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camari12
camari12 asks:
Q:

Why my husbands 3 year old is so mean.

Our situation is complicated. My husband has a 3 year old daughter. She comes and stays with her on the weekends. lately she has been really mean such as she is mean and bossy towards her little brother who is a year younger than she is. she tells him what to do and what not to do and when he wants a hug she will tell him not to touch her. Also she will kick our dog and hit our dog for no reason at all. And just the other night, because i am currently pregnant and her mother is also preganant out of no where she said to me im excited about my mommys baby but im not excited about your baby, and that really hurt my feelings and she didnt seem to care, also she told her father that she wanted him to drop her off home because she wanted her mommy. She recently started to act this way, she always wanted to see her daddy and couldnt wait for the weekend to come to spend time with us. she used to be very attached to me as well, always wanting to sit on my lap and cuddle with me and now she wants nothing to do with me and she has also gotten distant from her father. also just last week out of no where she told her grandfather that she hated him. Is this normal 3 year old behavior? Could there be something going on when she is with her mother?
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges, Blended families
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
Jul 13, 2011
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What the Expert Says:

It is possible there is something going on when she is with her mother, but then again it is very possible that there is not anything going on out of the ordinary. Three year old children need their mothers more than anyone. It is a good thing that she has a close bond with her mother and wants to be with her.  Being bonded with one's mothers is essential for being able to form future positive relationships.

Your step daughter could feel confused about her place in the family at this time. Both her biological mother and you are pregnant and having two new babies in the family is a major change in her life. Even though having a new brother and/or sister is a positive thing, there will be an adjustment period for your step daughter. Also it is not uncommon for some children to regress to behaving younger when they are expecting the birth of a new sibling. Sometimes toilet training issues come up again.  Because children this age are not yet capable of fully expressing their feelings and emotions with their words, their feelings are expressed by their actions.

As as parent there will be many times when our children may say or do things which will hurt our feelings. Please keep in mind that she is only 3 years old and you should try to do your best to not take her comments to heart and not take them personally. Little girls tend to be a bit more verbal than little boys this age, but then again, she has not yet learned how to fully express herself. You can help her by taking her aside when she makes a mean comment or hurts the dog and help her to identify how she is feeling. Maybe teaching her to take some deep breaths and blow out her birthday candles when she starts to show signs of being upset.  Show her that she can walk into another room when she is feeling mad, or go to a specific chair or punch a pillow.  You can also give her a 3 minute time out when needed in that specific chair.  Praise her when she does not hurt anyone with her words or with her hands.

There are some excellent books available which can help your step daughter identify her feelings before she acts on them. Here are a few we recommend for her age group:

"Hands Are Not for Hitting" by Martine Agassi, PhD
"Words Are Not for Hurting" by Elizabeth Verdick
"Feelings to Share from A to Z" by Todd and Peggy Snow

For parents we recommend: "Common Sense Parenting of Toddlers and Preschoolers" by Barnes and York.

We also have an excellent website for parents: www.parenting.org
From that website you can e-mail a counselor with any question or concern. Our Hotline for parents and children of all ages is available 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Please feel free to pass this information on to your husband and your step daughter's mother as well.

Take care and best wishes to you and your family!

Cynthia, Counselor
Boys Town National Hotline
1-800-448-3000
hotline@boystown.org
www.parenting.org
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Additional Answers (4)

Jaz_Bruce
Jaz_Bruce writes:
it could be the mother dislikes u and u said she comes over everyweekend so im guessing she lives with her mom so she may be trying to stay on her moms side. she may feel if she like u she is betraying her mom and sence she lives and loves her mom she will defend her mom and always be on her side. this is what i think i went throw the same this. i once love my mom and always wanted to see her but my dad and his side of the family who i live with hated her. they told me stories on how horrible of a person she was and i grew to hate her as well i told her that, started acting really mad to her and her side of the family, i even cursed at her for no reason. i didnt want to betray my dad so i did what i did. what u have ta do is ignore the wrong and get close to her again at lest thats what worked on me cuz now i luv my mom again.
> 60 days ago

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bdmstaylor02
bdmstaylor02 writes:
Unfortunately I have to believe, from experience, that unknowingly or knowingly her mother is creating these ideas in her head. Because you are both pregnant at the sametime the mother maybe jealous of you. I know for a long time I had issues with my ex-husbands girlfriends and wife. But you have to find middle ground, your husband has to be on board fully. Between the two of you and if the mother is willing, you have to express his daughter that it is not acceptable to act that way. There has to be consequenses for the child's actions. I know it may sound harsh but you cannot let her get the upper hand, much less take control of it. Co-parenting between you, your husband, and the child's mother has to take place. I have a step-son of my own who is bi-polar and so is his mother, unfortunately in our sitchuation it doesn't work so we are in court. But on the other hand my husband is a step-father to my 2 sons who are teenagers and we have no issues between him and my sons' father. It really depends on the person and you can only make the best of what you are willing to do in the situation. I wish you the best of luck!!! I know what it's like!! :)
> 60 days ago

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JeanneBrockmyer
JeanneBrock... writes:
Your husband's daughter may be reacting to some important impending life changes--two new babies coming!  At age 3 she doesn't have the ability to tell people she is confused and maybe angry so these feelings come out in her behavior.  It is also tough for any 3 year old to figure out how to live in two different households that likely have different rules and expectations.  In the ideal world, her mom and dad would sit down and talk about this situation and agree on some basic discipline techniques like very short timeouts (no more than 3 minutes) when she misbehaves.  If there isn't this ideal situation, then at least in your home consistency in expectations and consequences is very important. She may also need reassurance from her mom and dad (and you) that she will be an important and loved member of the family when the new babies arrive.  

Jeanne H. Brockmyer, Ph. D. education.com expert clinical child psychologist
> 60 days ago

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missgigimeowcat
missgigimeo... , Teacher, Parent writes:
In her own home, your stepdaughter was "top dog" and now her mom is having a baby. What will her place be after the new baby there? At your house, she knew her place in her dad's life, as the older sister, but now you are pregnant. Could she be feeling the same thing at your house and reacting to the situation?

It seems to me that she is looking for situations that she can control, because both of her homes seem out of control. She is being displaced as the child who is getting the most attention. Find ways to give her more control in her life. Let her pick her own clothes, pick the foods she'd like to eat, include her in prepping them. Talk to her about why she is doing such mean things to her brother and the dog. Let her know that she is still special and will still be the older sister no matter how many children her parents have. Do something special with her, like a "girls" day...get your toenails painted or your hair styled together. Take her to her favorite place to eat as a "date."

Maybe let her choose some new things for each new baby. Get your husband involved in the activities with you. Also, if you and your husband could communicate about the situation with her mother so that all of you can maintain a regular routine and deal with the situation in each home in a similar manner, I'm sure her behavior will improve.

My friend had a child who did something similar...she was a year or two older, but went on a hunger strike right after her baby brother was born. Every test in the world was done on the child and nothing was wrong. She simply was reacting to a situation she couldn't control, and attention she wasn't getting, in a way that she could control. When she got the attention she craved, and saw that her parents loved her just as much as the new baby, she soon began eating again and things returned to normal.
> 60 days ago

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