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…