April 17, 2015

How To Cope With A 'Threenager'

"My son turned three in October and although our terrible twos weren't all that terrible, I did worry when people told me that it would get so much worse when they turn three and morph into the illusive 'Threenager'.

The mythical beast is real.

We've had some bad times, moments of total break down, tears, feeling like I didn't even know my own son any more. I've felt so guilty that I had maybe done something wrong, or that I hadn't made the most of my happy little lamb chop before he turned into the hell beast. I even wondered if maybe he had something wrong, he was ill or something, he changed so quickly! I figured if there was something 'wrong' at least there would be a certain cure or treatment for his behaviour. It felt good hearing a friend say something similar recently. I literally felt I had tried everything and reached a point of no return, when we decided to make a few changes, we had to try everything.

I'm pleased to say that by large we are now 'out the other side', though I'm sure we will have our moments. People said they knew how I felt and that their child had been the same, but I really felt like nobody understood. I don't know how much of his behaviour was down to his age/development and how much was down to the impact of his new baby sisters arrival, but I do now know it's common and we weren't alone. 

We got there in the end and I have my lovely boy back, be it a larger cleverer and more energetic version. We both had to change.

My adorable little 'Threenager'.

There are billions of ways to tackle this I'm sure, but I have a few  methods I'm sharing for anyone who may be stuck in the same battle we were a few months ago. 

Take a video

When you feel there may be a situation arising or your child is playing up, film it (or even just record the audio if you can). Its amazing what you see or hear that you don't at the time. Watching it back can really help you see how you reacted, were you fair? Did you make the situation worse? It might help to show someone else, your partner, a friend, to see what they think. You never know they may just see it differently to you too.

Stick to your guns

Don't let bad behaviour go unnoticed if its something they really shouldn't be doing. Make the punishment fit the crime though, just enough to understand what they have done wrong. We are using a 'thinking spot',which is basically a naughty step but so we can do it anywhere without a smart arse comment about there being no steps around! We still use the step at home too but basically its a minute or two away from whatever the situation to reflect on what they have done and to think about why it was wrong. This was as effective as a chocolate teapot to start with but now at home I can say 'step' quietly and he will go and sit until he has been told he can come back. It seems to calm things down. However you choose to teach them, make sure all parents and caregivers do the same and that you are all working together. 


When I first heard about 'ignoring bad behaviour' I thought it was ridiculous. How will they ever learn? Its not about ignoring bad behaviour though, its about ignoring certain things, things that don't matter. If what they are doing could hurt someone or break something, then of course you need to intervene. If its just something that's a little annoying to you, then don't fuel them with the attention of negative responses, ignore them and believe me they will stop it far sooner if they feel they don't have an audience. Once they cotton on to something that presses your buttons they will use it over and over. 

Give them a crazy amount of praise

Positivity works wonders with all of us but especially these marvellous little creatures. If they feel they are getting told off all the time then what is their incentive to be good? When they are good. Even if its very minor, make a huge deal of it. Tell them well done, congratulate them on being such a great sibling, sharing well, eating nicely, singing beautifully or whatever else. High five them (yep cheesy or what!) tell them they are amazing lovely beautiful people and make them beam with pride. They will soon learn that its far nicer to be good! Just think when you are at work how nice it is to be told you're doing a good job, or if all those things you do every day you got a well done for. How much happier would you be? 


Now I know not everyone would agree with this and to an extent I can see where they are coming from. Good behaviour should be apparent at all times and they shouldn't have to be rewarded for it, but blimey does it work well with a toddler. Show them a shiny treat, match box car, bottle of bubble mix, promise of a trip to a zoo, whatever suits. 
Start something like an easy to comprehend sticker chart, marble jar or whatever your child will be most excited to work with and get them working towards their treat. It could be a sticker a day or a sticker for little things like teeth brushing, toilet use, eating nicely. It will all tap into them that good things come to good boys and girls. I would say never to take stickers off or cross things off a chart as it will bring them down but make sure you always do reward or sticker when it's deserved. I think one of the greatest things about Christmas is being able to remind them constantly about Santa's good list! It doesn't seem to hold its power all year though unfortunately. 

Give them a little of what they want.

I'm not saying give in completely, but in our case our son was jealous and sad that we all shared a room and that he had to share our attention now with someone else. He would fight for the attention even if it wasn't necessarily for good reasons. 
After months of sleepless nights (while the newborn slept!) I sneaked him into our room when he woke, he slept perfectly all night and we all got sleep. This may not be the greatest move in history long term, but his behaviour change was incredible. I also let him use a high chair sometimes or carry him when perhaps I shouldn't because this phase won't last forever, but right now he wants to feel like our baby again. Generally though I think if they have behaved well and ask nicely, then a bit of what they want could 'wave the white flag a little'. I wouldn't say it's exactly 'anything for an easy life' but meeting in the middle can work wonders. 

Stop and think.

Before you say or do anything, stop. Think to yourself, does it matter? Are they really being that bad? Is it me - or them? Sometimes I found (mainly from filming some 'episodes'), that I was massively fuelling the situation with my own annoyingness. If I'd backed off or left him to it, then probably nothing would have escalated. Some days if perhaps I haven't slept well and my patience is short, everything can seem a lot harder to cope with. It's important to make sure that basically, you are not just being a grumpy arse (for want of a better phrase) before opening your mouth.

Keep them entertained

The main thing I've found is that if I don't wear my son out or keep his brain ticking then he gets bored and that's when the trouble starts. We try and get out as much as possible but it's not always doable and sometimes I have to get things done in the house.
Try and find toys they've not seen for a while, set up activities when they are in bed (do a tough spot activity search on Pinterest!), a new film to watch or make an eye spy list to take to the park. They are super bright little sponges at this age and its well worth the effort (also for your own sanity) to keep them happy.

That's all for now. Its worked well for us but has taken some work. 

The number one aim is to keep everyone positive and not to get into bad cycles. Usually, especially with a new sibling, its a case of getting attention. Good or bad - it's still attention, so don't fall into the trap!

The main thing to remember is that with the bad comes the good, great, amazing funny little moments. They will be at school in no time so anything you can do to make the most of this time will be so worth it. Enjoy your three year old because one day soon they will be four, and I hear that's worse (HA!).

Thank you for reading and if you have any more tips to share please add them to the comments section below, every thing could help somebody!


Mums' Days


  1. Agree with everything, especially sticking to the punishments. Sends me crazy when I see parents making empty threats! x

    1. Definitely me too! They are too clever, we need to be armed ;) xx

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    1. Thank you, your post is great I just commented :) I hope I can help a little, awkward little things at times aren't they x

  3. This is a great post huni and I certainly will trying some of the tips out. Thanks so much for linking up to #TheList x

    1. Thanks so much for reading! I hope this will help in your house too :) x

  4. Never thought of recording and playing it back
    Will do this and see