The Terrible Three’s

angry toddler

I’m not sure who came up the “terrible two’s” but they got it wrong. For us, its been the terrible threes. When our son turned two everything was peachy. He could walk, talk, and was pretty much potty trained. He was started to understand the world, he wasn’t a baby anymore and there as a lot that he could do and enjoy about life. As a family we could enjoy having some “conversations”, and going on various outings. When he turned 3 all of that changed. I take him in public out of obligation and necessity. I either have to because there’s no one available to babysit or I do because I of course can’t keep him hidden in the house forever. I’ve tried different tactics to deal with his behavior. We’ve done charts, reward systems, being super strict, being super nice, time outs, spankings, talking, taking away privileges, but nothing seems to work. He just seems bent on doing what he’s going to do. My pet peeve is when I’m venting out for advice people say “maybe you should spank him” or  “just try being firm”. DIDN’T YOU JUST HEAR ME FREAKING SAY WE’VE TRIED EVERYTHING!!!!!!!” I am not opposed to spanking my son, but I also know its not the only solution and isn’t the right solution all the time. I just hate the assumption that we spoil him, because of how he acts. I don’t buy or give him whatever he wants, whenever he wants. My husband and I make very clear boundaries and expectations, he just doesn’t follow them. These are some of the things that are making year 3 almost unbearable.

1. Potty Training Regression

We started potty training our son at 1.5 by 2 he pretty much had it down packed. We had even got to the point when we didn’t have to wake him up in the middle of the night to prevent night time accidents. Now that he’s 3 he wets himself every other day at daycare and at night even with us waking him up to go before bed. We’ve always restricted beverages 2 hours before bedtime. I know that know he’s busier and therefore not stopping to potty. I’ve just decided that we have to make him go potty every hour whether he wants to or not.

2. Not understanding punishment/reward

Sometimes I go to spanking him, because he doesn’t seem to understand the whole punishment/reward system. For example, if he does something wrong in the morning before I drop him off at daycare he doesn’t seem to connect that that’s why he has lost a privilege when we get home that evening. Even when I’ve had a firm discussion that morning and explained what’s going to happen. In his 3 year old mind I’m not even sure he remembers what he did. Whereas if I pop/spank him that moment he knows why it happened and there’s an immediate response. He doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening when he say you can get a toy/treat if you do this or that. He just wants the toy/treat once he hears about it.

3. Attitude Problems

I call my son a “three-nager”, because that’s how he acts. He has a major attitude problem. Not only does he do the normal toddler tantrums with whining, crying, and stopping, but he also talks back, makes faces, and mocks. In these situations when my immediate response would be too aggressive I send him to his room, because I may initial feeling is to do things I don’t comfortable broadcasting for the world to read online.

4. Blatant Disobedience

It one thing for him to not understand something, but he’s at the age now that he knows exact what he does. We can say “come here” or “stop jumping” and he continues as if we said nothing at all. These are the times that really get my skin boiling because usually he causes some possible or eventual harm or injury. For example, we tell him to sit while he is eating, he then runs and jumps around everywhere. This usually results in him choking on whatever he was eating and sometime throwing up all over the floor. It almost as if we should say the opposite of what we want in order for him to do what we intended on him doing.

Whenever we talk to someone reasonable and not someone who has there own judgments or preconceived notions of our parenting they say things like “it’ll get better” or “its just a stage”. Its not ALL bad, although right now I feel like the bad is outweighing the good. He has his moments when he is sweet and cuddly. Like when he helps me cook Sunday breakfast or when we snuggle up with some popcorn watching a movie. I try to concentrate on those times when I want to stuff him in a trash can. I’m just trying to do the best I can to make him understand that there are consequences for his actions, and he can’t go around in life doing whatever he wants to do. Parenting is so freaking hard. As a teacher I can really understand the parents that say “I just don’t know what to do” when they get negative phone calls about their child’s behavior. I just hope that what we are doing now will have some impact and by the time he gets in school or even further an adult in “the real world” we haven’t failed him and he will be able to survive as a good, contributing citizen.

15 thoughts on “The Terrible Three’s

  1. I can so relate! Both our girls were worse at age 3 than 2. So tough, those toddler years. Hang in there mama! You got this. (Your boy is terribly cute by the way…even with a grumpy face 😉).


  2. I hear ya! For us it has been a rebellion from when our daughter was 1,5 years old and still continues at 3. Maybe even worse now from our point of view since she perfectly understands us. She has an Alpha personality and what sometimes(!) works is rational arguments – remember when last time you fell? Sentimental stuff like mommy will be upset worths nothing. I hope it becomes easier for both of us!


  3. Sounds like my son, especially the part about not seeming to connect his bad behaviour to losing something he likes. We haven’t got a particular method in place but we are persevering with setting boundaries and punishing bad behaviour. We usually use the “naughty step” but have started to have to send him to his room also. Its frustrating because he definitely knows its wrong but it is almost like he reacts before he thinks about it and then he’s so far into his tantrum he struggles to com back, if that makes sense. But I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The periods of being good seem to be getting longer and the tantrums seems to be getting shorter but this has happened before. Long may it continue and good luck to you!


  4. I’m sure you have heard all kinds of advice! My daughter goes through phases where she wants to “exercise her authority” and it’s true that they don’t get it if you don’t deal with it during the moment itself.

    Maybe something that could help is pick whichever method you choose and stick to it for a while before you switch tactics. Just suggesting because when that happens, they start remembering “oh okay this happened when I did this”. instead of thinking “Hey, something different may happen. I could get away with this”. We tried it and funnily enough, my daughter has once asked her Papa for permission to scream before she did so. hahahaha I hope it helps and all the best! xxox


  5. Can I be honest? I totally laughed as I read this – because IT. IS. SO. ACCURATE!!

    I laughed out of solidarity!

    I have no clue who coined “Terrible Twos,” but totally got “Troublesome Threes,” and then adopted the “Three-nager” term when someone told me about it!

    I heard one mom warn me it wouldn’t normal out until about 4.5. My son got back to a more even keel almost right at 4.

    My daughter isn’t 2 yet, but with her, I see the “Terrible Twos” emerging, and am cringing for the “Threenager” Phase.

    So, I heard you this ENTIRE post! And, just know… you have my sympathy, and the hard work you put into it now, will (hopefully) curb this aggravating behavior when he’s a tween or teen. Then, it’ll be other drama! 😉🤗


  6. The worst thing you can do is nothing.. like u said , u guys have tried everything. He’s 3 he’s learning you guys as much as you are learning about him. So far you have raised a thoughtful,intelligent,sweet,beautiful little boy who is also stubborn and strong . These excruciating moments that seem like they will never end.. will soon turn into “remember whens” . It’s def a phase and will certainly . You guys are doing an amazing job ❤


  7. Great blog! Thanks for being so raw and honest. I have a 2.5 year old boy. I relate to a lot of the things you’ve said. My son is not good at feeding himself. He’d rather go on a hunger strike for days (we’ve been there) than hold his fork but we know he’s capable because we’ve seen him do it. I know what you mean about trying everything… its definitely frustrating. I am dreading the 3s. Thanks again for sharing this.


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