How to discipline a 3 year old? Easier said than done, right? Your three year old has just entered an exciting time in life, a time of greater mobility, greater communication, and greater interaction with the world around him.
He is starting to play directly with others a bit more, and is beginning to understand the cause and effect relationship between behavior and consequences, even if in a somewhat primitive way. So, when they misbehave, it’s important to know how to discipline a three year old.
First, realize that your three year old, intelligent as he may be, is not yet in a place where he has much empathy for those around him. It’s not so much that he doesn’t care about others, but rather that he simply doesn’t think of other people in terms of them having feelings, too. It sounds really obvious, but as adults we tend to forget these things.
At this point in his life, he’s too busy becoming aware of his own feelings, wants and needs to really pay much attention to anyone else’s. So, rule out appealing to his better nature.
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Also, don’t spend a lot of time explaining why they can do something in particular or not. At their age, attention spans barely make it past the end of their little noses, and lecturing them won’t accomplish anything. In fact, too much time spent talking about the hurtful behavior can actually feed in the behavior by causing your child to realize that he gets an extra special helping of attention when he misbehaves. And, let’s face it, there is nothing that children want so much as attention.
So then, how can we learn how to discipline a 3 year old in a way that makes sense to them and is likely to change their behavior. The answer is quite simple. Keep it short and sweet. When correcting the child, simply tell them “we don’t do that” or “no”, then redirect them if necessary.
If the behavior continues, don’t keep on giving it attention. Separate the child and make him sit somewhere in time out for 3 minutes. Tell him what he did once, then drop it. Don’t get sucked into an argument or a haggling session with your child. If you do, you’ll find out what good lawyers 3 year olds would make. Simply put, you won’t win many arguments with a 3 year old. Most of your reasoning is too deep for them.
That being said, your 3 year old is beginning to understand words much better than he ever has up until now, and you should make an effort to explain to him why he is being disciplined. You might even ask if he knows of anything he could have done differently.
If your child is unable to come up with acceptable ideas on his own, feel free to suggest a few. In doing this, however, try to keep it as calm and unemotional as possible. You don’t want to inadvertently encourage negative behavior by giving too much attention to your child after he has misbehaved.
In short, stay calm, and keep it short and unemotional when deciding how to discipline a 3 year old. I found this interesting talking point on child discipline on the BBC site. Do let me know your thoughts.