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John Rosemond is America's most widely-read parenting authority! He is a best-selling author, columnist, speaker, and family psychologist.

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Stop catering to precocious 3-year-old

Q: Our 3-year-old daughter is very, very intelligent for her age. I know all parents think their children are smart but several doctors have told us she is very advanced. When she turned two, she knew her colors, how to count to ten, her ABCs, and was talking like a 5-year-old. She orders her own food at restaurants, and when asked by the waitress how her meal is, she will say “It was splendid! I truly enjoyed it.” She’s so advanced her pre-school teacher took her out of the toddler class and moved her in with the 4’s and 5’s. Our problem is that she doesn’t seem to understand that she’s a child and needs to respect adult authority. She will talk back and use a tone of voice as if we are the children and she is the parent. She recently told my mother that she was the boss of the house, not us. She’s become very demanding about things like what she wants to eat, and needless to say, she doesn’t obey us at all.

A: Whoa! Stop right there! First of all, you're not going to make any progress with this child as long as you think you're dealing with some unique being that represents a quantum evolutionary leap for all of humanity. When all has been said about her intelligence, one fact remains: she is a 3-year-old child. Unfortunately, she is rapidly turning into a 3-year-old insufferable brat, and no one is more insufferable than an insufferable genius.

Your daughter thinks she is an adult? As today’s youth are wont to say, “Duh!” You obviously treat her like she’s an adult! I’ll just bet that letting her order in restaurants is the tip of the iceberg. Does she have her own checking account? If not, the way things are going, she soon will.

My point is that you are reaping nothing short of what you have sown. For at least two years, you’ve crowed over how superior your daughter is, and now she’s acting like she’s superior to everyone, including you. No surprises there. She doesn’t respect authority because you have failed to act like authority figures. The bottom line is that you either have the World’s Most Amazing Child or a child who is obedient and respectful, but you can’t have both.

Q: So what do we do now?

A: Stop treating her like she’s an adult! Take her to a restaurant, and before you go in, let her know that you are doing the ordering, not her. If she doesn’t like it, take her home and serve her beans and franks. Stop letting her make decisions that you would not be letting her make if her IQ was 100. Pick out her clothes for her in the morning, and don’t let her come out of her room until she has put on what you picked out. Don’t ask her what she wants for meals. Serve her what you and your husband are eating and tell her that if she doesn’t want to eat, so be it; she can try again at the next meal. Literally and figuratively, stop catering to her!

In every situation with her, ask yourself, “How would I handle this if my daughter was a normal, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety 3-year-old?” Then treat her that way, and if she doesn’t like it, send her to her room until she’s willing to accept her new reality.

The good news is, she’s still young enough that her rehabilitation shouldn’t take long. Nonetheless, I recommend that you start today, this very minute. If you don’t, it won’t be long before she begins insisting that you let her drive.

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