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Will I survive a ‘threenager’?

Over the last few weeks, we've been struggling with some classic unwanted behaviour from my 3-year-old daughter: tantrums that appear out of nowhere that leads to pushing, hitting, and even spitting.

As I've been madly searching for coping mechanisms, fellow parents and online sources have introduced me to the term 'threenager'. It denotes the awkward in-between stage that children go through when they reach their third birthday. They're not a baby or even a toddler anymore, yet still lack some of the key cognitive and motor skills to help them feel and act like a 'big kid'. 

This painful transition time is often accompanied by a lot of sass and attitude from the offending threenager. My experience with my daughter looks like this: she swings from playing normally to a level 10 melt down, without warning or provocation, in unpredictable moments. So, as her parents, we cannot seem to anticipate or apply reason to the madness! This has been happening on repeat over two weeks, as documented below. 

Week 1:

The first week, we endured because she had a virus that had caused her upper body to break out into a rash. We thought maybe her behaviour was linked to her physical discomfort. This will pass.

Week 2:

As we started into week two of this continuous behaviour, some despair began to set in. I found myself  frequently reaching deep to find any remaining ounce of compassion and patience. By the end of week two, there wasn’t much left. As we rounded into the weekend, my family witnessed crying and screaming - from me this time. Will this pass?? 

Support Network To The Rescue

Thank goodness for the support network, because they saw and heard my frustration loud and clear and reached out with help. My mom and sister took my daughter for a sleepover to give me and my husband a break. It was deeply needed and we were so grateful to be able to rely on our family for support.

Parenting is so hard because there are times where I struggle to show up as the parent I want to be. I am naturally a solutions-oriented person, but in many of these situations, there’s not much of a solution. In calmer times, we have tried a variety of methods including:

  1. A reward jar
  2. Bite-sized explanations on consequences
  3. Count to 10 and start again if you lose your cool!

This Too Shall Pass

But in this current hurricane, few devices or coping mechanisms are sticking. The best I can do most days is to remember that this will pass. This stage may ultimately be linked to a growth spurt - both physical and cognitive growth. This can create a lot of change that’s difficult for a toddler to process. It’s part of their early development, and unpredictable to a certain degree.

As author Joan Ryan said: “parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. And if you’re lucky, they might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.”

What About You?

Can you relate to any of this? Do you have a threenager at home? What did you find helpful in a situation like this? Let us know in the comment box below. We’d love to hear from you!

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