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Out-of-Control 3-Year-Old Boy


I am a stay-at-home mom with an out-of-control 3-year-old boy. He is destructive. He throws toys, breaks things, screams, hits and torments the dog. When I try to discipline him, he yells, hits me and strikes himself on his head. I have tried timeouts and talking to him at his level. He just pulls away and screams at me. I am worried about his ability to learn because he cannot remain seated even to color.


The “terrible 3's” are just as common as the “terrible 2’s.” It is our job as parents to teach our children the responsibilities, life skills and acceptable social behaviors that go along with being independent. One way to do this is by being a good role model. When things don’t go our way, do we throw a dish towel or yell at our spouse? Your child is like a sponge taking in all the sights, sounds and behaviors around him.

When do these behaviors occur? Is it when he is frustrated? Or is it when you give him a simple instruction? Many temper tantrums come from not being able to complete a task because those fine motor skills are simply not developed enough yet. Make sure your son’s toys and games are age-appropriate.

A child has many opportunities to learn through play. Three-year-olds are interested in playing with children their own age. This might be helpful. Children can be role models for each other. They have parents at their side who can monitor and teach regarding a misbehavior.

For instance, if your son grabs a toy from a friend and yells, “Mine!” show him an alternative reaction. Tell him, “No, Thomas picked it up first. He is going to play with it for five minutes and then you can have a turn.” If you need to separate them, then do so. If your son throws himself down screaming, then move him to a different area.

The calmer you are and more consistent you are in teaching and modeling appropriate behaviors, the more likely his tantrums will lessen in frequency and intensity.

Be sure to have some “me” time for you. And remember that your son is learning daily. As he gets older, his attention span will increase.

Many preschools have programs for kids as young as age 2. Think about putting him in class for just one day a week so he can have even more learning opportunities.

Helpline Support

Nebraska Family Helpline: The Helpline is a free resource for parents who have concerns and questions about their child's behavior. Call 888-866-8660. Bilingual counselors are available.

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