Everyone warned you about how trying the “Terrible Two’s” would be, but once your little one turns three years old and developed a few more skills, little did you know that you would be living with a tiny sassy teenager trapped in a preschooler’s body – otherwise known as a “threenager”!
So what exactly is a threenager and how can you tell that your innocent little tot has turned into one?
Here are the usual traits and characteristics of these spunky little three year olds:
1. They want to do everything by themselves
No longer a baby and moving on up from being a toddler to now becoming a preschooler, your threenager strives for independence and insists he can do everything on his own without your help because he is “a big boy now”.
Now before you get all misty-eyed over the fact that he can pour his juice all by himself now, don’t worry, he’ll still call you to help wipe his bum after he’s done on the potty.
Ah, the joys of parenting…
2. Naptime becomes a huge battle
Naptimes used to be a great window of opportunity for you to quickly get some chores done, or eat a light snack in peace, or have a short snooze yourself.
But your threenager has other plans and always tries to get out of his mid-day naps (much to your dismay!), which is fine if he doesn’t turn into Mr Cranky-Pants if he misses it, as some kids around this age will actually be able to handle dropping their naps already.
When he becomes a parent himself years from now, he’ll probably learn to appreciate naptime again.
3. Their sense of fashion is emerging
As embarrassed as you are about your threenager’s odd choice of attire (pajamas with a tutu and a bicycle helmet), let her channel her inner fashionista and choose her own outfits, as long as they are appropriate for the weather.
Three year olds should be able to put on basic attire by themselves and as a way of asserting independence, just give her the freedom of mixing and matching her outfit of the day.
Take this as a preview to what sort of kooky outfits she will be wearing once she hits the teenage years…
4. They are suddenly scared of stuff that never bothered them before
Suddenly your fearsome tot has turned into an anxious threenager who is scared of thunder, the dark, or clowns – when all this never bothered him before!
You ask him to take a bath, or help you throw something in the bin, or to go to sleep at bedtime and his default answer is always, “No! I’m scared!”.
This is because he is beginning to develop his imagination and is still unable to distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality, so he might be imagining there are monsters lurking in the shadows, or at the bottom of the bin.
5. Expect a bit of attitude or sass
You’ve just asked your child to put her toys away, only to have her sigh, roll her eyes, stand there with her hands on her hips and huff, “Fine, okaaay!”, and for a flash second, you can picture what life will be like once she reaches adolescence.
Your sassy little kid is not being disrespectful, but she is actually just learning to figure out who she is and it is part of a normal discovery process.
This is exactly why the term “threenager” was coined – as a mash up of the words three and teenager (umm, good luck!).
6. They are pretty opinionated
A threenager has an opinion about everything – from the quality of the food presented to him, to whether or not the playground you brought him to was fun, or even scrutinising the cool factor of the new pair of shoes you just got him.
This may make you want to tear your own hair out in frustration, but just let him make his own choices every once in a while as it is good for him to develop his sense of self.
If it makes you feel any better, you can take a video of him being so fussy and show it to his future girlfriend years from now.
7. It’s their way or the highway
As your toddler becomes a threenager with a stronger sense of identity, he becomes less dependant on you and starts wanting things done his way.
But instead of flat out saying “no” to him (which we all know will not end well!) or caving and just giving in to his every demand, you can compromise and give him your pre-selected options – such as a choice between which two shirts to wear.
That way, he thinks he’s making his own decisions but it’s actually what you’ve picked out for him (yes, we know it’s sneaky, ssh!).
8. They will say the darnest things (at the darnest times!)
What do you get when you combine a three-year-old’s power of observation and new-found articulation in speech?
Unfiltered remarks in public such as, “Look, mummy, that woman’s tummy is so big. Is she going to have a baby?”, or “Grandpa, your mouth smells like poo”.
Those comments may be embarrassing and make you want to crawl into a hole and hide, but your threenager doesn’t mean to be rude or insensitive – she’s just observing the world and the people around her and reporting what she sees to you.
9. There will be drama
We don’t mean the song and dance kind with cute costumes up on stage – threenagers have a tendency to be a little dramatic, exagerrate and over-react.
For example your tyke slightly bumps into something while playing so she grabs her arm in pain and whines, “Ow! My arm is broken!” – or you tell her she can’t have ice cream until she’s finished her dinner, so she sighs and dramatically laments, “No! I want to it now! I’m very sad. Ice cream makes me happy”.
These award-winning performances are due to your young child still trying to manage her feelings as she does not have frontal lobes yet, so will tend to over-react and be a pint-sized Drama Queen.
10. They will talk your ear off
Your child’s language skills will start to develop once she turns three years old so she will be able to use longer sentences and even link sentences together.
The questions will be endless and the stories she tells you will be longer with more description – so you just have to be patient and listen to her for 15 minutes, explaining what she did today in the park, only to have her forget a small detail so she has to start telling you the story all over again from the beginning.
Having to deal with a threenager may be frustrating and drive you up the wall, but at the same time it is also fun to see your young child develop his or her own character – and attitude!
Are you dealing with a threenager right now? Does he or she have these typical traits? What other endearing characteristics have you observed about your little three year old? Tell us by leaving a comment below.