Some say the 2’s are terrible.
But for many parents, it’s the 3’s that really challenge a parent’s ability to stay cool under pressure.
Then meltdowns. The boundary-pushing. The fierce independence (followed by intense frustration that they actually cannot complete the task they wanted to do alone).
It’s a lot to handle.
Let’s take a deep breath and step back from the daily battles and power struggles for a few minutes and imagine what your child would say if they could give you a few parenting pointers.
16 Reminders for Parents of 3-year-olds
- I’m little: I know you want me to grow up, but you can’t rush this. Even if my vocabulary is huge and I can keep up with the big kids at the park, my brain still has a lot of growing up to do.
- I need connection more than correction: You want me to listen and follow your directions, and the best way to do this is by making me feel safe, supported, and attached to you.
- I need gentle guidance, not time out: Instead of separating me when I struggle, take time to teach me a better way to handle my big feelings or work through difficult situations.
- Your description of me matters: I internalize the words you use to describe me, plus, when you see me in a positive light, you are more willing to be patient and empathetic to me!
- I can handle responsibilities: I love to help and there is a lot I can do! Please make my environment easy to access and give me lots opportunities to work side by side with you.
- Let me struggle: Wait before you rush in and rescue me from a difficult situation, sometimes I just need to try a few more times – and just watch how proud I will be when it’s done!
- I cannot self-regulate 100% of the time: Some days are going to be harder than others, especially when I’m tired, hungry, overstimulated, or feeling disconnected from you.
- Tantrums are normal: Don’t be afraid when I show big feelings. It’s normal for me to feel things with a deep intensity. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or are doing something wrong.
- Your support matters: When you stay calm and in control, I know that I can count on you to keep me safe. I know that you will still love me, even when I show big feelings.
- Exploration is good: Save the word “no” for big things. Offer me an appropriate alternative, and give me lots of time to and space to play, run, touch, smell, taste, and investigate my world.
- Play with me: Be silly, sing, play games, wrestle, laugh. This makes me feel connected to you, it gives me a way to process big thoughts and feelings, and shake off anxiety and frustration.
- Change can be scary: It takes me awhile to get used to new people, new places, or new routines, so even if it seems small to you, be patient and empathetic while I adjust.
- I get overwhelmed easily: Lights, sounds, activities, running errands, and playing with other kids is a lot for my little brain. Step in and give me time to decompress before I meltdown.
- Pushing boundaries is part of learning: You don’t have to give in our get tough, just be there. Hold the limit with kindness, supporting me through my big feelings without getting upset.
- Enjoy this stage: I’m more than my ability to sit still, wipe my nose, say thank you, share, sleep through the night, or eat veggies. Embrace where I’m at, rather than wishing for more.
- I love you: You are my favorite person! Even if you lose your cool once in awhile, forget that I’m little, or give me the red cup, I love you SO much. Thank you for caring for me!
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