6 Genius Tips To Cope With The Terrible 3s
A lot of it is to do with their developmental milestones at age 3. Here are five ways they are developing that really do make their behaviour intolerable at times:
- They are learning about their independence and trying to assert it (although very badly at times). Defiantly shouting "No" and refusal to co-operate are examples of them saying "I am a person who has my own mind and can control my own actions".
- Routines are very important to them. They want everything how it was the last time and everything in their place. This can explain some of a 3 year olds seemingly bizzare requests.
- Still very possessive of play things. May offer the occasional toy but find it difficult to share and play with other children at times.
- Impatient and bossy. Wants everything immediately and can be very demanding of caregivers.
- Making choices is very difficult for them. They want to have everything!
So no wonder the behaviour of a 3 year old can be so challenging. However, I have found in my explorations, studies and trials of different parenting techniques some genius tips that work...
Prevention is Always Better Than A Cure
3 year olds will have little experience controlling their behaviour when external factors such as being tired, hungry, cold and uncomfortable affect them. They have little power to remedy the situation. They can't make themselves a sandwich, so they put their attention on you.
Therefore where possible, try and eliminate these kinds of factors where possible.
You could also keep a diary to see where your child acts out most frequently. For example, are they playing up at a toddler group? Could it be it's overstimulating for them? Or are they due for a naptime and leaving earlier could help.
I remember my son always used to act out at song time at a playgroup he went too. To be honest, it just wasn't his thing, he was bored. So we always used to leave before song time. No more dealing with his bad behaviour required!
Never Threaten a Consequence Unless You Are Certain You Will Follow Through.
I learned quickly never to threaten a consequence unless I was 100 per cent sure I was going to do it. Better to give them a mild consequence and do it, rather than a threat of a harsh consequence and never intend to do it in the first place.
The 3 Step Consequence Rule
If I do give a consequence here is a 3 step rule I always try and follow.
First Step - Talk to 3 Year Old
The first is talk to him and ask him what I'd like him to do. I try to phrase my request positively. Rather than saying, No don't do that, I tell him to do what I want rather than what I don't want.
For example, the other day he was playing with his cars on a piece of furniture at a friends house and I didn't want him to scratch it. Rather than saying "Don't play with your cars on the furniture" I told him "Can you play with your cars on the floor rather than the furniture".
Second Step - Warning
After a couple of requests, if he doesn't do what I ask him, I warn him that if he continues a consequence will occur. So, if he had continued playing with the cars on the furniture, I would have warned him I would take the cars away and he would have to play with something else.
It's important that the consequence you plan to put in place is appropriate to the offence and immediate. For example, having no ice cream later on in the day would have made no sense as a consequence for playing with his cars on the table. Its important that you are able to follow through on any consequence you threaten.
Third Step - Consequence
Once the consequence has been put in place there is no need for any further action. The object show 3 year olds that their behavior has consquences, not to make them feel bad.
For example, taking the cars away on this occasion is enough of a consequence for my son. He loves playing with cars, he doesn't want them to be taken away. However, I would have suggested an alternative activity, like drawing or playing other toys instead of the cars once I'd taken them away.
I would explain we can't play with the cars because at this moment you are unable to play with them on the floor and they will scratch the furniture. Let's do some drawing instead. I would point out he could play with the cars the next time we come if he has learned that he can't play with them on the furniture.
Lead By Example
I've learned it's no good shouting at them to quiet down when I'm shouting at the top of my voice! Best to get down on their level and ask them in a firm and normal voice what you would like them to do.
Don't Expect Adult Behavior From a 3 Year Old
For example, sharing is very difficult for 3 year olds. They just haven't developed the ability to share. And to be honest we often expect kids to share more than adults are expected to. Imagine if a friend demanded you share your car with them or your ipad when you were in the middle of using it. That's not to say we shouldn't teach sharing as a skill. It's just that giving very harsh consequences when they don't share is punishing age appropriate behavior. And it's something to be aware of.