Toddlers are not for the meek
Disclaimer: You have a three-year-old. You are not going to hear me refer to a 3-year-old as a made up word that starts with three and ends in ager. That “word” makes me cringe and sets me off the same way the word “selfie” does. It’s an f-ing picture. Always has been, always will be. And I feel the way my spirit animal Sebastian Maniscalco feels about them. Watch video clip here.
Now that I got that out of the way we can get to business.
Being the mom of a 3-year-old is hard work. Like, drive you to drink hard work. From the time R turned 2, everyday became just a little bit harder than the day before until she hit her 3rd birthday. And just to add to the madness we gave her a baby brother when she turned 2.5.
The difference between R as a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old is night and day. But more night due to the darkness her tantrums bring 😉
She has always been a talkative and friendly child but she has slowly learned that she has willpower and more words than she did before. You know the words I’m talking about.
NO! STOP! MINE! LEAVE ME ALONE!
And the most dreaded of them all…
Needless to say her vocabulary has grown infinitely over the past year. With that growth came new parenting challenges. These challenges have tested me in ways I thought were only reserved for parents of teenagers. I’m finding out that as a parent all challenges with your children are relative. They may look and appear different at a different age but in reality, they are mostly the same underlying challenge with different behaviors and language.
Challenging 3 Year Old Behaviors
Challenge 1: Listening
Selective listening isn’t only for marriage my friends! Toddlers learn this quickly and have an amazing ability to tune you out when you’ve asked them to do something. But the second you offer food, drink, or a treat they hear you as clear as day.
Challenge 2: Communication
It usually comes out as talking back or just flat out refusal. This can lead to communicating through body language and by body language I mean throwing themselves down on the floor screaming and crying in protest. It’s not pretty or for the faint of heart.
Challenge 3: Touch
They have trouble keeping their hands to themselves at times. Especially when they realize they can just flail their arms around and it will usually make contact with another human in the form of hitting when they don’t like something. And forget about playdates. Your child will be the child who hits another at some point. They all do it. And all moms are mortified when they do.
Challenge 4: Focus
Trying to “rationalize” or teach a lesson verbally to a 3-year-old is laughable. Yet, we all attempt to do this regularly. I find I end up saying look into my eyes more than anything else because she cannot stay focused long enough to hear a complete sentence come out of my mouth.
Challenge 5: Imagination
You are probably thinking, what could be challenging about an imagination? And I say tons can be a challenge. Simply put, MONSTERS.
Where do 3-year old learn about the possibility of monsters being in their closets, under their beds, and just straight up living in their house??? I must admit we have watched Monsters, Inc. since she was little because selfishly it’s my favorite Disney movie, but there seems to be more than Mike and Sulley living in our house according to R. I just try to remind her that the only monsters that live here are Mike and Sulley that live in our kitchen display cabinet.
Now my experience is solely with a 3-year-old that is a girl at this point. Soon enough Baby J will be a 3-year-old and challenging me in similar ways I am sure!
But on the flipside of these behaviors is the positive side. Because for every negative, you have the opposite side of the same behavior (and because I got my education degree at the height of “positive discipline”) I provided a chart for you to see how the same behavior can be both a positive and a negative, depending on how they feel at that moment.
Positive 3 Year Old Behaviors
Positive 1: Listening
3 year olds become fascinated with the sounds of different items they encounter. Fire trucks, garbage trucks, school buses are all sounds we tend to not even notice in our daily lives. But for them, they are the highlight of their day and a thrill if they can see it at the same time.
Positive 2: Communication
Their vocabulary has exploded! And the best part is they are still making up their own version of words. These are words you hope you never forget and try desperately to catch on video in their cute 3-year-old voice. My favorite right now is bandaids, which R calls “Bam Bams”. Stinking adorable, right?
Positive 3: Touch
Even though many 3-year-olds have outgrown their pacifiers or thumb (Not mine since her thumb is attached to her) most still have something they touch or do to help them calm down or relax. R enjoys twirling my hair or anyone’s hair she can get her hands on as a way of decompressing. It’s always so sweet to have her play with my hair or see her do it to another person she loves. But I do feel like I’ve been used just for my ponytail at times and she’s admitted it to me.
Positive 4: Focus
Playtime has turned into a more focused event. Slowly 3-year-olds start taking more time with each activity instead of bouncing around from one toy to the next. They will not just hold the baby doll but dress her, feed her, and burp her! At least when they are playing alone, when there are other children around this may not be the case. Since they usually play a game of who can outdo the other for the number of toys taken out and thrown on the floor.
Positive 5: Imagination
3-year-olds make up scenarios and give dolls, animals, and objects personalities. As a mom, it is the best when I can catch her in the act of playing independently in this way and sneak a look before she realizes I am there and stops.
Santa just brought her this doll house and seeing her imagination while playing with the family is such a gift! She gives them baths, makes them food, puts them to sleep, drives them in the car and has even started giving them each different voices! She now has enough life experience to recreate it with her dolls!
I still love my 3 Year Old
The positive sides of three-year-olds behavior make it all worthwhile. The moments I get with my girlie that include one of these positives help to restore our relationship and any of the challenge moments.
Without this balance, I would seriously consider boarding school.
They have that for toddlers, right?
My hope is that when I look back at this time with my child(ren) I will have fond memories of the positives and vaguely remember the challenges.
But I know I will never forget the exhaustion! That has everlasting effects on a person! Both physically and emotionally!
What is your favorite thing your child did as a 3-year-old?
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