3-Year-Old in Hyper Mode

Question

My 3.5 year old will get hyper and annoying when he is overtired or overexcited. When he’s in a “hyper mode”, he’s running around, trying to roughhouse, jumping into people, being loud and laughing uncontrollably. He’s not necessarily doing anything bad, but annoying. If it’s at my house, it’s usually because he’s overtired, and I just put him to bed. Sometimes it’s socially acceptable, like at a toddler birthday or play date. What should if it’s not socially acceptable? He would not think ahead enough to care about the cards and I wouldn’t be able to implement the punishment until later.

Answer

Hello and thank you for your question. I don’t feel it is ever socially acceptable for a child to be annoying or out of control. Even at a child’s birthday party, a baseline level of behavior should be expected. When it happens, an immediate response - whether at home or not - is advised to make sure that your child knows that what he is doing is not acceptable. At home, continue sending him to his room or to bed. I agree with your assessment that most likely he is overtired and overstimulated. When possible, your first line of defense should be to try to prevent your child from getting overtired or overstimulated, but when you can't, here are a few options:

Away from home you can pack up, leave, and then send him to his room or bed once home if that is a viable option. If it is not, I would implement a time-out. If you find yourself at a birthday party and see your child acting out, pull him aside and have him sit until he can gain control of his behavior. Be very clear with your words and say, “You are misbehaving and need a time out." Keep it simple. Have him sit out for a minimum of 5 minutes or longer if he has not calmed down by then. After he has gained control and 5 minutes have passed, let him return to his activity but tell him that if he gets out of control again, he will be coming back to sit out again. No empty threats. Make sure you follow through and have him sit out every time you see these out-of-control or annoying behaviors you are trying to curtail. With regards to running, it’s best to have a no tolerance for it indoors as it almost always results in injury.

You can use John’s “doctor” approach here if you need some backup with your authority. Tell your child that the doctor said anytime you see him acting crazy and annoying , he is to get an immediate time out. It doesn’t matter if you are at a birthday party, out to dinner with the family, at a movie, or in the grocery store, this is something you can do anywhere by simply having your child sit anywhere you tell him to, the floor included. If you feel you must have something tangible he can sit on, I suggest carrying a washcloth, handkerchief, or something small you can fit in your purse.

Even with time out being used immediately, you can still choose to send your child to bed early if you feel that the immediate time out is not resulting in long-term changed behavior. Kids this age don’t like to miss out on the fun. I suspect if you are consistent with your response each and every time you see these out-of-control/annoying behaviors, your little one will begin to make better choices and be much more pleasant to be around. Let us know how it goes and please reach out if you need further guidance.

Lisa Woodman
Certified Parent Coach
coachingbythecup@gmail.com

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