Teach your preschooler the value of sharing with others.

3 Year Olds and Negative Behavior

by Amber Keefer

Although a 3 year old generally aims to please, don’t be surprised if your little one can get downright determined at times. It’s a sure bet that both you and your preschooler are apt to face plenty of challenges as she learns the appropriate social and emotional behaviors. The good news is this phase of her childhood will pass like the rest and you and she will survive it just fine.

Reasons for Negative Behavior

Since 3 year olds believe that the world revolves around them, trouble often brews when something doesn’t go their way. Sharing, in particular, can be a major problem at this age. Smacking a playmate to get a toy he wants may be a common scenario with your youngster. Your job then becomes teaching your self-centered little angel that there are other ways to get what he wants. If you let him get away with it just one time, he’ll likely use the same behavior again to get his way. Explain that he needs to take turns or ask for what he wants and not simply take it. Reinforce positive behavior by praising him each time he shares with another child.

Becoming More Independent

At this age, your child may already be moving toward being more independent. You’ve probably noticed that she’s becoming more strong willed and harder to please. As your child progresses through this stage in her development, it might actually pay to overlook certain minor misbehavior. So what if she whines a little! Give her choices when it makes sense and even give her the chance to get her way once in a while on the trivial things. Offering your determined preschooler choices can also help you avoid power struggles since you're essentially giving her some control, points out Eleanor Reynolds, the author of “Guiding Young Children -- A Problem-Solving Approach.” Giving your youngster choices is a way to make her feel important, which can mean a lot.

Dealing With Misbehavior

When your 3 year old misbehaves, try diverting his attention to something else. It’s usually fairly easy to redirect a preschooler’s attention to another activity. You can also choose to ignore the behavior when your little one acts out. Often, kids misbehave just to get attention. Your preschooler likely won’t find the behavior much fun if you ignore it rather than giving him an audience when he performs. However, use a firm tone of voice whenever you do discipline the spirited little guy so that he knows you mean business. Be clear about what you expect and avoid phrasing a request as a question.

Preventing Misbehavior

Unless you establish consequences for when your child misbehaves, she’s not likely to take you seriously. Your 3 year old needs to know she must abide by the limits you set for her and when she doesn't, there will be consequences for her behavior. Since you don’t want to send a negative message yourself, establish reasonable consequences that teach a value instead of punishing. As tough as it may be sometimes, you have to stick to your guns when it comes to discipline and follow through with the consequence immediately after the behavior. If you don’t, you risk confusing your child by letting her think she can get away with it.

About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images