5 Tips for Coping With a Threenager

Kristen Hewitt

I was pretty surprised that the post I wrote on our threenager was such a hit globally. I didn’t coin the phrase, but was happy to learn that Emylia’s behavior is perfectly normal and that threenagers exist in France, Germany, Spain and Australia too! While most parents agreed that this is a tough phase, some chastised me for raising a spoiled child, or allowing her to rule the roost. (Cue Taylor Swift – Haters gonna hate hate hate…) I can assure you folks, we typically don’t react to these behaviors, nor give in, but we have come up with some strategies for coping with this challenging age.

So when your little threenager cops an attitude, here’s how you can strike back!


Acknowledge Their Feelings.

When a threenager starts to fume, it is possible to nip the tantrum in the bud. Try saying, “I’m sorry you’re frustrated  or                              (insert any word here) that you can’t                             (insert any ridiculous thing that set them off).” Going to their level and showing you care about their feelings does help!

“You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

Of course, after you acknowledge they’re sad or livid, it’s important to let them know that this is how it is. Life is full of little disappointments, no matter what color your dinner plate or cup is. “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset,” is my mantra when she throws herself on the floor because her sandwich is a triangle and not a square. Of course, I say it in a polite way, and tell her mommy can’t make another one. If she’s hungry enough, she’ll eat it eventually!

Always Give a Warning When a Transition is Coming.

This one is basic but key. We usually start at ten minutes, and then five, then the two-minute warning. (Dos Minutos!) It doesn’t stop the absolute heartache of leaving the activity, but it does usually avert the full blown tantrum or boneless episode.

Plan Ahead for the Car Crisis. 

If you have to leave early so they can get in the car by themselves and buckle their car seat, then leave a little early.  Better yet, buy a small, cheap stool so they can climb into the car seat by themselves. I pick my battles, and if she needs this to feel independent and like a big girl . . .go for it! I also bring lots of distractions like a book, a DVD, an AquaDoodle and Traveler Wow Coloring Books.

Use Behavior Charts.

The clean up song is not working anymore? Threenagers need consequences and lots of positive praise. I used a jelly bean jar for a few days before I realized I was bribing my kids with candy. (I know, I know ok?! My husband was on a long road trip and I needed something!) We do a color chart now similar to my daughters school. If their clips rise to pink, they get a prize from the “treasure box”. (AKA something from the Dollar Tree or $1 bin at Target) This doesn’t stop the above boneless episodes when our threenager’s clip is moved down to yellow or orange, but her reactions have been much tamer.

Will these tactics turn your threenagers back into your sweet angelic baby? Probably not. But they will help decrease the frequency of outbursts and make all of your lives a little easier. You know what they say, when kids are little, the problems are little. I’m a bit scared of what may lie ahead!


This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media LLC.

Kristen Hewitt is a 2-time Emmy Award Winning Television Reporter/Producer for Fox Sports Florida and the Miami HEAT. Her favorite job though is raising her two daughters, and she chronicles her misadventures in sports and mommyhood on her blog, Mommy in SPORTS.