Forget terrible two’s. Once your toddler hits the bold age of three, you can expect (in most circumstances) your patience and temper to be tested to the point of failure.

Whining, tantrums, chronic use of the word “no”, intentional “bad” decisions and emotional collapse. It’s easy to see this as your child being defiant or strong-willed — testing parental authority (among other things).

But perhaps it’s better to understand these scenarios as indication of your child trying out their own sense of independence. A newfound freedom that comes with an increase in their cognitive abilities, but one that also poses particular conundrums.

In the midst of their terrible three’s, our children are beginning to grasp the complicated nature of human interaction. They’re gaining language skills, social-interaction abilities, and simple problem solving methods. Like any person who’s learned something new, they want to test their new skill’s parameters.

Kids are eager to accomplish new tasks, do things with their hands, show that they know something (and be affirmed for knowing). But at this age, they’re also prone to being easily overwhelmed — and won’t always understand why a certain action needs to stop, or why something they enjoy must come to a momentary end. They feel big emotions but don’t have the ability to express them to the same magnitude.

Sometimes the desire to do a task is inhibited by the skill not quite being perfected. On several occasions my daughter has hurled every Lego from the bin when stymied by a difficult piece. When we’ve tried to talk through the situation she quickly explains her frustration, and I’m always surprised at how fleeting it is. That as soon as she’s shown how to correct the problem she adapts and moves on.

Such is the world of tantrums. Getting jacket zippers right, or sweater buttons, or both mittens on. Adjusting a sock so the seam doesn’t annoy the big toe. And the list goes on. I’m sure every Dad has experienced it.

The great thing is, the tantrums can often be alleviated with some one-on-one time. Here’s a list of things Dad’s can do to help their kid work through rough patches:

  • Get down to their level and listen – Your pretty high up when you stand tall. Get down so that you can look them in the eyes and allow them to explain (to the best of their ability) what’s got them bent out of shape. It might not make sense, but it allows them important communication.
  • Find a solution together – You want to help your child acquire problem-solving skills, so don’t quash them with your own anger. Work with your child, find that solution that works. There will be times when it won’t necessarily jive 100%, but at least you’ve worked through it together.
  • Never Give Up – Even at the worst of times, when little Benjamin has collapsed on the floor in a whirlwind of squawking, recognize that this is when he needs you most. These are the defining moments where the parent can provide learning for the child.
  • Focus on the Sweeter Moments — Yes, the “fit will hit the shan” as they say. Quite often. And you will have moments of colossal failure. But there is so much beauty in raising a child — and that’s where the focus should be. At this age you are the center of your child’s universe. They are pining for your attention in any form. Hugs, affection, playing, reading…you name it. Make those the focus of your experience while you work through the more trying moments.

At the end of the day, parenting is often as much a learning experience for the adult as it is for the child. The margin for error is wide, and sometimes daunting. But the benefits of putting in sincere effort outweigh the downsides.

*photo courtesy of*


Harry Tournemille knows it gets better as you go.