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Tuesday
May042010

Age three: defiance with a smirk

People warn you about the terrible twos.  I tell them two is nothing...wait until you get to three. Maybe it is a case of each child being different or maybe it is a result of how we parent our children. But for me, at age two, a diaper, a breast, a baby carrier, redirection, toys, snacks and cuddles still resolved most problems. Don't get me wrong, two year olds are selfish. But their selfish needs are fairly easy to meet in my experience.

Then comes three.

Both of my kids at three, it seems, reached the age of defiance with a smirk. Not only are they completely selfish, but they also seem to take joy in preventing others from meeting their needs and have little sense of potential danger or discomfort for themselves. Refusing to go the bathroom before we leave the house and taking joy in the fact that her brother and I are frustrated that we can't leave the house until she changes her mind (even though she also wants to go where we want to go). Having the ability to open closed doors to return to the scene of a previous crime and attempt a destructive and dangerous feat once again (e.g. swinging from the curtains in a borrowed apartment).  Running in front of your feet with begs to be carried one moment (and getting tripped over in the process) and running off wild in the wrong direction or pausing to pick up dirty cigarette butts the next. Refusing to leave a playground or store when her brother has to go to the bathroom. Throwing toys or books across the room when they don't do what she wants them to do. Asking for a specific food and then refusing to eat any of it. I could go on.

There are several battles taking place on this battlefield:


  • Her battle to assert her independence: She wants to make her own decisions about her body, about her food intake, about her clothing, about her activities.

 


  • My battle to teach her empathy: I want her to assert herself, but also understand the impact that has on others. I want her to think about others feelings, needs, physical limitations and personal space.

 


  • Her battle to have mommy all the time: I'm usually a work out of home mom and now I'm here all the time. She's making up for lost time by wanting mommy all of the time. Whether she wants to cuddle, to play with me, or to have me do something for her, she wants me in some capacity all of the time.

 


  • My battle to divide my time and get things done: She doesn't care if I need to shower, make lunch, do laundry, help her brother with something, etc.  She wants mommy. I want to do things with/for her and with/for her brother and myself. I want a few minutes here and there where I don't have a three year old crawling on me or demanding something from me.

 


  • Her battle to test her limits: She wants to throw things, climb on things, do somersaults, balance, and more. We do those things at the park on a daily basis, but she wants to do it at home too in a rented apartment full of things that are not our own and that are not meant for climbing or throwing.

 


  • My battle to stay away from the hospital: Kids hurt themselves. That's normal. Emma has legs full of bruises to prove it. But I'd really like to avoid any major hospital visits, especially ones that also involve the destruction of the place we're living in.


Some of the time she is just impatient. Some of the time she is asserting herself. Some of the time she is purposely making things difficult or purposely doing things she knows are destructive or hurtful and doing so with a smirk.

I've read a lot about gentle discipline. I have a general idea of the tools and techniques that I think are appropriate. When I'm confronted with discipline situations dispersed over the course of a day, generally listening, teaching, modeling, and giving choices works quite well. I believe in giving children the good sense to act appropriately in the real world, rather than handing down arbitrary punishments like spankings and time outs that attempt to force compliance but teach nothing. But when one situation piles on top of another constantly over the course of the day with little to no downtime from one to the next, I'm not as patient as I would like to be. My lack of patience and my bad discipline choices (citing consequences I wish I hadn't, offering rewards, yelling) make things worse, not better.

A lot of people say "you're the parent - you need to lay down the law."  To borrow from a really old tweet from my friend Arwyn from Raising My Boychick, being the parent doesn't mean that I need to forcibly put my child into a car seat when I decide it is time to go somewhere. Being the parent means that I do not move the vehicle until she is buckled into her car seat.  It is a fine line sometimes and a wide gap other times between being the responsible parent and being disrespectful towards her. I believe that I am responsible for her well-being and safety, but it doesn't mean that I have the right to trample on all of her personal desires and feelings. I believe that she needs to learn how to treat others with respect and consider their feelings, but I don't think that disrespecting her and dismissing her feelings is the way to do that.

I believe that these battles are a phase, based partly on her age (developmental stuff) and partly on our move to Berlin. It is a phase we will come through. We did with her brother, with whom I still have battles sometimes but who generally has some concept of logic and of other people's needs now. He is great with his sister and extremely patient with her, but I also notice the toll that her issues have on him some days. He gets less time with me than he deserves. He has to put up with being kicked and slapped by his sister and accept that he can't kick or slap her back. He has to be patient when we are trying to leave the house for a fun activity and she refuses to get ready.  He is great at trying to make her happy, trying to reason with her, trying to help and entertain her. But his patience is limited too.

I want to discover new levels of patience or magic that were previously uncovered. I want to find things to say that will help her to understand.  I want to enjoy every, or at least most, moments that we have together.

Is she four yet?

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Reader Comments (80)

I have worked with little kids all of my working life and I totally agree about the 'three' thing - Two year olds are nothing compared to threes. My daughter was her most challenging at three and her most obsessive (e.g.only wanted to wear skirts that were purple!) You know it will pass, but it is still hard. One of our writers did a newsletter feature this month for Mother's Day. I like it because she talks about mothering during the good, warm and fuzzy times but also during the crappy, challenging even difficult times. I think that how we mother in these hard times is a lot less memorable and you wouldn't find it on a Mother's Day card, but how we mother (or parent) during these times are most likely the most important.

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I absolutely agree - two was a breeze, and if three had come before my second child was born, I may have changed my mind about having another so soon. We had many battles and frustrations during Three, but I always sum it up by saying, at age three, her ears fell off. That was basically it. She simply stopped listening to anything I had to say. Four, however, was a joy, and five - which happens in two weeks - promises to be delightful. On the other hand, I still have a 2 1/2 year old. Gulp.

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkgirl

First of all - let me apologize for reading often and rarely commenting.

Secondly - you just described my daughter, Blythe, to a perfectly formed T. And she doesn't even turn three for another 2 weeks. Blythe has sensory processing disorder, so I have been wondering a lot whether some of the things she does are just typical age 3 things, or if they are just another part of her SPD. My older daughter didn't go through this stage - she was the perfect angel child (until she hit 6 - but that's another story). Just last night, as we were trying to eat dinner at the table as a family, she just could NOT let me eat. She was hungry, and we were having one of her favorites - but because I was enjoying my meal and talking with everyone about their day, she just HAD to get up in my face and try to prevent me from eating. ARG!

I'm so glad to know we're not the only ones experiencing this!

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea's Sweet Life

Great post. I have no experience with this yet (mother to a one year old), but I've heard this time and time again. It's nice to be reminded that no-one is perfect, and we all lose patience sometimes. I beat myself up WAY too much over things with parenting, and often forget that it's the overall picture of your parenting that makes the difference. Thanks! :)

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPurpleRhino

I totally agree. Three has been far more trying on us as parents then two. Both of my kids have great communication skills. This helped to mediate the tantrums of two. But I constantly feel that I lack the tools to deal with a three year old who tells me how I do bad listening when I don't do what he wants.

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjennifercanada

I love the pic of your daughter. She has the same expression as my three year-old! I totally agree with the characterization of how three year olds are. You sound like a wonderful, patient parent. You will get through it! Sounds like you did a great job with her older brother. I know there's a lot of controversy around time-out's, but in our house (we also have a 5 1/2 year-old and a 21 month-old), we use time-outs as a way to remove ourselves from frustrating situations, to take a breather, to get some space, and to think about better ways to accomplish things. (I take time-outs too -- I sit on the couch and read a book or close my eyes and take deep breaths, while the kids watch and see me de-stress -- I knew it was working when I saw my 3 year-old ask for a time-out to have "some space" from her younger brother). Learning tool, not punishment. I often hug and hold hands with the kids in time-out, but not to the extent that it encourages negative behavior in order to receive the hugging/hand holding. We of course do lots of hugging/hand holding at other times too. Anyway, I really enjoy your posts. Keep it up!

Mine were both lovely at two and three but the F-ing Fours (that seem to go on until they turn six) stretch my tolerance well beyond it's limit (my youngest is not quite five and the most head-strong thing I have ever, ever met)

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel

Three is terribly trying!!! I know I have done it five times already!!! But the sweet moments are so sweet... and those other moments are really quite character defining for all of us!!! This too shall pass!!!

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterse7en

I hear you about 3 year olds! I'd like to add something to your mix, the non-stop whining and fake crying about everything when they don't get their way! What I find works for my 3 year old is giving his choices, like you mentioned, or I often ask him if he thinks he made the right choice. Let's hope 4 is easier!

The odd years have been the hardest so far. Three was most difficult of all - five is turning out to be harder than four but as Z gets closer to six, it gets easier. One thing that really helped us was to redirect her attention. Also, the mention of a "race" will/would usually get Z moving pretty quickly - "can you put your seatbelt on faster than me?" Not sure if those will help but I know three was hard!

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer McNichols

Three has been tough for us too...for me it's about also balancing the needs of my 3 year old and my 8 month old (who's often getting knocked over or rolled onto). So we do some timeouts here when there's physical harm done and to give the girls their space. It's either that or mommy starts throwing tantrums!!!

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLizette

Three and five are the worst years so far in my experience. Things kind of slow down during four, then five hits and you'll want to lock yourself in a closet.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

I remember finding 3 really difficult. I was particularly terrified because I was a few months pregnant with my 2nd at the time and I worried about what the future held. Luckily, even 3 1/2 was much better for me. Hopefully it will be for you, too.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

My daughter just turned five and I think we are JUST now coming down from this phase a little bit. I can relate to every single thing in this post. And I am so glad to know that I'm not the only one.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan

OH my goodness this is so good to hear... I was feeling like I have failed as a parent because my newly-turned three year old has hardly snapped out of the terrible twos... it's been more like a hurricane that was gathering speed and has now hit the shore.

Thank god she still values stickers... I can't imagine what life would be like without sticker charts.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

You too, eh? I never understood people who talked about the "terrible twos". But three. Oh my. Glad I'm not the only one. Soooo glad I'm not the only one.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

Laurie:

We often do "time-ins" where we sit, calm down, and discuss. But we don't do "time-outs" where the child is forced to sit alone in a specific spot. This article describes the difference:

http://peaceful-parenting.suite101.com/article.cfm/timein_versus_timeout

It sounds like what you are describing in your home is closer to a time-in.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

My daughter just turned 4 and I'm still waiting for the defiance to get better. It's made a marked improvement over the early-3 months but she's still asserting that independence like there ain't no tomorrow. I try to be patient but admit I do yell more than is reasonable. I'm working on it. I just hope I get a year's break before my son, who is 19 months right now, starts the terrible threes!

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoble Savage

I do not, alas, have any magic answers for you. But what struck me reading through this was the antagonistic language you used, framing things in terms of "battles". And certainly it's no surprise that you feel that way, and I'm not going to say you "shouldn't" (you are always allowed to feel how you feel!), or say I never feel that way (oh, how I do).

I will, however, say that the more I can reframe things using non-fighting language, the better I feel about a situation and the more creativity I have, and the more potential solutions open up to me. "Battles" necessarily have winners and losers; needs, however, can all be mutually met (even if it is difficult sometimes to see how, or they are best met sequentially rather than simultaneously). Work can be shared. Joy (she's enjoying her independence, you enjoy alone time) is contagious. I wonder how your situation would change if you were able to conceptualize what's going on in some of those frameworks.

I'm not saying it's easy -- far from it, in my experience -- but the more I'm able to shift my thinking (without dishonoring my feelings in the moment), the more I am able to "discover new levels of patience or magic that were previously uncovered. ... find things to say that will help her to understand. ... enjoy every, or at least most, moments that we have together." I want that for you, too.

(As an aside, my favorite course from college was "Peace Journalism", which, among other things, pointed out just how pervasive metaphors of violence are in our language. Everything is a war, a battle, a fight; we deal low blows and stab people in the back; we have wars on terror and drugs and cancer; we fight for civil rights. Ever since then, I've been much more aware of my language, and whenever possible -- not just in parenting -- replace those metaphors with ones that are less two-sided, less antagonistic: we work, we labor, we strive. It's been enlightening realizing that I don't have to experience everything in terms of violence, even metaphorical violence.)

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArwyn

I know that the language I used was antagonistic. But it was honest. That was how I felt at the end of a very long day and I felt like if I softened it to use the language I know that I "should" use, that it would be dishonest.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] much a three year old in a new environment in an unfamiliar situation. Annie writes about it in Age three: defiance with a smirk, in which she talks about the “several battles taking place on this battlefield”, [...]

Three with my daughter was fine, as was two. I credited my wonderful parenting.

Then she hit the "f-ing fours". Oh my. I guess they all hit that stage at some point... the "battles" are a little different than they would have been if she was younger, but they're there... and I'm not nearly as convinced about my parenting abilities as I was this time last year... :)

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

Three was a terrible terrible time for us. But, all at the same time, my little guy got a baby brother, moved to Argentina, left his grandmother behind in Canada, went from mainly English to mainly Spanish, from a big city to a tiny town, and went through lots of other important and related changes, like a new climate, a new bedroom, etc. etc.

I'll never know how much of the complete terrible-ness of him being three was just him being three, and how much was because of all the change, but I think it is a particularly difficult age for (some) kids to go through so much upheaval in their lives. I never imagined in a million years that it would be so difficult for him, or that his hard time would take such a toll on all of us in the way that it did. We had three or four very long months of a quite miserable adjustment period, and then things started to get better.

Since your move is temporary, it may not be as difficult for her, since you can still talk about home and when you go back - her world hasn't changed irreversibly. But still, it must be hard. I have no brilliant advice, other than to trust that you'll all be fine, and that it's allowed to be hard for all of you.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermacondo mama

My daughter pressed the on/off button on my laptop just as I was about to click "submit." How appropriate! She is 31 months. Here I was thinking things would only get better from here on out! Two feels very manageable for us. Thanks for the heads up! We love Love and Logic: Magic for Early Childhood. This book keeps secure attachment in mind. The idea is that you offer empathy and let the consequences do the teaching. You are not a permissive parent, but you are not screaming or constantly barking orders either. You lovingly teach your child to be respectful, responsible, etc.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohanna S

I'm so glad that you were able to just get it all out the way you did, I find that getting those words out (however unpleasant they may sound to others) can be healing. For me, I get it out this way and then can move on!

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLizette

Just have to say, sometimes a walk through your blog-thoughts "restoreth my soul." I feel a lot better about my little hellion's schadenfreude-ish defiance now...thanks for the grown-up empathizing! :)

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJTB

Oh, and as an afterthought: I think my almost 4-year-old has turned a corner in the last couple of weeks--she's started doing these voluntary helpful things on her own initiative...seeing an issue or potential problem and announcing that she will do thus-and-so so that I can then do thus-and-so. Like, the other morning I had to get up earlier than usual to teach a class in Princeton (an hour commute), and I was as usual sandwiched in the middle of our bed btw daughter and spouse...so Clare wakes up, announces, "I'll get out of bed so you can get out of bed to go take your shower," hops down, and beams at me with the joy of having done me a gratuitous favor. That's new. And I likey!

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJTB

I think I agree with Arwyn. If you were to replace "battle" with "desire" or "need", wouldn't it be more accurate? Certainly you feel it as a battle, and that is because you actually are fighting with each other, but at the same time all of these desires are legitimate, yours and hers, they are not even quixotic or undesirable, although they may be unrealizable or unrealistic. I think if you are fighting with her just because you cannot realize all her desires, you may in fact be fighting, however subconsciously, with the voice within you that tells you that anything less than total responsiveness makes you a bad parent. In short, since you have all the power anyway, I see no need for you to fight.

Her need is much more existential. I also think that these are often proxy battles. Your daughter feels powerless faced with the big changes you have brought about in her life, such as the move to Berlin. She is trying to reclaim control. This is how it feels to her.

Regarding "time-out" vs "time-in", I do not entirely agree with what you say to Laurie. It is not only a question of sitting down together and calming down, but also of separating and letting off steam. The only problem is the perception/use of "time-out" as a punishment. We often give our children time-out but it is because we respect their need to discharge emotions. It is fine to shout and scream and hit pillows if that is what you need to do, just not to hurt other people (or yourself). I also do that (and it does not scare or surprise my children at all, they seem completely ok with it). Calming down is a byproduct. I feel that sitting down together, even if well intentioned, can also be patronizing, invasive and disrespectful of emotionality. It is not, by its nature, a neutral activity - you have chosen it and determine its duration. You are therefore exerting power. Of course allowing them to shout and scream and not taking any notice can also be patronizing, irresponsive and manipulative. There is a fine line to draw and one that shifts over time as the child's understanding of its social context grows, but we should not communicate to the child that its natural emotionality is something to be ashamed of and repress. The choice between time-in and time-out should be in function of the child's needs, not the adult's - time-in if it needs reassuring and love, time-out if it needs to let off steam. Not time-out as a punishment withdrawing love, nor time-in as a punishment withdrawing respect of autonomy.

No easy answers either, just yet more patience, love, and understanding...

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSean

I think that getting enough breaks to mentally re-fuel (but not so many that you feel that you're missing out on the really fun, wonderful times) is really key. You have the knowledge and skills to handle her issues. You just need the energy/patience to be able to put that wisdom into action. xo

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Douglas

Ugh! 3
but then again - total joy at 3
Three years old seemed to mark the real start of my Wee Guy exercising his personality muscles and developing his own likes, dislikes, opinions etc. Life certainly became more 'exciting' from then on and I think, in all honesty, that's when I started growing both as a mother and as a person. It has been a rocky ride, taking in health issues, personal goals and contentment angst, school and so on. He's just turned seven years old and I would say that in the last year we've become strong as a mother/son unit.
On time outs - physical separation is key for some personalities. I need it because I boil up so much inside that I forget my words. He needs it because he gets overwhelmed with the situation. We both need the time/space to reboot like computers (geez we're so alike). Time outs are also a good way I think of intimating the consequences of actions. If he's unpleasant to be with then he is deprived of company, if he behaves antisocially he is deprived of company, if he is dawdling along in getting ready to go out to one of his activities we either miss it or "leave the house" (NB: we have an attached garage, i have spent many a time out on the front doorstep waiting for him .... as long as he is in safe surroundings I'm not too worried about showing him these consequences. And for the record he shows no separation anxieties etc etc etc. when he is left at school, daycares and so on.
It sounds harsh but the ultimate penalty for his antisocial actions/bad behaviours could be death - I base all my 'battles' around behaviours I need to ensure his safety where complying with my instructions/directions is vital. I need him to know that what I am saying to him is in his/the family's best interest and not a whim of my own.

PS: I've also traveled a fair bit solo with the Wee Guy - he's a great travel buddy but yes, it can be nerve-wracking and exhausting dealing with child wrangling issues away from home turf. Wherever we stay I do try a minimal effective childproofing and also take frequent advantage of any pauses I can gab for myself while realising that my parenting will be even more 24/7 than usual. It still always comes as a huge shock to the system but with new surroundings to explore the pay offs are usually vast.
Have fun in Berlin!

Similar here. Two and three had their moments (hey, what age doesn't?), but were mostly good, for my oldest. Four however, he seemed so angry all the time, not like the boy I used to know. It was a long phase, and I often doubted myself. He's 5.5. now and I'm enjoying this age soooo much more! :)

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I can so relate to the lack of patience lately, I'm not being the mother I want to be. :( And I also feel sad that my 5.5 year old often gets the short end of the stick when I can't do something with him because of the way his 2.5 year old brother is being at that moment. He's usually pretty good about waiting, or giving his brother a toy or first choice of story or something because he's having a fit over it, but I don't think that's always fair.

Oh, and I really strongly dislike the asking for a certain food and then not eating it thing.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Sean:

As I mentioned to Arwyn, those words were a description of how I was feeling yesterday evening after a long day. They are not a description of how I generally see the relationship between myself and my child or how I see her needs or my needs. What I did mean to mention in the post, but forgot to, is that I didn't see our battles as being battles against each other necessarily. I saw her battling for certain things and me battling for certain things and in doing so, we ended up running up against each other and getting in each other's way. For example, her battle for independence isn't a battle AGAINST me, but certain things she does in order to assert her independence when combined with certain things I'm doing to meet my needs or her brother's needs, does create a clash. So the word "battle" wasn't used so much to portray a fight between us, but more our individual battles to meet certain of our own needs.

With regards to time-ins and time-outs, when my children are at a point where they need to calm down, I will sometimes ask them: "do you need to sit with Mommy for a minute to help you calm down" or "do you need some time alone to calm down". These are not given as punishments, but more as options. They are also welcome to suggest other options, as long as the option isn't to continue to be destructive. The only time that I will force a time-in or time-out is if they are fully uncooperative in a dangerous situation.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Marion Badenoch Rose shared this article of hers over on my facebook page. I thought it was great and wanted to share it here too:

Three Ways for Babies, Children and Adults to Return to Presence
http://www.parentingwithpresence.net/index.php?pageid=3132

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

No advice, really, as I doubt I could offer any that you don't already know. But, your points about trying to teach her empathy and how she's selfish at this age, reminded me of a study I read about recently that, basically, showed that up to about 3 years of age, children are literally incapable of viewing a situation from any perspective other than their own, and assume everyone else sees things just as they do. Somewhere between 3 and 4, there's a developmental switch, and they start to recognize that others may see things differently from how they do. I thought that was very interesting, and might be helpful maybe to keep in mind as you deal with this current stage.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

With my 3.5 year old I am so here - he tries to be independent but at times is still just so little and when he 'acts like a baby' it's because in many ways, he's just emotional immature - because he's 3!

Some days he pushes the limits because I am preoccupied with his sister, other days it's for attention, other days it's for control of the situation.

I have to remember it will pass, and honestly? most days are really great days with moments of difficulty.

When I relax in those situations, they pass much quicker and most importantly, I really enjoy the times when emotions aren't running wild, tantrums are in check and we are just hanging together. He's a pretty cool little dude who karaokes to rock n roll and throws a mean pitch.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

3 was the challenging time with my older two also. So much more difficult than 2! It seems to run that way in my entire family, as my sisters feel the same about their kids.

Now my 15 month old may present unique problems. She tries so hard to keep up with the other two. It's amazing to watch, but hard also as she tries things she's much too young for.

Where it gets tricky for me is that I have older children who also have needs that may necessitate a child *having* to get in a car seat against his or her will. I can't say I've ever forcibly put a child in a car seat...though I've certainly struggled with little ones who wouldn't sit still long enough for me to buckle them in, it wasn't so much that they were struggling or fighting against me but just goofing off. A bit of a difference.

But let's look at this hypothetical situation: my imaginary 9-year-old has to get to his imaginary soccer practice by 10 AM. My imaginary 3 year old refuses to sit in his car seat. Whose needs win? In my hypothetical scenario, the needs of the nine-year-old to get to where he has to go win out over the three-year-old's desire not to get buckled up. I have five children of varying ages and it's simply not fair if the needs and desires of the youngest always win out simply because they are not yet able to behave with reason or self-control.

I'm not saying I trample on their feelings or disrespect or blow off their needs and desires. Just that part of being in a family is learning to take one for the team. And I do believe kids as young as three or younger can learn that...but they may need to be pointed, firmly sometimes, in that direction.

Three is HARD. You definitely have my sympathy!

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Francis

Meagan:

I agree that it is tough. I think that is why this is so difficult for me right now. When Julian was 3, Emma was an infant and her needs were pretty easy to meet (easy baby, always in sling, nursed on the go). Now Emma is 3 and Julian is 5. Sometimes Julian does have to be somewhere or has more pressing bodily needs (e.g. "I have to poo") that necessitate us leaving where we are right now even if Emma doesn't want to. In those cases, I have had to take her against her will sometimes, but I don't like it. I do a combination of apologizing that we cannot meet her needs too, while also explaining the necessity of meeting Julian's needs in that instance.

Wherever possible we set ourselves up for success, by giving plenty of warning. But that doesn't always work and also isn't always possible.

May 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have to agree. Knock wood my boys are usually pretty good about the whole carseat thing, but there have been rare occasions where they've balked, and waiting them out has not been an option (they are pretty stubborn, I'd be waiting forever). I have in fact "had" to put them in their seats a couple times against their will. Again, fortunately they are pretty cooperative 99% of the time, they know we don't go anywhere if they aren't in their seats, it's just part of the routine -- and once we pulled out of the drive without buckling our older son, and he very quickly told us to stop the car, his straps weren't done up! :)

May 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Oh man. My daughter is 22 mos and exhibits all the characteristics you mentioned in your post. She seems to be hitting these milestones early (ie. started throwing toddler-esque tantrums at 9 mos). She literally is acting like your three-year-old but with the communication abilities of a 2 year old. It's. So. Hard. I have a 2-month-old as well and some days are downright awful :(

May 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

You've been reading my mind! My 3 year old has me at wit's end so often lately. I need more patience and probably need to try some new approaches to situations. Thanks for the great post and great discussion all.

May 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterB

my first child and i had a horrible time with the 3s. it also didnt help he hit those right when his younger brother was still in-arms and needed a lot of attention from me. we also moved and lost a lot of the support team we had handy. knowing what i know now, ive been prepared for the last 6 months (little turned three back in march). so far, so good. i also warned big brother that his little brother is just going to be annoying and a pain in the butt for the next 10 months. we all just have to deal with it.

May 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjillian

My son is three months from turning three and he's been pulling this stuff for quite awhile. He's not as agile as he will be in a few months, so the physical danger is minimized a bit. But oh MY. The defiance. The challenging. The orneriness and occasional outright belligerence! AGH!

So many people say two is when kids learn to say "no". My son started shaking his head "no" right before he turned ONE.

I can only hope that we're getting most of this out of the way so that three can be | |<--this much easier than two has been. I'm due with baby #2 now, so that's surely going to put us all through the ringer of adjustment.

you have my sympathies!

May 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

I really like what you say about discipline and respect -- and the fine lines around that. I'm dealing with the same things with my 4.5 year old.......! Who was a little easier at 3. ;) My 2.5yo, on the other hand, has his ups and downs -- VERY sweet and affectionate and cooperative for a few days, and then a few days of the THE OPPOSITE. Total cycles. Between the two of them, I'm exhausted from shifting my parenting style constantly to suit each one in whatever phase they're in on any given day....!

May 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHaley-O (Cheaty)

[...] If you think your kid is defiant at age two, just wait til she turns three, says PhD in Parenting. [...]

Hi! We loved your post over at KiwiLog and decided to feature it as part of our weekly mom blog round-up. Thanks!

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKiwiLog

I remember some months ago, friends on twitter were saying, "Three year olds are A$$holes!"
Defiance with a smirk, indeed.
Best wishes with the getting-through.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAl_Pal

My Grace has been three for eleven days, and I can identify with everything you wrote. Three sucks, badly. Meanness, defiance, frustration, independence run amok, and, at the same time, neediness so severe that she can't be more than an arm's length away.
And then there's the pregnancy nausea, discomfort, and general grumpiness making me so much less patient than I was six months ago.
It's a baaaaad combination. I'm going to link to this for Things to Write Home About next week. I wish I'd known to expect this madness. It might have been easier to take.
Or not.

June 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTara @ Feels Like Home

[...] at PhD in Parenting wrote about the three-year-old defiance that we are mired in right [...]

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