Parenting my threenager

Stalling.  Negotiating.  Talking back.  Meltdowns.  Anyone who thinks the “terrible twos” are hard has, likely, never parented a three-year-old.

Littleman never really did the stereotypical two-year-old things: fist-pounding, flailing-on-the-ground, crying-and-screaming tantrums.  Sure, he cried and yelled sometimes, but not to the extent that I expected after hearing about the “terrible twos” my whole life.  I’ve started to wonder if, in fact, the whole thing is a bit of a myth.  Because in my experience, having a three-year-old is much, much harder.  These are some of the reasons why:

  1. Language skills: My three-year-old can communicate so much better now than he could when he was two.  Sometimes it feels like I’m having a conversation with another adult, not someone who was a baby not that long ago.  This means his ability to talk back to me is also very, very good.  He knows how to say the right thing at the right time.  Sometimes I have to bite my tongue to avoid laughing when he manages to throw a one-liner my way.  For example, the other day he was whining and fussing about something for way too long.  I finally lost my cool and said, “I don’t like whiners.”  His response?  “Well, I don’t like shouters.”  Oops.
  2. Negotiations: Everything is a bargain with my three-year-old.  When I tuck him in at night and try to leave his room, he says, “one more minute.”  When he’s been allowed to watch some TV and it’s time to turn it off, he suggests, “five more minutes.”  When we ask him to finish his dinner, he states, “three more bites.”  When he was two, he might have refused to eat his dinner or cried when we left him in bed, but at least we didn’t end up in a constant negotiation with someone who is smart enough to find the loopholes in just about any argument.
  3. Going for the jugular: Somewhere along the way, my three-year-old has learned how say some hurtful things.  I’m guessing it comes from kids at daycare who, perhaps, have older siblings.  Already, he uses the “you aren’t my best friend anymore” line.  Or the “if you say that, I won’t play with you anymore” one.  I’ve tried to explain that words like that aren’t nice and they make people feel bad.  But, in the heat of the moment, he doesn’t really get it.  And, I suppose, making me feel bad is probably his goal when he isn’t getting his way.
  4. Commitment: When he was two, my son just didn’t have the attention span to stick with the fight for very long.  He might have freaked out when he didn’t get what he wanted, but it was much easier to distract him and the whole mess would be over with pretty quickly.  Now, though, he can really commit to his cause.  This morning, for example, he endured a half hour meltdown because I wouldn’t let him watch TV.  He employed every tactic he knew to try and get me to cave.  He’d cry and scream.  When that didn’t work, he’d stop crying and apologize.  Then, he’d say “I’m not going to cry anymore, mommy.”  Great!  “Now, can I have TV?”  Hells no.  Back to crying and screaming.  Mix in a little “you’re not my best friend” and some “if I do X, then can I watch TV?” and this whole thing can go on for ages.
  5. Decision making: “What would you like for breakfast?”, I ask.  “Cheerios,” he says.  Upon handing him the Cheerios, he screams, “I SAID SHREDDIES!”  WTF?  I calmly remind him that he asked for Cheerios as I pour him some Shreddies instead.  Why do they do this?  He specifically asks for a princess yogurt and then freaks out when I don’t give him a cars yogurt.

Luckily, Littleman is nearing the end of his “threenage” year and, it seems that the craziness is slowing down a bit.  Yes,  there are still times like this morning, but they are happening less and less.  I’m sure the age of four will bring with it a whole new parenting challenge.  Hopefully the lessons I’ve learned from managing my three-year-old will help prepare me for whatever comes next!



9 thoughts on “Parenting my threenager

  1. Ugh… we are just entering this phase (Stella is 3 in Dec) and holy hell it’s frustrating for all the reasons you listed above. I’m just a little bit dreading this next year…

  2. I’m often saying, “he talks back like a teenager!” – glad to find a post that addresses this and some of the other “precious” antics ;). At bedtime, he even rates the book – *That wasn’t a long one!* in annoyed tones, if he feels like he would like another one. He is a master at distraction and even defiantly tells us , “Well I’m NOT GOING to time out!”. Lately, everything has started to go in the mouth like a 6 month old. He never put small things in his mouth at that age- only books and large plastic toys. So glad we are on a waiting list to see an O.T.!!!

      • It can get quite exasperating when he constantly talks over me and I’m trying to move things along. I can be on track for 6.30 or 7pm lights out and it can easily turn into an extra 60-90 minutes! I marvel at how I can be outsmarted by a 3.5 year old and I drink a lot more coffee these days 😉

  3. This brings back so many memories! I remember once, we were in Sears and my friend who had an especially challenging two year old (now a successful businessman). JUST walked away from her stroller as her kidlet was throwing a size 10 fit! And loudly said: Calgon, take me away!!” Which was a line from a current commercial about bubble baths. It made all those judging people listening to her crying kid, stop and connect with her as another mother! We all have our stories. Lord knowsi
    I have mine! But I had to share hers. Cuz I love how she handled it. (Of course she went back to retrieve the stroller…. Eventually😉.)

  4. The one thing that I wished that I really understood was that babies are born with their own personalities of who they are going to be. BUT, “we” DO have a certain amount of control. Molding them between the ages of birth and five. Teaching them respect etc. Fighting in front of our kids may not always be avoidable, but looking back, I kick myself for not capturing that moldable age more! 😊
    That clay may seem rock solid sometimes but there are still soft spots in there where you can leave your fingerprints. Don’t ignore the sassy times. Instead ask them to figure out another way to say something. Don’t give in when they are rude. Believe me I learned that at 2 or 3 it might be cute or funny but at 12 or 13 and on it is obnoxious. If your kids are under 5 mold that kid! Believe me you are doing it for them just as much as for you! 💖

  5. Pingback: Oh, the injustice! | Another bun (in the oven)?

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