By Guest Blogger Julie Fritz

The terrible twos are a joke.  What you really need to prepare for are the “trying threes.” Boundary pushing, tantrum throwing, illogical argurging threes. This, my friends, is tough stuff. And I am really struggling through this year. I get so frustrated sometimes and tend to forget that I am dealing with a 3 year old. How is it possible that he is playing me and winning? I mean really, how can something so small and adorable be so infuriating?

This year has forced me to get creative with my discipline. Nothing seems to work every time and in every situation, so I am constantly looking for new ways to get through and move forward. I’m going to share with you some of what I have learned in hopes that it might help you too. Here are a few things I have tried to help me, and my son, survive the three year old year.

Be consistent and clear about the rules

Consistency is key! You can’t expect a child to know what is expected of them if that is always changing. They also need to know exactly what the rules are and why they are important. I repeatedly ask my son the question: “Why does Mama make rules?” and he repeats the answer: “So I don’t get hurt or get in trouble.” You also have to follow through with discipline. If the words come out of your mouth, you have to do it.  They have to know you mean business and there is no possibility of that changing.

Use Time-Away, for them and you

Time-Away, is just like time-out, but I just like the word away better. Get away from the situation and relax for a minute. It seems less like punishment and more like a chance to get yourself together. And sometimes Mama needs a time-away too. If I get frustrated and start to loose my cool, I can tell my son that I need a time away to get it together and then we can talk about it. I think they benefit from knowing that grown ups make mistakes and need to take a minute sometimes too.

Talk about feelings and self control

Open, honest conversation about feelings and how to deal with and control them seems to make a difference. When my son gets upset, I always ask him to take a deep breath, calm down and then we talk about it. Sometimes it takes a few breaths to get calm. We talk about how he is feeling, and what he could do to deal with that feeling other than throwing a tantrum.

Pick your battles

Some things just aren’t worth it.  If we went head to head about every rough behavior, I’m pretty sure we would be at it all day everyday. Things that are dangerous or hurtful to others definitely need addressing, but maybe silliness that goes to far doesn’t need to be a big deal.  You can also try to learn what can turn something into a meltdown and try to prevent it before it happens.

Check in with other parents

This is huge! Talk to your friends who are parents. They will reassure you that these behaviors and frustrations aren’t just happening in your house. They can help you calm down and most of the time, they will help you laugh about it. I am forever grateful to the moms I trust to talk about these things with who make me feel normal and sane when I’m pretty sure I’m losing it!

These are just a few of the things that help me. But let me be clear, I have not mastered the art of dealing with a 3 year old. And anyone who says they have would be lying. I often wonder if I’m getting it right at all. But,at the end of the day, we all have to remember that this is what they are supposed to be doing. They are learning and growing and trying to find their place in the world and your family. Their defiance, and your frustration, are all normal, healthy parts of raising a child.  


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