The Love/Hate Relationship with a 3 Year Old


Age three. In my six years of parenting, age three has proven to be the most challenging age….ever. Three year olds are speaking more clearly but expressing themselves poorly. They have high demands and no patience. They know exactly how to push your buttons, but pretend to be the innocent child that didn’t know better. They get pissed off, have a full out tantrum, and then walk away cheerfully like nothing happened. I managed to survive one feisty three year old, so one would think I’d have age three all figured out. Yeah, not so much. Oh what fun three is. (said in my most sarcastic voice!)

Today was pretty similar to any other day of my son’s three year old existence. I open the door to his room this morning and he greets me with squeals and a smile. “Mummy!” Aw, he’s so cute, isn’t he? “OK, Josh. Let’s go pee.” He heads to the bathroom and says “I don’t want to wash my hands.” I calmly tell him, “Um, yes, you’ll be washing your hands after you pee.” Then comes the glare and a grunt. That’s just part of the “control” thing that three year olds like. I read about that. All the good parenting websites advise parents to give their kids a sense of control. So I let him choose his clothes. I open his dresser drawer and say “Which shirt would you like to wear today?” His response? “You do it!” OK, then. The boy has chosen me to pick out his clothes. Then he dances around naked until I can get him to focus and dressed. Three year olds don’t have a lot of focus, by the way – I think that skill comes at age 45ish for boys.

“OK buddy, what would you like for breakfast? Toast or cereal?” He responds by telling me he doesn’t want to go to school today. I tell him, yes, he’s going to school today and again ask him what would he like for breakfast. He shouts “I’m thirsty!” I tell him to ask me nicely. “May I please have some milk.” It’s not a question, it’s a statement, but it will do. So I respond, “Yes you may. Now, would you like toast or cereal with your milk?” He shouts “TOOOAAAST!” Sigh. This is the point where I “choose my battles.” Because the good parenting books tell parents to do that. It is good advice, because he eats his toast and later tells me he is going to play blocks with Gabby at school today. Great! He also gives me hugs and kisses. He’s really so sweet.

Evenings are a pleasure. “Mommy, what are we having for dinner?” If my answer isn’t hot dogs or chicken nuggets, then his response is a guaranteed “I don’t like that.” I tell him “well, that’s what we’re having.” (That’s Mommy talk for: deal with it, kiddo.) So in the deepest, quietest, most threatening three year old voice he can muster up, coupled with a serious mean look, he tells me “I don’t like you.” I cheerfully respond with, “OK, then you won’t need a treat after dinner tonight.” As quick as can be, he says “I like you, Mommy!!!” Yeah, thought so. Mommy wins.

After I give my son his bath, he insists that Daddy get him dressed. “Well, Daddy is on the phone, so Mommy can help this time,” I try to reason. “No! I want Daddy! Don’t look at me.” Fine, whatever. I walk away. See? I’m choosing battles AND giving him control here…..sorry hubby, you’re up! The same conversation happens with bedtime stories. “Go away! I want Daddy.” Right now, Daddy is THE man! It’s ok, because I was THE woman for the past couple years, so I’m happy to share my pedestal and get something else done.

Once I convince my son that it really is time to go to sleep, he gives me a big hug and a sweet little kiss. He then utters the best words of all: “I love you, Mommy.” Ah, it just melts my heart. Aren’t three year olds so sweet?

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3 Responses to The Love/Hate Relationship with a 3 Year Old

  1. Jen Trull says:

    You are a great mom!! I love your blogs.

  2. bfftherapy says:

    My son is approaching 3 very soon, and boy are we there yet. He is my little sour patch kid. Sweet on the inside and sour on the outside. He is so demanding and indecisive at the same time. Sometimes he is EXTREMELY particular about what he wants and HOW HE wants it. It drives me bananas. I feel like I’m serving a rich and snobby customer (imagining what that would feel like). It feels like mothering a toddler who discovers how to boss mommy around and just before she reaches her breaking point the sour patch kid has mastered, ” I wuv you sooo much Mommy!”
    Running away is now out of the question.

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