Monday, April 8, 2013

The Tumultuous Threes

tu-mul-tu-ous (adj): making a loud, confused noise; uproarious; excited, confused, disorderly

Yup, that about sums it up.

Don't listen to what they tell you - the twos are a breeze. At least for us they were. Sure there were fits and times M wouldn't behave, but all-in-all the twos were pretty great. Don't get me wrong - the threes are pretty great too. In fact this is my favorite age so far as I feel like I now have a little partner in crime. M loves to help me do stuff, loves to hang out with me and we can actually have conversations now.

But recently M found her litte voice and started giving us a hard time. Gone are the days when we can just blame her crankiness on being overly tired. Now if she doesn't want to do what you tell her to do there is push back, there is screaming and boy, there is some drama.

Here is how it usually goes in our house:

M: Can I watch something on the big tv mom?
Mama: Not right now, let's go outside.
M: Can I watch something on the big tv mom? (this time much louder with a sprinkle of whine and some sort of stiff body action)
Mama: M, I said not now. It is a beautiful day, let's go outside and play. We can watch something later.
M: Can I watch something on the big tv now mom? (this time it is screamed and she is usually draped dramatically on the ottoman or standing on her little PB chair with her hands in fists)
Mama: M, I said No.
M: YOU CAN'T SAY NO MOM!! (this is her favorite thing to say now and boy does it drive me crazy)
Mama: Yes, I can say No. I am the boss. Let's go outside.
M: YOU CAN'T SAY NO MOM!! You can't make me go outside!
Mama: Yes, I can. Let's go outside (me pushing her towards the door to go out back)
M: You can't touch me mom! You can't touch me!
Mama: Yes, I can touch you. I am your Mom. I can touch you if I want to.
M: You can't tell me you can touch me Mom! You can't say you're my mom!
Mama: Fine you stay inside, but you aren't watching tv. (I then bring Val outside to swing on the swingset while M stays inside screaming that I can't do things...)
M (from the doorway - looking at us on the swingset): YOU CAN'T PUT VAL IN THE SWING MOM!"
Mama ignores M
M (from the doorway): You can't push Val on the swing mom!
Mama: Why don't you come swing with us, M?
M: You can't ask me to come swing mom! I want to come outside now...(of course this is in her cute sweet normal voice)
Mama: Ok! Come on out and join us!
M: You can't tell me to come join you! I want to stay here.
Mama: Then stay there
M:  You can't tell me to stay there Mom!


This is a daily scene in our household now, and even when we are out and about. I will be holding her hand, walking through the grocery store and she will say all of the sudden "you can't hold my hand mom!" and I try my best to ignore this behavior because this is the last thing I want to deal with when I am out in public.

I have tried giving her a time out when she does this. I will put her in another room in a corner, tell her to stay there for a minute, or until she plans to be nice (because I call this behavior "not being nice to mommy") but that never works.

Then I have tried taking away one of her toys when she yells at me like this. I always put them high above the kitchen cabinets, so they are out of reach but she can still see them. I tell her when she is being nice again she can have them back. This of course leads her to come over and hug me and tell me "mom, you are my best friend. I will be nice now." What a little actress this one is!

My husbands method to dealing with this behavior is to distract M and make her laugh. This always works in the short term and makes her forget that she was even mad in the first place.

But how do I discourage this behavior in the first place? I know this is just a three year old being three, and she is expressing herself, but it drives me up a wall. I tend to start raising my voice and telling her over and over that in fact I CAN do whatever you are saying I CAN'T do - and I know this is the worst response I could probably have. Makes me seem like I am a three year old saying "i'm rubber you're glue..."

Oh 4...I hope you are friendly and fabulous!


  1. I am right there with you. My twin girls are the same age as M, and I feel like we're in the same cycle of yelling (all parties) and not getting anywhere with addressing the behavior. I'm not convinced it can be fully addressed; as you said it's part of being 3, but I do feel like I'm missing the boat to an extent when it comes to discipline or teaching moments.

    In other news, I'm on day 17 of my Whole30 (not sure if you and hubs did Whole30 or some other version of Paleo challenge). It's going great. You were a big part of my inspiration, so thank you!

    Good luck with M!

  2. Not sure if you actually wanted advice or not? If it was rhetorical then just ignore this comment. You could try slightly changing the take away a toy strategy to putting it in the 24 hour spot...meaning it stays there for 24 hours no matter what. Then she knows there's no being sweet later to undo the whining.

    Good luck :)