Negotiating with a 3 Year Old: Am I Failing As A Parent?

Negotiating with a 3 Year Old: Am I Failing As A Parent?

In the 3-and-nearly-a-half years that I have been a Dad I have never doubted that I am good at it.

Until now.

Because now I’m wondering if negotiating with a 3 year old is actually a possibility.

My son was born with tongue tie. He arrived at 0350, we arrived home from hospital late afternoon, and at 10pm that night he was crying to be fed.

The tongue tie meant he was getting colustrum from my fiancee; he wasn’t getting enough to fill him up.

No problem. I just got in the car, went to the 24 Hour ASDA, picked up some formula and went home where my fiancee fed him from the bottle.

That was the first day of being a parent = nailed it.

negotiating with a 3 year old

My son is now three-and-nearly-a-half years old. (As you’ll know, the fraction is THE important part of any childhood age.)

To semi-paraphrase Britney for no particular reason:

He’s not a toddler; not yet a schoolboy.

My son is a little boy finding his way around what is acceptable and what isn’t. He’s finding his own personality.

In other words, he’s a normal little boy. (Although he did appear from under the dining table last week and profess: “Hello. I’m weird!”)

It’s taken three-and-nearly-a-half years but…

… this is the first time I’ve doubted my ability as a parent.

I want my children to grow up to respect all humankind.

I want them to be happy and I hope they spread happiness.

Above all, I really want my daughter to sleep through the night. I digress…

My son at the moment is shouting, “No!” A lot. To strangers, to friends, to family. (This morning on the school run, to a dog.)

He’s not out of control and he’s not doing it all the time: the two of us went shopping the other day and he was polite, asking how people were, saying “thank you” of his own accord.

It was ace. HE is ace.

Then, there are the times where he will push those boundaries.

Sometimes I’ve scrapped my Elf on the Shelf ideas because he’s actually performed the mischief I had planned. #JustJoking (Mostly.)

I just want to reason with my child and I appreciate that negotiating with a 3 year old is probably going to be less effective than negotiating with a bank robber, for (poor) example.

Yet when he yells, or is testing these boundaries in a way that is, frankly, not entirely ingratiating; I have no idea how to deal with that.

This is where I feel out of my parenting depth.

I can do the love. I can do the laughter. I can do the sitting down, comforting and making him feel okay.

What I really want to do is something akin to The Trueman Show. To take A-Dogg to one side and say:

Can we reason with children who are just stepping out of their toddler shoes; or should we place them somewhere to think about their actions like a trainer with a dog?

It’s conflicting who I feel I am as a person and who I want to be as a parent.

The brilliant thing about this age is that my son and I communicate brilliantly. We make each other laugh, we have conversations, we play childish games and we have caring, loving little chats.

The irony is he’s probably trying to express or communicate in a way that he doesn’t know how, and that frustrates him.

Like son, like father.

How To Deal With 3-year-old Temper Tantrums.

Researching the matter is a big thing at the moment. For me, I’m trying to find an alternative to punishment. has this:

Three-year-olds are bound to burst into the occasional temper tantrum. But when your little guy has a meltdown, try to keep your cool and avoid yelling back. Instead, ignore your child’s outburst and continue what you are doing. When he sees screaming will get him nowhere, he’ll stop. Or try to distract your tot. Make him laugh, tell a story with funny voices, or give him a little squeeze. After the tantrum subsides, hug him, say you love him, and move on. Above all, keep discipline consistent.

“Keep the discipline consistent.” I probably change tack 7 times in a two-minute period when I’m attempting discipline.

The website one of my favourites because it’s in keeping with my ethos that the world should be like a film, or very least a happy sit-com – offers this help:

  • Speak in short phrases: One- to two-word phrases are small enough for a toddler’s brain to understand when in the middle of a tantrum. 
  • Use repetition: If your toddler is upset, you may need to repeat the same phrase twice…or three, four, maybe even eight times just to get your toddler’s attention!
  • Mirror your toddler’s feelings: Make your toddler feel understood by mirroring their feelings with your own voice and gestures. 
  • Connect with respect: Keep a cool, respectful tone and avoid hurtful words—even if you are feeling really angry.
  • Praise ‘greenlight’ behaviours: When you catch your child listening—or performing other good behaviours—be sure to praise it!

I think the key is probably not to see discipline as something that is bad; certainly not to see it as cruel.

As my partner says,

“We don’t want a feral child.”

It’s true. And I think we are lucky that he cares about others’ feelings and loves a hug.

I’m probably about to Google/YouTube how to go about negotiating with a 3 year old. In the meantime, if you have any hints/tips/advice… please share.

For now, I am going to go and sit on my own and think about what I’ve just said.


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