According to Urban Dictionary, a threenager is a “three year old child spouting attitude like a teenager”. If you’ve got one, you’ll get how accurate this definition is. Little Miss will be four in January. She’s growing into a lovely, intelligent, happy and well mannered little girl but she’s got a wicked temper on her. She’s definitely a threenager. In some ways, her behaviour now can be more difficult to manage than it was in her terrible twos.
I’ve written before about how I struggled with her temper tantrums. At that stage though, I knew that they were prompted by frustration and her inability to be able to communicate what she wanted. The tantrums were longer and more intense, but looking back with rose tinted glasses, they felt like they were easier to cope with. I took lots of deep breaths and rode the storm, keeping her close until she’d calmed down. Then we’d cuddle and move on.
Now the tantrums don’t last anywhere near as long and it can be easier to distract her. However, because she knows and understands more, she’s able to vocalise things better. Not always in the right way though. Her facial expressions and body language are hilarious because she’s so dramatic. You really would think the world was about to end if Topsy and Tim isn’t on at exactly the time she wants to watch it. Or if I ask her to clean her teeth. Go to the loo. Eat her tea. Or do anything really that doesn’t fit in with what she wants to do.
Being able to communicate better doesn’t always make trying to reason with her any easier. She thinks she’s saying the right thing and gets very frustrated when we don’t do exactly what it is she wants. Her mind is developing so quickly and because she understands so much more, she gets even more frustrated when we say no. It can be very difficult to reason with her when she’s like that.
At the moment she’s picking up a lot of things from nursery. Her favourite phrase currently is “Listen, I’m talking.” I wouldn’t want to be a nursery nurse for all the money in the world. I can only imagine how hard it is to try and communicate with a classroom full of threenagers.
I feel like I’m really struggling to know what the appropriate response is sometimes. She says things so forcefully that it is quite funny, but if you laugh that makes the situation worse. We then get the response of “stop looking at me” or “stop talking to me.”
The temptation then is to get annoyed because it comes across as her being cheeky. I don’t think it is though. She doesn’t really understand what she’s saying. She’s using the words she’s heard others use in similar situations. I’m torn between just ignoring it unless it really is rude, and correcting her and saying what I think it is that she means.
Some days I struggle to stay calm with her when it’s a constant battle of wills. If it wasn’t so annoying, I’d be very proud of her stubborn streak because she’s got it from me. If I’d had the choice of which bits of me she’d pick up as we got to know each other, that wouldn’t be one of them. But it’s a start. Hopefully one day it will mellow into one of my better qualities.
It’s not all bad though. Parenting a threenager is such a blast when it’s going well. I love being able to have a proper conversation with her. Joining in with her playing is such good fun (as long as I play by her rules!).There is nothing on this earth that compares to how I feel when she says “Mummy, love you”. Her hugs are given with such feeling and an understanding of the joy they bring. She’s gradually becoming more independent and will happily play in her room on her own. I should really take advantage of times like that to do something constructive, but I mainly just stand and watch her.
I have no doubt that when we’re pulling our hair out with frustration trying to parent her as a teenager, I’ll look back on her as a threenager and think it wasn’t really that bad. No doubt when this phase is over, it will be replaced with something just as testing and button pushing. That’s the joys of being a parent and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Well, perhaps missing the really bad tantrums out would be good.