Milestones: Help! We have a Threenager.

Let’s talk threenagers.

The threenager is that age when your 3-year-old continually acts like they are going on 13. They have attitude for miles, a stubborn streak, and want what they want… when they want.

Three going on THIRTEEN

We hadn’t really experienced the infamous “terrible two’s” that we’d heard so much about and, stupidly, we felt pretty smug about this. We thought we’d cracked parenting, or least had an “easy” child.

I regret this attitude wholeheartedly because as soon as T hit three and a half he changed somewhat. That’s not to say he was suddenly having tantrums or was being “naughty” (I actually don’t believe children his age are genuinely “naughty” – but that’s for another time), he just started trying to outsmart and reason with us CONSTANTLY, but not in the way that we were used to, such as when an eighteen month old tests you and their boundaries. It’s in a way that is actually pretty impressive (and quite frankly, concerning at times).

In the space of 30 minutes he can go from quietly playing to crying to cuddling – I never know what’s coming next.

Here is just one example:

Whilst T is playing with his new slinky, he grabs the dog lead to clip it to one of the slinky rings.
Me: Sweetheart, if you do that, it might break your toy. Do you want to break it?
T: No.
Me: What do you think you should do?
T: Put the lead back.
Me: Great idea!
*continues to clip lead onto slinky, however this time, our dog; Oscar, is getting excited at the potential inkling he’s going out.
Me: Sweetheart, Oscar’s getting a bit upset with you playing with his lead. I thought you were putting it away.
T: I am.
Me: Are you? It doesn’t look that way?
T: I AM! Starts to lose his cool a little whilst continuing to clip the lead onto the slinky which by now is bending in all the wrong ways.
Me: Ok, shall we try and put something a bit different in the slinky <trying to offer anything for the dog lead right now>.
T: Starts to reason and explain why the dog lead is better. This lasts a further 20 minutes.

And so on and so forth…

Trusting him to go to the toilet by himself? Nope. He’s suddenly pouring hand soap down the sink or toilet.
Holding his hand across the road? Nah. He’ll suddenly bolt off like the road is lava.

Other examples range from smaller arguments over what pants or pair of socks he wants to wear, putting his toys back in the wrong box, or choosing the wrong coloured bowl for his cereal, to floods of tears because the radio in the car isn’t on setting number 4 (even though setting 4 is just fuzz  – I really need to change that!) or because his birthday party isn’t for another four weeks.

The thing is, I’m actually cool with all his decisions! I let him pick his underwear, I don’t care what box his toys go in (he’ll just have to find them himself), I want him choose his breakfast bowl, and I encourage him to choose the music – as I want him to get into the arts! But for some reason he thinks the world is against him and often gets into defensive/argumentative mode before giving me a chance. Plus, there’s also the change in tone when talking to us, the chatting back, and shouting. Oh the shouting. More recently, he’s also started to hit out. Not often, but enough for me to notice.

Don’t get me wrong, there are also some amazing accomplishments that we’ve seen over the past few months. He knows how to make himself some cereal in the mornings or grab a cup of water. He feeds the animals, puts his own shoes on, even helps me chop up veggies for dinner. It’s just difficult to explain how hard it is to manage or gauge how he’s going to react to something.

On one hand you don’t *actually*want to kill their vibe as they’re clearly turning into confident little human beings with an opinion worth their weight in gold, and I know deep down that T is not an unkind person. He’s sweet, funny, and beautiful. But, at same time, you want to protect them from the obstacles that are clearly going to hurt them, so you have to sometimes take over – much to their displeasure. I use a boiling kettle as an example, which T suddenly and very quickly wanted to pour after I’d boiled it for some tea. I really could go on…

It changes us too!

As a result, both Sharon and I have adopted shorter fuses, resulting in a few raised voices – and we’re not really shouty people! I’ve always been quite proud that we’ve never had to shout, but over the past two weeks I know I’ve raised my voice, A LOT. It’s usually built up over time, where he’s not been listening or he’s done something that he knows better not to, but it doesn’t mean I’m happy about it, especially as it usually upsets him.

I feel like I’m now failing him because of my poor and impatient attitude. I should be able to be the better person. The adult! The example. But instead I feel like I’m lowering myself to his level and allowing him to find a weakness in me, because let’s be honest, this is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve googled “Threenager”, child psychology, or asked for advice on Twitter, and whilst there’s no easy solution, I know I’m not alone. I am reassured that this is normal behaviour, and most of the time I accept that (not so much at 8am when he’s been up half an hour and has already argued the toss about wearing shorts in February). The thing is, it IS normal behaviour. Their little brains are trying to process everything, but instead of using us as a shield like they did a year ago, they’re running head first into the fire.

It’s so fantastic to watch your child burst with confidence, I’m all for it, but it’s so hard when they apply their logic to everything – literally, everything. It’s exhausting. But whilst he’s learning I’m now learning too. I’m also listening to him and trying to see things from his perspective. It’s making things a lot easier and I can now empathise with him. It’s not going to be easy (for all of us) but I now take every day as they come.

Any advice? Have you experienced the infamous threenager?

2 thoughts on “Milestones: Help! We have a Threenager.

  1. Kylie says:

    I’m no expert (not a mum) but work with children. I’ve found that sometimes giving them a name for what their feeling can help, i.e “I understand you’re angry/frustrated etc, then, can we do it together/change it/help etc” With the dog lead maybe grab different items and attach to other toys, like ooh I’ve put this ribbon on teddy.
    It doesn’t always work, but I’ve found it does more often than not. Sorry if that’s sounds ‘preachy x

    • Kate Everall says:

      Hi. Not preachy at all – I appreciate the time you’ve taken to comment. Thank you. We tend to address his feelings or ask what he’s feeling, so that he knows the name for what he’s feeling, but I like how you’ve incorporated it into a situation. I also LOVE the distraction method example you’ve used there – I will definitely try that next time. Thank you, again. x

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.