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How does a 3-yr-old's mind work? Why does she want to spoil it when we're having a nice time?

(29 Posts)
HuffwardlyRudge Tue 07-Jul-09 10:09:09

Dd(3), ds(1) and I are snuggling in bed this morning. Ds is feeding, but he's just tucked in my armpit helping himself and not really getting any attention. Dd is snuggled in the crook of my other arm and we are having a lovely chat about the princess party she is going to later today. We are giggling and whispering and wondering about popping to Lulu to buy her a special princess dress, and speculating on whether there might be cake and pass the parcel at the party. It is ALL about her. Then...

She tweaks my nipple.

Me: Ow dd. Don't do that. It hurts.
Me: No, seriously dd. That hurts mummy. Please don't.
Me: Dd. I mean it. Stop it. Shall we have a story? Why don't you choose a book and I'll...
<TWEAK> <Snigger>
<Undignified wrestling where I try and stop her doing it again because it HURTS and she tries to do it again and ds gets unlatched and elbowed in the nose and starts yelling in protest>
Me: Dd we are kind and gentle to each other. We do not pinch. Mummy has asked you to stop.
<Dd slinks off to her room, eyes full of tears and lower lip wobbling because I shouted>

Ffs. Why? What was so terrible about having a lovely cuddle and chat that she had to keep poking until I get cross?

I HATE getting cross and will generally do anything to avoid raising my voice. I prefer consequences to punishments. I know she is a bit unsettled at the moment (thought I'm not sure why) and seems to be being extra 'naughty' so I'm doing lots of attention and one-to-one stuff.

This is so typical of us at the moment. Why does she deliberately go out of her way to spoil it when she is having a nice time and lots of attention?

She can't seem to help herself.

We were playing stamps. Last time she played stamps she smeared everything with ink (I mean EVERYTHING). I didn't get cross, because it was just a different way of playing, but I did explain that ink goes on paper, not curtains and sofas and clothes. I involved her in tidying up the carnage mess. So, when we got them out again I reminded her that we were going to play with the stamps on the paper. It was like her whole mission was to get me to look the other way so she could smear the ink on her dress. She wants me to get cross. Why?

fishie Tue 07-Jul-09 10:14:55

sounds like she wants to see what will happen. she'll get fed up with it. distraction is good.

muffle Tue 07-Jul-09 10:16:00

Well the traditional answer is to get attention, which she will be seeking because of rivalry with the baby. I know the baby isn't brand new but your DD has got that bit older and more thoughtful and able so she can achieve more in the way of attention-seeking behaviour IYSWIM. Whether you moan, nag, shout or are getting her to help clear up a mess, it's attention.

What you are supposed to do is give lots of praise and attention when she's not acting up eg notice when she is sitting nicely, being gentle, playing by herself etc and remark on how great that is, give her a reward etc.

That is the theory but very hard to do when you have the 1yo as well. And it is hard because 3yo destructive/attention-seeking behaviour is so maddening!

RumourOfAHurricane Tue 07-Jul-09 10:22:00

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HuffwardlyRudge Tue 07-Jul-09 10:27:34

I am so aware of the sibling jealousy. I think she gets plenty of attention, though I suppose it will never be as much as pre-ds.

The trouble with toughening up is that I would spend my whole day, morning til night, cross with her.

On the one hand she is naughty and needs boundaries. I do see that.

On the other hand she is jealous and insecure and needs reassurance.

I can't seem to get the balance right for either of us.

fishie Tue 07-Jul-09 10:35:22

also you two have been together for about 1000 days and nights, not surprising it isn't always rosy.

sounds like you are providing perfectly suitable boundaries for you - which is to be pushed to the limit before you get cross. that's what she is trying to identify and how else would she find out?

not sure how you could get angrier earlier - i mean you can only get angry when you do can't you and different people find different things infuriating.

VinegarTits Tue 07-Jul-09 10:39:16

I agree with Shiney, if ds2(2.11) does something hes knows is wrong i give a very firm 'no' and explain why he shouldn't do it, if he does it again, i raise my voice, she is definitely pushing you, you need to be firmer, sooner.

RumourOfAHurricane Tue 07-Jul-09 10:45:24

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Overmydeadbody Tue 07-Jul-09 10:45:39

This sounds pretty normal for a 3 yr old.

She is 3. She doesn't yet kow where the boundaries are in terms of what she can and can't get away with (she hasn't got a manual) and so she is experiementing.

She wants to know how far she has to go to make you cross. She needs to know this, so she knows where the boundaries are.

She also nees to knoe how consistant you are, hence the stamp insident. She doesn't know if what she couldn't do one day still applies on another day. So she has to find out.

Just stay consistant. Make sure punishments fit the crime and you are clear about boundaries and what is an is not acceptable.

By the time she is 5 no wait...8, um 12 no that's not right a teenager grown up she will have grown out of it grin

Overmydeadbody Tue 07-Jul-09 10:48:55

I agree with shiny.

You don't need to be cross with her, you just need to be firm and make sure she knows you are the boss.

Be firm without loosing your cool and shouting

HuffwardlyRudge Tue 07-Jul-09 10:52:24

I am going to have a very hard look at myself and think about whether I am consistent with her. I'm not sure.

I feel like we're going down a paticularly bumpy bit of track at the moment.

I feel very isolated with her. Dh and I are the only adults in her life, so I really feel pressure to get it right.

She is not an easy child, but still within the ranges of 'normal', whatever that means.

I think I think too much about it. Parenting her isn't instinctive.

I love her so much.

Off to the party now. Will revisit this thread later, re-read and have a good think. Something has to change because dd and I are both stressed and it's my job to navigate out of this.

RumourOfAHurricane Tue 07-Jul-09 10:57:04

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slng Tue 07-Jul-09 10:57:44

I think the distraction technique can be overused sometimes. I sometimes prefer a resolution right there and then. I have friends who would well-meaningly distract my tantruming/fighting LOs, but I find that too namby-pamby and just delays the inevitable recurrence. I prefer to resolve whatever issues there are immediately (again and again and again ...)

RumourOfAHurricane Tue 07-Jul-09 11:01:13

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RumourOfAHurricane Tue 07-Jul-09 11:05:47

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RumourOfAHurricane Tue 07-Jul-09 11:10:10

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369thegoosedrankwine Tue 07-Jul-09 11:11:13

I sympathise with you and I second what shineone says. You have to be the adult and 'set the level' so to speak.

A couple of months ago my DS (2.7) was pushing boundaries all over the place and some days I felt as though his behaviour was unbearable. After one particularly trying day I decided that things had to change and I have since operated a one warning and then punishment on what I consider naughty behaviour.

Previously I used to think 'well what's the real harm' when he did things that he shouldn't do, but that just let him push the boundaries further.

His behaviour has improved as he knows that I won't put up with him being naughty(although he still pushes it).

BitOfFun Tue 07-Jul-09 11:14:42

Ooh Shiney, you are so firm...but kind and fair like an Enid Blyton headmistress grin

< swoon >

cockles Tue 07-Jul-09 11:21:18

We are so exactly at this point at the moment, down to the nipple tweaking. The problem at that stage of the day is that you don't want to get out of bed to stop it! My ds can be very testing first thing - I wonder if it's after a whole night of separation? And 3.5 is definitely a crazy making age - big developmental stuff around figuring out other people being different - so do not beat yourself up about how hard it is. It's definitely not (all) sibling rivalry, we get it without the sibling issue. Sometimes you just need a set response you know you will do that won't interest her, even if it does make her upset. I think sometimes I end up setting mine up for failure - eg with the ink incident, I would really have known he wouldn't be able to control himself and he would have done exactly what yours did. Maybe a better way is to prevent the predictable incidents happening in the first place - just verbal warning isn't enough at this age in my experience, it almost drives them on to repeat it.

RumourOfAHurricane Tue 07-Jul-09 11:31:37

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OmniDroid Tue 07-Jul-09 11:43:53

I'm reading this with sympathy, as DS (3.4) is just like this at the moment. He told me yesterday that he LIKES 'Bad days', and frequently says he wants to hit me. And does. With predictable go-to-your-room consequences. Life feels like one long argument at the moment with baby DD ignored on the sidelines.

I read something here yesterday suggesting praising the small stuff as much as possible, so have instituted a '3 stars and a treat' policy for DS, with lots of 'ooh, weren't you good for....', as I feel like I shout all the time. He has just got onto 'That's not fair, mummy, because <insert excuse here>. You shouldn't shout at me.'

cockles Tue 07-Jul-09 15:26:30

'Don't sweat the small stuff' has helped me lots, as has 'don't talk too much, just say no and move on'. Tantrums appear to be inevitable but they are getting shorter - distraction doesn't really help.

HuffwardlyRudge Tue 07-Jul-09 19:03:12

Back again and read through again. Thanks all. I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

Yes! She LIKES bad days and being in trouble and making me cross. She finds it exciting. I once made the mistake of asking in my most stern, no messing voice "Do you want Mummy to get cross?!" and she breathlessly squealed "YES!!" hmm

Right. Less pandering and more straight to the point. Fewer warnings. No messing. [game face].

Also, praising the small stuff. I conciously did this earlier at bath time when she started mythering her brother. He squealed in protest so she stopped and looked guiltily at me and I praised her for stopping when he squawked, and she liked that.

Actually she's having surgery over the next couple of days so we'll get over that and then make a new start.

PS - Cockles - ho ho at the thought of a whole night of separation. Fat chance. She does have a bed but definitely prefers ours.

rocketupbum Tue 07-Jul-09 19:31:17

This has been a great thread. We are totally at this stage at the mo and sometimes it is hard to think straight when you are in the middle of it.
I think I am firm and fair most of time but I am sure some of DSs behaviour comes from me being distracted by DDs new crawling (ie into every-bloody-thing!)
Tommorrow is another day eh! Good luck everyone - be strong!

flashharriet Tue 07-Jul-09 19:48:46

Have you read "How to talk so kids will listen..."? From the way you talk about things, I think you'd like it and find it helpful.

(There was a particularly hilarious thread about it a while back - will try to link)

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