Signs Of The Terrible Threes

Advanced Toddlers

Parenting kids is a full time job. Everyone would admit that parenting is hard. With so many parental questions, it’s difficult to know whether you are doing the right thing or not.

A parent who has an advanced toddler will often think that they are in the clear. A toddler who is developing motor skills, language skills and social skills at a faster level than their peers can seem like an advantage.

However, it is unwise to summarise that all children who are more advanced in language and vocabulary have fewer tantrums. It can actually have the opposite effects. If you experience the terrible twos earlier then this can be an indication of an advanced toddler.

With so much new information and a willingness to learn and express it all, some 3-year-olds who are very astute, will find expressing their wants and needs even more difficult.

Therefore, whatever developmental milestone your child is at they will still feel overwhelmed and frustrated with their ability to express what they already know.

This developmental tension is the primary reason for the ‘Terrible 3s  


Signs of The Terrible Threes

You know your child is displaying signs of the terrible 3s if:

  • They scream back answers at you like, “ I don’t want to WEAR A TSHIRT TODAY”
  • They get into crying fits a lot and it takes a long time to get them back to normal
  • They resort to stamping feet when they don’t want to something i.e. “Sweetie – Put your shoes on please”, “NO, I don’t want to! -FeetStamp-
  • They repeat back your commands to you demanding you do it first! i.e. “Sweetie, please eat your green peas” Response — ‘No, you eat peas”
  • You hear the word “NO”, more than any other word in the dictionary!
  • They are ALWAYS asking “Why”
  • They still see the world as revolving around them
  • They don’t want to get dressed, they don’t want to brush teeth, they don’t want to go sleep, they don’t want to wake up etc
  • Every situation feels like a game of chess where you have to first anticipate their next move before you move.
  • You dread any confrontational situations in fear of what might happen (going out in the car, putting them into the shopping trolley, playing with other kids in the park
  • You generally don’t remember the so-called ‘Terrible Two’s’ being this hard!

If any or ALL of those rings a bell then you’ve reached the “Terrible 3” milestone and it should only get better from here…. Right?

If your 3 year old behavior is out of control then you must remember to stay calm and be proactive in your discipline.

Here are the 3 most effective strategies to deal with the terrible 3s and smart ways to improve your child’s behaviour quickly and permanently.


1.   Yelling should be avoided.

Sometimes it can be very frustrating to cope with repeated and intense defiant behaviour. As parents our first instinct can be to yell to portray our annoyance and disbelief. This usually won’t have any lasting effects to curb defiant behaviour and can sometimes make it worse.

Instead, try to stay calm and concise. In this state of mind you can plot the correct course of action to parenting in a positive way. Here, importantly you can be proactive, instead of reactive.


2.   Praise the Good, Ignore the Bad

One very simple method of dealing with the terrible 3’s is to encourage good behaviour and ignore (When appropriate) bad behaviour. This will strengthen the rule that good behaviour is rewarded while bad behaviour will not be tolerated

For example “Well done, Sweetie, I can really see the face of the dog you are trying to draw. It’s amazing, I’m going to show daddy when he gets back and I’m sure he’s going to love it. What about the rest of his face, let’s paint it now instead of painting on your clothes…. Quick I’ll help you paint his ears now!”

Bringing extra attention on good behaviour will work as a strong guide for your kids to learn from.


3.   Be Attentive

Many 3 year old tantrums are forged from misunderstandings. At 3 years old your child wants to express a wide variety of different emotions, but can still have difficulty conveying these emotions in rational and practical ways.

To combat this, try to be attentive and preempt a tantrum before it even happens. If you’ve noticed a pattern of negative behaviour just before nap time, maybe you could move the time forward a bit to limit the conflict and disruption.

Another good example is, If you know your child hates sitting in their car seat then plan for regular intervals or breaks throughout the journey. Or better still get them very stimulated before a car journey with high-energy play and lots of physical activity.


World Doesn’t Revolve Around Them!

At 3 years old children are still fighting with the idea that the world revolves around them.

By giving them the opportunity to learn that they must abide by your house rules you are teaching them that there are other people around them to take into consideration.

This is a simple, but highly effective way to install accountability. Your cornerstone principle is that “If the rules are broken then there are consequences”

This will solidify the principle that they are responsible for their own actions and will ultimately promote self-discipline.



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Written by HealthStatus Crew
Medical Writer & Editor

HealthStatus teams with authors from organizations to share interesting ideas, products and new health information to our readers.

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