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Everything You Need to Know About Your Three-Year-Old

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Parenting a three-year-old can be challenging. Read on to discover what is behind your threenager’s behavior and get some practical tips on how to enjoy this special age and stage

Everything You Need to Know About Your Three-Year-OldJust recently I have seen a number of posts venting about the trials of living with a three year old or “a threenager” as they are increasingly called. These kinds of posts are definitely written tongue in cheek and are not intended to be serious.

Still every time I read them I can’t help feeling a little sad. Yes three year olds can definitely be defiant, rebellious, and dramatic, but that doesn’t make them terrors. It just makes them a three year old at a fascinating stage of development. This post is written in defense of three year olds, whom I happen to think are pretty awesome people.

Ready to Go Activities for Three-Year-Olds

Activity Plans

The four top peeves of parents with threenagers

1. Your three-year-old never ever stops talking

At three children’s language skills are starting to take off. They have learned lots of new words and suddenly start talking properly. Naturally they want to use this emerging skill.

Every. Waking. Moment.

Put yourself in their shoes. Can you imagine how frustrated you would feel if you couldn’t communicate effectively for two years? Suddenly you are handed the gift of speech. Wouldn’t you want to talk at every conceivable opportunity?

Don’t forget your child’s conversational skills are still emerging, so they often need gentle prompting to relate a complete and coherent thought.

Also they may have discovered that the word “why” is an easy way to keep talking with you. They’re not trying to drive you crazy. They just want to keep the conversation going. I have found that I can often distract a three year old from the never-ending litany of why by asking them a question back.

It fulfills their desire for connection and might just save  your sanity.

I know this constant barrage of words can be exhausting, but isn’t it wonderful that your child wants to talk with you? I speak from personal experience when I tell you it won’t last. In about 10 years time there will come a stage when the most you will hear from your child are monosyllabic grunts. Make the most of these precious moments of connection and conversation.

Everything You Need to Know About Your Three-Year-Old

2. Your Three-year-old must do everything by themselves, taking FOR-EVER.

By the age of three your child’s own sense of identity is becoming stronger and more secure. As a result they are becoming more independent and want to do everything for themselves. Remember that they are still developing their fine motor skills.

As a consequence EVERY-SINGLE-ACTIVITY is going to take more time than it once did. For example your child will probably want to put their own clothes on, but it will take them a lot longer to get everything on and fastened.

Try to remember that this growing independence is a good thing. Children need lots of encouragement and practice to develop skills. This stage won’t last forever, but simplifying and adjusting your schedule to accommodate your child’s growing independence will keep you from getting completely frazzled.

“Elsa’s Getting Mad” ©2015 Donnie Ray Jones and made available under cc license

3. Your three-year-old is oppositional

Your three year old can be very sweet and loving. At the same time they can also be rebellious and defiant. Understand that their brains are still developing. They are still learning what the rules are, what they mean, and if they can be bent. They want to know if our “no” really means “no.” And to make sure, they will test this rule EVERY-SINGLE-TIME.

Try not to take this behavior personally. Three is a time of growing independence and testing boundaries. Your child hasn’t had enough life experience to fully grasp the concepts of empathy, respect, or self-control, but they are learning. You can help by staying calm and consistently setting respectful limits

Aha! Parenting has a really helpful post about setting limits. I particularly like the section that talks about dealing with your child’s angry or upset response to the dreaded word, “no.”

Everything You Need to Know About Your Three-Year-Old

4. Your three-year-old is a drama queen

A three year old can be incredibly dramatic. One minute they are happy and the next minute they are throwing the mother of all tantrums, because their red sweater is in the laundry. I have read a number of hilarious posts about the things that cause meltdowns in preschool children. Here are a few of my favourites.

  • The blue spoon is in the dishwasher.
  • He wanted the milk on the top of the cereal bowl, not the bottom.
  • His pants don’t have pockets.

Try to keep your sense of humor. Your child hasn’t had time to develop a reasonable perspective, so every little disappointment seems huge and overwhelming to them. Also the pathways in their brains are still developing and they simply can’t control their response to this upset. Although something may seem trivial to us it is not so easy for a 3-year-old to accept that their favourite spoon is in the dishwasher.

Everything You Need to Know About Your Three-Year-Old

I raised three boys, so I know firsthand that three year olds can be exhausting and can drain you of every drop of patience you possess. Still can I make a plea on their behalf?

Let them be who they are

Take some time to understand why they behave the way they do, so you can empathize and understand the developmental process that they are undergoing.

Related: How to Discipline Your Child Without Bruising Their Heart

Don’t wish this stage away, because all too soon they will be grown and it will be time to let them go

As this beautiful song from Lonestar implores,

“So let them be little ’cause they’re only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little.”

One last note: Raising young children is wonderful, but can also be exhausting. Don’t forget to make your own self-care a priority and try to schedule some regular  “me” time into your life.

10 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Your Three-Year-Old”

  1. All of this is so true. Mine didn’t really have terrible twos, but as soon as he turned 3, we had a month where everything was no, opposite, and more. Just a horrendous shock. And yet, he talks for England (my poor OH has him and me going on all the time!).

    But it is great, and thankfully for us, the best parts came out the other side! And at 4 he’s the best little boy ever

    #pinitparty

    1. Sharon Harding

      It can be quite a shock when they suddenly seem to take on a new personality like that. Thankfully it doesn’t last! I loved 4 it was a wonderful age.

  2. I love this! We have three boys too and a foster daughter and our youngest boy is three years old right now. We are in the thick of it and yet I completely love it! I love hearing what is going on inside his little mind and I know this is all going to be over before I know it. I agree too that it makes me sad that people often complain so much about this age; I completely understand needing support, but sometimes the venting isn’t constructive which only leads them to feel worse about the whole situation. This is such a great supportive post that I think would make a huge difference for parents who are struggling with the difficulties of the 3’s! Thanks so much for sharing!
    -Sara

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thank you so much for your encouraging comments. How wonderful to have four children to love and raise. You are right the chaos and noise will be over before you know it, so enjoy the journey.

  3. What a wonderful post – I miss my threenager to be honest – now they are no longer doing some of this annoying stuff, I wish they were! They get old far too fast for me…. Thanks so much for linking this up to the 100th parenting pin it party.

    1. Sharon Harding

      I hear you! When I was in the midst of raising my boys I would fantasize about having a quiet uncluttered house, now I miss it all 🙂 Thanks for your encouraging comments.

  4. Yes three year olds can be a challenge, but I actually found it a relief from the two yr olds. My girls were very stroppy at age 3, but I liked that age, they are growing up too fast!
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids

    1. Sharon Harding

      Times seems to zip by doesn’t it? I found three to be quite a magical age and have fond memories.

  5. Hi Sharon! Your post was featured today on the Hip Homeschool Hop. Thanks for linking up with us!

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