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Now They Are 3

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I love 3-year-olds. They are fascinating creatures. Fantasy, imagination, and their attempts to really be in charge of their lives make them very special.

The Magic Kingdom

Make-believe is now a way of life, with every object, person, and event likely to be wonderfully transformed into something else. The 3-year-old makes up little stories to explain events in his life that seem overwhelming, in an attempt to bring everything under control. He's discovered the power of words to make things happen, and he uses his language skills to try to take charge of a life that seems complex, demanding, and ever changing. Imaginary friends who are completely at his beck and call help him handle this world and are very healthy household additions. Don't pay too much attention to them, as they disappear or assume too great an importance under too tight scrutiny.

Your 3-year-old can't lie at this age, but he will creatively reconstruct reality so it matches the way he would like things to be. He thinks his words can create a preferable reality and that reality can be truly denied.

Disciplining Your 3-year-old

Discipline now means clearly linking wrongdoing to its consequence, such as having a child clean up a mess she's made or taking away a toy that she threw. Although time-out is still an appropriate method of discipline, having your child fix the harm done can now be added to your handling of misbehaviors.

Don't delay disciplining your 3-year-old until a better time; though you will remember the incident later, she won't, and she won't relate the punishment to the "crime." Taking away unrelated privileges won't make much sense to her, either. Clear and immediate responses will help her learn the rules of behavior.

Wider World

Play at this age should be cooperative and really interactive. Mutually regulated play with others can be a mild (though healthy) stress and a source of emotional growth. Giving a 3-year-old the opportunity to play with other children and work out conflicts with them is perhaps the most vital part of parenting support at this age. Being home alone with a parent or babysitter all the time is just not enough.

 
 
 
 

 
 
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