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Screaming 3-year-old & a Discipline Problem

author image Matthew Giobbi, Ph.D.
Matthew Giobbi describes himself as an interdisciplinary scholar. His interest in neuroscience, psychoanalysis, critical theory, semiology, and media has taken him off the well-trodden paths of psychology, media studies, and continental philosophy, and into the thicket and brush that typically separates these paths. An avid reader of Heidegger, Fromm, Freud, Lacan, and Arnhiem, Matthew enjoys the swirling waters of convergence, finding unique analogical discourse between fields that can be, at times, hostile towards one another. Matthew's graduate education is in media studies, psychology, and music. He earned his doctorate in media studies from the EGS in Switzerland, his masters in psychology at The New School for Social Research, in New York City, and professional studies in music at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, Belgium. He also held undergraduate studies in music and psychology at The New School and East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Matthew is an award winning educator in college and university departments of psychology and media studies. His teaching ranges from mass media, social science literature, psychopathology, media psychology, personality and social psychology, and critical theory/critical media theory . He has also served on two doctoral dissertation committees since 2009.
Screaming 3-year-old & a Discipline Problem
A child's curiosity and exploration can be mistaken for naughtiness.

Children ages 2 through 6 are developing their individuality and sense of self, according to famed child psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. Reconsidering the intention behind seemingly naughty behavior before dealing with a child can make all the difference in the world, says contemporary child rearing authority T. Berry Brazelton.

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Autonomy and Independence

Erikson described the struggle for autonomy that a child encounters in the second and third years of life. As the muscles of the child's legs mature, so does her curiosity and wish to explore. No longer does she need to call out for an adult to provide the object of desire; she can get it on her own. Erikson points out that this is a time for exploring one's sense of independence and individuality.

Volition and Initiative

Children ages 3 to 6 also are dealing with a developing will or initiative. Both Erikson and teaching expert Maria Montessori describe the child's struggle in mastering his own will and submitting to the will of others. Often, parents must exercise their will over that of the child's to teach the child how to control himself. However, Erikson points out that some parents and teachers make a point to "break the will" of the child. This can result in verbal and physical acting out, such as screaming.

Discipline or Self-Regulation

Striving for autonomy and volition are natural and essential for child development, but adults must set boundaries for the child who might otherwise jeopardize her own health. Caregivers whose objective is teaching discipline will create a child who is wildly disobedient or passively biddable, Montessori says. The important thing is to teach internal self-regulation rather than a dependence on external discipline. In this way, the child's ability to pause and decide the best action satisfies the need for autonomy.

Learning by Example

Some children are more inclined towards verbal expression regardless of the parenting style, and, for the 3-year-old, this can mean screaming. However, parents, siblings and playmates also play a role in teaching the child how to behave. Psychologists including Dr. Robert Cialdini and Judith Rich Harris, say that a child's peers can be more influential in teaching behavior than his parents. Parents should become aware of who their children are modeling their defiant behavior after. Sometimes, parents themselves are unknowingly modeling verbal aggression for the child.

Authoritative Versus Authoritarian Parenting

Most child psychologists today recommend "authoritative" over "authoritarian" parenting. Whereas the authoritarian parenting style focuses on dominating the child and breaking her will, the authoritative parent focuses on setting healthful boundaries for the child while teaching her self-regulation. The authoritarian parent often is described as one who expects the child to submit because the parent "said so." The authoritative parent tends to reduce the opportunity for her child to act out by teaching rather than enforcing.

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