Saturday, June 5, 2010

Does my 3 1/2 year old daughter have a problem?

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Questioner: Kim Subject: Does my 3 1/2 year old daughter have a problem?

Question: A few people that are around my daughter a lot seem to think she has a problem. Her attention span is not very long, unless she is watching tv (which I limit to 2 hours max a week, but it is usually even less than that. She is very selfish when it comes to playing with the 2 year old that lives next door, but I think that is normal. Everytime the other child gets a toy out of the toy box, my daughter will grab it from her and say "I was playing with that," when in fact she may not have played with it all that day.

She talks constantly, I mean ALL the time. If I am busy on the phone or writing out bills, I will tell her what I am doing right before I start doing it, and tell her that she needs to be quiet while I am doing it. She seems to get louder while I am doing it, whether I warn her beforehand or not to be quiet for a bit. Even while I am in the process of doing a task and I ask her to be quiet, I have to continually tell her to be quiet, she just does not seem to listen when I ask her.

In fact, no matter how many times I tell her not to do something, she will do it anyways. I know she knows not to do it, because when the 2 year old is over to play, my daughter will tell her not to do something and then later on do it herself. Another thing that has started recently is when I ask her why she did something that she shouldn't, she replies, "Because I did today." No matter how I ask her, that is the only response I get. If she is eating something, lets say a PB and Jelly sandwich, she freaks out if she gets one little drop of jelly on her. But then if I turn my back for a few minutes, she smears food all over her highchair.

I have to keep her in a highchair because she will not sit still at a table without getting up. She seems extremely impulsive. Another thing recently she has been doing is really upsetting me. She has a potty in her room to use at nap and at bedtime. I make sure it is clean and empty before nap and bedtime. If she doesn't want to sleep, she will get up, go pee, and then play in her pee!

This from a kid whom doesn't like to get dirty. Just this week alone I have had to wash all her bedding and scrub her floors several times because of this. I have even had to throw several toys away. This does not stop her from doing it. I ask her why, and she just tells me something like; "Because I did today, I played with my pee." She knows not to do this but she just won't stop. She is very destructive. She does not listen no matter how many times I tell her. She will not be quiet no matter how many times I ask her. She cannot stay seated when asked to without getting up and trying to touch something she is not supposed to.

By the way, I cannot take her potty out of her room for nap and bedtime, especially bedtime, because there are a few steps up from her room and she will fall, not only that, if she comes out she will wreck havoc on my living room!

When she knows she even has 30 seconds to do something, she will do it, no matter how much she knows shes not supposed to. Is there something wrong with her??? Please, I need suggestions. Anything similar go on with any of your children?

Answer: Dear Kim, The good news is this situation can be turned around. The bad news is, your daughter is in control of her life and yours and she is only 3. This is too much responsibility for a 3 year old. Your writing talks alot about how you feel when she is doing what she is doing.

I need to be clear here about boundaries. You are the mother she is a 3 year old child. I know this is probably offensive however I have to tell you the truth. You would be surprised how many parents need to be reminded they are the parent.

Her acting out behavior is continuing because it works for her. When she does what she does and she gets what she wants her behavior is reinforced. There is nothing wrong with her she is 3 and she is suppose to try to go through you, around you, under you etc. to get her needs met as she perceived her needs need to be met.

What is not okay is her being able to do so in a way which is not healthy for her or others. I hear several things here in your writing that need to be challenged. Telling a 3 year old why so they know why things are expected of them is much different than asking them to be logical and rationale about their choices. Since when is a 3 year old suppose to run their world by rationalizing their behavior?

 They often don't know why they do what they do, they do it because it works for them.

Here are suggestions.

First and most importantly examine her daily routine, is it consistent? Children have to have consistent routines (not schedules, routines# to determine they feel safe and secure in their world. I suspect your daughter acts out because she is afraid.

Secondly, ignore bad behavior. Disengage without eye contract or engaging in discussion when she gives you undesirable behavior. #If she is hurting herself or someone else then intervene without responding to her and do as little as needed with her other than to stop the hurtful behavior (like removing her from the room etc.).

Next, start finding things that she does well and letting her know how pleased you are as you mention that other people are placing negative labels on her. People often label children as ADD or ADHD when they are frustrated themselves. Adults frustration is about the adults level of patience not the child's flaws.

Next, deal with her behaviors one at a time. She has had time to practice what she is doing and getting the responses she gets from all of you so it will take some practice to respond DIFFERENTLY to her now. In fact her behavior will get WORSE before it gets better when you change your behavior. Her behavior getting worse is a good sign, just like when a fever spikes because it is attacking a virus.


It takes on the average of 6 weeks or so to change just one behavior and get a different response.

BE PATIENT with her and yourself.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller

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