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8 Ways to Deal With Your "Threenager"

Updated on May 7, 2015


From the time your child has that first temper tantrum, you count down the days until the terrible twos phase is gone. Between a two year old's unbelievable amount of energy, temper tantrums, and constant use of the word "no," every parent and care giver is mentally and physically exhausted by the end of the day.

But, what happens when the terrible twos are over? You're probably hoping that the day your child turns three they will instantly snap out of their two year old phase. You're hoping that you will wake up one morning and your child will be a little prince or princess. They will be quiet, and well behaved, and you wont have to fear those melt downs in the grocery store anymore. But that doesn't happen. In fact, a three year old, or a "threenager", is often equal to, or worse than a two year old in their "terrible twos."

I know what you're thinking. You can't do it. You can't deal with another year of the screaming, and the whining, and the yelling. But you can do it! There are ways that you can keep your cool, and prevent meltdowns while dealing with your threenager, that will result in you and your child living a much more peaceful life.

1. Don't Give In

Ok, so your three year old just told you that they don't want to sleep in their own bed, they want to sleep with you. You tell them no, because they have their own bed. What do they do? They whine. Whining is the beginning stage of a temper tantrum. Three year olds whine to get your attention, and get you to give them what they want. But if you give in, even one time, they are going to think that whining is an appropriate way to get what they want. Tomorrow night when it's bedtime and you tell them they have to sleep in their own bed, they will just whine again and say "I wanna sleep in your bed again!" But, if they get used to the constant rejection, they will eventually give up, because they know that you are going to say no.

2. Do Not Feed Off Of Your Child's Anger

Temper tantrums are the worst part of dealing with a toddler! They can happen anywhere; at home, the grocery store, the park, grandma's house...anywhere. The key to making a temper tantrum subside is to not feed off of it.

When your child is screaming and throwing themselves on the floor, you want to rip your hair out. You're frustrated, and sometimes you feel like you want to throw a temper tantrum right back. But, what you should do is look your child in the eye (if you can get them to make eye contact,) and tell them in a normal tone that throwing a temper tantrum will not get them what they want. In order to get what they want, they have to calm down first. If the screaming doesn't stop after that, continue with what you are doing and ignore their tantrum. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, just take a deep breath and leave the room if you can.

3. Give Warnings

You can tell when your child is about to act up. Usually the first step is whining, then crying, then comes the big bang. They're rolling on the floor screaming, and they are inconsolable. But, before your child gets a chance to get past that first step, use a warning. Say something like "Stop whining or else you wont be allowed to have a Popsicle later."

You should also warn your child before you put them in timeout. A warning should always be your first step. My daughter had an obsession with pulling out kitten's tail when we first got him. I would always say, "What happens if you pull the cat's tail?" Then she would usually stop, because she knew that it meant timeout. If she pulled the cat's tail again, I gave her one more warning, but I was sure to tell her that this was the last warning. Then, if she did it again, she sat in timeout.

4. Punishments

When your child does something wrong, such as hitting or kicking, make sure that they do not get away with it. Like I said earlier, if they get away with it once, they're going to expect to get away with it again. If you also express your anger by hitting your child, they will mimick what you do, because you are who they learn from. The most popular form of punishment for a toddler is timeout. Rule of thumb with timeout is that you sit a minute for every year old that you are, (a 2 year old sits for 2 minutes, etc.)

Timeouts have always been an issue with my three year old, because she thinks she has the authority to let herself up. Then when I tell her that her time is not up yet, she starts crying. What I do when this happens, is I start the time over. If she cries, she has to sit for three more minutes. Has this ever resulted in her sitting for more than ten minutes? Yes, it has! But then she associates that behavior with sitting on timeout for a very long time, and she doesn't do it again.

5. Rewards

Rewards are something that people of every age work towards. Rewards show appreciation and success. Nothing will make a three year old more proud than if he or she gets something in return for doing what they are told.

Don't be fooled by the picture, (this was taken on trick or treat night,) there are many other things you can reward a three year old with than candy! There are stickers, playing their favorite games, high fives, going outside, bubbles, and even just telling them "good job!"

At the end of every day I ask my three year old to clean up her room. If she does it, she gets to play a game on my phone before she goes to bed, if she doesn't then she does not get to play.

6. Release Their Energy

I run a daycare center, and one thing I have learned is that children have a lot of energy! More energy than you could ever imagine. What is important is that they are able to release this energy in an appropriate way. Going outside is the best way, because it also gives them fresh air and sunshine, which will tire them out. In addition to playing outside, you can play an indoor game such as musical chairs, join a dance or gymnastics class, or even just sing and dance in the living room.

7. Naps

Children may have a lot of energy, but they also need a sufficient amount of rest. When a child is three they should be taking one nap per day. My three year old refuses naps, so I just make her lay down in her bed and relax for an hour or two. Children who do not get down time tend to get very cranky. They will throw a fit over the tiniest thing, because they are exhausted and don't know how to handle their emotions.

8. Understanding the rules

Every household is different, so every household has a different set of rules. Make sure your child knows the rules. We have rules taped to our refrigerator, and every time my daughter disobeys a rule, I take her to the refrigerator and show her the rules. I read them out loud so that she knows what she is not allowed to do. The rules are fairly simple:

  1. No hitting or kicking
  2. No yelling
  3. Share with your sister


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