath because I was an excellent boy?' I guess they need to get the message that good behaviour gets effusive praise and bad behaviour gets a cup of tea/newspaper and Mummy blanking you for a bit.

4. Outright bribery for early waking. You get a star sticker for every night. After 5 nights you get a big piece of chocolate. Once you break the early waking habit, you can gently ease this off. Again we had to bring bedtime forward when he started preschool. He now face plants into bed by 6:30 which seems quite early but it sorted out some tiredness issues.

5. Offer her some techniques to control her behaviour. We had a thinking corner to just go calm down, and then he could come back and say what we wanted in a 'not crying voice.'

6. Hunger and tiredness are key. So they are seemingly normal one second, and not another. I still find that I can't mess with meal times too much otherwise deep irrationality sets in.

7. Finally you might find that she is a little bored. DS suddenly went into a stage where his old toys etc were all a bit babyish but we hadn't noticed. They are ready to be challenged. Perhaps helping more in the kitchen, doing more 'grown up' tasks. Also perhaps numbers/letters if she wants to. DS quite enjoyed doing workbooks with me at the table. Nothing intensive, and all at their pace, but you might find she is ready to be challenged.

imwithspud Mon 07-Dec-15 16:13:42

Thank you everyone for all your helpful responses. It really is good to know that it's not just me going through this and that it is developmental! Lots of things to bear in mind on this thread which I'll also be passing on to dp.

MiaowTheCat Mon 07-Dec-15 17:09:23

Three year olds are a million times worse than the much-hyped two year olds. It's the bit no one tells you about when they're going on about the terrible twos!

DD1 is calming down out of the worst of it now aged 3 1/2 but we get the delightful combination (when she's having a "moment") of the whining, the tantrums and Jingle Bells used in an attempt to crack parents.

imwithspud Mon 07-Dec-15 18:37:50

Yes you definitely hear a lot more about the terrible twos than you do the terrible threes! Based on my own experience, the two year old stage is just the beginning of it.

minipie Mon 07-Dec-15 20:58:50

Marking place and reading avidly.

DD is 3.1 and some days she is great, but others are a constant battle of wills when Every Single Tiny Thing has to be achieved by bribery, counting, negotiating, threats, or if nothing else works just plain getting furious.

It feels like she is working out how much she is in charge of her life and how much I am in charge. Boundary testing in other words. It is beyond exhausting.

Oh and MY GOD the whining. It makes me want to strangle her.

Yes tiredness makes it 10x worse and DD is usually tired (not great sleeper plus medical condition which tires her out, but seemingly doesn't make her sleep more). Sigh.

lenibose thanks so much for your list. I hadn't thought of 5 and 7 but think those could really help.

LBOCS2 Mon 07-Dec-15 21:06:09

I have nothing to add except empathy. In Friday morning I threw a shoe across the room in frustration and may have sworn a little bit because 3yo DD just wouldn't bloody do as she was told and put her fucking boots on to go to nursery so I could go to WORK!

And she had no excuse for tiredness or hunger. She was just being a defiant little madam for the sake of it.

imwithspud Mon 07-Dec-15 21:31:59

The whining argh! And all the "I wants". We've been trying to teach her please and thank you. She's good at thank you but pleases are a bit hit and miss.

Playitagainsam Sun 13-Dec-15 21:32:40

Gawd it's not just us then. My 3.5 yo DD is the most intensely frustrating defiant little beggar. She was a terrible two AND now a threenager so I feel a bit cheated on the awful 2 year old, easier 3 year old (or vice versa) theory.
My DD's special trick is to repeat back every line I've ever used in an attempt to discipline her - she spends much of her time telling me off! Simple things like getting dressed or going to the loo are a massive drama. She loses her rag over absolute nonsense, stamps her foot, shouts 'I don't love you anymore' at me most days. On the (ever increasing number of) times that I shout, she just smirks and carries on. Makes my blood boil. Nothing seems to work - threats or bribery certainly don't. She would rather lose or not have the thing that she wants (TV, new toy etc.) than comply with what I'm asking. And even though I am always consistent with following through with removing whatever it is, she never really seems to be bothered. So I realise that this is of no use to you, but I wanted to let you know that I am just as clueless about the whole thing. I also waste time worrying about how people must judge my parenting skills, so you're also not on your own there.
We also have a 7mo DS and so we are usually knackered, which makes it all the harder to tolerate. That, and I am terrified at having to do all this again in years to come. And oh god don't start me on the dread I feel at the prospect of the real teenage years!!

amarmai Mon 14-Dec-15 02:54:31

just to add 1 more to leni's great list! when my gs started with the NO phase , i joined in saying NO too. He gave me a funny look and we continued with nos , then i switched to YES and he joined in- by which time he had forgotten he wanted a battle of wills ! Hope i haven't done serious damage to a necessary stage in his development?

imwithspud Mon 14-Dec-15 08:51:31

Playit I have a 6month old as well so I'm exhausted too and I'm also dreading the prospect of doing it all over again. DD2 is a dream most of the time but I occasionally find myself thinking "what have I done" when dd1 is having a tantrum and I remember that I've got all this to come again in a couple of years time. My dd sounds similar to yours in that 9 times out of 10 she will give up tv/toy rather than do as she's told, she has even said on occasion that she wants to go on the naughty stephmm. I feel at a complete loss at times when it comes to discipline, especially in public where there is no naughty step.

It's so nice to know I'm not alone, I can't wait until both my dd's are of an age where they are more rational (although of course all children have their moments) and I can actually reason with them a bit more and possibly go days without having a screaming fit over trivial things??

amarmai Mon 14-Dec-15 12:52:44

now realising it's a choice whether to engage in a battle of wills with a 3 year old or not.

Playitagainsam Mon 14-Dec-15 22:13:38

Oh heck, we're both in it up to our necks then. Except your DD2 sounds easier on you at DS is a bit of a screamer, I am reasonably sure he's going to go the same way as his sister!! Plus when she has a proper paddy he starts crying too, those are the times when I most feel like boiling my head.
Anyway, feel free to message me and maybe we can share our horrors and our quest to avoid it all happening again in 3 years time!

Domino777 Mon 14-Dec-15 22:34:56

Firstly ensure you get more sleep and more excersise and your needs are met. You need to be in a good place mentally.

Secondly give her lots of positive attention, praise her, have fun, be silly. Surprise her with daft stuff. In public, give her lots of attention still. Engage her in her environment.

If she's upset, empathise with her. Boundaries can stand firm but empathising with her will get her onside. Recognise and name what she is feeling. Ie anger

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