Learning to Love the Threenager Tantrum

Learning to love the threenager tantrum

It’s certainly true to say that every kid is different, but with my eldest daughter, I honestly didn’t find the “twos” so terrible at all. Yes, there were the occasional tantrums and fraught moments, but generally things were pretty easy.

She’s always had a happy-go-lucky kind of personality. She would typically flit about contentedly, doing her thing. She listened to us, and more often than not would follow instructions without too much fuss. Mealtimes were fairly straightforward. The bedtime routine was mostly bereft of drama. We could fairly well predict how she’d react to most situations.

I was beginning to think that we’d got lucky with this one and was starting to become a little complacent.

And then she turned three.

And, well, things changed.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve enjoyed seeing my daughter flourish immensely this year. She’s become more independent and her confidence has soared. Sometimes I’m amazed at the things she knows and can articulate. There are times I almost forget that she’s only three.

She now suddenly switches back and forth between referring to me as Mummy and Mum (although I’m not sure that I’m ready to be “Mum” just yet!).

Before my very eyes I see her growing into a bright, happy and considerate child. Just what I had hoped for her.

But then there are the “challenges”.

The independence will often now translate to stubbornness and the confidence brings with it a greater degree of willfulness. Her wit is typically accompanied by a good dose of sassiness these days!

But most difficult of all are the mood swings and tantrums which seem to come out of nowhere. We never quite know what might set her off. Only she does. My husband and I tread carefully, trying our best to avoid the triggers where possible, but most often to no avail!

Yes, it would seem that we definitely have a “threenager” on our hands.

It can be maddening at times, and I’m really having to learn how to pick my battles. This is uncharted territory and I don’t always know how to react. It’s been tricky to ensure that that we’re disciplining appropriately while also allowing her to express her frustrations. At the same time, I try to keep in mind that this is all just part of growing up.

One thing’s for sure though… maintaining a sense of humor through it all seems to be one of the best things I can do. The outbursts can be trying to say the least, but they can also be silly and funny (even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time)… and in fact endearing.

Yep, I said it. Endearing. No, that wasn’t a typo and you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with me at this point. So to be clear, I am not necessarily talking about the tantrum itself.  Anyone that’s endured a threenager tantrum and has lived to tell the tale will know how harrowing they can be.

But rather its the random incidents that can spark these epic meltdowns.

When I first started writing this post, it was intended to be a fun and lighthearted rant. Something that other parents of young children would relate to. Fodder to tease my daughter about when she’s a bit older 🙂

But, as I was writing, I had a bit of a revelation.

When you think about it, the tantrums provide a fantastic glimpse into the minds of these amazing little people. They can show us what they care about and what’s important to them… and oftentimes it’s something so beautifully pure and innocent. And it makes me painfully aware that it won’t always be this way (you can read my post about the bittersweet nature of parenting here).

In the blink of eye she’ll be a tween, and then a teenager, and then the issues will suddenly be a whole lot more complicated.

So I say let’s embrace the threenager tantrums! Let’s try to see the funny side whenever we can… and at the very least console ourselves in the fact that they usually pass pretty quickly!

And to better make my point about the true innocence and simplicity of the tantrum triggers, here is just a sampling of the things that set off my daughter this week:

15 actual things that made my threenager cry this week

1. She couldn’t fit a balloon inside her little handbag

2. She wanted to pick purple wildflowers at the park, but there were only yellow ones

3. It was a cloudy day and she wanted the sun to come out so that her glittery shoes would sparkle

4. A bee flew near her

5. She wanted her yogurt in a pink bowl rather than her dinosaur bowl

6. She wanted her yogurt in the dinosaur bowl rather than the pink one

7. She just wanted “to be alone”. In the kitchen. And expected everyone else to leave

8. She wanted whole strawberries, but my husband had already cut them into pieces

9. She spilled a small amount of water on herself

10. I had to put her favorite blanket in the washing machine

11. Her baby sister wasn’t in the car when I picked her up from school one day

12. Her baby sister was crying too much in the car on the way home from school another day

13. She wanted to put her boots on all by herself, but then couldn’t do it

14. My husband was carrying her the “wrong way”

15. I told her that she couldn’t wear her princess crown to bed


What random/ridiculous/funny things have caused your little ones to throw tantrums? And how do you deal with it?!

I’d love to hear your stories.

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  • Reply Jen

    It’s great that you are looking at things from a positive perspective! My kids have passed the tantrum stage but I remember how difficult it could be.

    April 11, 2017 at 2:37 pm
    • Reply Polly

      Thanks Jen. I’m not always seeing the positive side in the moment, but afterwards… yes, I definitely try to! 🙂

      April 13, 2017 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply Mary Leigh

    This is a great perspective! It’s important to help our kids learn to work through their emotions! Tantrums are a good way to practice. They seem so silly and can be down right frustrating to us, but we have to remember that our children are learning and having to process lots of things!

    April 11, 2017 at 6:36 pm
    • Reply Polly

      Yes, Mary Leigh – you’re absolutely right! I do try my best to remember that it’s all part of growing and “expressing themselves”!

      April 13, 2017 at 2:55 pm
  • Reply Corey | The Nostalgia Diaries

    Oh my goodness, this post takes me back to when my daughter was a threenager. She’s 5 now, and I’ve loved all the ages, but 3 was a challenge! I’m not sure why everyone refers the terrible twos, because compared to the threes, they are terrific 🙂

    April 11, 2017 at 8:58 pm
    • Reply Polly

      I’m like you Corey… I’ve loved all of the ages and stages, but the threes have definitely been a bit tricky!

      April 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm
  • Reply Danielle

    I don’t have kids, so reading this just makes me laugh out loud. You didn’t let her wear her CROWN to bed? Bad mummy! LMAO.

    April 11, 2017 at 10:11 pm
    • Reply Polly

      I know Danielle… mean mummy!!!

      April 13, 2017 at 2:58 pm
  • Reply The Sun Mama

    Oh m goodness ! I LOVED reading this post! It’s been a long time since mine were this little and thinking back makes me smile 🙂

    April 12, 2017 at 2:36 am
    • Reply Polly

      Thank you so much… I had fun writing it 🙂

      April 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm
  • Reply Yolanda

    Those are great and oh so classic three-year-old behaviors. It’s hard work figuring out what you want! Having an actual teenager in the house, it makes me nostalgic for days like that…teenagers are complicated!

    April 12, 2017 at 6:17 pm
    • Reply Polly

      I know Yolanda… I’m nervous about the teenage years!

      April 13, 2017 at 2:52 pm

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