Jurmufam asks:

How do you get a 3 year old to understand about attitude?

When we tell my little girl something like go to bed she says "I am" with so much attitude.  How do you explain that that is not how we talk to mommy and daddy?  I have tried telling her it is "nasty" talk but she is not getting it.  How do you explain tones ect...
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago



Boys Town National Hotline
Mar 27, 2011
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What the Expert Says:

There is an old quote that tries to sum up toddlerhood in simple terms: There are the "terrible two's" and then there are the "sweet three's." For some parents this is a reality, but many other parents believe their three year-old displays more difficult behavior than they did when they were two!

At the age of three the best way for your daughter to learn a positive attitude and proper tone is for you as a parent to model positive behavior for her. Parents are their child's first teacher. Your child listens and watches everything you do. If she is in daycare or has older brothers and sisters, she is also learning many other behaviors from them, which can include the "tones" you are describing.

Most three years-olds test their parents from time to time as they strive to be a bit more independent. They frequently may want to do things for themselves...and will tell you so! Although this can be irritating, try not to describe her attitude as "nasty." A three year-old does not fully grasp what nasty behavior really is. It would be better to use language such as "nice" or "not nice" when describing something to her.

A little praise goes a long way with young children. Children learn best when they are praised four times more than they are reprimanded. Many parents find it difficult to praise their children this much, but if you look, you can "catch them being good!" Boys Town's Common Sense Parenting approach recommends praising the little things and the big things, and teaching children rather than punishing when they misbehave by giving them appropriate consequences. For a simple example: if they throw something on the floor they can also pick up the item and put it away. They key is not to engage in a power struggle with the child, which is not always easy to do.

For more information on Common Sense Parenting and tips on parenting your three year-old, please go to our website for parents: www.parenting.org
You can also call our Hotline and speak with one of our counselors or e-mail us. We are here 24 hours, 7 days a week to listen and to answer your questions.

Thanks again for reaching out. Take care and best to you and your daughter!


Cynthia, Counselor
Boys Town National Hotline


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