Life with a ‘threenager’ : As I know it.

Head in the clouds, Feet on the ground…

The urban dictionary defines a “threenager” as a 3-year-old spouting attitude like a teenager.

“I love you , Mom. You are my best friend.” “Mama! I’m busy, leave me alone!”

“You are the best grown up in the whole wide world, Mama.” “Mama, your name is on the board.. Are you ready to be nice?”

“Are you free, Mom? I need your help.” “NO! Go away! Let me do it myself.”

These days, I am constantly bombarded with a mixed bag of contrasting statements like the ones above. It feels like a LOVE-HATE relationship already… and the switch takes no longer than a couple of minutes to take place. All thanks to the ‘threenager’ who lives in my home, rent free and in my heart, condition free. One minute I feel like squeezing her cheeks and kissing her like there’s no tomorrow. And the next minute, I feel like shutting down her stubborn, rude, and self-centric display of down right arrogance. It gets cyclical in nature.

That’s when I try my very best to gather all of my unconditional love and ever-enduring patience from the deepest compartments of my heart and mind to remind myself that she is growing up to be an independent personality. Isn’t that what I want as a parent ? Yes, and these are also learning moments for the both of us. As she takes this time to grow into a person of her own, I should be encouraging the same WHILE guiding her to do so respectfully and gracefully. And the best way I can do that is by being a mindfully good role model. Easier said than done… because this requires me to deal with:

1: A threenager who needs attention RIGHT AWAY:

Everything is an emergency and it simply can’t wait. My words are heard, the rules are reiterated yet there’s this uncontrollable impulse to be interruptive and a nagging urge to be heard, ALL THE TIME. And the words “NO, NOT NOW” works it’s magic only for a couple of minutes before it all resets.

How I deal with it:

Deep breath, 1, 2, 3… talk about how manners work, one more time.

OR

Request “Please wait and be a little patient.”

OR

Snap back “No means No.”

How I should deal with it:

Accept that a 3 year old doesn’t quite understand the concept of “now and later” as well as we want them to – she is trying and I need to be patient through her learning journey.

2. A threenager who is on an emotional roller coaster:

Everyday, she will go through a whole load of emotions, followed by words to explain them and concluded by behaviour to match those intense emotions. She is observing all the time and this is where I need to be a good role model for her to understand how to deal with her own emotions appropriately. If something is funny, her laughs are loud and out of control. If something makes her mad, her shouts are louder and out of line. If something makes her sad, her tears are overflowing and inconsolable.

How I deal with it:

Deep breath, 1, 2, 3… talk about how emotions work, one more time.

OR

Request “Too loud, calm down.”

OR

Snap back “That’s enough!”

How I should deal with it:

Accept that a 3 year old is not entirely ready to understand and control emotions as well as we want them to – she is trying and I need to be patient through her learning journey.

3. A threenager who is having fun with the concept of humour:

Oh! She is funny and how. It’s not the content that’s funny to me, but just how she says stuff, how she behaves, and how she laughs at her own ‘jokes’ at most times. It’s priceless! However, not always appropriate. It’s kind of hard to lay down the rules here, for me as a mom. Eg. Me patting her bottoms and calling it my drums is funny in an intimate family moment… it makes us laugh and giggle like cheeky teenagers. It’s so very adorable! BUT she doing the same back to me in public ? NO WAY! That’s where it gets hard to describe boundaries.

How I deal with it:

Deep breath, 1, 2, 3… talk about how humour works in context, one more time.

OR

Request “Please don’t, not here, not right now.”

OR

Snap back “NOT FUNNY, STOP IT!”

How I should deal with it:

Accept that a 3 year old doesn’t quite understand humour as well as we want them to – she is trying and I need to be patient through her learning journey.

4. A threenager who is always geared for a fight and make up routine:

Yes! Every action has a reaction.We argue, fight, sulk and then feel terrible for saying and doing what we did. This is my way of trying to keep it all realistic. And I love that because she not only gets to experience but also gets to see how emotions and empathy work hand in hand.

How I deal with it:

Deep breath, 1, 2, 3… talk about how feelings work, one more time.

OR

Check in “How would you feel if I was to be mean to you?”

OR

Snap back “FINE. I don’t HAVE TO be nice to you either.”

How I should deal with it:

Accept that a 3 year old doesn’t quite understand empathy as well as we want them to – she is trying and I need to be patient through her learning journey.

5. A threenager who loves to socialise, ALL THE TIME:

I love socialising with her. L.O.V.E. IT! It’s like interacting with a mini version of my husband and me. We play, we sing, we dance, we draw, we chat, we enjoy doing just about anything and everything together. BUT JUST NOT ALL THE TIME. It’s as if she doesn’t know how to play by herself anymore. Sometimes I find her talking to me even when I’m not in the same room as her. She keeps following me around and “socialising” with me even when she can literally see me talking to someone else or doing something completely unrelated to her.

Not so long back, I remember how she used to be engaged in parallel play, doing her own stuff while I did mine. I used to love to passively observe her being so busy role playing, or building something, or just simply singing to herself. Back then, as a mom, I wanted her to be more social and I used to find myself interjecting in her play for that very reason. But little did I know that, that stage will pass by so soon and this new stage would involve NON STOP SOCIALISING AND ENGAGING kind of play. To add on, if she doesn’t get her way, we are back to going in circles with deep breaths, the talks, the repetitions, the requests, the check ins, the snapping, the emotional meltdowns, the raised voices, the fights and the make ups.

How I deal with it:

Deep breath, 1, 2, 3… talk about how “me time” works, one more time.

OR

Remind “We are not talking right now. We are doing our own stuff.”

OR

Snap back “NOT NOW, I AM BUSY, AS YOU CAN SEE.”

How I should deal with it:

Accept that a 3 year old doesn’t quite understand the concept of “ME TIME” as well as we want them to – she is trying and I need to be patient through her learning journey.

Please note that although I try my very best to keep the snapping option as my last resort, SHE somehow always uses the harsher options first and works backwards towards the more calmer options. But I rather have her be like this than an isolated, fearful, subdued and a robotically polite 3 year old. As rude, as erratic or as chaotic as it may get, it’s heart warming to see her growing into a person of her own. She has her own feelings, preferences, demands, needs, words, tantrums, attitude, and a never ending curiosity for life lessons. Yes! She likes to be in the limelight, yes she likes to call the shots and yes she wants to have her way most of the time. As frustrating as it may get at times, I love that attitude on her. I am trying to enjoy it while it lasts, with lots and lots of patience, guidance and consistency. I can see that she is learning and experimenting with that beautiful mind of hers & it’s my job to create a safe space for her to do that. Most of times these days, I do my bit and give her the space to figure it all out (while I watch her from a distance). I don’t get personal and I don’t take her attitude personally either. I try to keep my cool and allow her to observe me while I do so. Like I said before, I am the grown up in this relationship and I need to model good behaviour for her. It’s hard work and she sees that in action…she watches and learns, first hand! Yes I give up many a times but she learns through that too. I feel no shame in losing in front of my threenager, because as long as she learns from watching my breakthroughs and struggles, I am all in for the BIG WINS!

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