Terrible Three's

So, the baby's born, what comes next? Discuss your postpartum and parenting concerns here.
kelly w
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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby kelly w » Sat Dec 20, 2008 03:05 pm


I don't have too much to add - just to give you hope - she really WILL turn back in to a sweet little girl again and you WILL enjoy her again one day. :) Three has always been worse than 2 at our house too - and then, fortunately, they regain their sanity around 4-5 years of age [and then I do too :) ].

Also, you know, don't "over think it". Set boundaries. Enforce them. Don't get too caught up in the emotion of it - that just feeds the fire.

With my first born I was a *mess* when she was 3 - I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong and I read everything, asked advice, and *agonized* over how to "fix" her. You know what? It turns out that the only thing wrong with her was that she was... THREE! And *I* wasn't doing anything wrong. LOL! Now at 10 she is an amazing girl that I am extremely proud of and I enjoy her so much.

Now I'm much more laid back when my younger ones hit 3 - I set the boundaries, I enforce the rules, they learn that trying to break mommy is like trying to break the rock of gibraltar, and they give up pretty quick. They throw their little 3yo tantrums, some days I want to strangle them [but I never do... LOL!]. And then one day they grow out of it and are civilized little people once more and the world is a better place.

So, my best advice is to just hang on with your teeth, ride it out, and know that it WILL get so much better. ;) {{{HUGS}}}


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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby melib » Sat Dec 20, 2008 11:39 am

The brutal truth from my house - 3.5 to 4.5 has been much, much more challenging than 2 (overrated, IMHO). The one thing that has worked (not always) is setting a schedule. Nikolai is always testing us - which has involved hitting, screaming, spitting, hanging from branches 7 ft. off the ground, you name it. I've noticed flare-ups when we get out of our family routine. Nik flourishes when he knows what to expect (bed time at 7:30, stories until 8, for example), and there is much less room for argument.
So, here's what I recommend:
Make a routine for all things kid-related, and stick to it as much as possible. Also, let Avery know ahead of time if something different is going to happen. In general, let her know ahead of time what is expected and when. She may not understand all of it, but she'll get most of the idea.
Take some time with your husband, after she's asleep, to poke a little fun at the situation. Try to find one thing that was funny about what happened (sometimes we just find it funny to repeat the ridiculous things Nik says to us, like "you're going to jail", "you're in arrest"). It helps a lot to relieve the stress and talk through it in a non-confrontational kind of way.
This is a really tough age and it makes the household pretty stressful at times. Hang in there. You'll all learn how to work with each other.

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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby bellemama » Thu Dec 18, 2008 06:09 pm

Oh Kara! I totally empathize. Three was really tough for us. It was like living with someone with severe PMS...for a year. THe mood swings! The tears! And then of course, periods of sunshine and lollipops just to lull you into a false sense of security...then bam!

Just a few things that got us through (besides crying on each other's shoulder and wine. Lots of wine...):

Consistency. Choose your battles and fight them the same way, every time. This will keep up until she figures out that you will be consistent, no matter what. For your own sake, just pick a few battles. This is the hardest thing, ever, I think (like a wise ped once told me, the hardest but best thing you'll ever have to do as a parent is be stronger than your child).

Rewards. I don't mean bribes, but we used a sticker chart with Jake and gave him input into what the five things were each week he was being tracked on. He also got to pick his rewards, depending on how many stickers he earned (we had veto power, of course). This doesn't work for all kids, but Jake loved having control and seeing immediate gratification each day for his behavior. Another trick is to notice and talk about her good behavior...but to each other. For whatever reason, Jake loved "overhearing" my DH and I tell each other something good he did and it seemed to inspire more good behavior.

Talk. Find quiet times to talk about behaviors and feelings. Find a tool that can help you defuse the tantrums, which can very quickly get to the point that they are frightening for these sensitive, willful kids. For Jake, we "blew out the yuckies" together, which helped change his focus and calm him down (although getting to the point where that was possible was sometimes a long wait). We had a code word to remind him to stop and think.

Beg, borrow or steal patience. If you're the sensitive type too, her stress probably triggers your stress, which then becomes a negative feedback loop. I really had to work to take a breath, stop and think myself. The calmer I stayed, the calmer Jake could stay. If I lost it, he was guaranteed to lose it, too.

Take a break. Either with her -- doing something fun you both love -- or more importantly, by yourself. We found Jake rarely misbehaved in public, so if it was bad, off to the mall or bookstore we went. And sometimes, I just needed to get out of the hosue and recharge.

And remember, this will get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not a train; it's a sunny, happy four year old.

I liked "Raising Your Spirited Child" which had some good tips and thoughts, although as always, I just cherry picked what worked for us.

http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Your-Spir ... 0060923288

Good luck, it can be a difficult time, I know!

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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby surefoott » Thu Dec 18, 2008 03:35 pm

Wow, I'm remembering this because my oldest daughter who is now 33, was VERY strong willed at 3, then much better at 4, then back again at 5. My mom told me way back then that the 'odds' were harder than the 'evens'. In any case, we did alot of "timeouts" and each time back in was harder. For instance, she could take a book for her first one, but not for the second. (FYI - just be sure they don't have a crayon in their hand when you send them to time out; ours was sitting on the bottom step which was around the corner and I ended up with black crayon all over the wall one time!) We had games to help with cleanup time, or bedtime and that helped. Especially if I let her figure out the games sometimes. I was raising her alone so it was hard, but we got through and I always would tell her how much I loved her, but that I didn't like how she acted, what she did/said or whatever the issue was. She would be crying and I'd be hauling her off to timeout telling her that Mommy loves her! I sympathize; it will seem to get easier just all at once, just like it started.

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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby melly » Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:31 pm

I'm having the same issues with my son. Cameron just turned three in October. I'm just worn out right now after our day today. He's always been so sweet, but now he has to do everything by himself or he throws a fit if I want to help. We put a baby gate up in his doorway at the suggestion of our pedi to keep him from wandering the house at night and possibly letting himself outdoors b/c he can open doors. We also reversed the doorknob so the lock is outside his room. I usually put him in time out in his room with the gate in the doorway unless he kicks it or knocks it down and then the door gets shut. I try not to shut the door when he's in timeout b/c he gets very upset and starts throwing his toys and screaming bloody murder. I had to use his room for timeout b/c he wouldn't sit still in one spot either. At least I feel like he's safe in there. And he's not getting any attention. Sometimes I find him "reading" his books and much calmer after having some time alone.

At night when he's going to sleep we talk about his day and usually he'll remember throwing a fit and say "I was crying Mommy. I was upset." And we'll discuss what happened. I've noticed he isn't so moody when he is rested, but I can't get him to nap anymore either. Sometimes he'll just fall asleep in the middle of the day and sleep for 3 hrs straight, but I can't get him to take a nap now without a huge fight.

Also, we are having a hard time with the potty training still. I backed off b/c he seemed to get upset and I didn't want him to have issues. But now he fights me when I try to change his diaper and if I don't realize he needs changing, he gets a rash. He kicks and squirms the entire time I'm changing him. No wonder I'm exhausted!

So I don't know if I helped you any, but at least you have company!

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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby dohertyab » Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:12 am

I have to say 3 was much harder than 2 for us. They can do much more, but not as much as they think they can. We did the no warning too and just put them in a room or left them where they were until they stopped screeching. Vividly remember bringing dinner out to hubby as Tara had a meltdown on the corner of the street. She begged us to bring a trike to the court to ride and we said she had to bring it home. Nope, she wouldn't bring it home so we left both of them at the corner and took the others home. We had dinner, hubby kept an eye on her to make sure she was ok while hiding behind our van so she couldn't see him. It was 45 min before she calmed down and brought the trike and herself home. We didn't make a big deal over it, fed her dinner and off to bed.

If you can switch off with hubby and make sure you're consistent then you get breaks and double team her. We also tried (with mixed success) to limit the use of NO. So instead we'd say hands off (something for her to do) and not no touching. The being goofy also worked. My new threat is I will sing, dance or kiss them until they behave. In public (as I can't sing or dance) they are shocked at my behaviour, but since I'd rather look silly then have them meltdown. Saying, but I love you soooo much I just can't stop kissing you even if you're cranky is also a mixed success tactic.

Remember, just when you figure this stage out, they're ready for a new stage (so much fun, we do love them though).

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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby sckitzo » Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:02 am

Were to start,

First off this is a very important age, she is growing up and retesting the boundries. The bounderies were set for the most part during the age of two, now she will test you to see if the bounderies are the same, and if the cause and effect will be the same.

This is also the time you must stand your ground, It might sound mean, but you are the parents and you still need to have control, she needs to be put in her place. She is "a child" with alot to learn yet. If you start wavering in your bounderies now, and let this or that slide now, this will likely show up again and again, as she gets older, this is a preveiw of her in another decades, with the terrible teens hit.

First the time out issue. I think that time outs are a wonderful tool but they must be used right. I would pick one designated spot for a time out, one with little to no distractions. I would caution you in using her room as a punishment or giving her timeout at the dinnertable. If you send her to her room for punishment then you send her to her room to sleep, she might associate sleep as a punishment also. The same for the dinner table if she is punished at the dinner table then she may assoicate eating with punishment.

I use a timer that she can hold, and she has a designated stool as her time out. You also need to show her that she needs to stay in time out, It might turn into an all day battle but if she gets out of time out, put her right back, and extend the time of the time out. this will evenually teach cause and effect. If you have to phyiscally keep putting her in time out do it, if you have to stay with in sight, to keep her there doit, but do not give her attention in time out, just enough to keep her put. you may have a few really ugly long drag out test of the wills, but once she realizes you are not giving in then she should stay on her own again, and this process should get much shorter and run smoother.

Afterwards I always explain what she did wrong, and how that made mommy feel. Then I try to lighten the mood and do something fun and try to give her my attention in a positive way. I try not to reward with treats or toys but rather with time, and attention. I do not give any attention to tantrums, I simply walk away, and if she follows, I will just say that If she wants something she will need to ask nicely, and ignore her more, I know much eaiser said then done.

One way I found that really helped give her confidence, and helps her indidiviuallity is to let her do things on her own, with in reason, Like for bedtime mine loves doing everything on her own, but she also takes something that takes 10 min and drags it out for an hour. So I tell her the things she needs to do to get ready for bed, and set a timer, for say 15 min, her goal is to get everything done, if she doesnt, in that time then mommy helps her finish in mommy time (usually much faster). This gives her freedom, and pride, but limits getting ready for bed to like 20 min, for my sake. If she does most or all of what she was asked she gets another "Short" bedtime story for being a "good girl"

Certin things are an immediate time out hitting, biting etc. There is no warning to negotiations, and a stern talking to later and a apology to the hurt party, But this is never done in anger. and I do physically make her stay in time out, but you must keep your cool, this is not about emotions, it is cause and effect.

Another thing, "sorry for writing a book" is don't worry about the child being hurt phyically, Make sure the child is in a safe environment, and stay phycially close enough to ensure her saftey. But If she won't eat she will not starve herself. If she cry's so hard she vomits, she will learn she does not like that and will stop before she gets to that point,"as long as they are not getting attention for these behavours"

Definatly look for triggers, or anything with her environment or schedule that might be causeing her to act out and try to correct these or talk to her about them. Even if she can't say everything she wants she can still understand most of what you say, and encourage her to use words to espress her feelings, and validate them, let her know that you understand her feelings, but somtimes things are still no, no matter what.

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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby onesock » Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:45 am

Maybe try and put yourself in time out! Tell her that Mommy cannot have or tolerate yelling/throwing/hitting and shut yourself in your room. I did this with my boys and they usually ended up at my door begging me to come out and apologizing. If she doesn't have an audience and you remove yourself, maybe she will stop. I thought I had it made when we breezed through the twos, but the threes were bad for us too. Im suprised my boys don't think I am nuts (well they probably do) but I would break out in random dancing or singing or doing the yoga HUMMMMMM just so they would stop...they were so confused why I was acting like such a doofus they would stop. Good luck...this too shall pass.

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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby quincyf » Mon Dec 15, 2008 09:59 am

I did not enjoy 3 very much. And even though 4 year olds can be creepy at times, I just find it easier to deal with.

The only thing I can say is that certain behavior for Katherine resulted in instant removal and zero interaction until complete spool down. In other words, we established behaviors (absorbing everyone's attention with screaming, hitting or kicking of any kind, non compliance with Mommy or Daddy's directions) that there was no ramp up for. Do it, go directly to room. No discussion, no reasoning, no second chance. 3 year olds are unreasonable, but they do have the basics by now.

The only other thing you might consider trying is if you can pinpoint a certain area where your dealings with her always seem to dissolve into drama, you might try the repetitive positive reinforcement. A toy or some reward is promised for 7 straight days of compliance. You can make a little chart and put a sticker on it every day the child does the right thing.

We were having knock down drag outs over getting dressed at bedtime. She would run away, wouldn't help get herself dressed, etc. We explained what we wanted, and at the end of every bedtime dressing session, we told her if she did a good job or not. At the end she got something (I can't remember but she wanted it badly). Not only did it work, but we noticed a marked improvement in her behavior at all "getting dressed" evolutions, even though we only targeted bedtime. Who knows, maybe it will work. You have to be willing to withhold the stickers when she fails though...otherwise it might make things worse...

GL...my Mom always says parenting is not for the faint of heart...boy is she right...

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Re : Terrible Three's

Postby kara » Mon Dec 15, 2008 09:51 am

Alice, glad your niece has made it to 10! HAHA! Today I'm a bit more refreshed and with some new ideas for making it through the day. Wish me luck.

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