The threenager stage: How to survive the threenager stage without pulling your hair out.
Updated: August 15, 2019.
The day, literally the day, my daughter turned 3, her attitude totally changed. She went from being my sweet innocent little toddler to an opinionated little girl. Yes technically she’s still a toddler, but nothing about her screams toddler. She is a very mature, opinionated 3 year old. No idea where she gets that from (#sarcasm). She will tell you how it’s going to be and you better get on board or the water works are coming out. She uses her cuteness to her advantage.
With that said, I’ve developed a few tactics to deal with the threenager stage. They are pretty effective most of the time, but let’s all be honest here, they are smart. And sometimes they can throw us for a loop with their antics.
Here are 5 signs you’re living with a threenager, and how to survive them.
1. They are always right. It doesn’t matter if the threenager is wrong or right, they are always right. They will argue and argue and argue with you about which neighbor lives on which side of your house, even though you continue to tell them they are wrong because, well, they are. And it’s not “I stand alone on the word of God, the B-I-B-L-E,” it’s “I stand alone on the word of Joan.” I mean duh! Of course someone wrote a Bible sing-along-song about Joan of Ark, not God. Jeez Mom, come on!
If you want to survive the “always right” phase, just agree with them, and move on. They will eventually either forget about it so you can tell them the correct answer, or they will learn it on their own. It’s not worth fighting over.
2. They negotiate EVERYTHING. You say 5 minutes until bath time, they say 10, and stick with 10. You say you will read them 2 books before bed, they say 5, then meet you at 3, only after you agree to read 3 the next night as well. They want a stuffed puppy from the store, you say no toys and they work you and work you and work you until you finally agree to a 99 cent duck.
You have two ways to attack this one. Either understand that everything will be a negotiation (PS, this doesn’t end at age 3) and have your own strategy for how to negotiate with them, or….you stand firm and they will eventually, after many, many long days of meltdowns, understand that they cannot negotiate with you. We’ve taken the first approach, and I anticipate the negotiation, so I go in low on things expecting to meet in the middle; especially when it comes to time.
3. The attitude! Oh the attitude. I’m talking eye rolls, head snaps, throwing things and hands balled into little fists attitude. And a period after every word when they are frustrated. “I’m. Not. Going. To. Do. It.” Complete with hands in fists and feet stomping.
Which leads straight into #4…
4. “That escalated quickly” aka, drama. I mean honestly, I had no idea how dramatic a 3 year old could be! Everything makes them throw a fit or get upset. You close the pantry door the wrong way they get upset. You give them 2 options of PJs before bed and it’s “let me throw myself on the floor and whine because I don’t want either of those.”
Remain calm. Do not let them get you riled up. That’s what they want. They know they can get a rise out of you, and if they take it far enough they will win. They are testing boundaries at this age, so set the limits and stick to them. Yes, I know it can be difficult and sometimes it’s just easier to give in, but the minute you do, they win. They know how far they can push it before you will give in. It’s a test of wills, and those 3 year olds are STRONG.
5. They are mini manipulators. Mom said no, so I’ll just go ask dad. Dad said no, so I’ll go tell mom that dad said yes. Happens more than I’d like to admit.
Make sure you and your significant other are on the same page. And if need be, before you answer, check with your spouse on what they said. My daughter has caught us in this situation so many times! She’s good, she’s real good.
I hope you found a little help, and maybe some humor, in this guide on how to survive the threenager stage.
I have to say, though, it’s not always like this. My girl still loves to cuddle and pretend to be my baby and hold mama’s hand when we’re out. She loves with her whole heart and feels with every fiber of her being. So even though these months of threenage-dom are hard sometimes, I welcome each new challenge, knowing that it’s a moment in time and before I know it she’ll be an actual teenager and I’ll be wishing she was my threenager again.
In all seriousness, parenting a strong-willed child can be overwhelming. There are times that I feel like giving up. There are a few books that have helped us tremendously. Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child and The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. Dobson are two favorite books that have helped us and many others parent their strong-willed children.
One other thing that has helped us is inspirational books. My list of 10 inspirational books for kids has some of our favorites on it (I especially recommend the Jocko Willink books for strong-willed kids).
Ohhh man. Baby A is such a funny girl! She totally looks like she’s 15. 🙂
Oh gosh yes – this describes my youngest niece to a TEE!!! But they are so darn cute I can’t even stand it!! xo, Biana – BlovedBoston
LOL!!! You hit the nail on the head with this one! Threenagers are NO joke!
Ahhh haha yes! My oldest was such a handful at 3! Whew! My middle so far has been okay but 2 was harder on him.
Haha! This is so funny :-p I love that she says “I stand alone on the word of Joan.” Hilarious! She’s going to have some sass as a teenager 🙂 But you’re right, I know she’s also such a big sweetheart and loves you so much!
LOL yes to all of these. Except my boys aren’t good at manipulating, they’re not smart enough lol. I love the “that escalated quickly”, YES!!! It’s amazing what upsets them and how crazy they can get in a short amount of time!! Great post, thanks for the laughs lol.
HAHA! oh lord, I can wait for this stage although I fear we are already starting to enter it. The more she can voice her opinion the more she starts trying to manipulate me. I like the way my dad explains it, that they’re always trying to see “where the line is”. 😉
Haha, oh I ca hardly wait!!! I fear we are entering this stage much sooner than I had hoped for. We are already seeing an attitude in our little miss!!!
Oh yeah. My youngest is there and she drives me BATTY! To make matters worse she’s like this with her older sister so they have wicked, awful spats. Ugh. I must not think of it right now… they’re tucked sweetly into their beds and morning will come far too quickly. LOL
Thanks for sharing.
Too funny! Our cousin’s daughter is a total threenager – they definitely bring the sass at this age! I’m 2.5 years away… hopefully I’m prepared by that time. I am excited for talking though!!!
This is hilarious! Also… I’m a little frightened of what’s coming my way. Henry is such a sweet baby. I hope this is a girl/boy thing and not just a three year old thing. Right? RIGHT???
Haha! My friend’s daughter is 3 and you serisously described her to a tee! It’s so crazy they learn the art of manipulation at such a young age haha!
Sequins & Sea Breezes
YES! Even with a boy, 3 is so much more dramatic than 2 was!
Haha! Oh, I remember those days. Actually we still have our fair share of moments around this house as well. It’s just much cuter when they are 3. Ha! 😉
Hahaha “that excalated quickly” I teach toddlers at church and even though I only get them for two hours a week this list is so true for those two hours…three out of five of them burst into tears last Sunday – all at completely different times- over the silliest things!
OH MY GOODNESS! I totally have a threenager! She turned 3 in December and something switched. I have two boys who didn’t seem to hit the 3’s as hard as she has. A lot of sass and a whole lot of cute!! Trying to enjoy these parenting moments, even though they take every drop of my energy!!! And (eeeekk!!!) I still have one more girl to go through this phase! At least I have an 18 month break!
It really is like a switch is thrown and they just….change. It must be a girl thing. Girls are so much more dramatic than boys for the most part. Oh my goodness Kelly! You have your hands full for sure!
I love the term threenager! That’s hilarious. She is adorable! I can definitely see her cuteness helping her get away with a lot :). My daughter was the same way. Unfortunately the attitude will get much worse before it gets better. My daughter is now 21, thankfully out of the teen years, and I’m so enjoying her growth in that area!
Man do I remember these days! Once, during one of our spats I found myself saying, “I’ve been here longer, You don’t know everything!” She looked at me like, “Yeah, right.” Lol! Good luck!
Oh so true! The other day I was going over colors with my three year old and he insisted a color was green when it was red.
HA-HA! They are sure stubborn at this age aren’t they? Glad I’m not alone. 🙂
I’ve heard of this threen-ager stage, and though I’m still two years away, I’m slowly getting anxious those dramatic instances and arguments with my daughter. You’re right though: no matter how insistent they get, we’ll stick it out. That’s what mothers are for, right? Unconditional love through and through
These are hilarious yet terrifying all at the same time. Lol. I can’t wait until my terrible twos year turns into threenager status. Lord, help me!
I agree! I have a threenager and she is exactly like you described
My daughter is 4 and is sweet most of the time but sometimes, out of nowhere, turns into hip swinging, finger-wagging, foot-stomping, eye-rolling tiny teenager! It catches me off guard! When I’m calm I think it’s funny but when I’m stressed it really gets to me. I try to remind myself that she’s just trying behaviors on to see how they work and it’s not her “real” personality.
LOL!!! Been there, done that… Oh Wait! I’m still there 😉 My 3 1/2 year old, yep!!! They are the angel, the devil, the best thing ~ full of love, EVER!!! ha!! Great post. I can totally relate!!!!
Oh, you’ve described my little 3 year old to a ‘T.’ These are so funny – when I’m reading it, not when I’m living it! 🙂
I’m not sure my daughter has ever moved on from being a threenager. She’s 6. She just has better language skills now.
Was not ready for the being played between yet! Seriously thought we had till six not 3!