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Your 3-year-old: Development, behavior and parenting tips

Beth Stewart is a married Canadian freelance writer with three grown children and a granddaughter Isabelle whom she adores. She lives on a river, watches soaps, goes camping, loves to dance, collects Mickey Sorcerers' and is in the proce...

Parenting feisty 3-year-olds

Most people agree that raising a child is not an easy task. We parents don't get issued a rulebook or guidelines which guarantee raising a happy child into a well-balanced adult. Parents of young children almost always worry now and then about their parenting skills but if you are aware of what to expect from your 3-year-old as far as development, milestones and normal behavior go, you'll both enjoy that journey to 4.

3-year-old survival tips

Choose your battles. Priorities will be safety issues like climbing or going near the stove. Supervision is essential to prevent injuries as your child isn't able to anticipate the consequences of his actions. At 3, traffic is a huge concern for a parent.

Encourage your child to take turns and share toys. When he cries because he is told he can't have another cookie, well that's something he will have to learn to get over. If these demanding personality traits are squelched entirely, a child may diminish himself in order to please. However, if these qualities are monitored but encouraged, these seemingly unpleasant characteristics develop into admirable strengths like determination, assertiveness and self-confidence later in life.

Provide new words to him in order to expand his vocabulary. He will spend most of his waking hours asking why? This can happen hundreds of times each day. This can be very challenging, so keep your answers simple.

If you believe that your child is gifted, speak to your pediatrician who can refer you to testing specialists.

Parenting the stubborn 3-year-old

Robert Needlman, a medical doctor and expert on the website www.drspock.com says, "While a few very laid-back and agreeable preschoolers are happy to go along with whatever his parents want, most young children want what they want, when they want it! A child who is temperamentally persistent, who also feels well-loved and well listened to, might well develop an unpleasant habit of stubbornness."

Read about toddler tantrums: why they have them and how to stop them >>

Needlman continues, "But this habit not only makes them less pleasant to be around, it also makes the children less happy. They spend a lot of time fussing and demanding, but aren't satisfied because what they want is the control, rather than the particular thing they are demanding. The answer to this is for parents to assert control in all areas, except those that they intend their young children to be able to make choices about. Little children can make little choices."

Heather Holden, mother of a busy 3-year-old says, "The biggest challenge is allowing Isabelle to grow in her independence but balance that with appropriate discipline when needed. I set boundaries and she is given choices so that her decision-making can improve."

Her husband Kris says that his biggest challenge is being patient. He says, "You want to do what's right for them but it may not be what they want to do. I give her choices when possible and make her feel like she is in control so there is less of a power struggle over other things."

Let your preschooler know you're proud of his new independence and creativity. Give him choices whenever possible so that he learns to make decisions. As he becomes more responsible in making his own decisions you can give him more control. Above all, the 3-year-old needs to feel love and security while learning and developing. Your 3-year-old is at a precious and magical stage of development. Enjoy the journey!

What's up for next year? Read about your 4-year-old's development >>

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