Three year old crying

by Kelly
(maidstone, kent, england)

How to stop constant three year old crying behavior

Question: My three year old daughter cries very easily and its driving us insane. Sometimes she even makes up reasons to cry, saying a toy is lost for example.

We have a 6mth baby and crying with our three year old has gotten worse, but was also a problem before. She will cry over spilt drink, dropped toy, minor pain, coming in from playing, almost anything. We tried reassurance & explaining, tried ignoring, tried telling her to stop. It's now causing family arguments. We can have 3 bouts before 9am!

Answer: I can completely identify with this! We also have to deal with occasional three year old crying from our son as well. This tends to be a stage between using communication and whining/crying.

What we have found works best is to respond in the following way every time she engages in three year old crying behavior (not crying because she is really hurt). Consistency is the most important, so you may need to write this down for others to do the same exact thing.

Start by explaining to her first thing in the morning on the day you start-

"From now on, we need you to use your words to talk to us. Being a three year old means you are a big girl! So, if you cry or whine, you will have to go to your room until you stop crying and are using your words. If you do not stay in your room, then we will have to shut the door. Do you understand?" More explanation may be necessary.

As soon as she starts three year old crying or whining behavior:

1. Say "Use your words please. I can't hear you when you speak that way." If she stops and uses words give lots of praise. "I love it when you use your words instead of crying!" Then try to walk her through the steps of solving her problem modeling a calm demeanor.

If she continues crying:

2. Using only empathy and no anger in your voice, "Oh that is so sad, it looks like someone needs a little room time." Take her to her room saying,
"When you are done crying you can come back and talk to us." Leave door open.

If she immediately comes out of her room before you allow her to:

3. "Oh that is so sad, it looks like you have chosen to have your door shut." You may need to stand by the door to put her back in her room if she tries to come out until calm or quiet for at least 10-30 seconds.
It may take a couple times of having to shut the door, but she will learn to stay in her room if you are consistent. As soon as she is calm and not crying or whining for 10-30 seconds (you may need to gradually increase the time needed for her to be calm) allow her to rejoin you.


Initially this may also take several times of doing it with her because she will test you to see if you are going to follow through each time.

She may possibly even escalate at first and start destroying her room. Try to remove as many things as possible that she could break etc. prior to starting this with her.

If necessary, do not clean up any of her room for her until she starts to stop crying when you give her the cue, "Use your words please." or "That is so sad, it looks like someone needs some room time."

When you feel she is understanding the process, have her assist you in cleaning her room. It's best to wait to do this until then to avoid doing it multiple times.

For some children this may not be an appropriate way to respond to their behavior especially if the child has a pervasive developmental disorder or escalates to the point of being unable to calm him/herself down.

This is not intended to be a punishment, if she has toys in her room and chooses to play with them, that is perfectly fine and actually even a good thing. This is merely a differential reinforcement procedure that is intended to give her the message that if she wants to whine/cry she can do so in her room, but that it is not okay to whine/cry in order to get attention or desirable items.

Another option for this would be to say "That is so sad. Crying/whining hurts my ears." Or "I can't hear you when you cry/whine." Then for you and your husband to immediately walk away and go into your bedroom by yourselves. Don't allow her in the room until she stops. Sort of a reverse time out with you being in a secluded room not giving any attention until she is calm and talking appropriately.

Use your own judgement, but I can personally vouch that it works very well with my son and the methods are modified from a well known and respected book, "Parenting with Love and Logic" shown below.

For our three year old son, we pretty much just have to say, "Use your words or That is so sad." and he immediately stops crying and says, "I'm done crying." On rare occasions we still have to do "room time."
However, this seems to be more related to him being hungry or tired. If you haven't read my free ebook, be sure to check this out. Prevention is extremely important as well.

child behavior, child behavior problems, child behavior guide

Here is the book I highly recommend reading!




Return to Behavioral Questions page


Return to Home from three year old crying page



Click here to read or post comments

Return to Ask a question.

Naughty behavior

by Michelle
(Bradford west Yorkshire)

Question: Help my 3yr old daughter is so naughty I don't know what to do anymore. Today she has climbed the shelves in the bathroom and poured all my expensive body washs out down the sink the toilet in the bath, she's pee'd outside on the garden path, she's poo'd at the top of the drive then played in it then wiped it all over the black she then scratched the hell out of our black car it's a right mess she's also scratched my new car.

We have a 5 mth old kitten that she's so cruel n nasty to , she hurts our older cat and the dog a day doesn't go by without her spending lots of time on the step in timeout, but this is clearly not working I'm on the verge of emailing super nanny , I've also got a 16yr old son and he was a normal toddler/child.
Please we need help,

Answer: It sounds like she may have a little too much free time on her hands. Try filling her time during the day with some structured supervised activities, such as crafts, games, coloring, and playing with playdo.

Most 3 year olds are still unable to make good choices without constant supervision to help guide them in making the right choices. If she had enough time to poor all your bath washes out, poop and then play in it and to wipe it all over I would say both times it was much too long for her to have been left alone. Similarly with scratching your car. As soon as she began to attempt to scratch the car, she should have been told to stop and been removed from the area.

I would make sure that she plays or engages in an activity wherever you have to be. You may even attempt to have her help with the chores you need to get done as a way to keep your eye on her at all times.

If you are making dinner, have her sit at the table and color or play with playdo. If you need to do laundry, have her help you sort clothes, load the washer, poor in soap and push the buttons. She will probably love being your little helper.

You may also try putting together a daily schedule for her with pictures to help.

Model for her what it means to be gentle with the animals petting them softly and saying, "You have to be gentle with the kitty/dog." If she doesn't do it then don't allow her to play with them. Some kids just can't quite understand how to treat animals until they are a little bit older.

Good Luck!

Click here to read or post comments

Return to Ask a question.

3yr old scared of other kids

by Emily Thomas
(Michigan)

Question: My 3 year old daughter is terrified of other kids. She is an only child, but we've been going to a play group and story time at our library for 2yrs. She still sits on my lap the whole time.

If another child or baby cries she freaks out. She has no fear of adults and she loves older kids, its kids her age and younger she's afraid of. I'm so lost on what to do to help her. I know I shouldn't be, but I'm embarrassed of her behavior. It makes me feel like a horrible mom.

Answer: Maybe she is just sensitive to loud high pitched sounds, which younger children are more prone to making. Does she seem to have issues with any other loud sounds? You may want to review my pages related to sensory processing to see if she possibly has any other symptoms.

If so, talking to your pediatrician about a good occupational therapist for kids may be a good start to help her become more accustomed to those sounds.

I would also try to expose her to children her age as much as possible. Are you able to have a mom and child over to your house regularly that you are comfortable with (not embarrassed by your child's potential reaction)? The more you are able to have her interact one on one with children her age perhaps the less likely she will feel overwhelmed.

You may also consider getting her into a small preschool where she isn't able to rely on you to sit on the entire time, that forces her to socialize more with children her age.

If it continues after multiple one on one play dates or 1-2 months at a preschool, I would talk to your pediatrician. There may be something else going on. Good luck!

Click here to post comments

Return to Ask a question.

Poor Listening

by LaShawn
(Michigan)

Playful instead of paying attention


Question about poor listening: Hello, My three year old is a very smart little girl. Lately she hasn't been a good listener or following the instructions given by anyone.

Whenever I correct the behavior she always gives me the right response. I am sorry mommie. Yes, mommie, okay mommie. Then she proceeds to smile and laugh and go about her playing. I don't believe her responses are sincere, so I have her repeat what I have said to ensure she has heard me.

Two days in a row we have gotten calls from the daycare regarding her behavior. What concerns me is that whomever she is around she mirrors the behavior of the children she is around. So if another child is acting out, she goes right along with them. Or she will start the acting out and the other children will follow. She also acts out to get laughs or draw attention to herself.

She used to always want to learn now she doesn't take learning seriously. What can I do to promote positive behavior and promote learning for her?

Answer: Poor listening skills sounds like very typical behavior for a three year old. She is learning her boundaries and what she can get away with. Consistency is the most important. Determine a consequence for her not following your directions or poor listening and consistently give the consequence everytime she doesn't.

I would also try to reinforce following directions and listening by using other incentives. Perhaps using a behavior chart and giving her stars or stickers each time she follows directions/listens may also be useful. Then when she gets so many stars/stickers allow her to do a special activity etc. Always give lots of praise as well.

As far as learning new things, you may just need to give her time. It's possible that some of the things she has already learned and she is bored or maybe try a different approach. Learning should always be fun at this age and never forced or else you will create even bigger problems.

It's good to keep in mind that children are always learning no matter what they are doing. Playing at the playground requires lots of learning with gross motor skills. Pretend play develops her imagination, etc. She may just need to focus on those skills for awhile and once she has acquired them she will be able to better focus on things such as academics.

Another important point, although she is getting in trouble at daycare now, she is learning that doing what others do is not always good. This is extremely important for children to learn when they are young and mistakes come with small prices. Then, when she gets older and is in high school she won't be as likely to follow the crowd making mistakes that come with big prices.



Click here to post comments

Return to Ask a question.

Three Year Old Behavior

Question: How worried should I be if my three year old has squeezed two baby chicks to death at preschool? What should I do next?

Answer: Although this type of three year old behavior is extremely bothersome, if not accompanied by an other behavioral concerns, I would not worry too much. Many three year olds are not aware of their own strength and do not understand that they can hurt little animals that way.

I would practice with your child on being gentle with animals allowing him/her to pet cats or dogs and staying away from smaller animals until your child demonstrates the ability to be gentle.

Return to Behavioral Questions page


Return to Home page

Click here to post comments

Return to Ask a question.

Return to Home page



Find us on Facebook!

Be easily notified of new pages and upcoming contests to win money!$!$