Help with 3-year-old not listening! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 04-05-2010, 02:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Dd will be 3 in two days-lately, we have been having a really hard time getting her to listen to what we ask her to do/not do-or for that matter, having her do the opposite of what we tell her. I know part of this is normal 3-year-old behavior, and part of it is a normal reaction to having a new baby (1 month old) around. But-I feel like I am losing it. This morning was seriuosly awful-I have never raised my voice/yelled at her so much in her whole life and this is NOT the parent I want to be. So, a couple of main questions I would like some advice on-

1. What to do when she won't listen (i.e. get dressed to go somewhere necessary? Brush teeth before bed? I'm talking about necessary things here, we are down to the bare minimum, lol)

2. What to do when she does the exact opposite of what I tell her (i.e. please keep your voice down, she screams)

3. How to stop threatening her all the time (can't think of a good example, but I feel like she wont' listen because it is the right thing to do, but because I threaten to take something away from her-i.e. don't throw the toy, I tell her I will take it away if she throws it, I count to three, she throws it anyway, I take it away, she starts screaming, I feel like she still doesn't learn anything). It seems like I am doing this ALL day long for EVERYTHING! Just once I'd like her to listen the first time!

So, this is not all the time, we have just had a couple of really really bad days lately and I feel like we need to make a change. I think part of this is that dp has told me her whole life that I am not strict enough, she needs more discipline, etc., and I finally caved in and got stricter and now I feel like things have gotten worse! She is very bright and funny, maybe a little too smart sometimes-so any help would be hugely appreciated!

Single mama to dd
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#2 of 5 Old 04-05-2010, 02:39 PM
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Hugs to you - I remember how hard three can be, under the best of circumstances...

Not alot of time here but a couple things/reminders for you...

Remember to tell her what she CAN do, not just what she cannot, to express her anger, frustration or whatever...try and help her find a way to meet her needs that are acceptable to both of you...

Have you tried the playful approach? If I made getting dressed as fast as possible a game for dd she was far more cooperative. Same with brushing teeth - I know we don't always have it in us to be playful but it really does help - and when we just can't, I would tell dd that if she took too much time to brush her teeth (b/c she was uncooperative) then we wouldn't have as much time for books... logical consequence for us...

It seems the smarter they are the more they test you, almost as if to see how many different ways there are to investigate/manipulate (not in a bad way, but a scientific one) this situation?

A new sib is HUGE and difficult for all, so try to be mindful of her confusion and mixed emotions - and spending as much 1:1 time as possible will be helpful to her, even if it doesn't readily result in better behavior...

Hang in there - with better weather it's bound to get better
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#3 of 5 Old 04-05-2010, 02:53 PM
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My DD1 recently turned 3 as well. We also have a baby, but she's almost 6 mos. One thing that my DD loves is when her clothes talk to her. ("Wear me, Wear me!") I do this a lot for anything I want to get done. Being playful with it helps me keep my patience as well. I find if I approach it better we can sometimes avoid the not listening part altogether.

I'm reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp right now. It's really great, even for older toddlers.
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#4 of 5 Old 04-05-2010, 03:52 PM
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I have a 3.5 DD. 3 can be so wonderful but it can also be so unpleasant! I think 3 plus a new baby might put me over the cliff.

1. Won't listen is just 3, normal limit testing. If you try to remember that and don't take it as an affront to your authority it is easier to keep your cool. If you can keep your cool you can avoid a lot of power struggles. Sometimes it works to just start the ball rolling. DD and I were having a huge back and forth over putting her coat on to leave somewhere. It was ridiculous. I was getting nowhere but I just kept asking her to put her coat on and she kept refusing. What worked? I walked over to her and held out the coat so she could put her arm it. She stopped battling me because it stopped being a request and she was used to jacket out-put in arm. End of battle. Happens with getting dressed sometimes, it can really work. Teeth-brushing doesn't work that way but sometimes the solution is to let it go for a few mins and move on and then DD will be more amenable. At night I remind DD that she is using up book time arguing over it, so the sooner it gets done, the sooner we have books. Also offering a choice can work, would you like to stand or sit, do it here or there? Sometimes calmly offering that sort of choice can change her thought process enough that she will then get with the program.

2. Oh yes, my favorite when she raises the voice when you are asking her to be quiet, or runs or whatever it is. So very annoying. With the voice raising sometimes if you whisper or speak very quietly that can work. Or do something playful to get the desired result as a pp suggested. Have you read Playful Parenting? May give you some ideas. Sometimes nothing works, but definitely getting agitated about it makes them dig in their heels, so whatever strategy you can employ to keep it calm and matter of fact can really go a long way.

3. Just stop threatening. I get it, I do it too. I know it is stupid and useless as I hear the words coming out of my mouth. It is a hard habit to break; it's the way I was raised. Remain calm, state the rule. "You know we don't throw toys." (and if you can use a tone of "of course you know this, silly" it can go more easily). If DD does that I remind her not to, offer her something she can throw or tell her the toy will need to be put aside until she can use it safely. It's not a threat, I will take the toy. She can have it back immediately as long as she will then use it safely. On the few occasions that she continues to throw the toy, we need to sit down together and chill out. Often in these sort of battles she wants some attention. I'm sure that definitely is coming into play at your house with a new baby there needing a lot of attention.

The strict parents have lots of battles with their 3 yos too. Does DH expect you to be punishing her? Does he expect that she will listen and follow your will all the time if you do that? I think it will be helpful if you can try to get on the same page. I also find it very helpful to educate my DH on age appropriate behaviors. I think when we are blaming ourselves for our kids' behaviors, it makes it much more difficult to deal with.

Another book I'd recommend (with your copious free time!) is How to Talk so Kids Will Listen. Great book, quick read, useful for all ages.
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#5 of 5 Old 04-06-2010, 04:14 PM
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Things that work for us, sometimes at least:
- get down on her level and whisper in her ear,
- pretend that the stuffed animals want to do X also, or have them ask her to demonstrate so they can learn how to do X.
- if moving from point A to B is an issue, form a conga line, or pretend to be a horsie and give her a ride,
- sing instructions,
- have her repeat instructions to you
- "race" to see who can get to something first. This is a sure-fire way to get DS to potty - saying, "Oh, I need to use the big toilet," and head that way, and he will scoot in front of me and say, "No, I need to use the big toilet." Adding in the pee pee dance for dramatic effect and saying, "Really? But I am about to pee in my pants!" is always good for an extra giggle and sense of superiority on his part.
- Try putting on her clothing - stick your leg through the pants leg and see if she doesn't say, "But those are MY pants!"

Oh yeah, appeal to her intelligence and ask for help with things. If I say I need DS to get dressed so he can help me carry things to the car, it helps.

That said, we also do plenty of breaking things down into small steps, stating the step, then asking "Can you do X for yourself, or do you need some help?" I am less playful when I am tired, and I feel ya on the cat-herding and wanting to say something once and have child execute command without prodding or cajoling. Heck, maybe it would work to say, "I command you to ..." if you can let the tables be turned and have child then command you to do something too.

Doula, WOHM, wife to a super-fun papa, mama to the Monkey ('07), and his little brother, the Sea Monkey ('09).
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