Once you’ve survived the Terrible 2s, here come the Terrible 3s
At Westchester Health Pediatrics, many of our parents tell us that the “terrible 3s” are so bad,
or even worse, than the “terrible 2s.” Where is all this “terribleness” coming from, you might
Basically, the same place for 3-year-olds as for 2-year-olds: they want to be independent
and control their environment but lack the physical skill and intellectual wherewithal to
accomplish this. Consequently, they get frustrated, angry and combative, which can make
disciplining and setting limits very hard for you as parents.
The good news? We’re here to help, with information, advice and lots of guidance. We’ve
helped raise thousands of 3-year-olds through the years, and we’re ready to help you with yours.
How to make it through the 3s
With lots of input from our parents, we’ve come up with 4 simple ways you and your child can
navigate the 3-year-old years with a minimum of meltdowns.
1) Choose your battles wisely
Three-year-olds learn by exploring their environment and testing boundaries. While you don’t
want your child to get hurt, you do want to give him/her the freedom to learn about the world.
Try to be flexible about behavior unless it’s related to safety and important rules like staying out
of the street and not touching a hot stove. If you try to control every less-than-perfect behavior,
you’ll find yourself reprimanding your child all day long, which will only encourage negative
2) Approach potty training peacefully
If your child is three and still in diapers, don’t stress about it. Rather, take solace in knowing the
end of diapers is near. There are a variety of approaches to take, from a designated “no diapers”
weekend to a “Yay! You used the potty!” rewards chart. Most of all, be sure to handle accidents
with patience and love. These will happen, and your child should not be punished for them.
3) Divert and redirect
While it might seem like explaining to your 3-year-old the consequences of his/her actions is the
right way to parent, diverting and redirecting is actually the most effective way to encourage
good behavior at this age. When your child starts to acts up, distract him/her with a favorite toy,
offer a snack or engage in a silly activity (blowing bubbles, letting the air out of a balloon).
You’ll be amazed at how easily you can get your young one back on track.
4) Provide a safe environment
Baby-proofing doesn’t end when your child turns 3. If anything, this is the age when the real
challenges begin. Curious 3-year-olds can climb, open cabinets and pull a pot of boiling water
off the stove. Make sure your home is safe for your child, and yet understand that safety
measures are no substitute for diligent supervision.