7 Tips for Surviving the Terrible Threes of Parenting
Talking to younger parents often reminds me of a parenting phenomenon that we experienced firsthand. Perhaps, if you’re children are older, you did also. It’s called the “terrible threes." Ever have a three year old try your patience?
As with so many others (most it seems), it’s not the “terrible twos” that is a problem — it’s the “terrible threes”.
It goes something like this: One day your precious angel — the one everyone thinks is so cute — who was hardly ever a problem before — suddenly becomes a living terror at times. You don’t know what to do — how to respond — and how to stop it. You have never dealt with such temper tantrums, back-talking, and outbursts of anger.
If that’s your story — you may have entered the “terrible threes”. Children cycle through many phases and it shouldn’t be too surprising if they go through a rebellious stage early in life. The terrible threes, or twos, as the case may be, most likely is the time when the child most openly expresses his or her independence. And, the more independent the child — the more difficult this time can be. And, the longer it might last.
He or she is exploring a new world, testing boundaries, discovering their own personality, and filtering through reactions of others. As with other phases the child will experience, this one is difficult for the child as well as the parent, but in this phase the child is the least mature in the relationship and their reaction, by the way, should be likewise.
Here are 7 suggestions for surviving the terrible threes:
Suffer through it!
I know. That’s not what you wanted to hear, but most likely, it will not last long. Perhaps not even a whole year. And, there is hope on the other side — if you act wisely at this stage.
This is not the time to give in to the child’s outbursts. That almost never works. This is the time to consistently follow through with prescribed discipline. The child is learning. They need to learn that outbursts don’t work in your home.
And, why is this important? Well, you’re raising them to be an adult. Are similar outbursts usually okay in high school — or in the workplace?
As much as your child tries your patience, continue to always exhibit love to your child, even during discipline. Most likely they know when they are having a temper-tantrum. They are possibly even doing it for the attention it brings — wondering how you will react. Make sure they know and understand that even when you aren’t happy with their behavior — you will always love them.
Use different discipline methods until you find one that works for this stage of the child’s life. Every child is unique. Some things work. Some things don’t. Again, you’re wiser at this point than them. Wisely experiment to find the right action to correct their action — or encourage better actions.
Remember you are the adult
Sometimes when the child is showing his or her worse side it is tempting to show yours. Don’t do it. Keep your cool. Be mature. Handle these days firmly, but calmly. Remember you are modeling behavior for your child. They are watching you — closely.
Teach your child
This phase can be a great opportunity to teach your child how to respond to disappointment and frustration — what an appropriate emotional response looks like. They’ll need that the rest of their life.
Don’t be afraid to share your situation with others
Often parents are embarrassed because of their children’s behavior during this stage of life. Grocery store visits can be embarrassing. Restaurant visits may be avoided. So, the parents hide the struggle. They falsely assume other parents don’t experience the same with their children. That’s a myth. The biggest surprise at this stage of your child’s life may be when you discover you are not unique in this struggle. Ask for help. Find a mentoring couple. That’s helpful at every stage of your child’s life — but especially at this one.
By the way, most of these are good suggestions in other phases of a child’s life also. But, here’s a bonus one.
Seriously, enjoy every season of your child’s life. They pass so quickly and each one has its own set of challenges. (And, it’s true, the challenges do get bigger — even into your child’s adulthood.) The fact is that even the “terrible threes” can be filled with laughter and wonder as your child is becoming their own person. Zig Ziglar actually said to call them the “terrific two’s” (or threes). You sometimes get what you’re looking for in life. Marvel at what God has done and is doing in your child’s life. Even in the most difficult of seasons — children are a gift. A precious gift!
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