The Fun of Raising Three-nagers

By Guest Blogger Ginny Olson

You think the terrible twos are terrible?

The terrible twos aren’t actually a thing.

I know a few of you in the midst of it now want to fight me. Seriously, y’all, 2-year-olds are the bomb. It’s the horrible THREEnager you need to fear.

I don’t know why 2-year-olds get a bad rap. I started monitoring both of mine for signs of Hell when their second birthdays arrived. Nothing much happened. Sure the tantrums were no fun, but you could pretty much just walk away and ignore the drama.

“But my 2-year-old is stubborn!,” you say. If that’s the case, you should be proud. Parenting experts lovingly call 2-year-olds oppositional.

Here’s how one expert described this:

“It is a toddler’s job to be oppositional. This is the period in your child’s development when she begins to understand that she is separate from you and can exert some control over her world. One powerful way she can do this is by defying you. You say, ‘Do this,’ yet she says, ‘No!’

“The drive to assert one’s self is useful as it motivates your child to want to make things happen. Being able to do some things for herself builds her confidence. The key is to find ways to show your child how she can be in control and make her own choices in positive ways.”

And sometimes threenagers make the sweetest of friends.

My littlest guy LOVES the word NO! And I get excited when he says it. Because HE’S COMPLETELY NORMAL.

I deal with it like this, giving Little Mr. Mister lots of power through the beauty of choices. The beauty part is that I control the choices:

We’re going to take a bath tonight. Do you want to take a bath first or brush your teeth?

NO!

Uh, that’s not an option here. Bath or teeth first?

NO!

Ok, then mommy gets to pick. Let’s go take a bath.

OK, yes!

If I wait him out a bit and don’t start screaming like a wild banshee because he keeps saying NO!, he comes around on his own. Then I pretend like it was his idea: Oh, what a great choice you made! I love how you wanted to take a bath first!

I know you don’t want to, but try celebrating when Miss Thang says NO! Mom-tantruming and power-struggling every time your kid says NO! (or trying to break her will) can teach her that her opinions don’t count. Standing up to you is the first step to her standing up to that bully in 6th grade.

Embrace the NO! Tattoo it on your ankle! Do a cheer when you hear it! And pat yourself on the back for helping her master this important skill.

Then prepare for the THREEnager. Who really will take you to the 7th circle of Hell.

Y’all, no one warned me about the THREEs. Hear me now, mothers of small children. The THREEs are where you start pulling on your armor and pulling out your hair. Maybe the terrible twos are terrible because you get glimpses of the 3s and you’re, like, Whoa, what just happened? Satan took over my kid!

But you ain’t seen nothin’ til the day your kid turns 3.

For his third birthday, we took our oldest to one of those cupcake joints filled with sugary goodness. And we told our kid to pick out his special day cupcake. Um….TOO MANY CHOICES! (Meltdown #1.)

Bennett with his little brother, Brooks

This was followed by the battle over where to sit. BY THE COUNTER! So you can start eating as soon as possible. Versus Daddy’s suggestion that we sit by the door so we can leave as soon as possible. (Meltdown #2.)

Followed by the attempt to keep a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! hat on your head while trying to lean over the table to eat a cupcake. (Meltdown #3.)

Luckily, for the other patrons, these meltdowns were soon followed by the SUGAR HIGH. Oh, suddenly, life is the best!

It gave us a shocking view into what life with a THREEnager is like.

Such big feelings.

They have tons more words at 3 to tell you what’s what. And it drives them batty when they can’t get you to LISTEN TO MY WORDS! Honey, I am listening, and I’m sorry, no, you can’t have a third milky way bar right before bed.

The fury coming from a raging, 3MSing little kid is pretty much a sight to behold.

As one mom put it when her kid was hording all the trains at the children’s museum, “He used to be sweet. And share. And now I can’t do anything with him.” Ah, he just turned 3.

So here’s my advice: lots of yoga breathing. (Or alcohol.)

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Ginny Olson is the author of the blog MothersRest.com, a love letter to moms, both new and seasoned, journeying from sleep deprived to joy-arrived. When not riding-herd over two small male children, Ginny works full time at the Center for Creative Leadership, a global nonprofit that specializes in leadership development and conducts neuroscience research, and teaches Marketing for Nonprofits at UNC-Greensboro.


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