On a positive note, they are beginning to understand us better when we correct them, as long as we keep it short, sweet, and to the point, but your average 3 year old is still capable of plenty of mischief.
Your three year old is just beginning to explore the concept of “I can do it myself”. Often, he will want to try to do things that are not safe or appropriate. This might include things like using the walls as a canvass for his artwork instead of paper, using diner utensils that are too sharp for a child her age, and the like.
When told no, a three year old may resort to tantrums. Be ready for your child’s increasing sense of independence as he gets closer to three years old, and try to offer him as many opportunities to do the things he can do safely as you can.
Of course, typical 3 year old behavior problems include the whole host of problems you may have dealt with when the child was two. Many children don’t even display “terrible two” behavior until they are three years old. I remember thinking I must have just hit the jackpot with my first son when he was two because we honestly had very few behavioral issues. Then shortly after his third birthday, it seemed like all hell broke loose.
The main difference in dealing with the behaviors at age two or age three is that the three year old child has developed significantly in her ability to communicate with you. Whether this is an advantage or not is a matter of opinion. It certainly allows her to be more sophisticated in her misbehavior, but it also allows you to reason with her…at least when she’s not having a tantrum.
Three year olds generally have very short attention spans, which may cause them to try the same behaviors repeatedly. It sometimes takes a while for them to grasp the whole idea of cause and effect, so parenting them can be a bit of a challenge. But, most problems work themselves out over time.
Parents should be advised to address issues clearly and concisely, in language their three year old will understand when they address behavior issues at all. In general, it’s better to give as much attention to your toddler’s positive behaviors, and give the negative ones as little attention as possible.
It is important to try to instill a sense of empathy as your child is in the later part of her third year, approaching her fourth birthday. Do this by giving lots of attention to those who have been hurt, especially if your 3 year old’s behavior was responsible. When they do something that hurts someone else, such as biting or hitting tell them, “we don’t do that. It hurts,” and then turn your attention to the one who was hurt.
Remember that your three year old will generally try to communicate her needs to you, but she still doesn’t have enough speech mastered to do so effectively. Take the time to listen to her when she is talking to you, and you may be able to head off many potential 3 year old behavior problems.