How To Handle The Terrible Three’s

20140504_194251My wife and I have a 3-year-old (Max) which is like living with a little tyrant.  Mood swings, tantrums, sweetness, good behavior, bad behavior, hitting, kissing, yelling, hugging, and everything in between.  Last week he had some seriously bad behavior when he started yelling “no!” and throwing his toys at the sitter when she told him it was time to go to bed.  In response to this act I took away all the toys he threw and made a deal with him that he could earn them back one by one by having “good behavior days.”  It’s basically the same system we had before but now with more consequence.  Behave nicely?  Get a toy back.  Behave poorly?  No toy and risk losing another toy.  The result was Max strung together a full week of good behavior days and was a joy to be around.  He was clearly sucking up in the end on Sunday afternoon when he was hugging me over and over again saying, “I love you Daddy.”  Now…I’ll take the affection and believe me, I was loving it.  However, I knew it came at a price.  Max wanted ice cream.  I obliged.

We walked to the DQ, had a lovely chocolate sundae together, he shared with his little brother, and we walked home.  He was a little argumentative going to bed but that was to be expected after a long weekend and a belly full of ice cream.  He went to bed and all was right with the world.

This morning Godzilla arose from his bedroom.  The whining, the yelling, the back-talking to my wife, and throwing all came surging back and I began questioning everything.  Did we teach him anything last week?  Was it all just an elaborate bribe…and once it was over we were back to square zero?  Should I go back to rewarding good behavior?  Should we only punish bad behavior?  Should we just buckle in and survive this phase?  Should we sell him on Craigslist?  I know it is some balance of everything and every kid is different…but I wanted to hear from my readers and poll your thoughts:

Please take the poll (above) and comment on this post with your thoughts.  I’d love to hear from other parents out there with kids in the throes of the Terrible Three’s and what has worked for them.

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2 thoughts on “How To Handle The Terrible Three’s

  1. Think most of us want to be a good parent. Best advice I was given: 1. Don’t over think your parenting; 2. Have consistent follow through; 3. Allow consequences; 4. Let the punishment fit the bad behavior. Something my daughter has used we applaud is, “Go in the other room (or a suitable place away from where everyone else happens to be) and when you can get back in control of yourself, come back and join us.”

  2. Rewarding good behavior is always a good thing, but what do you mean by reward. Praise certainly strokes the ego, and, to be sure, it’s not a bribe.
    Punishing always seems to get everyone in a negative place, not that it isn’t required at times. But usually it just relieves our own frustration.
    Time out was unbelievably effective for me. Each party gets a rest, a moment to tamp down emotions, and, then, just think.
    Sometimes we just don’t know how to get out of our fit.
    If time out is a chance to recover, and not punishment, then maybe it can create an environment for change………maybe?

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