Dealing with a threenagerPosted: 30/07/2014
When I first heard the term ‘threenager’, it made me smile in an “I have absolutely no idea what this really means” sort of way – i.e. I could see the joke but, as we hadn’t quite reached that point with ToddlerGirl yet, I didn’t really GET IT in the way you only can when you are living through something.
Well, I definitely get it now! Oh, how I get it…
There are many ways in which ‘threenager-isms’ manifest themselves. The sighing and stomping off, like some sort of pint-sized Kevin*, can actually be quite funny. Huge strops over ridiculous things, like whether I have my hair up or down (yes, that really happened), can also be quite amusing, if a tad exasperating. The stubborn, digging heels in defiance over a multitude of big and little things during the course of a day, however, are really not so funny. More like exhausting and, often, bewildering to deal with.
By far our hardest experience of this ‘threenager’ stage is the epic battle we can have over clothes. Clothes! My daughter is not even quite three and has an avid interest in her wardrobe. I’m not sure where it has sprung from. There we were, trundling along, Mummy and Daddy picking out our toddler’s outfits each day with no problems at all. Seemingly overnight, we have found ourselves confronted with huge tantrums over the fact that she has a particular item in mind to wear and it’s not what has been laid out before her.
Take this morning. We have had actual tears as she absolutely refused to wear either choice of outfits provided. Why? Because she was determined to put on her ‘heart top’. The problem with the heart top is that it is a jumper and we are in the middle of a heatwave at the moment! But there is no rationalising with a three year old. In the end, she has headed off to nursery in the completely inappropriate winter top as, mindful that she is doing a full day today, I didn’t want her starting it off as a complete, sobbing wreck.
I am left pondering how on earth we handle this particular situation going forward. It’s something that crops up at least every other day, so we clearly need to give it some thought. As far as I can work out, we have three solutions:
1. Let her wear whatever she likes.
The phrase ‘pick your battles’ springs to mind and, really, is it a big deal what she wears every day? The downsides of this are the fact that she will often end up with clashing patterns/colours (but I guess that only matters to me!) or, like today, will select inappropriate items (but maybe then she will learn why we don’t wear jumpers on a hot day…). It does worry me that giving her complete free reign sends a message that she doesn’t have to listen to what Mummy and Daddy are saying. And I really can’t let her leave the house in a swimming costume, tights and winter hat, which would be the outfit of choice on many days.
2. Choose the outfit for her and force her to wear this, no matter what battle we may have over it.
The idea being that, after a few times, she will realise that it doesn’t matter how much she tantrums, she will wear what we have selected. The problem with this is that a) our girl is incredibly strong willed and persistent and may not get that message for a really, really long time and b) we don’t subscribe to the ‘squash it out of them’ approach to raising a child. She needs to respect our boundaries but I don’t believe that we need to be so heavy handed in order to achieve that. Although, in the case of the clothes, I am beginning to doubt myself…
3. Give her a choice of two or three outfits that we have selected for her.
This is the approach we have been trying, with obviously mixed success. Some days, it works well. Others, like today, not so much. The only modification I can think of for this is to choose the outfit at the end of the day, rather than in the morning, as I think the mornings are not the best time for us to be doing this, especially if we are trying to get out of the house.
That’s it. I can’t think of any other ways to deal with our clothes problem. At the moment, if I’m honest, we probably end up doing a mixture of all three. She has a choice of two outfits every day; if she has a tantrum over this, we either loose our patience and tell her she has to wear xyz or, like today, she ends up getting her way for whatever reason. Hmm, that’s made me realise that maybe we’re not being consistent enough and, whatever route we choose, we need to make sure we follow it through.
The rest of the ‘threenager’ behaviour we manage to muddle through somehow with a variety of different techniques. But, wow, is it a challenging phase to negotiate… I have to admit to feeling that going back to baby stage with her sister/brother is going to be a walk in the park in comparison to dealing with a three year old!
Anyone else dealing with a threenager at the moment? Please tell me we’re not alone…!
* For those not in the UK, or not of my generation, Kevin = the stroppy teenage boy in Harry Enfield & Friends!