Ok so.. they call them “terrible 2’s” for an obvious reason, but in reality, having a 3-year-old can be harder than having a 2-year-old. If you feel like you are having a tough time with your 3-year-old, you are not alone! Here is some advice to help you learn to love parenthood again (or at least make it through the day)!
Give your little one attention! Kids often act out because they seek attention. Give your child your full attention in frequent, small doses. If your 3-year-old is pulling your cell phone out of your hands, banging on your keyboard while you type, or knocking over all your piles of laundry, this one is for you. I know your 3-year-old wants your full attention all the time, but it’s just not possible if you’re trying to do laundry, run errands, read your email, or otherwise have a life. So as soon as you realize your little one is trying to get your attention, give them a few seconds of full attention. Look them right in the eyes, ask them some questions, and listen to the answer. Use body language that shows attention, like putting your phone down. While you listen to the answers, think of how you are going to redirect them. Redirect with creativity. Try to redirect early, and with a loving voice. Ask yourself, “Why is my child misbehaving? What do they really need?” Aggressive behaviors usually require physical redirection. For example, if a child is snatching toys or yelling, they might need to ride a bike outside for a while. If a child is lying on the floor and whining, they may need a little attention and some quiet activity–try reading them a book. Set expectations and boundaries.
Set clear expectations. Write a list of family rules. For 3-year-olds, make the list short and simple. For example, 1) Use loving voices, 2) Obey Mommy and Daddy, and 3) Don’t hurt other people. Discuss the rules daily, and praise successes at dinner or bedtime. Teach obedience. Kids aren’t born obedient, we have to teach them. 3-year-olds are naturally seeking autonomy and will fight obedience. The trick is to teach kids they want to be obedient, that they get lots of praise and positive reinforcement when they do what you say. To practice obedience, play “Simon Says,” except change it to “Mommy Says,” or “Daddy Says.” Start with typical stuff like patting your head and clapping your hands, then transition to put toys away.
Time will pass, I promise! Hang in there, mama!