Tips and Tricks to Survive the “Threenager” Phase


I’m sure I am not alone in this opinion but so far, the “threenager” phase has been the most difficult. I’ve always worked with two-year-olds in daycare (I thought it was the worst age), so when it was my time, I was afraid to go through it. In the thick of it, it felt awful but I had no idea how much worse it could get. The day my son turned three, a switch flipped and he instantly turned into a “threenager”. I immediately realized that two years old was going to have nothing on three.

With my son turning four, I wanted to share why I found “threenager” to be worse than the terrible twos and some techniques that helped me survive:

  • The temper tantrums
  • Talking back/defiance
  • Constantly asking “why”
  • The constant whining
  • Bedtime was a nightmare

Now, I’m not saying the ENTIRE phase was terrible. There were some bright moments. My son potty trained very easily. We got rid of the binky and switched him to a big boy bed. He started learning to recognize letters and can now spell and ALMOST write his name. Hearing all the hysterical things he would say daily. While it was amazing to experience him tackle all these changes in his development, this age was still the most difficult for me to navigate as a mother.

During this phase, I found some techniques that helped help me survive and not lose my sanity. I’m aware that every child is different and these techniques may not work for everyone. I am just trying to share my successful experiences, and I hope that it works for you too.

Use a timer

Transitional times are difficult for my son. Any time we have to switch activities or leave to go somewhere, he always refuses and gives me a hard time. I started telling him “I’ll set the timer for 2 minutes” and once the timer goes off he complies. It eventually got to the point where he asked me to set the timer because he wanted a couple more minutes to play. Instead of spending several minutes fighting with your child about switching gears, set a timer and see if that helps move them along.

Turn the task into a game

This may be an obvious tip to some of you but for me, it was not. My son is in a phase of wanting to race and “win a trophy”. So I’ve turned tasks that he doesn’t want to complete into a game. Like cleaning up for example. “Who can clean up these toys faster?” If we’re heading out and he is having a hard time getting outside to the car I’ll say “Who can get outside to the car first”? I’ve noticed once I tell him it’s a race or make it fun, he is more willing to complete the task.

Have them help you

When I could see my son starting to get upset because I had to step away from playing with him to do chores around the house, I would ask him to help me. “Mommy has to unload the dishwasher. Would you like to help me?” This made him feel so special because I made him a part of the chores. It eventually turned into him asking me to help when I said I had tasks I had to complete. He now loves helping me bake and it is such a special time we get to share.

What are some other tips you use to help you survive the “threenager” phase? Do you use any of these methods to make things easier for you at home? Have they worked successfully?


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