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Grandparents Are Having Trouble Raising a Strong-Willed 3-Year-Old Granddaughter

Question:

What should we do with our strong-willed, bossy 3-year-old granddaughter whom we are raising? Talking doesn't seem to work. No matter what we say, she is determined to do what she pleases. For now, having her sit in a chair is our only discipline. Apart from her stubbornness, she is a very bright and loving child.

Answer:

Parenting young children can be both exhilarating and exhausting. However, it is the most important responsibility you will ever have and it can be filled with some of the richest and most satisfying experiences. 

It is evident that talking and talking to your 3-year-old only frustrates you as well as your granddaughter. Instead, try using as few words as possible and then taking action. Having your granddaughter sit in a chair is a good discipline strategy, but there are others that also can be effective. And sometimes mixing things up can have a positive effect. Other actions that parents have found to be effective include re-doing/doing-over, learning, redirecting, undoing, or removing a possession or ceasing an activity a child likes.

If your granddaughter wants to do something you have told her she cannot do, she should be taught (or re-taught) how to accept “No” for an answer. We suggest teaching it with these simple steps: 1) Look at you, and 2) Say "Okay." That is all.

If you tell her to do something and she refuses, she should be taught (or re-taught) how to follow instructions. Use these simple steps: 1) Look at you; 2) Repeat the instruction; and 3) Do what was asked.

These social skills should be taught at a neutral time, before your granddaughter will need to use them, and should be practiced frequently. Repetition and practice are extremely important. Practices should be brief and fun. “Simon Says” is a game that children love to play, and it can be used to help them learn and practice following instructions. “Mother May I” is another game that can help kids learn and practice how to ask permission.

Boys Town offers a great book called Common Sense Parenting of Toddlers and Preschoolers online and in bookstores. The book is based on our well-researched and highly effective parenting programs, and is full of effective strategies that all parents can consistently use to teach and discipline their children. 

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