Thursday, 5 July 2012

This week: The trying threes!

This week, I had a conversation with a mum about our three-year olds and how their behaviour seems suddenly more challenging. We both agreed that the so called 'terrible twos' were a breeze and that it's really now that we are encountering the more difficult side to parenting. Later in the week the same topic came up with some other mums, all experiencing the same.

A common example that was mentioned, was the child telling the parent to stop talking! Generally, the mums were saying that the attitude of their three-year olds seemed comparable to teenagers, with a lot of answering back and asserting themselves!

It is difficult and I find myself despairing some days. I am pleased to say my son has not yet told me to stop talking but he is definitely doing a lot of answering back. I am not used to my son acting this way and so it comes as a bit of a shock and not something I was prepared for. The hardest thing I think is to deal consistently calm with these kinds of situations. Yet, that is probably the most important thing to do, as big reactions will only encourage the behaviour.

I'm sure it's just part of their development, as their use of language gets more sophisticated and their character and personality is defining itself more and more. As parents, we don't want to stifle their individuality but we do want to encourage pleasant interaction. Some things I try to remind myself of to better cope with 'the trying threes' are as follows:
  • He's only three! Still very much a little child who needs nurturing and understanding.
  • Children learn by example. Responding calmly to fractious moments, however difficult, will in turn help the child to deal calmly with situations as they grow older.
  • Remember the high points of each day. The difficult behaviour probably only makes up a very small part of the day, so it's good to get it in perspective and think of all the fun, happy, light moments from each day too.
  • Your child loves you to pieces. Sometimes the words that come out of their mouth sound like a very unreasonable way to be spoken to and it would be in the case of an adult. However, at the end of the day, your child loves you unconditionally!
Sometimes taking a deep breath or maybe even counting to ten before responding to a trying three-year old can really help in handling the moment the best possible way. It's definitely not always easy but it will pass no doubt, as every other developmental stage in a child's life does. There's some consolation in knowing other mums are experiencing the same type of behaviour, as that suggests it is very much a part of these little people growing up.

Have you experienced trying times with your three-year old? Do you have any tips to share on dealing with the kind of behaviour I mentioned?
photo credit


  1. Oh my goodness! this is so timely!!!

    Last week my lovely soon-to-be-3-year old turned into the devil! Unlike you, I have been told to stop talking, and to shut up. I'm guessing she's picked it up from other children (I'm pretty sure it's not us!) but she even did it to her grandparents the other day and I was mortified - particularly as both son and first grandchild were as docile as can be.

    I too have been trying strategies to not get as stressed (rewarding the behaviour, yadda yaa) - particularly hard last week as my daughter and I went stir crazy with no car and torrential downpours making trips out very difficult. Add to that the hundreds incurred in storm damage, and the Internet going down for most of the week and mummy was very frazzled.

    Now things are better I am trying to calm myself before modelling calmer behaviour. I have given in to the time out (calling it a time out, rather than naughty step) and she has responded really positively to it. Some tantrums however cannot be averted and they just have to run their course.

    Not easy though, is it? :/

  2. Hello! I am having trouble with my eight year old daughter, so I'm afraid, it can carry on! She shouts, refuses to do what she's asked, and when she is told off, she tells us to shush. It's really hard to remain calm, but I am going to try harder. It's so frustrating though when time is short, like getting ready for school.

    Sometimes a good thing to do is just to walk out of the room and shut yourself away for a few minutes, although I haven't done that recently.

    1. 8? Noooooo! I'm going to need to buy in Bach's Rescue Remedy in bulk if it goes on that long. And maybe gin. Lots of gin! ;)

  3. @Beadzoid - funny this was a timely post for you....or maybe not! I send my son to sit in his bedroom to calm down instead of the naughty step and he also responded well to it. To focus on the positive, we've needed to do it less and less recently and sometimes the mention of him going to his room is enough to placate him.

    @Kate - hello! Thanks for commenting, although you are the bearer of bad news! I guess it does carry on intermittently for quite a long time when you think about the teenage years to come! I definiely agree with you about walking out of the room sometimes being a good way to remove yourself from the situation.

    You both refer to times when it is particularly hard to stay calm and you're right, those moments really make it extra challenging. When circumstances force you into doing something like getting ready for school or having to stay inside with bad weather, your time and resources for dealing with the difficult behaviour are restricted somewhat. Not easy for sure!

  4. Well to update my daughter almost whooped with joy when we first started mentioning the step! Not the desired effect :) However, she soon seemed to understand the meaning, and like your son with his bedroom, the mention often suffices. Thankfully it's not on a regular basis that we've had to use or mention it - otherwise I'm sure it would lose it's power. It's also not an option in town when she throws a huge strop, but you can use the principle. I made her stand next to a shop window while I insisted standing a little further away - still in proximity, of course, but enough for her to recognise the distance as symbolic that she was being isolated to calm down and take time out. I got a few pitying/odd looks from people, but it worked and it worked quite quickly. I just hope that I don't have to utilise it too often!!!

  5. My daughter tells me she don't like me or her daddy and everyone is just so mean to her....drama queen I ignore her!


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