Hello. Our DD is 3.5 yrs old.
She is very smart, very verbal, pretty independent, usually fairly rule orientated, and usually a happy, pleasant and kind child. She is also pretty head-strong, stubborn, passionate, expressive and energetic.
Although she has always been a fairly "high needs" or spirited child, we have done pretty well in keeping her happy while at the same time keeping a balance in our family.
We have always practiced attachment parenting and more gentle discipline parenting styles. We go along with playful parenting much of the time, and it usually works. Although, the older she gets, the more work playful parenting is getting.
We have been very challenged by our DD behaviour over the past while.
She is testing the boundaries almost constantly. We have come up on a few power struggles lately. And we are at a loss of being able to deal with it. We have struggled with being gentle, playful etc. It seems like it doesn't really work so much anymore.
We have found ourselves trying to bribe, threaten, find natural consequences, etc.
Being playful doesn't seem to help, being gentle isn't working. Nothing is working well for us right now and the whole family is a lot less happy. We find ourselves in a struggle daily with this child and it doesn't feel good for anyone.
She is 3.5 yrs old.
We had twins 1 month ago. So she went from being only child to two newborns. Plus, with a twin pregnancy, it has been more than a month with her having less involved mother. Physically anyways.
She goes to pre-school. And so I believe she has learned that there is possibilities to acting other ways. And she is testing some of those ways out. She tests out on us behaviours that some of the other kids have that are discouraged by the teachers. Although, at school she follows all rules. She is very rule orientated.
Some of the things that she has been doing:
A little hitting at kicking. Although this was a big problem a few months ago. It seems to be minimal now.
She fights brushing her teeth almost every.single,time. She never used to do this. And doesn't particularlly even dislike it. I think she has chosen this for the thing to have a power struggle about. We refuse for her to not brush her teeth. She has some tooth decay that we are working hard at trying to slow down or reverse, so not brushing her teeth is not an option.
She fights getting ready in the morning or for anything really.
Basically she fights anything. We know it is a way to struggle with us. To gain some independence. To fight boundaries, etc.
What we do:
We do a heck of a lot of singing. I find making up a song and singing or playing or getting one of her stuffed animals to do things works. Using a stop watch an racing or timing how long it tkes her to get dressed etc sometimes works.
We do some threatening. Like, if you do not get ready for school there will ot be any time to do advent calendar before you go. This rarely works. She doesn't really care. She is more invested in the struggle than she is anything that we may not let her do/have.
We started a star chart for her. She gets a star on it for brushing her teeth, getting ready, cleaning up toys, or just happy faces when we are happy with her behaviour. Although she enjoys getting a star, and has always enjoyed when we have told her we are impressed with how well she did something...it doesn't even minimize the daily struggles.
She seems most invested in the struggle than anything else.
We have always given her choice and leaway in helping to make "the rules".
We give her lots of time in the morning to do her thing. We don't rush her out the door.
We give her choice in foods to eat and how much she eats before she determines she is satisfied
We spend lots of time with her. Although sometimes she has to wait for the babies needs to be met, we make a point of making the babies wait for her needs to be met.
It seems like she just needs to struggle with us. Even though it drives us crazy, we are thinking that maybe we just need to let her do so. That we need to rethink what are the things worth fighting for/about and let everything else go.
But we do worry we will be creating a monster. That she will feel like we have given in and so up the ante to get a rise from us.
Is this just what being three is about?
Will it end?
Are we making it worst?
Should we hunker down and win these battles?
Should we give in and let her win the battles?
Me 40 . Partner to mamacolleen 33 . DD born July 2009 . Twin boys born Nov 2012.
We are a family that loves
I also work with three year olds and have found that playful works best if you can catch them in that moment while they are deciding how to express their displeasure and make the thought of doing something that is not allowed a joke somehow. I also find that when /then statements are more effective than threats and that it is easier to stay calm when using them even when the meaning would be the same no matter how you phrase it.
My DD is 14 mos but VERY strong willed. She's fairly easy going for me, but I think being a dog trainer I catch her subtle behaviors much quicker than others in the family so I'm able to redirect her before a meltdown or trantrum. I do not in any way 'give in' to a tantrum, I don't care how bad it is. Once you give in, it strengthens the action and they will fight you harder the next time. She had a screaming, flop to the ground crying, turning purple-faced, fit the other day when I told her to stop playing with the dog water bowls. It's something she does when I'm not here and my FIL watches her and no matter how much I stress these bowl are off limits, he doesn't always pay attention to reinforce it. So I let her have her tantrum. She's a bit young to explain things afterwards or talk about feelings, so we 'forgive and forget'. I ignore the tantrum 100% - unless she's going to hurt herself or break something, I stay uninvolved and my involvement would only be to remove her to her playpen as it's a safe place if need be. At the first sign of the tantrum being over, I walk to her, pick her up, hugs and kisses and we find something to do together.
I do think there are battles that only become so when we put them in the spotlight. Teeth brushing might be that way for you. BC you're so insistent on her brushing habits, it makes it more likely she will choose this particular thing as a fighting point - it's only because it means so much to you. If you didn't care about teeth brushing neither would she. I like to think ahead about things I'm going to make a big deal over: it's it really worth it? will it make a difference in the long run for the better? will it make the behavior worse? So will one week of backing away from the teeth brush policing make her condition worse? Probably not. And if it makes her 'feel' in control of the situation enough that she will just do it on her own and if she does, heavily praise her for doing it. Make a bit deal over the things she does that you like and whenever possible ignore everything you don't like.
I'd also not be likely to place her needs ahead of the needs of the new babies. She's old enough to understand that waiting to get things is worth it - the babies don't know that. If this pattern continued you could find the babies following a similar path of testing you for your attention if they see it work for big sister.
But really, 3 year olds test, alot. It will pass!
I'll be frank: I disliked 3 and 4 a LOT for this reason. Sure 3 and 4 is super cute preschooler with sweet little heart that's still a little bit toddler but becoming a real "kid" with the fantastical imagination but still needs mommy, but 3 and 4, in this house, was also still toddler impulse control and fits with big kid stubbornness/reasoning/negotiating ability/blossoming independence/knowitall-ness (shockingly not often even correct knowledge :P ). Not my fave. lol.
Playful worked sometimes for us. Giving 2 options of ways to do things worked as well. Letting them do things in weird ways worked (brush teeth laying down in bed, or in the bathtub, or at some different time of day than normal and rearranging meal content, or whatever it is for the situation). No one thing worked all the time, so you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve for each situation. That's NEVER going to change. There is no one size fits all technique that if you do A or B or say C or D, they will cooperate; or at least not in our family.
When I find situations that are aggravating me, I try to figure out a way to keep me from getting to that point. Sometimes, that means me talking less, and doing more - definitely not consensual, but that has never been a dealbreaker for me - for better or worse, I lack the creativity and patience to work through situations more than about 5 minutes before just needing to move forward... so less talking and more doing means no repeated requests, explanations, discussions, or negotiations...because those get me to the boiling point - if it's a mundane, everyday task, and I've tried a few times to make it fun/engaging/more in your control, or asked for a legit suggestion from you about it (which was often met with an idea that was not possible at that time or defied the laws of physics and time/space ;) ), and you're still fighting me on it, I'm disengaging from the fight and it's just getting done, as gently as I can without being mean or shaming, whether you're happy about it or not. And I am genuinely sorry and understanding that you're not happy about it - I take no joy from my kids upset. And I hope we can figure out a better way so we can both be happy next time - and we probably will! But yes, sometimes that meant stuffing my 3-year-old into whatever inside out shirt I could find and carrying them and their shoes to the car (I know you can't do that with 2 babies). Or wrangling the 4 year old by the scruff of their jacket because they didn't want to hold my hand while walking, and darting in a parking lot is bad news. It wasn't done to be mean, or to wield my power over them. Quite the contrary - it was far calmer and "gentler" than fighting them for 30 minutes to do it on their own until we're all in tears and exhausted. So they could do it on their own, or I would do it with them, and then I'd just do it. That was way better than ragey mommy fighting with 3 year old over whether we're going to go pick up brother from school or not.
That's a really long way of saying I'd just keep doing what you're doing, gently and calmly, but firmly hold the bottom line on the things that are important to you, and I promise it gets better! Then new things start to annoy you! My turning point age has been 5. They're so much fun to be around when they're a little older, and starting to read and write, and understand things a little better. :) Baby to 2, and 5+ are my favorite ages; that 3-5 part was NOT my bag. lol.