Written by Ciara O’Hanlon
You may have made it through the teething, toilet training and terrible two tantrums. But don’t let yourself get too comfortable. Just as you say farewell to your toddler, the threenager makes an appearance. This aptly named stage has all the hallmarks of your average teenager, complete with door slamming and stroppy declarations that you’re ‘not their best friend anymore’. Dealing with a three year old with a new found sense of independence can be exhausting. You will spend some days feeling as though you are walking on eggshells, terrified of offending someone half your size. Here are a few ways to help you navigate through the turbulent year of the threenager.
Keep them informed: The threenager has more of a grasp of routines and days of the week than ever before. Incorporating a general run down of the following day’s activities or chores as part of their bedtime routine can help them feel calm and reassured. Remind them of the previous night’s discussion the following morning over breakfast, or even better, ask them if they can remember the plans for the day. Feeling uninformed can lead to your threenager feeling out of control and upset. If they are being looked after by a grandparent or babysitter, let them know the plans well in advance and reassure them that you will be back to them shortly.
Let them be in control: Within reason of course, allow your three year-old to help out around the house. Show them how they can help you by completing chores themselves. Load their plates in the dishwasher after dinner or let them help with watering plants. Letting them choose their own clothes and dress themselves will instill a sense of pride in them, although be prepared for a few outbursts while they become accustomed to zips, buttons and even just pulling a t-shirt over their heads. Once your three year-old starts doing these things for themselves, you can expect your morning routines to be a lot less efficient and running late a lot of the time. Allowing them to navigate these important life skills just might save you from having a door slammed into your face!
Listen to them: A three year-old still struggles to communicate exactly how they’re feeling but they will try to let you know. Although you may be busy or occupied with other children or with general chores, try and take the time to listen to what they are saying or asking you. It may take some time for them to articulate it properly on how they’re feeling. Giving them the time and attention they need will make them feel secure and loved.
Laugh with them: Sometimes the best way to save a potential meltdown is by being a bit silly and goofy with your three year old. Showing them your lighthearted side can bring back that playfulness that they do still possess. It might not completely save the situation but it can downgrade a code red tantrum to a mild sulk or maybe, if you’re lucky, a smile!
Take time for you: Dealing with a threenager can be exhausting. You never know what mood they will wake up in, which colour plate or spoon you’re supposed to use, or why you’re suddenly getting screamed at because you
walked in front of them instead of waiting at the gate until they allowed you to walk. No matter what, you will most likely lose your cool at some point. Taking some time for yourself or even coming up with ways to help you deal with some of the more trying times can be invaluable.
Remember that despite acting like mini teenagers they still need you for so much. Their little heads are chocked full of questions about the big world that they need you to answer. They will still fall and get hurt and want nothing more than a big cuddle from you. Embrace the threenager and help them through this stage and maybe they’ll thank you for it when the real teenage years hit. Or not!