Young parents will often remind me of a parenting phenomenon that I experienced firsthand. Perhaps you did also. My friend is living through her first “terrible threes”. She has a three year old trying her patience. As with so many others (most it seems), it’s not the “terrible twos” that is a problem…it’s the “terrible threes”.
It goes something like this: One day your precious angel; the one everyone thinks is so cute, who was hardly ever a problem before, suddenly becomes a holy terror at times. You have never dealt with such temper tantrums, back-talking sassiness, and outbursts of anger. You may have entered the terrible threes.
Children cycle through many phases and it shouldn’t be too surprising if they go through a rebellious stage early in life. The terrible threes, or twos, as the case may be, most likely is the time when the child most openly expresses his or her independence. The more independent the child, the more difficult this time can be.
He or she is exploring a new world, testing boundaries, discovering their own personality, and filtering through reactions of others. As with other phases the child will experience, this one is difficult for the child as well as the parent, but in this phase the child is the least mature and their reaction is likewise.
Here is my advice for surviving the terrible threes:
Suffer through it! Most likely, it will not last long,, perhaps not even a whole year, and there is hope on the other side.
Be consistent - This is not the time to give in to the child’s outbursts. This is the time to consistently follow through with prescribed discipline.
Keep loving - As much as your child tries your patience, continue to always exhibit love to your child, even during discipline.
Experiment – Use different discipline methods until you find one that works for this stage of the child’s life.
Remember you are the adult – Sometimes when the child is showing his or her worse side it is tempting to show yours. Keep your cool. Be mature. Handle these days firmly, but calmly. Remember you are modeling behavior for your child.
Teach your child – This phase can be a great opportunity to teach your child how to respond to disappointment and frustration.
Don’t be afraid to share your situation with others. Often parents are embarrassed because of their children’s behavior during this stage of life so they hide the struggle; not realizing that so many other parents experience the same with their children. The biggest surprise at this stage of your child’s life may be when you discover you are not unique in this struggle.
By the way, these work in most other phases of a child’s life also.
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What’s your story? If you are a parent, did you experience more of the terrible twos or the terrible threes?