How to Parent a Threenager

Toddler Looking in Mirror

The phase from sweet baby to tantrum throwing toddler is quite a game changer. Every other parent warns you about the terrible twos. But what no one mentions is that actually, age two is a walk in the park compared to parenting a threenager.

What is a threenager?

A threenager is a toddler aged three who behaves like a teenager. Mood swings and tantrums are an hour by hour occurrence and you live in a constant state of fear in wonder of what exactly will set them off next.

Common Threenager Phrases to look for:

Here are a few phrases to let you know your life is about to be turned upside down:

“I want to do it!!”

  • You sit resisting the urge to cut up her dinner for her because it’s just too painful to watch!


  • You’ll hear this one a LOT. Even if you offer them something you know they want. Face palm…

“I don’t like that”

  • You idiot mummy. I liked bananas this morning, but now it’s 12:03pm and I hate them!!

“I’m not going!”

  • Bribery is a way of life with children. It works wonders when you are running late for work (again) because your threenager refuses to put their shoes on.

“I don’t want a nap”

  • She says as her eyes roll back into her head, screaming. Please, please just go to sleep! Or I may have to perform an exorcism.


  • Ten seconds is an eternity in threenage years. They want it yesterday!

How Do I Parent a Threenager?

Emotional Development

At three years old, toddlers are learning to manage a whirlwind of emotions. Coupled with their inability to communicate their feelings properly can make for some difficult times ahead for everyone.

It’s important to validate your child’s emotions, even if to you it may seem trivial.

If they are angry, try and understand what made them angry. Ask them about why they’re feeling like that, and label that emotion so that in the future they may know how to better deal with that situation.

Teaching them empathy, kindness and to talk about their feelings can allow them to have stable emotional intelligence into later years.

Mother hugging her son - threenager

Conflict Resolution

With a barrage of tantrums coming at you, it can be hard not to react negatively. I admit that occasionally I had been suckered in by retaliating with an immature comment right back at her.

“Mummy, I don’t like you!”

“Well, kiddo, I’m not too fond of you right now either.”

It may seems like an off the cuff comment at the time, but your toddler is keeping track of every single thing you tell her. That doesn’t mean to read as vindicative, but your little human looks to you for everything. They gain all of their knowledge from you.

Have you ever mentioned something that was weeks ago, and they then suddenly bring it back up in conversation out of nowhere? You wonder, how the hell did they remember that?


I try and respond to tantrums by being non-reactive.

The best way to teach her how to deal with her emotions is by being emotionally mature yourself.


Your three year olds growing independence means that they want to do everything for themselves.

So while a simple task like putting on your socks takes us about ten seconds, it can take around ten minutes of painful attempts to open sock and insert foot for your toddler.

But, please try and resist offering your help straight away.

I am quite an impatient person, but having children has forced me to address this. After all, how are they going to learn to do anything if you don’t give them the time to put those things into practice.

I began to allow myself more time to get ready in the morning so I could allow my daughter to practice dressing herself etc.

It meant that it would reduce or eliminate the time I often spent battling my threenager to hurriedly get ready and run out of the door. The morning rush is slightly calmer (mostly!)

Toddler with coat and scarf walking outside on an autumn day - Three


Toddlers want instant gratification for every single thing they do. It can be tedious to say well done for every small task, but to them it is a triumph to be able to cut up a piece of food or peel a banana without help from you.

This need of validation is a great opportunity for you to teach them good behaviour and manners.

Ask them to grab a few items whilst you are out shopping at the supermarket. Teach them good table manners. Every time they show good behaviour, validate that and reward them with something simple like a sticker chart.

It will boost their confidence, allow them to practice their independence and allow you to positively divert from the constant tantrums of the day.

Yikes! Will it ever end?

Of course! Childhood is an endless string of phases. But as the saying goes, don’t wish the time away. Three year olds are actually the best!

Their little personalities truly begin to shine through at age three.

They are funny (they give you an excuse to laugh at the word poo again) Their new skills amaze you every day and you can actually have a conversation with them as their vocabulary improves.

There are so many things that I love about my three year old. Despite the mood swings, I wouldn’t change her for the world.

Are you struggling with your threenager? What are your best parenting tips? I’d love to read them!

One thought on “How to Parent a Threenager

  1. I needed to thank you for this excellent read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of
    it. I’ve got you bookmarked to look at new things you post…

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