Learning how to discipline a 3 year old takes a lot of time and plenty of patience.
Discipline is the key foundations for good behaviour and many parents find this as the hardest parts of parenthood.
But how do you constructively discipline your child but simultaneously provide a strong framework to mistakes they can learn from?
In this article, I’ll bust open the barriers and reveal the best strategies to discover how to disciple a 3 year old correctly.
Related: 3 Year Old Hitting
How To Discipline A 3 Year Old
Pick Your Battles
Every successful war is won by picking your battles (and yes being a parent is a battle)
You have to learn to pick your battles. Pick the top 3 most outrageous behaviours or improvement areas and set clear rules and regulations to follow.
The most important part is to ensure you follow through on your regulations if they are broken. Too often parents set clear and concise rules but then end up giving too much leeway.
For example, biting is not allowed, but giving your child too many chances will enforce an unclear rule.
1 bite is enough times to get a “time out” or” “toy taken away”. This Lack of consistency promotes a battleground of rebels!
If your 3 year old behavior is out of control then ensure you stick to your gameplan.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Children crave structure. You know your child best and you can tell which parts of the day they tend to be more or less aggressive.
If your toddler is fighting back in the morning, take them out for a scheduled playtime, or walk. Any outside activity that prevents this behaviour in the first place.
Children often lash out when they have a set way of doing things and it changes too frequently or not frequently enough.
Prevent these spillovers from happening by actively testing which times of the days work better for specific activities. This will help to understand how to discipline a 3 year old who hits.
For example., early morning may be a better time for free play time and later on in the day more structured playtime.
Learning ABC’s may be better before playtime so you can use playtime as a lure to encourage additional learning.
For example, “Sweetie If you don’t finish your counting exercise, you won’t be able to go to the park in the afternoon.
If you are calm then your child is calmer. Frustrated children tend to get more upset if they sense you are angry and stressful too.
By promoting calmness throughout, you show more empathy and ensure that the situation doesn’t escalate to a full-blown temper tantrum.
Being more cooperative instead of commanding will help your child manage the situation better. This will, in turn, allow you both to move out of the temper tantrum faster.
Try to use words that don’t focus on any particular situation or scenario and frame each command as a learning command.
For example, instead of saying “You need to share your toys, with your sister” try saying something like “Sharing toys with your sister makes you a good brother, don’t you want to be a good brother?”
Or,“‘I’ve told you many times to put that down, it’s dangerous and you are still not listening’
Instead try, “If you don’t put that down you will hurt yourself and mummy doesn’t want to see you hurt’
Framing your commands in a more subtle way will allow you to keep calm but still get your point across. Remember your child mirrors your actions so you are inadvertently teaching resilience and calmness by showing those characteristics yourself.
This is an effective way to learn how to discipline a 3 year old
Listen, Listen and Listen some more!
Kids get very irritated when they don’t feel they are being heard. This can be the main reasons for 3 year old behavior not listening.
Children who don’t feel like they are being heard tend to lash out substantially more than those that do. Listening (even when it’s difficult to understand) and being supportive of the subject will always keep you and your child n the same page
This will give your child the encouragement they need to confide in you when they are dealing with bigger emotions, like fear, anger and pain.
Explain Your Rules
Children love doing things that make them happy, but that isn’t always the safest or most appropriate behaviour to adopt.
Children that Bite, often do it lightly first as a form of fun or at playtime. This can sometimes turn unpleasant if the child is not re-inforced correctly with the reason why it is not OK to bite.
Empathy is important as children learn very quickly from other people’s responses.
Instead of saying “Biting is bad. Don’t do it or you’ll get in trouble“, try saying this instead. “Biting hurts me, I don’t want to be hurt so please don’t do that”
This provides a solid framework that their behaviour is causing physical harm to you and won’t be tolerated.
The Alternative Way
Sometimes it’s best for your child to express themselves in other ways.
You won’t always be able to defuse the situation or stop your child from hitting others. Sometimes, it’s best just to try an alternative way.
For example for a child that just won’t stop hitting giving them a pillow or something similar (like a toy hammer) to hit in a constructive way.
Often times, this simple alternative will help to vent anger and get things back to normal faster then a 5 – 10 min talk on “why you must not hit others” will.
Admit Your Mistakes
Too Often parents don’t admit their mistakes. This has a big impact on behaviour and can be a major reason for thinking my 3 year old behavior is out of control.
At 3 years old your child has learnt the ways of the world by observing the way you interact within int.
Therefore If you say or do something wrong then admit your mistakes quickly and honestly. This will show your child the correct way to behave and give them a sense of accountability for the things they do.
This is an effective way to proactively discipline your child through your own actions and will eventually lead to self discipline.