Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/My 3 yr old wont listen


My 3 yr old will not listen. I've tried time out, i've tried standing her in the corner, ive tried talking and explaining to her, getting her attention on something else as im telling her not to do it she's doing it. Help please

Hello Dena,

Toddlers can be very frustrating. And for the very reason you are writing -- because they don't listen. Or, they do listen, they just don't do what we want!

So, let me begin with a simple question: Who told you that two and three year olds were supposed to listen and obey?

Perhaps no one exactly told you that. Chances are that like most of the rest of us (when we were young parents) you just thought that was supposed to be the way it was. That is, if we were loving and kind by age two or three, they would want to follow our rules and obey our requests.

However, that is not the way kids grow and develop. They must go through the opposition and defiance of the toddler years in order to grow up at ages four, five, and later becoming a lot more cooperative (Never mind that they act like toddlers again in the teen years! You don't even want to know about that yet!).

Having lived through my two children's toddler years, and worked with hundreds of parents of young children, here are my top suggestions:
1. Accept that toddlers must be oppositional in order to become their own person. By trying out things and bending the rules, they learn independence and autonomy.
2. Keep repeating the rules and what you expect. You will say hundreds of times things like, "No throwing food at the table!" or "No biting your brother!"
3. Get down on their level when you are trying to stop a behavior or teach a lesson. Get down on the floor and give them "do", rather than "don't", commands and directions. That is, instead of saying, "Don't hit the kitty!" say "Here, let me show you how to pet the kitty gently. You try it."
4. Use lots of praise and attention for successful behaviors and compliance: "I like the way you were kind to your sister. You are so loving and gentle. I really like that!"
5. Let children know your expectations. They may not live up to them, but your expectations should be clear and consistent. "I want you to sit at the table while we are eating." "We must have our seat belts buckled up before the car can go."
6. Hang in there. Parents do survive these years. Keep a sense of humor and be aware that things get better during years four and five.

If you have more questions, please get back to me.

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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