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The Truth About Threenagers and How to Deal with Them?

Feb 8, 2022 If you have ever heard the term threenager you might be wondering what it means. This term comes from the evolved toddler who turns 3.

When your toddler turns into a threenager, you all of sudden realize this little person has grown in milestones and in personality. 

But learning how to navigate a threenager is like treading water. Because while your little one is making huge strides. They are very emotional and are learning to be more expressive. They have an explosive personality, and their vocabulary has significantly increased. This is huge when it comes to their literacy. They are learning new words and longer sentences

But they have now become increasingly difficult people. So what are the best ways to deal with your threenager you may ask …

How to Deal with a Threenager

Terrible Twos Toddler Tantrum

I mentioned above that navigating a threenager is like treading water.  Because if you go too fast and you will exhaust yourself and drown. In this case you’ll end up frustrated with your kid. Too slow and you won’t float. That’s exactly how you need to deal with your threenager.  You need to find the right rhythm and adjust as needed.

You have to be quick to catch your reaction to your little one when they start to throw a tantrum. Because they want things a certain way.

You will find sometimes that it is better to negotiate and come to mutual terms with your little person.  You also need to understand that strong personality or responses are just a phase. They are still little and learning.  

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In this phase, it will be your first introduction to learning to pick your battles. So if your little one wants to wear a certain item of clothing that doesn’t match. It’s ok to let them and choose a battle that truly matters. 

Another thing that comes up is the odd request or things your child may want. In your mind, it will not make sense or you try to explain why it doesn’t. But I have tried several times and it was a learning phase for me as a parent. Threenagers are not exactly rational little people.

This is where you need to understand that your little one does not have the reasoning skills.

How Do You Deal with a 3-Year-Old Misbehaving?

Disciplining a threenager is different. Because you don’t know exactly how they will react.  And if you are upset with a behavior you have to be gentle in your response. 

So here are some tips on dealing with behavioral issues: 

  • Allow more time for transitions. When my little 3-year-old is really into a toy or project she will not want to move on until she determines she is ready. So I find that adding in a buffer of time works best. And using a countdown. I find an extra 15 minutes is usually good. 
  • Give them choices to avoid fighting. If there is a certain outcome you are wanting give your child two choices of two outcomes that you are wanting. Then allow them to pick so that they feel in control by getting to choose.
  • Ask if your child would like help when they struggle. Instead of just doing it for them. Allow them to try. And then ask if they would like help without jumping in saying this is how or getting frustrated when they burst into tears.
  • Try to listen. Emotional responses will be higher during this stage of your little one, so help your child deal with their big emotions. Teach them how to navigate their uncertain feelings. 

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If you do end up having to discipline your child. Make sure to explain what went wrong and how they can correct it. Use it as a learning experience instead of a negative experience.  

For my youngest, I found that raising my voice when I was upset at her action actually made her feel bad.  She would say I am sorry and then I felt horrible.

As parents, we have to understand they are curious and asking a lot of questions.

Dealing with Your Threenager in Public

toddler tantrum

I can recall a mom friend of mine who was having a hard time with her threenanger.  In her case, her little one was tipping the scales. The defiance and full-out tantrums all the time were so often she was upset all the time.

She was embarrassed and exhausted. She oftentimes would joke about it but it was taking a toll.  

If you find your 3-year-old more than you can handle first remember all parents go through it. Secondly, address the behavior in an area that is less crowded.  

Don’t try to drown your child out in public by screaming back. Instead, stop everything you are doing. Come down to their level and address their behavior. Be clear and stick to it. They may continue to cry but eventually, it won’t last. 

I find that diverting the attention of your toddler is one of the best ways to work through the meltdown.

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What to Do When You Are Having a Hard Time with Your Threenager and Need a Break

Every parent will have their breaking point or may grow exhausted at times.  So it’s important to make sure you are allowing time for yourself.  

But more importantly keeping your little one busy will make things a whole lot better. Here are some ideas:

  • Find an extracurricular activity they can be involved in.
  • Schedule regular playdates with friends.
  • Have family members come over.
  • Hangout with other parent friends on a weekly basis and create a space for both you and your child.

Know that this phase will pass and that it’s ok to have hard days.  Enjoy the moments while they are little.  But most importantly. Understand these are developmental milestones that are critical for your child. 

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The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Blub Blub Inc. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Comments (4)
  • Normally my 3.5 year child is obidient for the last 4 to 5 days he became very angry, throwing every thing, and always saying i will not talk with you. Is there any psychological problem?

    • I refer to the 3’s as the age of the three-nager. It seems like they go through the mood swings and tantrums that a teenager experiences. At this age, they are really pushing their boundaries and limits to see how much they can get away with. My daughter is 3.5, as well and, there are times she yells and gets very angry. It is important that you stand your ground and, if the behavior occurs because of being disciplined, that you stick to your consequences. Eventually, it’s a good idea to start teaching about feelings/emotions. I always recommend the movie “Inside Out” for this concept. It’s animated, but focuses on the emotions and feelings a young child goes through. Movies are a great way to explain things on a simpler level so when kids go through these times, they can relate!

      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

  • Hi my girl 3 years old when she asks something and maybe I deny her she will cry for even 30 mins insisting on the same. How can I handle this?

    • It sounds like a normal tantrum. Speech blubs has a great section on how to handle tantrums. I would suggest reading that blog first and then let us know if you have any further questions! That blog will give you tips and suggestions on how to deal with her crying.

      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

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