Im talking about threenagers !
It's wonderful , they are fully forming humans able to do stuff for themselves, hold conversations with you and show how much they are learning and taking on! They say the funniest things or make the most wonderful mental connections. And thats where the trouble starts. Forget terrible twos... ha threes is where it is at.
With all this new found confidence, spunk and knowledge they think they rule the world. And I suppose they do , their world . They are conquering mountains and like a conquerer they want their will to be done. This is where they will enforce it and yell about it and tell you whats what loudly. Where it can feel like a battle of wills and unlike the two years could be suede this phase is harder.
The tantrums, outbursts and demands are bigger, better and louder. And happen on a flip of a switch it seems. One minute fine, next Jekyll to Hyde ! Im just going through this now with my wee one, she can be so insightful, sweet and accommodating and then boom, a steely expression comes over her and what ever it was I needed her to do or she wanted this or that, hell breaks loose. Resulting in having to surf board her out of said area or last resort a time out to let the storm blow over. They really go from 0-100 in 60 secs. Threenagers are the Ferrari of preschool age.
Just a quick note this phase does not last long, it really is a blip while they get control over their emotions and learn very quickly that blow outs never result in positive results. Because they are becoming so smart so quickly they do latch on to the concept very fast.
But here are some ways I use with my wee one to help us navigate the minefield. Firstly the key is communication ! Secondly , Coping mechanisms !
For you -
Give clear instructions and a time frame. For example , last play on the what ever you want as we are leaving in 5 mins. This way they feel part of the process, they are choosing the last play. You have give the instruction and the time frame. It will work most of the time so allow you both to exit together happily.
Allow them a few freedoms , decisions that don't matter really, to you but everything to them, like choosing their clothes or bringing some item in the car. Letting them choose the snack with in your choices.
For them -
Validate their emotions and help them to vocalise it with words rather than grizzles , etc. If you come across them getting frustrated, talk through it with them and help them to know what words go with what feelings so they can communicate with you next time that is happening.
Normalise emotions, everyone gets sad or angry, frustrated or excited. No big deal, takes the wind out the sails of a tantrum if it's ok to have one.
For both of you
Actually listen to their ideas and if it is a better one , go with it. They are really good and seeing simple solutions. As adults we factor in this and that and they don't. Many a time have I had a wee one say , why cant we do it like this , or please I really what to do this first, then that . And in taking a minute to listen , I've seen that actually we can and just maybe it is a better use of our time. I also not afraid to tell them that , I will say , ok we will do it your way, thanks for speaking up. Sometimes as adults we are so focussed on all of life's noise that we forget our way isn't the only way.
Positive reinforcements . When they do get it right or do something on their own. Give lots of praise they are on the right track. I vocalise back to my daughter when she's done something right, like instead of a melt down she came and asked for help. ( very important skill in life !) I thank her for asking for help , that was the right way to go about it. Or a well done, or a I love that use of colour etc. That was great that you left the park put on your shoes. Lets her feel good about her choice.
Let them try and sometimes let them fail. But encouraging them to do it again can do wonders for confidence. Like not only choosing clothes but putting them on and off. Overwhelming sense of achievement when they get their socks on or pants down for going to the loo. When they set the table of learn the alphabet etc. They are becoming independent souls, let them be independent. Go have a coffee while they struggle and succeed at a task.
But that said we are still teachers to our little ones and we need to step in and put in some rules and restrictions and boundaries as they are only three. They still need a lot of guidance although they think they know everything. As much as they have good ideas, there are situations and scenarios that aren't going to go their way no matter what they feel. Ive found you need to be firm in your tone when things are getting heated. Mummy has said no ! I also use the age old count down method. ' Im going to count to 5 or down from 5 etc , and I want what ever it is complied with. Our wee ones are definitely smart enough to now when they have pushed their luck and enough is enough.
By keeping the schedules and boundaries of expectations on your part, ie bedtime routine , etc. They know what is expected of them and yes they may be able to sway the running order but the final product is the same. A dictator still has to sleep.
Three is a wonderful age, one of my favourites. There are so many transitions happening, potty train, control of body, preschool, interactions and independence with others y are becoming the little people that will be the bases of who they will become. They are forming and ingraining ideas and ideals. Language and communication is fully formed. They will hold in-depth conversations with you. Creativity , imagination, development , gross motor skills and play activities are recognisable as things we as adults can relate to. Drawings have form and colour, there are stories behind things or as my wee woman likes to do tell long winded intricate stories about all sorts in the back of the Car. They can register dreams, thoughts and explain them back to you. They may still parallel play but interactions with others is more meaningful and deliberate.
As I said it is the best of times and the worst of times, this phase but with a few tools to help both of you it can be a wonderful time.