Updated: Jan 20
My youngest is very much in the threenage stage at the moment. There’s so much that I love about this age but it’s not without its challenges.
I’d love to tell you that I am always a serene, calm, got it together parent, but that would be a lie. I’m human, I’m doing my best and some days go better than others. I know this stage will pass and just because he’s testing the boundaries doesn’t mean he’s en route to long term disaster. It’s just hard work, but three year olds are great fun too and I’m determined to make the most of every opportunity to connect with my youngest and savour this pre-school time.
So here are 3 questions that I’m using to help us in those potentially difficult moments - I hope this helps you too.
1. What’s the main objective?
It’s easy to get caught up in trying to win all the battles at once – wearing shoes, using manners, being places on time - and hoping our little ones learn everything at once. In my experience when I try and do too much we end up not really achieving anything except a whole lot of stress. I’ve learned if my main objective is getting to school on time and he’s not wearing shoes how big a deal is it really if he’s sat in the pushchair? If he knows that when he walks on the pavement he has to wear his shoes and I hold that boundary then does the rest REALLY matter? Arguably a healthy amount of choice and autonomy is beneficial for him, even if he doesn’t choose to do things my way!
2. What CAN he do?
It’s all too easy to end up in “don’t do that…” mode. It doesn’t really help them know what’s ok and it probably doesn’t help you either as they often just finds something else to try. Don’t hit, don’t throw, don’t……. Telling him what he can do – we can hit a drum/ball/cushion, but we don’t hit people makes a difference. They can direct the urge in a positive way. It’s not an instant fix, but I know if I keep giving my child the tools he’ll get there with practice.
3. How can I join his world?
This for me is far more powerful than attempting reward chards or other means of persuasion My three year old is motivated by fun and games – when climbing the stairs becomes climbing a mountain or going to get your shoes on becomes a chase he’s so much more ready to do what we need to do. When the dinosaur asks him suddenly he’s much more willing to cooperate than if mummy does. Joining his world rather than demanding he leaps into mine helps bridge that gap. It is hard work being constantly creative and sometimes I do feel like a bit of a muppet, but a negative interaction is hard work too so the effort to join his world is well worth it (most of the time.)
I’m doing my best to lay foundations of a close connected relationship – where we cooperate rather than dictate and my threenager learns to make positive choices. It’s messy and emotional and certainly not a linear process, but relationships rarely are. The real question is whether it’s worth the time an effort and I’m in no doubt of my answer to that one!