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Behaviors in 3 yo girl normal? 1
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Behaviors in 3 yo girl normal? 1

Sorry so long -- this is #1

Our daughter is bright, outgoing, and dreamy. She's the 1st of her age in her pre-school to read and is intensely linguistic.  She interacts well with kids.  However, she needs to be constantly re-directed in school and has been having some problems when it comes to cleaning up after herself at lunch.  She used to intrude on others' personal space, sometimes to annoy them, but grew out of that when told it was wrong.  Her teacher thinks she's extremely creative but too interested in things like "unicorns and rainbows."  

She isn't really that way at home as far as re-directing goes, and I think if the issue ended there it wouldn't bother me. However, she doesn't want to respond to her name or to look at her teachers when they get down on her level to talk to her about behavior.  She does make eye contact normally, but will avoid any kind of "serious heart to hearts" if she can (I have seen this when they are trying to ask her to clean up before leaving with me when I come to get her...she almost has this sly look that comes over her while she avoids looking them in the eye.)  Lately, this behavior is followed by totally hyper activity when we go to leave. I know kids are normally wound up after school, but sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who *never* leaves with a kid who will just simply walk next to me up the hallway.

This leads me to the other part of her behavior which really concerns me, which is how she acts when she knows something she is doing is wrong.  She doesn't like to be told no, and we go through the typical time-outs with what I'd call a medium amount of success.  We don't hit, and we rarely yell except out of surprise if we are scared for her wellbeing.  But beyond this, she will sometimes sneak off to do specific things that bother us, or she will do them right in front of us and say "Did you just see me do that?"  Sometimes she'll even say "Don't watch me..." so she can do something we wouldn't like...  (cont)
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Without dwelling on any meaning (because it would all be speculative), I would focus on setting limits. That is, you tell her in a straightforward way that playing with cords, especially tying hersekf up with them, is not safe and she needs to stop it. Then discipline her via immediate time out if she does not follow the limit. Obviously the same approach applies to 'playing' with plastic bags - it is dangerous.

Strong-willed children can be difficult to raise. But if you abide by the tactics in Lynn Clark's book SOS Help for Parents you'll be fine.
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#2

(cont)

A major example is playing with cords.  When she was 2, she put a Christmas light string around her neck and I think I over-reacted by leaping at her and raising my voice in a scared tone, even though she wasn't strangling and I was standing 5 feet from her.  Ever since then, she's developed a fascination with anything rope-y.  She taught herself to tie knots, and can hog-tie a barbie with an inch of ribbon.  She loves to do what she calls "wrapping" which is to take anything she can get her hands on and wrap her own feet, arm, waist, whatever.  When this first began my friends would jokingly say she could be a future bondage specialist but I swear, sometimes I see this glassed look in her eyes when she is "wrapping" and it almost does look like she is getting some kind of sexual satisfaction out of it (as much as a three year old could, I guess,) so those 'jokes' are hitting too close to home for me. I have caught her trying to close the bathroom door so she could 'wrap' my husband's bathrobe tie around her waist (it used to hang on the back of the bathroom door), and just last week in a house full of people she stopped playing with her friends and disappeared..we found her hiding behind a guitar in the corner of the living room, fiddling with the cords.

We've gone through so much second-guessing of our reactions to her (time-out, ignore, quietly take cord away and re-direct interest, yell...we've tried them all), and why she is doing this, and whether it's normal at all. I can't find one shred of evidence on the internet that any other girl her age has ever been so fascinated (and subversive) about this kind of thing.  I would have though that the most effective way to handle it would be to get on her level and quietly explain that she could hurt herself, not be able to breathe, etc...but that just gets her crying hysterically as if it scares her.  Strangely, taking the cord away doesn't upset her at all.  If I do that, she thinks it's funny.

I've asked a child psych friend about it, and she only offered up the idea that it may have to do with a need for control. I can see that, because she is very needy when it comes to control.  She loves to be the person to tell YOU the rules of HER card game, or to tell you a story instead of you telling her one.  But still I find the whole thing confusing because the way she starts the activity (secretly or "hey, look at me!") and the way she reacts to our reactions, varies so much!

I'd like to get an opinion about this, because just recently she put a plastic bag over her head in total innocence, and my husband made the same mistake I did by over-reacting, and now although she has no fascination for them, she did grab one and throw it over her head the other day when she got mad because it was time to leave grandpa's house.  I feel like we've got a handle on normal discipline, but this is just stumping and scaring me. And when I put it together with the type of defiance I was describing at school, I am wondering what it all means.  Thanks.
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Avatar_f_tn
Thanks so much, it's nice to have a definitive answer. We were worried that "giving it too much attention" was making it worse, or that the fascination went beyond the norm. And I will order that book today.
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