The Threenager



A three-year-old boy stretching in bed. Three’s the charm. That’s what they always say, right? Unless it’s referring to the three-year-old, a.k .a., ‘The Threenager.’

I remember hearing about the ‘Terrible Twos’ before I had my son and thinking, “That sounds like a nightmare!” Then, my son turned two, and I cautiously awaited the stage of biting, throwing, tantrums, etc., that everyone had warned of. When my son was two and a half, I thought, “Wow, could we have somehow been blessed to miss the terrible twos?”

Yes and no.

At about two years and ten months, my delightful Prince Charming of a son skipped the Terrible Twos and turned right into the beastly Threenager.

“Shhhh! Mommy, don’t say that!”

“That’s disgusting!”

“I don’t like it, not one little bit!”

These and a few other not-so-pleasant phrases soon became part of his everyday dialogue with me. Add in the three-times-a-week fight to not nap, along with the boycott against eating pretty much anything besides chicken nuggets and blueberry-banana smoothies, and you are beginning to get an idea of what life has become.

At first, I decided to take a stand against everything. “I’ll show him who’s boss,” I thought. Go ahead and laugh, you more experienced parents. Don’t worry; I’m a quick learner. One day, while exercising and listening to my playlist, the following lyrics stood out:

I thought things couldn’t get much worse but guess what they did….

this time it’s goodbye trouble

I feel the light at the end of this tunnel

I get stronger with every step

come hell, come high water

you push on me I’m gonna push back harder

got a whole lot more than little bit me left.

That was when I decided to regroup and devise a new plan to survive the Threenager stage. This led to me developing some new mantras for our family.

  1. As long as the food plan is reasonably healthy over a 24-hour period, that’s good enough.
  2. He can sleep with a toy, as long as it’s only one, and it’s not dangerous because sleep is gold.
  3. Learning from natural consequences, such as falling when he runs ahead, will make him more resilient.
  4. Less is more, as in less debating, more modeling the behavior you want goes much farther.
  5. When all else fails, play a song and have a dance party.

So, those of you in the trenches with me, did I miss anything? More experienced parents, please tell me by this time next year, my Prince Charming will have returned.

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Maria Sette
Maria is a full-time mom, teacher, wife, daughter, and sister, who feels pulled in too many directions! Her older son Michael took over 24 hours to be born, and at six-months-old was diagnosed with allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, shrimp, and wheat…all after exclusively nursing because she was SO SURE that would help him be a healthy kid. Luckily at age 1, he began to outgrow some of his allergies. Fingers crossed the others will soon follow because that plus a husband who doesn’t eat any veggies and Maria always battling her weight makes for three meals to prepare every night. Luckily, Christopher, her younger son, is a cooperative eater! As someone who has always been committed to making positive change, Maria uses her privilege and position as an educator and mom to work toward a most anti-racisit, equitibile, and inclusive world. Recently, Maria has even started getting up at 5am to workout in her basement. (Thank you pandemic living!) She is addicted to reading chicklit on her Kindle app in the dark, most Trader Joe’s products, and watching TikToks.


  1. As my daughter is about to turn 2, everyone is now worrying me about the 3s. Unlike you, we hit the tantrums and terrible-two behavior a few months ago, and now I’m wondering if I’ll be able to keep my sanity through both the 2s and 3s 🙂 I’ll be looking at your tips often. And if you hear about a woman going mad in Bethel, know that it’s probably me.

  2. Don’t worry Allison…I’ll be here when you need someone to bang heads with.
    Hopeful if your’s started early, it will end early.


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