Living with a ‘Threenager’*

3.2 years

*Clue, it’s hard!

One of the many parenting cliches bleated at you before you have children, along with “babies should be sleeping through the night by 6 months”, and “sleep when your baby sleeps” (yeah, right!) , is how difficult the ‘terrible twos’ are, and how you must expect a barrage of tantrums and generally testing toddler behaviour. Whilst is undoubtedly true for most of us at some point, right now I want to hunt down these parenting ‘experts’, poke them in the eye and scream “Forget two, why the chuff didn’t anyone warn me about THREE?!”

Freddie turned three in February. All was good, until the last few months, when he appears to have morphed into a weird blonde hybrid of Kevin The Teenager and a mini Pinochet, all shouting, demanding, dictating, stamping feet and rudeness. There has been no big change in our lives, no drama to explain this transformation, although 6 weeks of us being together 24/7 due to preschool holidays was starting to send us all crackers (I kept seeing fb statuses by people saying how much they didn’t want the school holidays to end, which made me feel guilty that I, in fact, couldn’t WAIT for preschool to start again). Out and about he is generally really well behaved and great fun- we can go anywhere, both children will sit in a restaurant for a good couple of hours no problem, and I can take them on public transport/to museums by myself without worrying that they are going to kill themselves/someone else/have a complete meltdown. He appears perfectly happy, we can’t see anything particular apart from tiredness that triggers these outbursts (screw you, 5.30am wake ups). I do still see my loving, sweet, cuddly little chap in there, plus I ADORE spending time with him, especially 1-2-1. It’s just at home that we are having a tough time.

As someone who is shit-hot on good manners and behaviour (although I do try to pick my battles), I find it so hard, not to mention baffling, when my usually sweet little boy suddenly screams at me “GET IT, NOW, MUMMY!!!” or “WHAT DO YOU WANT?!!!”. Or shouts at his swimming teacher (who he usually loves), “WHAT?!” in a stroppy, pouty way. Or screams and shouts at his sister, which sends her into a Tasmanian Devil biting rage (although that one’s for another post!). It immediately makes my bloody boil, but at the moment no amount of stern words or time out on the front door mat (the worst punishment apparently, as “it’s all scratchy, mummy” *wail*) is having much effect. I can give the look, which is starting to be recognised as a ‘Mum-means-business-Paddington-Bear-stare’, but whether or not this first warning is headed is really hit-and-miss. We’ve established that getting shouty (although inevitable from me at times I’m afraid), just ends up with all of us shouting at each other, and giving my long-suffering neighbour, Linda, a headache whilst she’s trying to read a book and enjoy a glass of wine in the late afternoon sun. I’m this close to posting the poor woman some ear plugs and a one-way ticket to Barbados through her door, I feel that bad.

I don’t remember (and nor does my Mum), me or my brothers being so defiant. I am no pushover, and rightly can’t let certain things go. I hate it when parents say “oh don’t do/say that darling” in a sing-song voice, whilst their kid goes mental or is exceptionally rude. BUT should I just ignore this bad behaviour at the moment and praise the good? Carry on telling off and being consistent, and hoping it’s just a phase? Freds is so tall for his age, and having been an early talker, I wonder if we expect too much from him sometimes. Dressed in clothes for 5 year olds, I often forget that he is only 3 1/2, still so young in so many ways.

All of this begs the question, where do we go from here? Is this just a phase? Is age 4 better? (pray to god it is!). Any advice would be very much appreciated!

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  1. cariemay
    September 14, 2014 / 7:13 am

    No magic solution I’m afraid but I do know what you mean about expectations being tied to size – Kitty is the size of a six year old and can hold her own with the six year olds she meets and I sometimes want to run around shouting “she’s only three!” when she acts in a way that is developmentally normal for a three year old and people give me the look that says why is your six year old having a tantrum!

    • Becky
      September 16, 2014 / 7:16 pm

      I so know where you’re coming from! When F has the occasional public meltdown, usually when tired, I can see people thinking “he’s too old for that” but he’s still a baby really!

  2. lifeatthelittlewood
    September 14, 2014 / 9:50 am

    It gets better. It gets better! Promise! I too found three much harder than two – all three times. We had really placid, good babies but when they hit 3 it was like a switch flipped. All that you describe is so true of us too! Keep doing what you’re doing though lovely – I remember someone telling me once that consistency is the key. You might have to say it 15 billion times, but eventually they will respond! Loved this xxx

    • Becky
      September 16, 2014 / 7:17 pm

      I hope consistency works my dear, I think that’s the only way to go at the moment- really firm but fair, and reinforce that rudeness will not be tolerated. Such a hard age, as I’m discovering! xx

  3. Louisa
    September 14, 2014 / 12:23 pm

    I wrote a post about my own little threenager a few months ago so know exactly how you feel It does pass. My little one is not without her tantrums but on the whole she is back to her charming, funny, loveable self. (It’s a good practice run for the tweens. A whole new level of door slamming and tantrums!)

    • Becky
      September 16, 2014 / 7:18 pm

      It’s good to know that they come out of this the other side!

  4. September 14, 2014 / 1:37 pm

    One was awful. Two was awful. Three was awful. Four is awful. Every stage has an awful but as we’ve seen so far. Some moms have said they noticed it’s linked to a growth spurt. I don’t know what it’s due to, but I couldn’t wait for school to start. They both drive me insane. With my four year old though, when things got really bad, and our days were filled with yelling and punishments, I’d finally sit him down at night and tell him how I feel about all this and explain to him how his behavior is affecting everyone. Apparently when he understands that mommy is human too and she can only take so much, he tries harder and things actually do get better.

    • Becky
      September 16, 2014 / 7:21 pm

      Haha, this is why I love preschool! I think it’s good for all of us to have a break sometimes. I’m crossing fingers that 4 is at least a little better!

  5. mummydaddyme
    September 14, 2014 / 2:12 pm

    Haha I know this feeling well. We have either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ phases- for a couple of weeks she can be an angel and then we can go through a rough patch where every day just seems a bit of a struggle and we just seem to clash. I have definitely raised a feisty one, that’s for sure. ‘ weird blonde hybrid of Kevin The Teenager and a mini Pinochet’ equals best quote ever!

    • Becky
      September 16, 2014 / 7:23 pm

      Haha, thanks lovely! When we’re having a bad day/week, I keep telling myself that it’s better to raise someone with a bit of spice and an opinion, rather than a totally compliant child- i’m hoping he’ll march to the beat of his own drum when the impressionable teenage years begin! x

  6. September 15, 2014 / 7:53 am

    i imagine boys are quite more sauvage than girls, but anyways we have some impolite comments at home from time to time, normally when she doesn’t nap…

    • Becky
      September 16, 2014 / 7:24 pm

      Yup, tiredness nearly always seems to be the crux of it!

  7. September 15, 2014 / 3:09 pm

    Cripes, having a barely 1 year old ruling the roost already I am now utterly terrified at what is to come, especially having followed the stories of angelic Freddie for 3 years – if he can turn what hope do the rest of us have!! I’m sure you are doing everything perfectly and it’s just a phase….please let us know if/when it passes! xx

    • Becky
      September 16, 2014 / 7:26 pm

      I will do lovely, REALLY praying it’s just a phase! I think I was quite judgy about other children and how they behaved before I had my own, and now it’s coming back to bite me, it’s such hard work being a parent. You can raise them the best you can and be quite strict about behaviour, and they still throw you a curve-ball! xx

  8. September 17, 2014 / 2:06 pm

    My son seems to have hit the Terrible Twos early at 20 months and I have no idea what to do about it, so I think I know how you feel. It’s so hard to keep calm, especially when I’m not exactly well-rested myself!

    I’m not at all confident that I’ll be able to cope with my own son at three, but as a former kindergarten teacher to that age group I’d say that independence is very important. They start to figure out how much power they have as an individual and generally don’t take kindly to having any independence taken away from them. Asking him what HE can do to avoid naughty step moments might be effective, as it forces him to think about what’s acceptable when he’s not in the middle of some very strong emotions. Speaking of emotions, 3.5 is indeed still very little and he could be feeling insecure about something. Nothing specific needs to necessarily have happened – he’s bound to change as he gets older, understands more and becomes more eloquent, and sometimes that’s enough to cause wobbles.

    Good luck (and let’s see whether I eat my words when we get to the Threes over here!).

    • Becky
      September 18, 2014 / 2:47 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Eline, it’s so good to hear from someone experienced with this age group! I hadn’t thought about giving him some responsibility for his choices/actions in terms of what he can do to avoid the ‘naughty mat’, I think F would really like that opportunity to take some control.

  9. Mummy Tries
    September 18, 2014 / 12:10 pm

    Oh lovely it is so hard! Both of my girls (5y2m and 2y7m) are super defiant and it can be exhausting, infuriating and frustrating on so many levels. I like to hold on to the belief though that this means they have strong personalities, won’t be followers of the crowd and that they will shine brightly in the years to come. Needless to say I’m already dreading the teenage years! Hugs to you xxx #brilliantblogposts

    • Becky
      September 18, 2014 / 2:50 pm

      That’s what I’m hoping, that their spiritedness will pay off in the long run and they’ll march to the beat of their own drum and channel their energy in a positive way! I was an outgoing but very compliant child, followed the crowd and it didn’t serve me very well from about the age of 11- I wish I had had the confidence to make my own decisions and question things sometimes! x

  10. September 18, 2014 / 12:42 pm

    We went through similar phases – and they were thankfully just phases – at this age with both our sons, where overnight their sleeping patterns became disrupted, toilet training habits went out of the window and we had some (thankfully relatively minor) behavioural issues and so on. It was almost as if they had regressed. But they did come out of it on their own after a while. I think all you can do is continue to apply your own parenting values consistently, not see it as some kind of failure on your or their part, and keep ploughing on through.

    • Becky
      September 18, 2014 / 2:53 pm

      Thanks Tim, I do think the right thing to do is to maintain consistency and plod on, even if it feels like a slog sometimes! Freddie is waking lots in the night at the moment, which must make him tired so this can’t help behaviour. I will keep telling myself “it’s just a phase, it’s just a phase..”!

  11. September 18, 2014 / 2:31 pm

    Haha nobody told me about threenagers either! Much worse than the terrible twos as they aren’t as easily distracted or persuaded. Hang in there, they soon turn into teenagers… 😀 x x

    • Becky
      September 18, 2014 / 2:54 pm

      Thanks Susanne, 3 is definitely harder work than 2! (faints at the thought of them as teenagers) x

  12. September 18, 2014 / 5:28 pm

    As the Mum of a 16 month old (who has already started stropping), this post has scared me witless. However it also entertained me and made me laugh – not at you, in support! Freddie sounds both adorable and formidable and it sounds like you are doing a fabulous job. #brilliantblogposts

    • Becky
      September 22, 2014 / 7:36 pm

      Thank you Yvette! I don’t always feel like I’m doing a good job, but it’s good to know that I’m not alone with having a stropping child! 🙂

  13. September 20, 2014 / 10:26 am

    Oh God bab my girl can be awful sometimes shouting and screaming and generally just being an utter loon. I am quite strict being a teacher but her Dad lets loads of things slide which really does drive me a little bit mad. Sigh. I’m hoping four will bring more joy x

    • Becky
      September 20, 2014 / 10:40 am

      Amen to 4 bringing more joy! It’s good to know I’m not alone! x

  14. Honest Mum
    September 24, 2014 / 9:30 pm

    Urgh remember this well, felt like the 3’s were worse than the 2’s! Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts x

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