Five Reasons The Threenager Stage Is Harder Than The Terrible Twos


Parenting toddlers and preschoolers is hard, that’s a given, but did anyone else fall into the terrible twos trap? Did you heave a sigh of relief on your child’s third birthday thinking at last that infamous difficult stage may be on its way out? Only to feel like an idiot a few months later when your innocent child prematurely began exhibiting signs of teenage attitude? Here’s just five reasons why I find dealing with a threenager that much more tricky:

They can’t be distracted

When Caterpillar was slightly younger and having a meltdown we could easily defuse the situation by offering a toy/snack/film/all of the above and he would willingly submit. Nowadays he is stubborn – a moan or demand can last for hours, if not days, and no amount of distraction works for any length of time.

They know better

I found myself a little more forgiving when Caterpillar was smaller because it was very clear he was being assaulted by these new and unexpected emotions, and didn’t yet know the appropriate way to deal with them. Now, I feel Caterpillar is much more aware of when he is misbehaving and how he could act differently so it feels much more intentional. He has more knowledge now of what buttons to press to really upset me.

More anger and ferocity

The level of rage that Caterpillar can now achieve is much higher, and there is definitely a teenage edge to it. A moody, stroppy attitude that would be funny if you weren’t pulling your hair out (okay, it is still sometimes funny). Plus he’s physically bigger and stronger which brings its own challenges.

You doubt yourself more

I’ve spoken in the past about my lack of parenting confidence and the worry I feel about if I’m helping Caterpillar to become a good person or not. As they grow you find your worries increase. Why are these tantrums not over yet? Shouldn’t I have set better boundaries, shouldn’t he respect me more by now? Have I been giving in too much? Is it my fault? A chunk of this is garden variety mum guilt, which is useless, but there is some truth here too, I think. I know that consistency is key and I need to work on this.

Their awesomeness is much greater so the contrast is more distinct

Caterpillar is awesome. And obviously all your sons and daughters are awesome too. His developing language skills mean that he makes me laugh and melt every single day with the adorable things he says. And the more wonderful and loving he is, the more difficult tantrums can feel as it’s such a jarring contrast from the funny, cute little chap he was being five seconds before.

Ultimately, I suppose it’s that last point I should focus on. There has been one constant from the first day of this parenting journey and that’s for every new challenge there is an adorable new development to compensate. And we have to take the rough with the smooth, right? The rough right now is living with a three year old who is going on 15. But the smooth is his endless cuddles and kisses, the constant laughs and spontaneous “I love yous.” And it’s those moments that keep you warm at night and squash your doubts. At least, until the next tantrum…

Cuddle Fairy
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Mr and Mrs T Plus Three

26 comments on “Five Reasons The Threenager Stage Is Harder Than The Terrible Twos

  1. At least be happy in the knowledge that we ALL go through it. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I tried to give Squidge (now in her late threenage months) a way of expressing her anger and frustration that wasn’t quite as terrifying. The options are stamping her foot – putting all that feeling into the floor, clenching her fists – harder, harder! Or the one I pinched from Bing (which she hasn’t used yet) blowing it into a cloud.
    Good luck and just think when they actually hit teenage years, we’ll long for our stroppy little threenagers xxx

  2. OOOh yes we have struggled a bit more our daughter is 3. She just does not listen!! No meltdowns but more obvious naughtiness and it has been fun. I feel I am constantly nagging her and I hate that. however, when she is on good form, she is fab!! Hope Caterpillar isn’t in the threenager phase for long!! Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst lovely x
    Sarah Howe @runjumpscrap recently posted…Best and Worst Week #71My Profile

  3. Thank you for writing this and sharing it. My three (almost four) year old is being particularly challenging of late and some days I fear I’ll have no hair left for tearing it all out. But like you say when he’s being cute and loving and all “Mummy you’re my best friend” whilst smothering me with ‘giggles’ /’d kisses, it makes the tantrums harder to accept! I know I need to concentrate on the good and not the bad – for it will pass! I HOPE!! #bloggerclubuk
    Jaki recently posted…Wednesday Wisdom 3 – A Weekly Blog Quote SeriesMy Profile

  4. The title and content of this post scares the crap out of me ๐Ÿ™‚ we have a terribke two’ser at the moment and the idea of it getting worse makes me want to emigrate to timbukto

  5. Eeeek! I have all this to come and already constantly question my parenting techniques ๐Ÿ™ Tantrums really get to me so I guess I better buckle up and get strong because it seems like i’ll be walking into a tornado from age 2. Thanks for the heads up ๐Ÿ™‚ #bestandworst

  6. This is pretty true. We had an easy ride with only 1 incident of N aged 2 lying on the floor in the shopping centre in silence, refusing to come with me. It got solved pretty soon . Other than that he was fine. But as soon as he turned 3, for a month everything was no.

  7. My 21 month old is definitely showing signs of those terrible two’s already, so dreading when she hits the Threenager stage. BUT it’s something we all go through and we aren’t alone, our children aren’t demons and infact just children. Your post reminded me of that. Enjoy this tricky, unpredictable, crazt stage! And thanks for the prep ๐Ÿ™‚ #bestandworst

  8. Ahh I’m so glad I’ve just found your blog through 2 linkies today, I’m going to add it to my bookmark list! My friend was telling me that 3 year olds are harder than 2 year olds the other day – i’m going to share this with her – I’m sure she will agree!

  9. Oh my gosh…halt it right there with the guilt Missus! Somebody needs to warn parents that threeangers are hella worse than the terrible twos! AND they can’t help it either. They are still battling their desire to have things go their way but without really knowing why they want it. Nothing you do, within reason, is making him behave like this. It’s really just a stage and is really no reflection of your parenting ability. It does pass but the best thing you can do is not worry that a) it means he’s turning into a monster b) it’s your fault! Neither are true. Just try and ride it out. I am saying this having weathered the storm of a very defiant now 6 yr old and with a previously angelic 3 yr old who has recently started the craziest tantrums about the silliest things! Most of the time with her, I can just laugh it off. with my son, i spent most of my time in tears thinking it was my fault. It wasn’t. This too shall pass!

  10. I love this post and I dread its contents at the same time. I have an almost threenager and what you have written terrifies me. I thought the worst was slowly dwindling away in the rear view mirror. Not quite, huh!? Thanks for this. #stayclassymama. Love your way of writing. I think I have a similar style. Going to go follow you now ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. This is so so true. The only comfort in it is knowing that we all have to deal with it. I got off lightly with thee terrible twos with my daughter but paid twice over with the threeager! My son is coming up to 17 months and already showing signs of terrible twos it’s really not fun xx

  12. Oh no! I really didn’t want to hear this. I saw the health visitor today for my 1 year old’s check up and turned the conversation into being about my 2.5 year old. She’s already moody, stroppy and (dare I say it) unpleasant to be around a lot of the time these days. Add to that her reluctance to eat anything I give her, stop doing anything naughty, I’m at the end of my tether. Their tips? Keep doing what I’m doing. They all go through it at different times. Great. I’m only hoping she’s getting it all out of her system now!

    1. The flip side though is even though some things are more challenging, watching their growing personality is so much fun and makes up for it xx

  13. Just found your rather lovely post and wanted to say that I loved my teenagers and their teenhood challenges as much as I loved them as toddlers! It’s all fascinating. And all can be negotiated successfully with love and respect as all things parent! Enjoy! x

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