Help me with my 3-year old

(46 Posts)
h4ppy Tue 04-May-21 10:22:33

I'm really struggling with my 3-year old, sometimes I don't know if I even like her. This is a terrible thing to say of course, and I feel awful.

She was a tricky baby who cried all the time, and now that she's older, she's very emotional/sensitive, contrary, stubborn, doesn't listen, etc. We are fairly relaxed parents, and allow a lot of stuff I'm sure others don't, just for an easier life. She knows what our very few redline points are, and she still does them, sometimes just to get a reaction. She does the thing, I give her a warning, she does it again, and then I tell her off. She cries. It's ages before we can defuse the situation and move on. It's extremely tiresome.

I used to be more patient and tolerant with her, and I'd try my best to let 99% of stuff go. But more recently, I just can't find that patience anymore - why can't she just be more like other 3-year olds and be easier going? I love her but I don't like certainly aspects of her personality.

I don't know what I'm after. Maybe reassurance she will come out of this phase and become a pleasant girl. I also have an almost 1-year old who's been a complete dream baby in comparison. I'm worried I'll like her more over time and that this will show. Can anyone offer any advice?

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Maggiesfarm Tue 04-May-21 10:33:06

It sounds to me as though your daughter is having the 'terrible twos' a bit late. I'm sure she will outgrow this phase and when she starts school, she won't be able to get away with everything.

h4ppy Tue 04-May-21 10:40:59

Should I continue to find patience, or be firmer and accept the tears? My husband has infinite patience, so I do most of the telling off. She probably thinks I'm a tyrant.

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vickylou78 Tue 04-May-21 10:41:39

Don't panic! She's just being normal 3yr old! I've got a 6yr old and a 3yr old and went through it with my first and now doing it with my youngest.. it's just a development thing. My eldest was through it by 4yrs and now is an angel.

But what I would say is maybe don't let too many things go... I think consistency may be better. We pulled up my eldest for everything even minor things as then she knew she couldn't get away with being naughty ever and knew if we said no we meant no. We used the naughty/time out spot method. Worked pretty well.

vickylou78 Tue 04-May-21 10:45:56


Should I continue to find patience, or be firmer and accept the tears? My husband has infinite patience, so I do most of the telling off. She probably thinks I'm a tyrant.

I would make the 'telling off' very calm and go down to their level in a firm tone but no shouting (easier said than done!)

We did the naughty spot/time out for 3 minutes. Then they say sorry and you hug it out.

StarsandStones Tue 04-May-21 10:47:44

How to talk so little kids will listen, a book written by Faber and King may help you. I find it very helpful, it gives various strategies. It means you don't have to say 'no' all the time.

h4ppy Tue 04-May-21 10:49:04

I've read that book! And Philippa Perry. Some strategies have helped to an extent... but she doesn't reason!

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vickylou78 Tue 04-May-21 10:49:40

Ps. Totally normal for them to infuriate you!! You'll be so pleased when then turn 4 and become easier.

bluebell34567 Tue 04-May-21 11:04:17

you say you have a year old as well. does 3 yr old get enough attention like one to one?

Amammai Tue 04-May-21 11:20:12

My DS was super hard work at 3 but now at 3.5 he’s suddenly so much easier. Their personalities, understanding, reasoning, speech, emotional understanding are all developing day-by-day at that stage. We found looking carefully at triggers (tired, hungry, not wanting to end a game/activity were key behaviour triggers for our DS) and then working as a team with DH and our childminder (who he is always super good for!!) to find strategies to help avoid melt downs or unwanted behaviour. Distraction, praise, being firm for anything ‘serious’ and lots of talking and explaining situations and expectations all really seemed to help. He’s now mostly a delight to be around but 6 months ago I really didn’t feel like that. It will get easier.

Ifonlyidknownthen Tue 04-May-21 11:35:24

I've always said that my youngest dc started his terrible twos at 3, almost like the clock struck midnight and a demon took his soul. I've had a rough few years from him and at 7 we are now starting to see the nice little boy he was before emerge again. There's been times I've really disliked the person he was being, so I know how you feel. His behaviour has been very much like you describe from your dd, it's almost like emotional blackmail and he will hold us to ransom with his prolonged tantrums and make it unpleasant for the whole household. It's horrible to deal with day in day out. What I found useful was biting my tongue and trying not to shout, I realised this only added to the chaos, not easy though. I started to use reasoning at a level he could understand and tried to cuddle away the bad feelings from him, this has been a better approach in the long run. Hang in there op, it will pass, deep breaths for now.

Crowsaregreat Tue 04-May-21 11:41:47

Have you tried saying something like 'are you doing that because you want to annoy me? Do you want to annoy me because I'm not reading you a book etc - I can't read a book right now but could you choose one and we'll read it in a minute.' I think it's sometimes good to call attention seeking what it is and try to find out the underlying reason. But patience is always your friend, if a child finds out how to push your buttons, they will keep doing it out of fascination rather than malice.

h4ppy Tue 04-May-21 13:32:36

Thanks all. As a PP said, the prolonged tantrums make it unpleasant for the whole household. I get quite cross sometimes how the whole weekend is hinged on what mood she finds herself. We could all be having a nice time but then she'll get annoyed by something and get into such a tizz to ruin it for the rest of us. I know I shouldn't expect a toddler to have the emotional competence of an adult, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating.

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h4ppy Tue 04-May-21 13:34:35

Crows, I think I said once 'you're just doing that to annoy me' when she was doing something I always explicitly tell her not to do, and she was doing it and looking straight at me for my response. It's not malice as you say, but it makes me so cross, because it feels like she's doing it deliberately to test my patience! If an adult did this to you, you'd go NC! angry

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Babyboomtastic Tue 04-May-21 13:37:19

This is just what 3 year olds are often like in my experience. They can be lovely, but are also so much work.

h4ppy Tue 04-May-21 14:07:20

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh then, and expecting too much. It's hard for me to view the present without remembering back to how difficult she was as a baby, and buying into the idea that she's just a tricky character.

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vickylou78 Tue 04-May-21 14:26:21

I think all 3 yr olds are tricky! Just pushing boundaries and more development of their sense of themselves being a separate person. Will settle and tantrums will get better. Also don't compare to others as you'll just see them when out and well behaved/distracted as I bet at home all 3 year olds have one or two tantrums!

h4ppy Tue 04-May-21 14:35:35

Thanks Vicky. I know I shouldn't compare... but even when we're all out in the park, my daughter is the one getting cross or crying about one thing or another, whilst the other children look on!

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Chickenlickeninthepot Tue 04-May-21 14:44:40

There are easy going 3yos? Where? 😆

I think she sounds fairly standard to me - it's all boundary pushing and tantrums over here too. We just try to manage it as best we can depending on the situation. Often when I look back at a big tantrums, there's things that DH and I did wrong and I think we're definitely learning as the threenager stage goes on (and on and on...)

HenryHooverIII Tue 04-May-21 14:51:39

I think you need to stop trying to reason or negotiate with her. If she does something wrong, put her in time out the first time. Get a room with a baby gate on the door so it's safe, plonk her in there and leave her to calm down. If she is at the park, put her in the pushchair and leave her there to calm down. She sounds like she is the one in control here, not you as parents.

I had a similar age gap. My eldest was also a difficult baby, but he was a breeze as a toddler. Mainly because I didn't have time for his tantrums and did the above. We did divide our time a lot as parents when they were young so he did get undivided attention with one of us most of the time. My youngest was a nightmare at that age and by my own admission, I did pander to him more. I wish I just avoided his tantrums more like I did with his brother!

SamMil Tue 04-May-21 14:51:43

I can't offer advice, but I can relate!

I've got a three year old too. The "terrible twos" phrase is misleading - the threes are so much worse!

I think trying to stay as calm as possible, and staying consistent, is all you can do. Even though it might not seem like they're learning anything, it'll pay off in the long run when they learn to control their behaviour more and they'll already have the foundation of how they should behave.

We use time out too, like other posters.

h4ppy Tue 04-May-21 14:56:59

Can I get your thoughts on this real life situation please - what would you do? Did I do the right thing?

She knows she shouldn't rub her muddy shoes on the carpet. It's morning and we're getting ready to go to nursery. She puts on her shoes and starts rubbing. I say please don't do that. She keeps doing it. I say again final warning don't do that. She still keeps doing it. I lift her up and put her outside while I finish putting my shoes on to go outside.

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h4ppy Tue 04-May-21 14:59:20

To add - what then happened was that she had a massive tantrum, ran back in. I took her out again and put her in the buggy, and we went to nursery, her crying the entire way.

What might've happened before is that I would've tried to make a joke of the rubbing and said silly billy you know we don't do this etc. She might have rubbed a bit more and then stopped, or maybe not. But I just don't seem to have the patience anymore to cajole her into the right behaviours.

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Tambora Tue 04-May-21 15:06:53


I've read that book! And Philippa Perry. Some strategies have helped to an extent... but she doesn't reason!

She's too young to reason yet.

If she cries when she gets told off, let her get on with it and cry, and get it out of her system. She needs to learn to regulate her own emotions. One day the penny will drop.

FizzingWhizzbee123 Tue 04-May-21 15:08:12

I’m finding my 3yr old exhausting at the moment and not always enjoyable. He was a very high needs baby and always strong willed. I thought the terrible twos was bad but at least it was periods of calm mixed with raging tantrums.

Now, at 3, I never get a moments peace. He never stops talking, it’s like a constant verbal assault. And usually it’s whinging, asking for things/demanding, “I want”, “do that”, “muuuuummmmmmy”, constant interrupting. He’s knows how to ask nicely but seems to “forget” frequently, no matter how many times I pull him up on it. He just seems so selfish and self centred most of the time (which I frequently have to remind myself is pretty normal for the age, even if it’s not a desirable trait). And oh the sulks.

Please give me to 2 yr old tantrums again! And we still get a couple of tantrums a week too, as he’s struggling to drop his nap and gets very tired. He’s relentless. Our 6 month old is a total walk in the park in comparison.

I love him dearly and he can be so kind and sweet, but this is an age phase I can’t wait to pass.

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