Parents Everywhere Often Concerned About Taming Three Year Olds

Parents Everywhere Often Concerned About Taming Three Year Olds

A young mother, who happens to live in Saudi Arabia, recently contacted me to ask for advice concerning her three-year-old son.

“This is my only child and he has me very worried,” this mother wrote in her email. “He hits his one-year-old cousin, uses bad words, and screams and kicks me if he is not allowed to do what he wants.”

She went on to say that she uses a time-out chair for punishment, and occasionally spanks him. However, no matter what discipline she uses, her son continues to misbehave.

“He is a smart boy,” she said, “and knows his numbers and can read some words. He likes taking baths, brushes his teeth every morning and evening, and helps me clean his room. But he is very active and will only play by himself or color for a just a few minutes at a time.”

She concluded by saying that it is a disaster to take him shopping because he won’t stay near her and touches things in shops he shouldn’t. She said she just wants to know how to get him to behave and listen to her.

This plaintive email could have come from an American or British mother, but the fact that it came from the Middle East only demonstrates that parents around the world share similar concerns about their children.

It also strongly suggests that no matter what country or culture you live in, it can be very difficult to be the parent of a three-year-old child. Furthermore, it is a challenge to be the parent of an active, impulsive, and aggressive boy with a fairly short attention span.

If you are the parent of a child like the one she described, you should keep in mind that children around three years of age are just learning how to control themselves and they are not very skilled at stopping and thinking before they act. However, it seems to be a world-wide approach to such difficult children to try to teach by utilizing punishment. Yet, teaching by punishment is an ineffective method to teach a child.

It is more efficient and effective to teach a child appropriate behavior by anticipating their behavior, stopping them, and telling them what you want them to do. For example, instead of punishing your child, you could say: “I want you to be kind and loving to your cousin. Show him you love him by touching him gently and giving him one of your toys to play with.”

Not only is it important to tell your three-year-old what you want, but most of the time you need to be on the floor or down at his level, being very close to him and his face, and making sure that he does some of the things you want him to do. For instance, if you want him to be kind to another child, you must be on the floor with him so he can’t hit the other child. You are there to hold his hands and prevent him from being aggressive.

If he tries to hit, you can hold his hands firmly, look him in the eyes, and say: “No! No hitting! Hitting hurts!”

Furthermore, the best teaching is done by offering praise and attention for good, appropriate behavior: “You shared your toy with your cousin! I like that! I’m really proud of you! You are my kind boy!”

You can also let him know what you want ahead of time: “When we go into the shopping mall, I expect you to hold my hand and be right by my side the whole time we are shopping.” And then make sure you hold his hand tightly so he can’t run away or touch things he shouldn’t.

When he is compliant, you should use rewards and praise for appropriate behavior: “You are so helpful by holding my hand. When we are finished shopping, we are going to a special shop and you get a treat for being so helpful!”

Helping a three-year-old grow out of his aggression and learn to be compliant is mostly about being very attentive to him, being close to him, giving him many specific directions, and using praise to reinforce the behaviors you want.

Unfortunately, you won’t see immediate results, but if you consistently follow these suggestions, you will begin to see positive results.

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Observe your Child to Learn how they are Developing Self-Control

Observe your Child to Learn how they are Developing Self-Control

The ultimate goal of all discipline is to teach children self-control. That’s what parental discipline and child guidance is all about: allowing our kids to grow up to be adults who can discipline themselves.

Whenever you’re faced with a misbehavior, you might ask yourself how you can enhance your child’s ability to regulate her own behavior? If you ask yourself this, two positive things may happen. One thing that could happen is that you give your child the opportunity to test their self-control, and the second thing that could happen is that you get a chance to evaluate yourself by seeing how well your child is learning to control their own behavior.

But the only way these two things can happen is if you don’t intervene immediately when a misbehavior begins. Therefore, you would be able to see whether your child can stop herself or whether she recognizes that she is misbehaving.

Suppose your three-year-old is playing a bit too roughly with the family cat. In an effort to protect the cat or teach your child a lesson, you might be inclined to get involved immediately. However, if you want to see how much control your son has or see whether he can reverse a behavior once begun, you can just observe. Often, children around this age will correct themselves and say aloud what he has often heard you say. For instance, a three-year-old might turn a somewhat aggressive mauling of the cat into a hug while saying, “Be nice to kitty.” If you had been too quick on the trigger, you would not have seen how much your toddler had learned and how his self-control was coming along.

Another example, could involve your teenager. If your adolescent daughter has had some difficulties managing her anger, you may be concerned that this could be a major problem when driving the family car. You may have thought that the last thing you need is an angry teenager behind the wheel of a car. So, the next time she gets angry, you might watch and see how this plays out.

Is she able to bring herself under control fairly quickly? Has she learned anything from you about a less explosive way to deal with her anger? By silently watching, you can gauge how much progress she has made and you can determine whether she is ready to use your car.

What I’m suggesting is that observing misbehaviors may be a way to figure out how much self-control your child is able to use. This could be termed “purposeful ignoring” and is done for a specific reason: To measure your child’s self-control.

However, there are other ways of determining your child’s ability to regulate his or her emotions and behavior. However, in addition to seeing how much progress they are making, these other discipline approaches encourage children to use their own self-control. When you intervene too quickly, you are not allowing your child to use their own self-control skills.

One of these other techniques is to give a signal. By signaling you give your child an opportunity to pull himself back together. With this technique, you do not ignore the child, but you let him know that you are aware of the situation and that you expect him to gain self-control on his own.

Most of us parents have used this technique at one time or another, and it often works well. For example, at a movie or a concert, you may have nudged your child with your elbow when they were whispering too loudly or making a noise that disturbed others. This signals to the child that you are aware of what they are doing and that you want her to stop on their own.

Some parents use prearranged signals (such as a particular hand gesture or even a particular word) to alert a child that they should regulate their behavior. Another signal, again that most of have used, is to say our child’s name, add their middle name, or say their name with an unmistakable tone. This is a clear signal that they need to alter their behavior.

Giving signals can be very effective if the misbehavior is just beginning and if your child is still in control and is capable of pulling themselves together. Typically, these techniques should be used before a child is out of control and before the problem behavior becomes too serious.