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Is it possible to just enjoy an almost-three year old, or does one have to endure?

(24 Posts)
Tortoiseonthehalfshell Sun 04-Sep-11 14:04:10

I might ramble.

DD is a couple of months off three. She has always been a people-pleaser and a fairly compliant child, in a relative-to-other-two-year-olds sort of way. Until about two months ago when she clearly had a cognitive shift and is now testing boundaries like there's no tomorrow.

I understand this. I understand that she's finished working out how legs, arms, speech, etc., works and has turned her attention to working out how the world works, and I understand that despite being all sorts of articulate she actually doesn't really know how the world works and there's a lot of misapprehensions to sort out. She is an entirely normal child without any indication of either SN or G&T tendencies.

But OMFG everything, every single bloody thing is a battle. Well, okay, that's not true really, we have giggles and quiet time and we do painting and reading and crafts and baking and sometimes she tells me long stories that are charming and wonderful and sometimes she asks me about my day and alright it's not all a battle.

It just feels like it when she insists on climbing into her car seat on her own but wants to take ten minutes doing so and will wail and cry if I take over, when she gets into her chair at dinner and immediately announces I Don't Like That (I don't react. This is a really recent thing, she's always been a fairly adventurous eater, she's just testing so I'm neutral about it: fine, like it or don't like it, it's what's for dinner), when she wants to walk not sit in the supermarket trolley but actually what she means is she wants to run, and I'm too pregnant to chase her effectively.

So I'm feeling worn down. The nice times feel like just respite between the last battle and the next. I'm discovering that I mind more on the days when I've tried hardest to make the day a nice one for her, with the park and the library and maybe a hot chocolate as a treat on a cold afternoon, because I just want to say to her, oh come on, can't you just cooperate once, just so that once we can go home having had a nice day and not be cross with one another? So, clearly, that's more about me and my needs than it is about her and hers.

I think after this novel, all I really want people to tell me is - this is inevitable, right? Necessary for their stage of emotional development? She needs us to have these clashes of will, to learn? And this is why, if there's no actual flashpoints in the day, no hurried schedule or - say - visit to completely child-unfriendly environment, she'll create one anyway?

BertieBotts Sun 04-Sep-11 14:16:35

Yes. DS is like this too, and so are the others in my NCT group. I try to pick my battles! He seems to be lessening out of it a little, but we are now getting "threenager" histronics, dramatic wails of "Dat's NOT FAIR!" and "Oh, I'll NEVER get to do my jigsaw EVER AGAIN" (if I've told him it's too late to get it out just before bedtime!) and throwing himself around in a hysterical manner. Oh and he's taken to biting the stairs confused

BertieBotts Sun 04-Sep-11 14:17:14

It probably doesn't help that I find all of this ridiculously funny blush

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Sun 04-Sep-11 14:18:20

Biting the stairs is very funny.

DD waited until a shop attendant commented on how sweet and well behaved she was this afternoon, and then licked the change-room mirror.

Rosa Sun 04-Sep-11 14:21:26

I am waiting for it to get better as well .... Thing is you never know what is going to make them kick off as the last time they got in seat, accepted help to put on shoes / coat,tucked into meal with no complaints, played nicely with sister with no snatching, oh the list goes on and on and on ... ITs that old time mantra ..It will get better I would just like to know when ?
Good Luck . My only bit of advice is try not to anticipate the tantrums , just relax as that toddler radar picks it up and it blows up harder and faster !

ChippingIn Sun 04-Sep-11 14:22:48

Tortoise - I do love your posts smile They are just so 'normal' grin

I don't know that she needs it as such, but I do know that for a lot of children it's 'normal' abeit fucking frustrating!!

I think you have to do as you have been doing and let her go through it, but at the same time sometimes say 'No, I'm doing it and that is that' and put up with the outburst, for two reasons - sometimes you do need to get in the car (or whatever) in a timely way and because it's important that she realises you are in charge not her!

How long before DC2 is due? I'd be wanting a bit of 'do it because I have said so' in place before the baby arrives or life will be hell on wheels!

ChippingIn Sun 04-Sep-11 14:25:10

Bertie - if you can step back from it, they histrionics stage is hilarious isn't it!! grin

I do think a lot of it is finding the new set of boundaries and IMO the sooner they know exactly where they are and that they are always in the same bloody place the better.

DecapitatedLegoman Sun 04-Sep-11 14:35:48

Three is way, way worse than 2. Hard hard hard. There's a support thread for parents of 3 year olds here somewhere. I'm happy to say mine survived to 4 (close run thing at times) and is back to being mostly delightful. Phew.

Katy1368 Sun 04-Sep-11 14:44:35

Yes tortoise I too thought I had escaped the "terrible two" phase, then my smugness was blown apart when she hit three!

All normal i'm afraid, grit your teeth and hang on in there. DD is 3.5 now and it is slowly improving - though you should see how long mealtimes take with the battle of wills - aaagh!

Shodan Sun 04-Sep-11 14:44:44

Have to say, I agree with DecapitatedLegoman.

DS2 is very lucky to survive some days. (He's 3.10). Headbutting, tantrums, talking back (and boy does that rattle my cage!). Refusal to eat anything remotely resembling a decent meal.

But I grit my teeth and mutter that time-(and MN) honoured mantra- 'It's just a phase. It's just a phase. It's just a phase.'

I am very much looking forward to him going back to nursery school though. grin

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Sun 04-Sep-11 14:46:23

Hmm, 'just so normal' is a compliment, is it?


Yeah, sometimes I can cope best with toddlerdom by chanting bits of Bear Hunt in my head: "We can't go over it, we can't go under it. Oh no! We're going to have to go through it."

It reminds me a bit of the infant phase. What was hardest about that wasn't the actual sleeplessness, nor the screaming (she was 'colicky' as they call it), but the feeling that perhaps I was missing something, there was some magic key I could unlock and 'solve' it. Once I accepted that she just needed to do what she was doing, it was alright. And I think that's what's going on here, really. She needs to push boundaries, she needs to test things, she needs to see what happens if I get cross.

So really, I need to stop overthinking it and accept that I'm not being too strict or too lenient or too pandering or too inflexible. She just needs to have these battles of wills and she will Find A Way to have them.

Yesterday she only agreed to come to the toilet if I had a wee first, and then threw a paddy because she wanted me to 'take my wee out of the toilet' for her turn.

Katy1368 Sun 04-Sep-11 14:51:13

I read a good book called the social toddler that said at this age they constantly need to test the security of the bond with their main carer/s and therefore that is exactly what they do - test it!

If you then continue to love and care for them and don't just abandon them in the nearest woods and run away screaming it will eventually proove to them that the bond is, indeed, secure!

Hope this comforts you next time you are asked to take wee out of the toilet!!

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Sun 04-Sep-11 15:18:53

don't just abandon them in the nearest woods and run away screaming

<revises plans>

dribbleface Sun 04-Sep-11 16:13:18

oh thank goodness its not just mine! My 3 yr old DS has driven me to dispair these last few weeks. My mum thinks its funny as i was the same but did offer some words of comfort along the lines of 'you just want to make everything nice for him, but sometimes he doesn't want things to be nice, he needs to let it out!' basically not taking it personally.

Doesn't help that i'm 36 weeks pregnant and on the occassions where i might have physically made him get in the car etc are now impossible, my neighbours must think i'm terrible when i growl 'just get in the car seat .......NOW'

Don't just abandon them in the woods and run away screaming! Ha, that made me laugh........honestly never crossed my mind 'ahem'!

FairyArmadillo Sun 04-Sep-11 16:29:44

My 3 year old switches from the most adorable little boy in the world to this thing that I do secretly want to abandon in the woods. This is once withing each other through a waking day. He is very adorable when he's sleeping. I'm sure it's all "normal" but that doesn't always reassure me. I walked past a mum doing the, "Come on! I've had enough of you!" talk to her small boy earlier and was just relieved that at that particular moment my DS was behaving himself. That was us an hour beforehand.

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 16:33:15

Licking the mirror is funny. My 9 year old DS licked the butcher's counter today. Now that is not funny.

My dd was just like you describe OP. It is normal and, I like to think, also a sign of intelligence. There were times when I thought I would actually NEVER get her into the car seat. I think I expected a bit too much, she was my first. By 6 she was lovely again - that's not too far away, is it? wink

mrsmusic Sun 04-Sep-11 21:02:34

Oh dear don't tell me it gets worse at 3! Our dd is 2 and Miss Independent or what. Everything is "I DO IT!" - e.g. car seat I can completely identify with. So determined!

Yesterday we went to an outdoor concert. There were around a hundred people or so watching her dancing away like a loon in front of the stage - it was really funny and cute. Then she proceeded to whip her knickers down and yell "I need a wee - I do it, I do it... (repeating louder and more scowl-faced as I ran, Linford Christie-style, towards her)" - so a battle in front of all those people on her trying to wee because she wanted to and me trying to pull her pants up. I ended up scooping her up and running off with her to the portaloos with her pants round her ankles. And she didn't even need to go.

Zimbah Sun 04-Sep-11 21:13:28

Oh I feel the pain too, DD1 is almost three and I feel so guilty about how lovely and peaceful and easy it is on the days she's at nursery and I've just got to get through a few hours before and after. Oddly enough she's started licking things too, like her toys etc she'll just randomly lick them or lick the windows. Licked her friend the other day, friend wasn't to impressed.

aftereight Sun 04-Sep-11 21:33:35

Yes, completely normal (do we have an end of tether emoticon?). We, with same age child, had a fantastic meltdown yesterday in central London, complete with onlookers audibly tsking 'Oh My God That Child'. The crime? I suggested he may want me to screw the lid back onto his bottle of water, and he may want to cross Westminster bridge to see Big Ben. Evil mother that I am grin
for what it's worth, you sound like a switched on, fantastic mum. Hope your little one grows out of it soon. Four was the turning point for my DD and she is now fantastic company.

titferbrains Sun 04-Sep-11 22:40:34

Amen to op. Baby coming in a week, dd turns 3 the wk after, it's been hell. Have assumed she needs reassurance and tend to give extra cuddles when she being bonkers or cross, she's v clingy ATM too, when she screaming at me orstamping about sth I often find it's hunger or tiredness. Really never expected to be on cusp of bringing dc2 into world AND looking at several months of wrangling InsaniaBaby, as I lovingly call dd hmm

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Mon 05-Sep-11 00:55:56

DD will be a week or so off three when #2 arrives as well, titfer. And dribble, yes, I'm finding it much harder to do the physical wrangling now, there is a lot of growling. I am a pretty hard-core non-swearer, usually, but I found myself growling Get In The Car Seat NOW the other day to which she snapped I AM Getting In The Car Seat. Well Do It Bloody Faster, I said. I AM Doing It Bloody Faster, came the reply, and I only had myself to blame.

startail Mon 05-Sep-11 01:04:58

It does get better, by 4-4.5. They can walk a fair way, do up their car seats and understand a lot more about roads and not running off in shops etc.
But at 3 they only think the can and it is really wearing.

CinnabarRed Mon 05-Sep-11 14:16:59

Tortoise - once DC2 arrives you'll be so grateful that DD wants to do everything herself because it will free you up for the new one. And she's old enough to leave in front on CBeebies when needs must.

I've found DS1 much easier since he turned 3. But then, like Bertie, I tend to find DS1 (3.9 years) hilarious rather than trying. I much prefer his flights-of-fancy-diatribes to DS2's endlessly-demanding-can't-be-rationalised-with grunts (16 months).

DS3 is due in less than 2 weeks, I suspect I'll find DS1 much easier than DS2.

smallzebra Tue 06-Sep-11 12:37:51

Please can I join in?

My often lovely, often seriously irritating DS turns 3 tomorrow. And what really gets me at the moment is his new thing of: Mum, I don't like you. Now I know probably I shouldn't react, but somehow it just winds me straight up and sounds so different to how I ever dared talk to my Mum and Dad (though I admit it's a bit hazy!).

So my line today was: "That's not nice. We don't talk to each other like that in this family, not Mum, not Dad, not you." Reply: "YES me, Mumma!". So that clearly didn't work then!

Any strategies for backchat / unpleasantness anyone would like to share? I try a few things, but if the threes are as bad as they say they are I'd like to get a few in place, and try to be consistent.... hmm

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