Sour Patch Kid – The World of a Threenager

Threenager, an attitude like a teenager and the emotions of a drunk adult. Anyone feel me?

I currently have a 3-year-old, she is the sweetest little girl ever but I also call her a sour patch kid right now. She is sweet & then shes sour- Which means I spend half my life trying not to lose my sh*t. The terrible twos are a basket of rainbows compared to what moms face once their offspring become threenagers. Three-year-olds provide a terrifying glimpse of what’s to come during those hormonal, impulsive, irrational teenage years—which is why threenager is the most appropriate term ever. Don’t even get me started on my fear of having three girls with their period. We will see if my blog is still around by then…

Moving on – I just got out of a World War battle with mine because I gave her an orange cup. Don’t I know by now that I need to ask her what cup she prefers that day? God forbid you pick a cup that is not a desired color for that 5 minute time period. OMG! How does a color of a cup create flops on the floor, emotions that the neighbors can hear, and tears that could create an actual pool in the kitchen? HOW!? Get me the PINK cup WOMAN!

That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Whoever said the twos were terrible really messed with us- What a false false false thing to spread to Mamas. The challenges right around the corner were NOT prepared for by many because we all somehow thought we were in the clear because we were passing TWO and entering THREE. Nopeeee, it doesn’t work that way my sweet friend. If four is worse, at this point, I would rather not know.

What’s going on in those 3-year-old hearts and minds? Luckily, I had to reflect on my actual knowledge of child development and my degree and leave my emotional mommy brain for a minute.

Three is actually the first stage of the first adolescence. Weird right?

They show signs of independence between 18 and 24 months. By age 3, that dial turns WAYYYYYY the heck up. They are saying, ‘I am my own person,’ in a big way. They have ideas and they prefer to carry those ideas out verbally. BLESSSSS! – Knowing this doesn’t make the patience come any easier.

The dreaded bedtime—Ella has always been a great sleeper but in the 3 stage it can be frustrating at times but truly makes me laugh. I cannot help myself. She could be snoring and sound asleep as I lay next to her trying to Maguiver my way out of her bed, and then she will ask one of the most random question as she feels me move. “Mom, if the moon was made of BBQ spare ribs, would you eat it?” (reference here if you are clueless to what I am talking about- lol)

Three-year-olds have no sense of time. They can focus, but only on what they want to focus on. They have big, strong emotions and they are starting to express them, but they get overwhelmed by them, too. The trouble comes in when I think that I am speaking to a very reasonable human being but really this is where the drunk adult comes in. I think I am reasoning with her, but it’s like trying to have a productive conversation with a tiny drunk adult.

Verbally, they sound older than they are- so this is my battle currently!

A few weeks ago, I sat on my couch sipping fresh coffee, it wasn’t even reheated at this point –watching the twins play. In the middle of my focus on them, a 30-pound force busted through like a high school football player running through a banner. I jumped out of my skin. Coffee spilled on my lap. I uttered an unmentionable word. And you know what she did? Burst into tears. Despite my scalded crotch, I felt horrible for yelling. I end up apologizing and comforting her for reacting the way I did. Did she learn though? No- Until tomorrow, when my crouch gets scalded again.

Three-year-olds are needy and demanding by nature. They don’t care about silly things like facts or reason, and if they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it by themselves, so don’t even think about trying to help them. Their daily goals amount to destruction, eating snacks, asking for things they don’t really want, and being angry when they get them. Let’s just say there are plenty of reasons to lose your sh*t Mama, and that’s okay. Threenager Mom’s Unite!

My daughter introduced me to this maddening world, and taught me how to pick my battles, and navigate a public meltdown. I am going to see this as a teachable moment for when I have TWO girls that are experiencing this phase. LET. US. PRAY! Hopefully they won’t be a whole different kind of crazy and I may feel somewhat prepared for this moving target.

Dealing with a threenager has left me dangling on the edge of my sanity more times than I can count. It requires an IV of coffee, wine and even tequila with your best gal when things really throw you over the edge.

All joking aside– there are a few things I’ve learned that help me cope, and keep me from losing my *ish on a daily basis. For starters, I remind myself often that she doesn’t have a fully-developed brain—no 3-year-old does. Because their little minds are still developing, they literally don’t have the ability to process things logically, so I don’t waste time trying to reason with her. Emotions drive nearly every decision 3-year-olds make—most of which are completely impulsive, because again, underdeveloped brain.

When my girl is in the throes of an epic meltdown, it’s because she’s angry or sad, and she doesn’t know how to express her emotions appropriately. I’ve tried a lot of things with her but one thing I’ve learned is: never tell her to “calm down.” It makes sense if you think about it, I mean, I’ve never been calmed by someone telling me to “calm down.”

More often than not, it only makes things worse. I relate this to a teacher saying “SHHHHHH” to her class. It always got under my skin so badly. Sorry if you are a susher. Just my opinion but, “Shhhh” is not a word- tell them what you need from them, don’t make a sound that makes MORE noise.

I have learned to get down on her level so we’re face to face, then I look her in the eye and say, “Tell me why you are upset.” (I know this sounds crazy, but stay with me.) This helps her express her emotions with WORDS, not just flailing and screaming, because let’s face it, that sucks for everyone. There’s normally a fair amount of crying, snot, and tears happening at this point, so I don’t get much out of this first attempt to explain.

I grab a tissue, wipe her face, and say again, “Sweet Honey Angel Pants, I can’t understand you. Can you stop crying and try to tell me again?” I do my absolute best to keep my voice as CALM as possible, regardless of what’s going on in my head, because kids take our lead—if you’re angry, they’ll be angry.

Think about it like this: If you’re having a problem at work, and you tell your supervisor about the problem, their response can make or break your reaction. If they respond aggressively or defensively, you are likely to do the same. But, if your boss says, “I understand, let’s see what we can do to fix this.” The interaction will likely go much smoother.

Here’s another thing: I’m totally open to negotiation. I always thought I would be a firm, put-my-foot-down kind of parent, but I’ve learned that’s the fastest route to Meltdown Town. I don’t like to argue, because it’s exhausting and time consuming, but I also can’t let my kids run the house like a bunch of cray cray children.

If I can prevent an argument with a little negotiating and flexibility, I’m all for it.

Let’s de-escalate, shall we?

Let’s talk snacks, for example. If my kid wants a snack 10 minutes before dinner, that’s not happening. But, I will say something like this, instead, “How about you go pick out your snack and set it on the table, so you can eat it when you’re done with dinner.” This makes them feel like they have a choice, and kids like choices. Now, this doesn’t always work, sometimes they freak the hell out, because they want a snack right now! In these cases, I let them be mad. In our house, you’re allowed to be upset—angry, even—you just can’t scream at anyone, hit, or throw things to express your anger. Go to your room, scream into a Paw Patrol pillow, and then come join the family when you’re ready.

Every kid is different, and three can be a challenging age. Their opinions and feelings matter, and I want to help them solve their problems. It’s not about anyone getting their way, it’s about learning how to respect each other. Bottom line: Three-year-olds are going to act out, but if you lead by example, and treat your children how you want to be treated, the threenage years are totally manageable. And if all else fails, step away and scream into a Paw Patrol pillow—sometimes that works, too.


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