My 3 year old daughter can be very sweet and kind at times and other times...not. When she gets into one of her moods, she becomes defiant, saying "No" to pretty much everything, even things that I know she likes. If her dad or I ask her something, she'll say she wants it and then in the next breath, scream that she doesn't want it, and on and on. It gets very frustrating because we have no idea of what she really wants. We don't know how to help her break out of this cycle when she gets stuck in it. I have tried giving her a hug and kiss, which calms her down sometimes. Thanks for your advice!
Dr. Todd writes:
Welcome to the world of three-year-olds! As they try to figure out the world in their little three-year-old minds, they vacillate between independence and wanting you to do things for them, between wanting one thing one second and something else the next.
As you go through this normal but somewhat challenging time, your daughter needs plenty of love and nurturing. But she also needs to be learning the right lesson, which is that screaming and telling her parents, “No!” aren’t going to get her too far.
For starters, teach her a simple, respectful response that you want her to make when you ask her to do something. I like the words, “OK mom.” Then, she needs to do what you have asked. I have found it helpful to actually practice this with kids often (e.g., ask her to pick up a book), so they get a clear picture of what you want them to say and do and learn that it is actually easy and fun.
Then, when your daughter actually her calm voice to say, “OK mom,” and does what she is asked, make sure to let her know that she has done a great job of listening and talking calmly, by using specific, encouraging words and giving warm physical touch. Do this often and with emphasis, to help her get the point: These behaviors TURN ON the attention and the fun.
Conversely, when she screams and refuses to do what you have asked, calmly redirect her toward the appropriate behavior (e.g., “I want you to talk in a calm voice” or "You need to say OK mom"). If she changes course, great! If not, then she needs to learn that these behaviors temporarily TURN OFF the attention and the fun.
Depending on the situation, this will mean temporarily removing your attention, removing a fun activity, ignoring a tantrum (as long as she is safe), or putting her in a Time-Out when she is defiant. When you see that she begins to calm down and make a better choice, then turn the attention back on.
Like all three-year-olds, your daughter is learning what gets your attention. Believe it or not, it is easier to teach her this lesson now than when she is thirteen! So, you’re off to a good start!
Mon, May 14, 2012
by Dr. Todd Cartmell