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3 is the New 2

2008 072 Crop My youngest son has always been an extremist. He would go from the happiest baby you've ever seen, to making sure the entire neighborhood knew when he was upset about something in a matter of minutes.

So needless to say I was nervous when he turned 2. I have an older daughter and she didn’t struggle with the terrible 2’s, but I thought my son would fall headfirst into this stage. Surprisingly however, the 2’s brought us more of the same. In fact, by the time his third birthday approached, I thought we were in the clear. We were that one lucky family who escaped the terrible 2’s!

Then, just after his third birthday the screeching, the head-banging, the foot-stomping, and the all-out temper tantrums took over. It seems we had run full-on into the terrible 3’s instead.

While at 3 my son can talk and tell us what he wants or needs, whining, crying, and screaming are his favorite forms of communication. He has spent more time in the corner (timeout) then his sister ever did. It’s exhausting for him and the entire family.

After discussing this with my friends and family, they all say they can relate. It seems the terrible 3’s may be far more popular than the terrible 2’s.

I’ve read that 3-year-olds are experiencing so much transition in their lives that it can cause regression at home. While we may have seen a slight case of the terrible 2’s, the 3’s are worse because of the upheaval our son is experiencing.

In many cases, children start preschool at 3, sometimes they transition to big beds, they are also usually potty training or at the tail end of it, and they are just beginning to realize they have emotions which can be overwhelming in itself. These are all huge steps in their little lives.

While taking this step back to look closely at all my son is going through, I’m beginning to understand him better. If I was expected to change four or more major aspects of my life, I could see why wearing the same shirt three days in a row would be comforting and I’d put up a fight to do so too.

I did read that another reason 3 may be the new 2 is because parents are now taught to distract instead of discipline. While this may work for a 2-year-old, it does have its consequences with a 3-year-old. The older child is less likely to be easily distracted. He wants what he wants and wiggling a stuffed dog with bells on its collar isn’t going to make him stop in his tracks like it used to.

Parenting by distraction leads children to hear “no” far less often at a younger age, but when they get older they may not know how to react to all of the “no’s” which causes the terrible 2’s to morph into the terrible 3’s. It’s an interesting theory and I can understand its foundation. In thinking back I can’t see that I’ve tried to distract my son from doing things at all lately. That was definitely a technique I used when he was younger. He seems far too old for that, instead I try to reason with him these days – which then brings on the temper tantrums.

Even though we are struggling with the terrible 3’s, I can see how much he has grown. Along with the temper tantrums has also come the amazing progress he’s made with his vocabulary. He was a late talker and now it’s hard for him to stay quiet. He’s very creative and determined. He also really loves to giggle, be silly, and he finds joy in making others laugh.

We work hard every day at dispelling the temper tantrums and while I feel in the midst of it, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Not long after my daughter turned 4 she seemed to gain a new understanding of the world. She became very patient and calm, which I’m so thankful for at this time.

I’ve got my sites set on 4 for my son, it’s not far off and I know we can make it. While I am wishing the temper tantrums away, I’m hoping I will remember the high points: the smiles, the giggles, the knock-knock jokes, the big hugs, and his telling me every day throughout it all, “Mommy. You’re the best Mommy ever.”

Original Ohio Moms Blog post.
When not consulting parenting experts about what she's doing wrong, Tésa also blogs at 2 Wired 2 Tired and Westside Cleveland Mom. She tweets @2Wired2Tired as well.