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September 13, 2011



(I can't spend his entire third year drunk. That's unreasonable, even for me.)

Also drowning in almost-three-ness. The testing, the decibel level of the NO!, the running away. Halp.

Good for you for sticking it out, and enduring the mother of all tantrums. Glad to know I'm not the only one who feels totally ridiculous when this happens ;-). It is amazing to see these little people take on new skills and really LOVE it. Sounds like Claire is going to do great! About the whole being three thing, I don't think there is much we can do but keep on and know that they will one day grow up (of course, then we will think back and long for the days when they were this age).

Apparently I have been blessed with the world's best behaved 3 year old, because we're not struggling with 3 nearly as much as people said we would. I would say it's because we're very "lay down the law" type parents, so she knows when we're serious, but it's quite possible that she's just naturally good natured and well behaved and I'll have another thing coming when Will turns 3.

I have had to do the pick her up and carry her out on more than one occasion, but that didn't start at 3.

I am laughing because two sounds a lot like this at our house. Wine is my current solution. Well, wine for me and candy bribes for her. FAIL.

Three lasted from about 2.5 to 3.5 in our house. After standing around stunned for a couple months, I had to get a LOT meaner and a LOT faster with my meanness and WAY more consistent. Time outs do not work with my kid and if I give him choices or a warning he tramples all over me. Also, if we were out in public, I had to be okay with leaving the INSTANT he got horrible. He just didn't get it unless there was an instant and painful consequence!

He's a lot better now. Molly is... her Three is different so far, but just as defiant. She's not going to laugh at me like J did, but her stubbornness appears to last longer than J's. And again, I am standing around stunned not knowing what to do. I know pretty soon I'll have to be super mean again, which we've never had to do with Molly! But seriously. I am not going to let these kids get away with that crap.

I hate Three. I felt like an awesome parent until about a week ago, and now I am That Mom, who put her kid in timeout at Soccer because he wasn't listening to the coach or me. I have no answers, but do commiserate.

Three is like this. Three tests your metal. Three occasionally makes you want to lock them in a closet until college. But Three also has hugs and giggles and rapid fire learning that blows your mind.

I am neck deep in Three with the most attention-seeking child in the universe. I'm not sure when the NO! will end (sorry to scare you, but I have Seven that still whips it out). But I know they do become more people-like somewhere along the way. I'm here for you, Sister in Three. Let's take them both, corner them in a playroom, and commiserate. Any time.

Our Three comes in waves and while it is without the "No!" and mean, mean laughing (holy EFF would I lose my shit)--with Ezra it means a metric ton of whining and not being able to listen the first time.

The upside (if you can call it that) is that I am no longer a sucker as I can see the trend a mile away and know to gird my loins.

Regardless, though, it totally sucks.

I will say that 3 is both awesome and horrific. My 3.5 year old a few months ago had the first Can't-Back-Out-Of-Drag-Down-Blow-Out tantrum on a public beach with my childless friends and it was hands down one of the worst moments of my life as a parent. I have NEVER been so embarrassed and ill equipped to handle this parenting situation. Carrying my kicking and screaming 3 year old for ONE MILE with 2 beach chairs, all of her beach toys and doing so 27 weeks pregnant was NOT in my plans that day. My baby was normally SO sweet - LOVES rules and following them and up until that point we have never NOT been able to convince her to calm down with incentives or removal of privileges. She was SO EASY. This however - was NOT my baby. THIS? Was my THREE YEAR OLD.

We do have more sassy arguments than ever before, but the mind of a three year old is an unbelievable thing. It's curious. It's smart. It's trusting. It's totally full of imagination. It's HILARIOUS and it's a joy. I can't tell you how much more connected I am to her by simply having amazing conversations. This is the part about three that is simply amazing....

The bad parts DO SUCK HARD - but the good parts for me have outweighed them. Hopefully that continues for us. Just remember -- EVERYTHING IS JUST A PHASE!

I can think of three "techniques." First, I employed the classic "Scream and yell and stomp your feet." That went swimmingly, as you can imagine. I was also a fan of "Lock yourself in the bathroom, block your ears, and say Hail Marys until you can pull it together."

But my last technique is a real one: Three is contrary. Thus, if you say things like, "Claire, I bet you can't put your shoes on. It's probably too hard," she will put them on to spite you. Don't tell her NOT to, because you don't want to train in disobedience, but just sigh about how she can't do stuff. Maybe that will help!

Sounds like 3, all right. I'm on my second 3-year old and she is pulling the same damn stunts as her brother!

If I counted the number of times I had to remove a screamy, non-listening tiny person from a public place, I'd have a big-ass pile of coin.

It will pass, though. I SWEAR ON MY WINE BOTTLE.

I think Ask Moxie has some posts about Three. I also remember the Ames & Ilg book which recommends you get a babysitter more (true, but not always possible!).

Three is tough because they are really figuring out they are individuals and can refuse to do what we say. My only really successful technique (which was hard, HARD to implement) was to Not Engage. You can't win an argument with Three. Trying usually makes things worse, as I have learned time after time. So if at all possible, make your stand, and then just...step away.

I second Carla's technique of Do Not Engage the Three Year Old. When Noah is acting spectacularly THREE and not listening and screaming/laughing at me and calling me "BAD MOMMY, MEAN MOMMY" I basically shut down all emotion and communication, turn my back to him (if possible)/refuse eye contact, and press on. If we're at the store, that means ignoring the behavior, refuse to engage him, and shrugging my shoulders at any passers-by who deign to stare. If we're in a situation like you were at the pool, it's the grab the child, say nothing, throw him over the shoulder, haul ass to the car and THEN discuss how inappropriate the behavior was after all parties have cooled.

Does this always work? Hell no. But reasoning with a Three is a waste of breath and they do NOT like it when their behavior doesn't elicit a response from you.

Three sucks. Except when they're being so damn funny you can hardly keep from peeing your pants. That's THEIR technique for making sure you don't put them out front with a Free to Good Home sign.

Three is ugly. Three is mean. Three turns your child into a creature that could not possibly be that precious tiny baby you held snuggled against you in wonder that something could be so perfect.

There were at least two straight months of 3 when I did not like my child. I loved her fiercely, but like her? Not so much. Two solid months where I counted the hours until bedtime. Am I proud of how I felt? No. But, like everything else, eventually it passed and I got my baby back again. Well, not a baby anymore, a big girl that makes me proud to be her mommy every single day.

First Emily, then Maggie, NOW YOU TOO?
I will respond as I have to the others: THESE LITTLE GIRLS ARE TRYING TO KILL US.
My answer is to put her in three-day-a-week preschool and run screaming to Starbucks on the days I don't have to work. I'll let you know how that works out sanity-wise. :)

Seems like you everything right in preparing her for the swim lessons and giving her warnings that it was time to leave.

Have you ever heard of Love & Logic? It's pretty great for preschoolers. It's all about choices. For the students I work with, I always give choices that I can live with. So I'll say, Do you want to leave now or in 5 minutes? Do you want to jump or crawl to the car?

We also used planned ignoring. If it is attention seeking behavior I would turn you back to her and say I'm leaving. And go around the corner where you can see her. So tough when you are all alone with both of them!

You could also write a social story to prepare you for swim lessons. It could go something like this:
Today I go to swim class. My job at swim class is to get in the water and listen to teachers. I love playing in the water. Mommy will tell me 5 more minutes. When mommy says, "STOP!" then I will get out of the pool. It is NOT okay to run. Running around the pool is dangerous I could hurt my head/body/feet. I will go home and put on clean clothes. I can have fun at swim class, I will listen to teachers and mommy.

I would draw/illustrate/clip art for each sentence or 2. She can read it on the way to swim class or once you arrive. I can help you with this if you like!!

You may also want to bring a highly preferred object, that you hand her once she exits the pool.

I work with an entire classroom of 3's. I for the most part enjoy them!

I'm just hanging around stalking your comment section because K will be three in less than a month and she has started this stuff too! I can't stand it. She never had tantrums or blatantly ignored me before. I had to carry her to the car Sunday night too. I was mortified. sigh. At least I feel less alone now.

I see tastes of the three here and there. I've heard from so many people about the three. I actually thank my lucky stars that I get to only do the three with girls because I HEAR that the three with boys is pretty much like the world blowing up in nuclear warfare.

I'm sure you'll get through it. Nothing like being at home FULL TIME with it, too.

(As an aside, I actually have to leave mid-comment to go deal with a massive temper tantrum upstairs! The joy!)

UGH... good luck.
I had a three....and now I have a four. All I can say is buy the boxes of wine...its cheaper!

I don't have any advice, just fear of 3 and a little commiseration. We've started to have lots of tantrums and time-outs around here, with a side of behaving badly in public.

My youngest (two) are 11 now, so I can't remember much more than the pain of 3 but I do remember that the book 1,2,3 Magic gave me some techniques that I found really effective.

Premature submission! The 1,2,3 Magic book basically builds on the Do Not Engage technique - it's a way of avoiding getting sucked into a power struggle with the child. I can't remember all the details, but I remember it was remarkably effective. It got to the point where all it took from me was "that's a 1" and the bad behavior would cease.

I have no advice. We just emerged from three to realize that four is no better. Or maybe my kid is just a turd. A fifty pound turd that I have forcibly removed from more than one screamy situation myself. However, everyone with any sort of commitment has said wonderful things about 1, 2, 3, Magic, which is just collecting dust on my bookshelf.

I'm just a lurker, but I have to comment here. My (now five year old) son was a delightful toddler who morphed into an occasional *menace* as a three year old. And occasionally as a four year old. There were times I thought for sure I was raising a sociopath. The preschool years were ... difficult. But he's now five and a half and is largely delightful again, much to our great relief.

So I sympathize. And offer the light at the end of the tunnel.

Is this an indoor pool in sunny Texas? Indoors...really?

I just had a similar event happen. Minus the over my shoulder/laughing. Because when they're almost 15 years old and a boy you cannot pick them up. And they've at least learned to not laugh. But the acting like a total asshat right after you did something super nice-THAT. Which is especially fun when son #2 will be 3 yrs old in January. Related: I am running away to Mexico with the baby.

Dr. Maureen is right. Three is contrary. If you say, "You can't ... " they'll do whatever it is you want them to do. Here is when reverse psychology works wonders.

Three also does NOT like to be a baby. On particularly awful days I have said to the air, "Hmmm, I didn't think I had TWO babies. I thought I just had one, 3-year-old's brother. But no, 3-year-old seems to be one, too." It's amazing how fast the tantrum dries up. I felt bad the first time -- should I be shaming him? -- but I tell you, it's effective, and honestly, he should NOT be acting like that.

My daughter was a dream until 3.5. No discipline issues that couldn't be solved by nap or a snack or a quick cuddle. Then holy hell broke loose (conveniently while my husband was away for a month in New Zealand). She tried to kick me in the face at bedtime, screamed, tore her night time diaper off and, one of the most memorable moments, tantrumed all the way home from swim lessons on the bus. I was mortified.

Nothing has turned the switch off completely, but a few things have helped. Routine, routine, routine. Bedtime is our meltdown time and I have a schedule with bedtime steps and pictures of her doing them. Having a chart that she can "read" helps at the horrible part of the day. Currently a bedtime where she uses a kind voice, follows her bedtime schedule, and treats people and things with gentleness earns her a toy back. She, uh, lost them all when she bit me at bedtime pre-chart. Bedtime has improved (no more biting!!) but it's still challenging.

I also have a theory that three is especially hard because a lot of kids have dropped their naps but are still tired. Naps make them stay up ungodly late but end-of-day tiredness causes them to completely lose it. Because of this we don't do anything in the afternoons. The baby naps, she plays at home, and we'll go outside in the neighborhood to burn off some steam right before dinner. We don't have classes or playdates or avoidable appointments in the afternoon because it's just too stressful for all of us. My daughter will be 4 in the end of October. I so hope that this stage is almost over! Good luck with Claire! At least this stage finite. And I'm sorry for the book in the comments section.

I feel your pain. Mine is 4 now and she is mostly a delight...but 3 was the dark times at our house. I try to use "love and logic" and it got to the point where I just pointed to her room and she ran in there like a small tornado. Get prepared...I have walked away from a cart full of groceries at customer service with remorse but I could not tolerate her attitude any longer. I often repeat to myself...Steel yourself, you can do this, she will not be disrespectful to me, she will not win.
This time will pass!

I tweeted you the other day asking which book you were reading..its on my list to get. And now maybe 1,2,3 Magic also?

I am in the same exact boat right now as you. My kids are the same age as yours--both of them, except both of mine are boys. We started preschool this month and honestly I don't know if its THREE or PRESCHOOL that is making him so *cough* DELIGHTFUL *cough*. I ask him where he learned half the stuff he's doing and he'll tell me this kid from school...lovely...and so it begins. I was sorta hoping the peer pressure would help more on the potty training front not the acting like a demon child front.

Almost every single day is a struggle. I too will be coming here for insight :)

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