They warned me that the teenage years would be here before I knew it. Yep, those years are here but ten years too soon. My daughter is three, but she has moments when she has the talk and walk of a teenager, falling into the category of the increasingly popular term, “threenager.”
Ever since she turned three, our home has become her teenage stomping ground. We are aware that this is due to her desire to claim her independence coupled with her developing personality; traits that are similar to the attitude of an actual teen.
I was originally going to title this post, “How to Tame a Threenager” but my husband reminded me we have not actually tamed her (and I didn’t want her to sound like an animal). Instead, I wanted to share a few tips we have for surviving this threenage phase which so far, we seem to be doing!
Here are those tips and tricks for our fellow and future parents of threenagers:
1. Learn Your Threenager’s Mood Swings
Mood swings are by definition, “an abrupt and apparently unaccountable change of mood.” Therefore, you can’t always tell when one is approaching. You can if your threenager is like mine, who will kindly warn us, saying through clenched teeth, “You want to make me mad, huh, huh?” (This is usually directed to her older brother). If there is a warning, find a way to defuse the bomb before it hits.
Solution: Keep those mood swings under control by observing your threenager. Learn what makes her tick and what you can do before the time bomb explodes. For my threenager, often, lack of sleep will set her off or when asked to help with chores around the house or the big one: hunger, leading us to tip number two…
2. Keep Them Fed at All Times
Hunger is a big culprit to those threenage mood swings. It is probably due to the constant growing and the fact that she is more active now, but my daughter has to eat what seems like every hour, causing our grocery bill to increase. The only time she is not eating is when she is sleeping.
Solution: Keeping her stomach full prevents a lot of tantrums so if that means spending more money on string cheese, yogurt and bread (her top food picks), then, so be it. Stay on top of their comfort foods, keep it stocked in the house, in a lunch box when you go out or even in your purse. She will expect food to be stored there. Don’t be caught without it.
3. Keep Calm, Show No Fear
Threenagers feed off fear. The more they know they can get to you, the more they will keep on doing it.
Solution: Instead of getting angry, yelling (or running away), keep calm, inhale and depending on how upset you are, take some time to collect your thoughts before speaking to the threenager because, like every relationship, good communication is key. And staying calm.
4. Practice Your, “I’m the Boss” Face
Something my daughter has mastered down to her adorable eyebrows is her “look of steel.” Her eyes, nose, and lips twist together in an unmistakable way that shows you she means business. One-up that threenager with an even snarlier face so she knows you are the boss of yourself… and of her. Heads up, she will most likely challenge you to a staring contest.
Solution: Don’t back down, no matter how dry your eyes may get. She will eventually realize you are the boss (no, seriously, you are). Then, she’ll throw herself onto her bed, pouting, “I love you, Mommy (Daddy)” with the sweetest puppy dog face. Her defenses are now down, give her a minute and then proceed to bargain speak to her.
5. A Threenager’s Bargaining Skills are On Point, but YOU are Still the Boss (Refer to Tip #4)
My threenager has some mad negotiating skills and can debate her way out of murder if she really tried. Anything and everything can easily turn into a debate. For instance, my daughter used to love helping with household chores but now, she tries to bargain her way out of it with reasons like, “I can’t, I don’t have magic hands” or “You do it, deal?” or “I’m too tired, I’ll do it after a nap” that she rarely takes because sleep is now impossible, too. She argues, “The sheep won’t let me sleep.” If she finally ends up doing what you ask, she’ll sing the song from the movie, Annie, “It’s a Hard Knock Life For Us” with the cutest little voice, of course.
Solution: Remind that threenager (and yourself) that you are still the parent. It helped us when we wrote down a chore list for her and her brother. We made it clear that everyone needs to do chores around the house because our family is a team. She eats that up because what threenager doesn’t want to fit in, right? Peer pressure. It still works. (That sleep issue? I don’t have a good tip for you–we’re still working on it).
6. Limit Their Fashion Choices
“I don’t want to wear that one; I’ll pick.” I’m usually fine with her picking her own outfits since it is part of fostering her independence. Although, when it is 90 degrees outside, and she insists on wearing the boots with the fur (and no Apple Bottom jeans) but only Hello Kitty undergarments, I have to put my foot down.
Solution: Put away clothes and shoes that are not in season. Pick out two outfits and two pairs of shoes for her to choose from to prevent her from spending 15 minutes to put together an entire ensemble.
7. Use this Threenager Stage to Mentally Prepare for the Real Teenage Years
On a more serious note, this age has been tons of fun and on most days, my daughter is the sweetest thing. Three-year-olds know more, can do more things and truly are becoming more independent. I know I’m not the only parent who realizes that terrible two’s are not as challenging as three’s which you can read more about in Vicky’s previous post. My daughter claims to have many struggles as a threenager and obviously, the struggle is real for us, too. But cherish this time and use it to prepare mentally for the more fun, exciting teenage years. Good luck!