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Best way to manage a wilful 3 year old!(12 Posts)
These past couple of month my 3 year old has turned into a little terror and I'm struggling with his behaviour. He is so stubborn and everything turns into a battle - breakfast he plays with his food & isn't bothered if I take it away once we've all finished, bath time it's too hot/cold or the wrong toys, he refuses to put his shoes or coat on, runs off when we're out and the worse is bedtime when he seems to get so cross he lashes out & refuses to say goodnight We use the naughty step or taking toys away but he doesn't seem bothered and lately I've resorted to shouting very loud and my 6 year old hates me shouting but I could be singing for all the youngest notices or seems to care!!
Any hints or tips as I didn't ever think I'd be one of those shouty mummies but he is really trying my patience & I don't know how to get through to him.
1) Pick your battles.
2) If you've decided that it's worth fighting over, stand your ground, DO NOT give in.
With the breakfast, just take it away if he doesn't want it, he's not going to starve before lunch and if he doesn't want to say goodnight, don't make him. These battles are unecessary.
Bath time, ignore the moaning about toys and water temperature, if he doesn't like it he can get in, get washed, get out.
Have you tried taking him out without shoes and coat? IME they don't get to the end of the garden path before they realise they're cold and their feet hurt. Shoes and coat on pretty quickly. If you're going somewhere fun, then I'd tell him 'shoes on or we don't go' and stick to it.
The running off is a problem. I would use a wrist strap until he knows not to do it. At 3 he is old enough to understand, that he can take it off if he walks nicely, but it will go straight back on if he runs off. Safety first with that one.
The naughty step works, but you need to use it consistently and be calm when doing it.
Agree with others, pick your battles and stick to it.
- don't let him see that bad behaviour bothers you - be very "matter of fact".
- re running off, I would get a wrist strap or similar. If he holds your hand and stays with you then fine, if he runs off (or tries to) the wrist strap goes on.
- start rewarding good behaviour? Sticker chart? Different rows/stickers for different things ("good bath" "good dinner" "good bedtime" ). Then maybe a small reward after 5 stickers in the same row?). As others have posted on here, it is easy to get into a negative spiral... So (whilst staying firm on discipline) look at changing things into a positive...
Agree about mealtimes - if he doesn't want to eat, then let it go: don't make an issue with food. My only rule is that he had to make a good GP at his main course to get dessert (fruit). If he doesn't eat, then I take it as not hungry (no extra snacks/meals outside of his normal routine though either).
I agree with all the other posters. the other thing that worked with my dd was choices
Blue coat or big jumper
shoes or wellies
fish or octopus - in the bath
I think giving them a choice gives them control, by selecting the choices you have overall control.
Stay calm and direct.
Give 2 choices (be sneaky and make one undesirable).
Yy pick your battles.
Count to 3 Walk away, with DD1 (vair stubborn) its "put your shoes on" "no" "on by 3 or I go without you". Then I leave, promise 2 mins after shutting that door hell be crying for you which is when you give him final chance. Works with everything eg you don't like the bath then you'll be in and out no toys, 123 follow through.
Praise praise, so you just got his shoes on after 3 instant switch from serious face to happy "yey good boy lets count how many big jumps we can do to the car!" you'll look like an overenthusiastic idiot for a while but it works.
Out and about DD is also a Bolger, she has a rucksack with lead and only if good does lead get removed and kept in hand. If somewhere safe I never chase her I walk in the other direction glancing behind and they will follow. If somewhere unsafe I generally keep the bag I with the promise of removing it later. I tbh have also explained cars would squish her and she would never see mummy again, not nice but it did work and safety first!
Most of what you have described sounds pretty normal to me - although I do understand how frustrating it can be!
I will repeat the excellent advice given by HolyGoldAutumnBatman above:
^1) Pick your battles.
2) If you've decided that it's worth fighting over, stand your ground^
The advice about giving choices is also very, very good. And praise for being good works a million times better than shouting when children are being bad.
My DH shouts at bedtimes, when DS decides to play him up ("I don't want to brush my teeth, I don't want to wear pyjamas, I want to play with my toys for a bit longer first"). I have noticed that DS thinks it is hilarious when DH shouts, and will actively choose to do things that provoke him. All very counter-productive - like you say, the shouting could be singing for all DS seems to care. Giving clear options in a calm voice (and following through!) is much, much more effective.
I find DH has a much harder time dealing with DD than I do (she is 2.5). I think it's because he tries to rush her in doing things, doesn't listen to her very often (especially if he's in a rush, which in the morning he often is) and she gets frustrated. Sometimes you need to accept that doing anything with a toddler or young child is slower than doing it with an adult!
I agree that you need to pick your battles. I use brute force to make DD brush her teeth and will hold her or put reins on her or carry her if we're near cars (she's got bolting tendencies) but otherwise I try not to make her do things that don't really really really matter. It's just a waste of energy. Yes yes yes to pick your battles (and then once you've picked them, narrow and whittle it down until there are hardly any that you're willing to have - I stick to 'is it dangerous or will it have a serious long-term effect' as my guidance) - then make your decision and hold to it.
DD1 is 3.9 and very strong willed. She has some really good points to and I'm trying to focus on those while only picking to battle things that could be harmful (like hitting DD2, 2yo) and throwing things down the stairs instead of carrying.
I'm trying to give her a little more autonomy on things like getting coats and shoes on (this only works because I've convinced her that I will leave without her) and bedtimes which have been grim and cannot get much worse for trying something else.
The other thing that helps (at least with DS) is "counting down". When we are somewhere (like the park) and need to leave, then I (get down to eye level and make sure I have his attention) say "2 more minutes then we have to go home", "1 more minutes then we have to go home", "ok, nearly time to go home", "time to go, Mummy's going to count to 3. 1, 2, 3. Let's go!" (and then often pick him up and twirl him round) and then start us walking towards the exit.
I do this a lot (i.e. before going up to bed, before leaving the house etc.etc.): it prepares him for the change. DH often completely forgets this and will just say "right, time for bath", out of the blue, and wonders why there is resistence.
I have been a shouty mummy in the past. But thenI chose to 'go on strike' when I got fed up with shouting. I would lay on my bed with arms folded and tell them that "I'm on strike" and if they want anything, they can do it themselves. Don't get into any battles. Just walk away and say you are 'on strike'. They hate it. Ignoring is good too. They hate that aswell. Say you'll only talk to them if they behave. I don't care how old kids are, they need to learn that YOU are in control and they have NO CHOICE but to do as they are told. My kids are now 10 and 8 and I NEVER have any issues with their behaviour. I have never been hit, never been told 'I hate you'. The boundaries were made clear at a very young age and our house is now a peaceful, happy home.
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