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Family Forum: Three Year Old Misbehaves in Public

The darker side to our ‘little ray of sunshine’.

QUESTION:

My daughter, 3, is a little ray of sunshine when we are out socialising, but she is extremely hard work at home. She wakes up grumpy and typically has a few tantrums before we leave the house. I’m sure most people think I’m exaggerating, because she is so well behaved in the company of others, but it’s really very stressful and upsetting. Is there anything I can do to improve life at home?

ANSWER:

Many people find it difficult to know the appropriate behaviour for different situations and how to manage delivering it.

The panel congratulates you on teaching your daughter by age 3 how important good behaviour is, and her for being able to produce that behaviour in social situations such that you see her as a “ray of sunshine”.

It is quite normal for young children to relax their control in safe situations and it is positive that she sees home as a safe place to relax.

Your task now is to continue to praise her for good behaviour wherever it occurs and provide gentle guidance as to how that behaviour would please you at home. A parent’s attention is extremely important to children, so avoid giving too much attention to the negative behaviour as this could provide a “reward” for that behaviour. Allow her time to get her grumpiness and temper under control and show your appreciation when she does.

She has shown she can demonstrate good behaviour in social situations, so she would be just as capable at other times and at home.

Hang in there, stay positive and you will begin to see improvement over time. Your daughter will also change as she grows older and this phase may not last long.

Submit Your Questions

Family Forum is a panel of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it. The panel is appointed by Relationships Australia SA.

Have you got a question you’d like us to tackle?

Fill out the form below or send questions to Family Forum, The Advertiser, 31 Waymouth St, Adelaide 5000.

We treat communications in strict confidence except when the law demands otherwise, as in child abuse.

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