AT is a perfectly nice 3 year old. She hams it up and tries to show love as best as her little sociopathic mind will allow her. This means she commonly mistreats people she loves, but when a new person she is trying to impress is introduced, she frequently says, “I love you, Daddy” and does things that have always resulted in her receiving a great big dose of “awwwwwwww” from the newcomer. This is not unique to her, I believe all 3 year olds are sociopaths.
I was recently at her school where an expert on early childhood development and behavior was talking about strategies and tactics that employ positive guidance for misbehavior (positive reinforcement). She was saying the underdeveloped frontal lobe was the main culprit for this sociopathic behavior. We all know our brains aren’t fully developed until we are pretty much almost dead, but in very little kids, it’s amazing how little of that lobe has actually grown-in.
The expert made some great points and had a pretty funny (not at all self-serious) attitude about parenting kids this age.
Here are the bullets on tactics if you are too lazy to click the above link:
- Natural consequences: Describe what happened. Eg. “Susie, you just spilled Daddy’s red wine all over your clean dress because you weren’t sitting still at the table. Now you can’t wear your favorite dress to school this morning, and daddy doesn’t have anymore wine
- Redirection: Redirect the behavior to something better. Eg. “Johnny, don’t tear the pages out of your favorite book. Books are for reading. Here’s a parking ticket.”
- Making amends: Kiddo fixes the situation. Eg. “Phyllice, you hit your friend Sjlkdsjfsdj, and that wasn’t very nice. What are you going to do to make Sjlkdsjfsdj feel better?”¹
- Self-redirection: Give the kiddo some time to think about their actions (NOT A TIMEOUT), then time to talk about it meaningfully. Yeah. This one is like the lost city of Atlantis — it doesn’t exist. I’m not going to give an example because it pretty much cannot happen without a bit more clarity about what you want the outcome to be (see below). Would love to hear a parent comment that has had success with this from a 3 or 4 year old, so that I may call them a liar.
- 2 options: Give them 2 options, both of which have outcomes you want. Many parent-friends employ this to great affect. Eg. “Sandy, you can either brush your teeth or brush your hair.” Really, you want her to brush her hair because she’s losing those teeth anyway, but either gets you a W.
I’m saying most of the sociopath stuff completely in jest, much of it actually has to do with wether or not the kiddo has a cold. Here in the PacNW, we are coming off an amazingly gorgeous summer where kids were frequently out of daycare. Now all the kids are back for fall and the cold season is here. AT’s got one, and there is a marked change in here demeanor.
She is a completely different person when she has a cold. She cold-shouldered me (bad pun intended) this morning when I dropped her off after months of clinging to me saying she couldn’t bear to not have me by her side. They evolve, but the ESBS (Enhanced Sociopathic Behavior Season) has engulfed us. Get some children’s Tylenol and teach her how to be a good person by making her make a run to the wine shop when she’s misbehaved.
¹ I always thought that you were not supposed to give kids this age open-ended questions like this, but learned that’s not the case in this scenario. It empowers them tremendously when they can come up with a solution. If however, as frequently happens, they have no solution, please don’t suggest they “hug it out.” That phrase is so 2007.