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Am I too strict with my 3-year-old?
Q: I’m told I’m too strict with my 3-year-old because I insist she use the title “Mr.” or “Mrs.” until that adult gives her permission to use a first name. Also, I don’t allow her to get away with misbehaving in public. The other day, she blatantly disregarded me when I repeatedly told her to come over to me in a restaurant. I picked her up, took her to the car and gave her a spanking. Am I out of line?
Destinee Coldwater
A: You’re expecting a bit much from your child at her very young age, and your punishment is too harsh. The last thing you want to do is damage your relationship with your child by coming on too strong and too harsh. When you expect too much before a child can deliver consistently you run the risk of having her feel like a failure. Children exposed to this kind of parenting can become scared of their parents.

It’s best to think of age 3 as being very close to the “terrible twos.” There’s still a lot of challenging and inconsistent behaviour. One of the best things parents can do is read up on each stage so they know in advance what’s normal behaviour, and what’s unrealistic for them to expect.

Also, keep in mind that teaching your child to be cooperative and respectful is a process. You don’t teach it in one week. There are many gentle reminders that children must hear before everything sinks in. So don’t expect your child to behave consistently. And remember, a child wants nothing more than to receive praise from mum or dad. Be sure to praise your daughter whenever she behaves the way you’d like her to behave. You might say, “I’m so proud of you the way you listened to me today while we were shopping. Come over here and let me give you a big hug.”

Two more things: There is a lot of good parenting information at this website. Seek it out when you have questions. Finally, spend time watching how experienced, responsible parents handle their young children, and learn from their actions.

Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist