"A child who has learned to pay attention to parents will go to school prepared to pay attention to teachers. "

Three Year Old Obedient... Except With Mom


Hello and thank you for your time. We have a 3-year-old who is, most of the time, a very good and obedient boy. Let me rephrase that: He listens to his father 100% of the time. With his mother, me, he is not quite as responsive, and I admit I have let things slide. However, we don't allow him to talk back to us, hit his 1-year-old sister, or display any of the traditional "threenager" behavior for an extended period of time.

I spoke to his preschool teacher this morning, and she informed me that starting this week he has been responding to her instructions with, "NO!!!" or "I DON'T WANT TO!" When she tries to have a stern talking-to with him, he evades her, changes the subject, runs away, and is disruptive. He's also hitting one of his friends that he plays with the most, and then that boy hits back, and then they have to separate them and try to encourage them to play with other kids.

Some things that have changed recently are that we are cracking down on potty training, and his sister is entering a new phase where she is talking more, fighting more, not wanting to share toys, asserting her independence, etc.

This morning before he went to school, I had a very stern talking-to with him that he is not to yell or scream at his teachers, that he's to listen to them and be a good boy. Apparently his behavior has been better today, but what can I do to help him work on this for the 5-6 hours he is at school every day? Thanks in advance.


Thanks so much for your question.

I think you've already hit upon the answer to your question in your first paragraph "...he listens to his father 100% of the time. With his mother, me, he is not quiet as responsive and I admit I have let things slide."

Your husband has demonstrated, my guess is through alpha speech and leadership, that he is to be obeyed. You have, most likely through good intentions and love for your son, demonstrated that you do not have to be obeyed.

The good news is that you already suspect that's the case and you can see that your son is now not only disobeying you, but other females in authority, his teacher.

It's time to make a change.

I think you would benefit from reading John's "Grandma Was Right After All." You have a good model for leadership with your husband, and you can begin to observe how he speaks to your son that gets the results you want. The book will help you tailor those observations to fit your personality. It's very interactive and you'll glean wisdom that can be applied at home immediately each time to read a chapter (and most of the time just a few pages).

And until then, here are some leadership principles you can apply to the way you are parenting your son: 1) Act like you know what you're doing 2) Act like you know where you're going 3) Act like you know what you want 4) Act like you're going to get it. the 5th one I know you're already doing, 5) Act in the best interest of your child.

How do you apply them? The first step is to use "alpha speech." When you give directions (a command) to your child, use the lower register of your voice. Use very few words. Do NOT end your command with "okay?" Stand tall, do not get down on your child's level. Walk away after giving the command. All of this is done using the fewest words possible: "Son, put your shoes on." Then turn away, and busy yourself with another task. In this way, you are demonstrating leadership!

Good luck and let me know how it goes!


Susan Morley, CLPC, CARES

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