Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Boy Monster 3 YO


QUESTION: Hi Eleanor
I had a chat with my just-turned-3 yo son's Childcare teacher today (he goes 3 days per week) about concerns. Overall he is a happy, healthy and seemingly well-adjusted little bloke (only child) who is decently big for his age, with excellent memory, retention and speech. He knows his ABC, 123's and half a dozen rolling stones songs!
Her concerns are three pronged and seem to dovetail
1. He doesn't appear to think about consequence before doing something which results in him hitting, pushing (either intentionally or because of his size) other kids. That also goes for not sharing food!
2. When asked to pack up or do something he doesn't particularly want to do he will appear to "vague out" and not listen
3. Will not poo on the toilet. Refuses outright almost in defiance!
This appears to result in alot of frustration for her and the other teachers and she has suggested to be that I may wish to see somebody about it. I guess it makes me upset however I am a realist but I am now very confused as to if it is "normal toddler behavior" or not?

At home we are restively strict on tidying up (no he doesn't like it but fun things don't happen unless he dies what I ask) and it does appear he isn't listening at times (but us it because playing with cars are more interesting than mummy nagging?). The poo thing...well whole other story and I think I have tried everything to no avail so the next step is to take focus off it maybe and it might actually happen?
I guess what I want to know is if you believe it is common behavior or do I have something where professional intervention will be beneficial? Are there any tactics you would recommend?
One of my biggest fears is he will grow up to be the class bully!

Many thanks for your consideration to my worried mummy ramblings

ANSWER: Hi Jane,
Thank you for your question and I will try to answer as efficiently as I can.  I do not think that this behaviour is going to cause him to be a class bully later on and there are many years before now and starting school in order to do something about this behaviour.  He is an only child so there is no-one else at home to test this behaviour on and his is just 3 years old so doesn't sound like anything out of the ordinary there.  I would like to know what they do with him when he does hurt someone?
Is the problem that he is sharing food or not sharing food?
It sounds like the tidying thing happens at home too but like you said he does it at home eventually if he wants something in return.  
I don't know about his listening, I would probably test it with something he likes (when he is busy playing offer him something he likes to eat or something) and see if he hears that and then you will know whether he is ignoring you or really not hearing you when he is busy with something else.  How does he pay attention in class? Is he affectionate?  Does he have friends who he likes to be with and who like to be with him?
The poo thing is just age and willingness on his part - I would think if he isn't doing it by 3.5 or 4 there would be a reason to get a second opinion but for now I would try to gently encourage him at home or offer rewards but otherwise it sounds normal for a child just on 3.  
I will give you more info when I get some more of your answers back.
Kind regards, Eleanor

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for your response. To clarify:
1. When he does hit or push somebody they get down to his level and talk to him about it. The teachers comment is that he says sorry readily and hugs the other child but very soon will revert to the poor behavior again. We rarely smack at home (except where he has been warned and it is to do with safety issues)
2. As for the food he hates to share it. He will happily eat 4bowls of food at school with barely a breath. Great for veggie consumption but he doesn't act like that at home.
3. As for listening, absolutely male selective hearing at home! He has a relatively short attention span, especially for sitting and listening to stories or focussing on tasks. I have to keep him on task often as he does get distracted or will just seemingly not hear when I ask him to eg. Get his table & chair out... It is almost as if he is lazy sometimes! He Appears to much prefer being active or playing with trucks than sitting drawing. He interacts well during song & dance time with the lady who comes to take the lesson but has an absolute phobia of the man who comes to teach sports (absolutely no idea why as all of the men in his life are adored by him and he is generally ok with strangers)
4. He is affectionate and has several close pals (boys & girls). We do get invited to a number of parties and he happily greets the parents of the kids (they all seem to know him!)

In the back of my mind I hope it is just a "normal phase" but when an experienced educator says she "has concerns" it really makes me wonder if I am being objective about my own child? He can be a demanding little monkey-monster like all toddlers but right now it is like all of his worst behavior is being exhibited at childcare, rather than at home where it used to be!!!
Again thank you so much for your considered responses and a wonderful Easter to you!


ANSWER: Hi Jane,
Thank you for your quick response.  I am glad to hear he is being invited to parties and has close boy and girl friends. It would appear they are not afraid of him and that his behaviour is normal for his age.  I do wonder if his behaviour is perhaps attention seeking.  Maybe he sees someone else get away with it or he is getting frustrated and needs to be reminded to use his words. With the food, perhaps he really likes it or maybe he is showing off to his friends, but that would seem to be a limit setting issue by the preschool as to say you can have two bowls and see if there is any left then you may have some more.  I don't think you can expect too much self control at 3 years old. You could tell him the teacher has said he has been hitting or pushing and it makes you feel sad and disappointed, so if he can get two days of good reports he can get a reward.  It doesn't always help to ask him why he is doing it because most of the time they genuinely don't know why they are doing the behaviour so once again reflect to him that you feel disappointed because you know he is a good boy and and see his reaction.   
It could be boredom not enough stimulation at preschool that this behaviour occurs suddenly or perhaps he is just developmentally at a stage where he is learning what is or isn't appropriate to do to friends like hitting, so getting him to use his words rather when he is frustrated at school.
He is still young and so not lazy but may need reminding about what you want him to do at this age.  
I will put up a personality link in the next two days on my blog at and this may also help you to get an indication of his personality type and what may work for him personally.  
Kind regards, Eleanor

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for your reassurance. I am actually looking forward to the personality type indicator as it may assist in promoting some proactive parenting.

Hi Jane

Apologies for getting this up later than planned.  Here is the link and it contains another link which takes you to a slideshow presentation of what the preschooler personality is about.
Kind regards, Eleanor  


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Eleanor Formaggio


I can answer questions where practical advice is sought in relation to behaviour issues of 2-10 year olds. I specifically look at the influence of personality in a child's behaviour and tailor advice to suit the individual child and parent. This is useful since not all children are the same. I can suggest techniques for tantrums, child aggression and sibling rivalry and adapting to change.


I am a counsellor and child behaviour consultant based in Sydney, Australia and mum to three boys ages 12,10 and 6. I have been involved in setting up and facilitating community support groups for new mothers and run parenting workshops so parents can better understand their children's behaviour. I have spent alot of time observing personality differences in children and understanding how these differences can be used to make parenting easier. I developed the Early Childhood Personality Rating Scale for identifying child personality types in children as young as two. I am the founder of Parent with Potential and developed the Prechooler Personality Kit and READ personality system for primary aged children. More info can be found at

Book: In this Present Moment: Quality Time Ideas for busy parents.

I have a Bachelors Degree in Applied Social Science (Counselling).

Past/Present Clients
Parents of 2-8 year olds. Mothers with Postnatal Depression or anxiety attending a support group or seeking individual counselling or advice in relation to their child's behaviour.

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