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How to deal with a disobedient child?

Q: My only child (daughter) is 3.5 years old. She is attending play school and is normal in her behaviour. She seems to have a big ego problem. Whenever she does something wrong, she refuses to accept it and apologise. We can understand from her behaviour that she knows what she did was wrong. We tried to reason with her; explain that her actions were wrong. After sometime she accepts that she was wrong; but refuses to apologise. She walks out of that place and sits somewhere else, till we go and talk to her. What should we do?

A:One of the situations that I am constantly encountering in the questions raised by parents is that of their expecting children to grow up very fast and to act like adults, even though they are still very young. The problem you mention probaby falls into that category. Let me clarify. Your daughter is just 3 yrs and 5 months old. The statement that she has a big ego problem, makes me smile. It is normal for her age and not a problem. At that age the child has just begun to develop a sense of self and an identity. At the same time, she knows that parental rules have to be obeyed, but will try and push her bid for autonomy as far as it can go. You say that your daughter realises that she has done something wrong. It is best that you leave it at that, rather than insisting on an apology. I assure you that this does not mean that she will grow up without manners. In the next two years, she will pick up all the social graces that you expect. But at age three, she is only gradually taking in and internalising all the DOs and DONTs. There is no point in forcing her to say sorry at this time. We know that even older children, who feel humiliated to apologise will say "Sorry" mechanically, rather than with feeling. Not being able to apologise is not an ego problem at this age. I think that if the whole matter is treated with a sense of humour and you all laugh over it, the child will feel that her face is saved. It is nice to know that parents are so concerned about every detail of their childs development. However, a bit of relaxation and a lot of fun in the family will go a much longer way to help your child grow up into a happy, healthy and competent person.

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