Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Bouncy Three Year Old



I am contacting you for help. I am a single mom of two beautiful daughters. Jaz is 3 years old. Embee is 18 months old. I love both of my children very much, but I need some advise and help. My oldest daughter is getting to be just about as much as I can handle (which is a lot because I worked in childcare for a while). She is extremely hyper, doesn't listen, and doesn't follow instructions. I feel like she is testing boundaries and nothing that I say or do is showing her where the boundary lines are. Nothing is working anymore. Timeouts worked for a little while, but not anymore. She will make excuses to have to go to the bathroom or blow her nose, or she will just stand there,wiggle around, and try to ask me questions like, "Whats for dinner, Mommy? I'm awfully hungry" I tried a timeout chair but she just plays with the chair, bouncing up and down, turning it over, etc. I tried telling her to sit on the floor. She just rolls around, puts her feet on the wall and so on. I tried spanking (although I really don't want to do it at all) and that doesn't phase her a bit. She doesn't take me seriously at all even though I always follow through with what I say. (if i say shes going to timeout, she has to go) Shes not attached to any specific toys, to try to take things away and even if I did do that it wouldn't be fair to her little sister because they both play with all the toys. I feel like she is constantly in trouble, but I don't want to let her get away with things, because I feel that would make it worse too. I tried putting her to bed early tonight and I spent two whole hours walking her back into her room putting her back into bed like they do on Supernanny, while she thought it was funny, by the end of it, I was balling my eyes out, at the end of my rope. I have done my best to give her as much attention as possible. I show both girls equal attention and love. Jazalee is just more challenging than any other child I have encountered. She doesn't really throw tantrums or get angry. She is just extremely hyper and doesn't listen. She is in preschool and they too have issues with her not following instructions. She is extremely smart, gets her work done early in class, and loves for us to read to her. She would let us read her books for hours if possible. She just has so much energy. How do I handle it all? I don't want her to grow up too fast. I want her to still be a toddler, but I want both of my girls to learn what it means to be polite and respectful. I'm afraid if I don't get her in line now, she will start back talking and all that and then I will really have a time with her.. along with my youngest following in her footsteps... Please help.
My main questions are...

1. How do I calm her down a bit and gain her attention?

2. What should I do when she doesn't listen?

3. When I do need to discipline her, what should I do?

4. How do I get her to take me seriously, so that she will respect me when she is old enough to know better?

5. Am I expecting too much out of her for 3 years old? If so, how do I change that?

Hello Taylee,
Although it is difficult sometimes to determine what is the energy and temperament of a toddler as opposed to what is a particular child's unique temperament, I would say that based on your experience with children that you see that Jazalee is on the extreme end of things as far as her energy, her independence, her impulsiveness, and her stubbornness (as well, perhaps, as her defiance#.
First, it is important to accept that this is her. The trick -- for both you and her -- is to live together given her temperamental traits. Accepting her the way she is happens to be a lot better than always struggling to change her. That doesn't mean that there won't be rules, limits, and expectations, however.
Second, I don't know that you can, in general, calm her down. But there should be quiet times in the family and for her. Maybe this can be when she is being read to. Since she loves being read to, this is a good time for her to be calm and quiet. So, you want to make sure that you sometimes choose books and stories that are calming, soothing, and contemplative. Books with messages and with thoughtful themes might lead to quiet discussions and reflection.
Third, how do you gain her her attention? Generally, by making sure you use the techniques most likely to get a child's attention. And those are:
 1. When you have something important to convey to her, get down on her level. You should be on the floor or on your knees looking her straight in the eyes.
 2. Use an authoritative voice. Make it somewhat deeper and a bit louder.
 3. You may have to hold her shoulders or her face so she maintains eye contact and listens to you.
 4. Move in closer to her #maybe 8 to 12 inches away from her#.
 5. Let her know you have something important to say: "I want you to listen because this is very important..."
 6. If it is an instruction or command, make it short and concise. Then, after you have given it, ask her to repeat it: "Okay, what do I want you to do?" Make sure she repeats it fairly faithfully before you give her approval.

Fourth, if she fails to do what you ask, then repeat the above procedure. However, only use this procedure for really important things.

 Fifth, think of discipline in the broad sense.l That is, discipline is everything you do to guide and teach her. In essence, you are really "disciplining" her all day long. It is much more than punishment or correction. It would include the procedure for getting her to pay attention. If you think there should be punishment or consequences, then use ones that are short and relate to the problem. And keep in mind that a consequence doesn't have to have an instant result or be immediately successful. You should be consistent so that she knows, for example, if the problem is hitting her sister that every she hits her sister there will be a negative consequence. It could losing a privilege or favored activity.

 Sixth, how do you get her to take you seriously? By being consistent. By being authoritative. By being direct. By following through. By maintaining a good relationship by doing much more than just administering negative consequences.

 Seventh. Are you expecting too much? I don't think so. If you expected total compliance or if you expected to listen and show respect, than I might say you are expecting too much. But as long as you know that she is in the process #one that will take years, literally# of learning to control her impulses and learn #and follow# the household rules, then you have reasonable expectations.

 Any questions?

James Windell  


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James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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