By Hillary Westover

5 parent-tested no-tears tricks for how to handle tiny fake-teens

Tags Relationships


Whoever coined the term “terrible twos” had clearly never met a three-year-old. Nothing can match the defiance and outright obstinacy of the threenager: a adolescent's attitude trapped in a toddler's body. Parenting little people is tough but you don’t have to struggle to survive the age of three. Here are five ways to break the cycle and actually start to enjoy raising your little darling:

1. Stoop to their level! Get down on the floor and play cars. Sculpt a playdough masterpiece. Get your hands dirty in the sandbox. Immerse yourself in the activity and reclaim a piece of your youthful spirit.

2. Call time! Tea time, that is. When things escalate and tensions grow, stop what you’re doing and announce that it’s tea time. Three-year-olds can’t tell time so they can’t tell you you’re wrong (enjoy it while it lasts!) Let your little one help with the ritual of preparing the tea. Arranging the crackers on the plate, stirring in a little honey or lemon, and waiting for the ice cube in their teacup to melt is soothing and a great way to transition from destroy-the-house-and-jump-on-the-dog time to story time.

3. Choose your battles. If all your three-year-old hears is “no” it stands to reason they’ll parrot it back to you. Why not say yes sometimes? So what if they go to bed wearing their Hallowe’en costume instead of their pyjamas? Does it really matter if they eat their dessert before they eat their dinner if they agree that dessert is limited and the actual eating of the dinner is non-negotiable? Handing over the reins and letting the threenager have a measure of control could lead to fewer battles overall. (Or mutiny. It could lead to mutiny. Strength be with you, my friend.)

4. Get moving! A tired (but not overtired) kid is a happy kid. Take them outside and get them running, jumping, climbing, anything to get the beans out. Join in and take advantage of some endorphins yourself!

5. Write it down. When you’re at the end of your rope and you could fill 18 pages (front and back!) with your child’s transgressions, do a 180 and write a list of all the awesome things he or she does. It may take a while to look past the spaghetti-stained carpet or the 3-hour bedtime negotiations but thinking of, and then physically writing down, positive things about your kid is a sure-fire way to feel good about this wild ride we call parenting.

What are your survival tactics for raising a threenager?

Hillary Westover is a part-time serious office person, part-time aspiring creative, and a full-time mama of one spirited little guy. She loves baked goods, kitchen dance parties, and people who spell her name with two Ls. You can find her on Twitter @hillarywith2Ls. 

Don't miss your happier boost!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get practical tips and inspiration to help you feel more joyful and resilient.