Age 2 – some call it the “terrible two’s”
Age 3 – I have not heard a term that comes along with it, but I might be inclined to call it the “horrific threes”
My son is 3 1/2 and daily parenting has become so challenging and tiring lately that I don’t understand why no one gave us a heads-up on what to expect. Let me provide a glimpse of what is going on the past two days to provide some clarity:
- My son borrows a toy airplane on the playground is playing nicely with it. Flying it up in the air, pretending he is a pilot, and even talking about the snacks they serve. The owner of the plane (another 3-year-old) wants the toy back and tries to grab it out of my son’s. My son says “no, no, no.” I walk over and explain to my son that it’s the other boy’s toy and we can take “a turn” for one more minute before we return it. The result: My son immediately swats the other boy in the face! Short fuse!
- My son is eating his cream of wheat for breakfast and the consistency is a little too thick for him so there is not enough “dripping” off his spoon. He chucks the spoon and then the bowl of cream of wheat onto the floor. Short temper!
- My son has his friend Jordan (5) and Blake (2) over for a playdate. He sees little Blake playing over in the “play kitchen” area. For whatever reason my son aggressively hugs Blake – Blake does not like that and shouts. I explain to Jake that Blake did not like that and he needs to be more gentle. My son repeats it again very aggressively (strike two). I tell my son he needs to leave Blake alone “keep hands to himself.” A few minutes later, my son does it again and Blake starts to cry (strike three – time out).
- My son says he needs to go pee in the potty. He purposely points his pistol toward the garbage can next to the toiled an fires away. It makes a complete mess and I tell him that pee goes in the potty and he will need to clean it up with me.
- My son wakes up from his nap shouting “no, no, no, no.” I look at him and he is so angry that he starts swatting at me, saying “I want to hit you, daddy.” I walk away to give him some space. He comes after me hitting and kicking. This goes on for twenty minutes until I am finally able to redirect.
- I am playing a building block game with my son. He gets frustrated because some blocks fall down. then, he tries to hit me. I give him a time-out (he gets put in his room for two minutes and I shut the door). It gets very quiet behind his door and when he comes out after “time is up” he points out that he “broke the wires.” Basically, he yanked the phone wires off of the wall that were neatly staple tacked down. He says, “Daddy, are you mad because I broke it?”
- After an exhausting day, we go through the bedtime routine, read our books together, and I put my son down for sleep. Two minutes later he pops up out of bed and comes into the hallway. I walk him back to sleep (sometimes he pops up again). All I am thinking is “please go the F#*k to sleep” or I say it loud to my wife.
- We get the 1:30 am wake up call from our child this past Sunday night. I walk our son back to sleep. He gets up again at 2am. Walk back to bed. Up again at 2:15am…walk back to bed. I don;t speak to my son, but I go through the mental checklist: fever? no, temperature in room? fine, white noise machine on? yes, is it a night terror? no….So, now I am thinking, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
- Some other random quotes: “Can I have a treat for breakfast?”, “Why do I have to go to sleep?”, “I want a special treat NOW!”, “Daddy, I hate you!”, “Daddy, I want to kick you!”, “Daddy, I am going to bite you!”
Testing, testing, testing– that is what I believe the threes to be. One tremendous rectal exam of limits and boundaries.
I try to convince myself that a lot of this is a phase and will hopefully pass (soon). Does it get easier? What strategies can I use for a child with such a short and violent fuse/temper (the apple doesn’t fall too far – my temper is pretty bad as well)? Why didn’t any of our parent friends give us a heads up that the threes are this hard?
Raúl Colón says
I can wait to see the comments and solutions to that problem which I might face seeing my daughter’s recent behavior at 11 months.
It is great to see this posts.
So thank you for the heads up will start preparing with enough time!
are you sure you are not describing my 3 1/2yo? 🙂 i thought i was the only lucky one going through this. my formerly placid, (mostly) listening son now tries to hit us when we tell him something he doesn’t like, and doesn’t seem in the slightest bit perturbed when he gets in trouble. i feel as though friends did mention this stage to me but i didn’t really believe how trying it would be.
Vincent O'Keefe says
Sorry to hear about your plight! When my kids were quite young I asked my older brother how he had coped with his kids’ early years. His answer was immediate: “Patience.” It sounds like you are doing many things right, so hang in there. It will eventually get better, though that knowledge doesn’t provide any instant relief. Age-appropriate discipline is definitely one of the hardest parts of parenting.
Two books that helped me when my kids were around that age were Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and the classic How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It’s also a great idea to talk to other parents of three-year-olds to compare coping strategies for remaining calm. They might also recommend other books that give specific tips for the situations and age level you describe.
If nothing else, think of it this way: your son’s intensity at this age may become an asset in the future. If only that future could arrive early some days . . .
Daddy's in Charge? says
Lance… Have you ever met Carter? The key word is patience.
You said it yourself, you have a temper… I’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. The thing is, you can’t let your son see it, otherwise that’s normal.
I should have told you that parenting doesn’t get any easier, any parent will tell you that. You need to be willing to adapt your parenting to your changing child.
We’ll talk this weekend.
You’re not alone! The terrible twos were greatly exaggerated for me.. the threes have been much worse. My son is already mouthing off everytime he has a chance and I have to ask everything two, three four times! No sibling but he liberally pushes his younger cousin around. All I can offer is moral support, I havent figured any answers!
NYC Dads Group says
Guys -just knowing that I am not alone is support enough. I am currently seeking some advice from a few parenting experts to see what they suggest…and will post any interesting findings.
So far: check out this post from Janet Lansbury: http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/04/no-bad-kids-toddler-discipline-without-shame-9-guidelines/
Also, this book was recommended by Matt S: Parenting your toddler – http://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Your-Toddler-Experts-Tender/dp/020162298X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1323806445&sr=8-3
My husband is the at-home parent, but I can share that we have reached 9 with our oldest and have “names” for all of the ages, all of which seem to proof out for both girl- and boy-child alike:
“Thrilling” Three (quotes note sarcasm)
F@(%!^& Four – we found this WAY worse than 2
Sobbing Six (seriously… the crying….!)
Erratic Eight (a true moving target)
(Mind) Numbing Nine…