Surviving + Helping Your Kid Survive the 3's
Have the “thrashing three’s” hit your toddler yet? With my three oldest, three has been a rough age. The stubbornness can be so trying at times at this age and boy, oh boy does it test our patience. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of these tricky times, but as a fellow mom I can tell you my experiences and how I’ve overcome or been defeated by these moments. Maybe you can find some reassurance and camaraderie through this article.
Some parents say ‘terrible twos’ but I am a firm believer that three is the tougher age. When my oldest turned three she encountered an extreme neediness, to the point of ridiculousness. She wouldn’t do menial things that she had done when she was two and it started to drive me crazy. I’d ask her to put her coat on and she’d whine for me to do it for her. In addition to the neediness, she developed this strong stubborn streak that would last for a solid year.
Then my second daughter, who was the calmest toddler I’d ever known, turned three and she was miss independent. She was the type who thought she could get her own cereal bowl, cereal, and pour the gallon-sized milk that was twice her size. But if we tried to stop her it was a fight to the end. Luckily, she grew out of it much faster than my oldest.
For our kids it was a flip of a switch, like something had taken over my babies and given them this sturdy will to defy everything, even things I knew they wanted. It is tough to find that balance between stopping those tantrums and allowing them to retain that strong will for character building. I can’t say I have found that yet, but there are a few ways we have handled the three-year old blues with our three oldest.
Our first approach is to try to turn the situation into a game and lighten the mood. Sometimes, they just need a reason to be happy and turning those whiney moments into a giggle can set the tone for the rest of the day. If that doesn’t work and they’re still just holding their grounds, we try not to engage in their tantrums. We have walked out of public places before, put them in their car seats, and driven straight home. It always draws forth more screaming, crying, and frustration but the end results are always good. It shows them that if they cannot behave, they have consequences. Those pivotal moments also serve as a warning for future temper tantrums. The less you engage in their misbehavior, the more likely they are to snap out of it, especially when they are not getting the desired response from you.
In addition, three-year-olds have crossed the language barrier and started communicating quite well (although this was not the case with my son who didn’t talk well until 3.5). This is a way for them to tell you what they want, whereas before they were reliant on you to know that. They are going to tell you how they want their sandwich cut (I think we’ve all been in the triangle verses squares argument before), what color shirt they want to wear, and we all know that they have mastered ‘no’. In my experience, to avoid these arguments, giving choices before they decide allows them to feel in control, while you maintain peace of mind. It’s good to encourage them to make those decisions and we can take further control of these situations by offering only good choices from snacks, to clothing, to even television shows, and playtime activities. These are just a few ways that we’ve handled the “threenager” years thus far.
What strategies have you found to be successful??