Troublesome Threes


A three-year-old boy eating cereal.My son turned three two months ago. Everyone always complains about the terrible twos, but I always wondered what they were talking about. My son was a dream at two. He was sweet and kind, listened well, and was an all-around great boy.

Then he turned three. Overnight, he seemed to change.

He became combative, said no constantly, and seemed to develop a new octave. What happened to my best boy? He started getting in trouble at school for not listening to his teacher, and what used to be regular fun became arduous. Getting dressed in the morning started taking way too much time. So what to do about a child who was once a great listener with a great demeanor who suddenly changes?

I found that routine is the best way to combat the troublesome threes.

My son turning three coincided with my return to work. Suddenly, we didn’t have time to slowly start our days and spend hours at the park. So, I began instating specific routines for our “crunch” times together to combat the troublesome threes. (Namely, morning and nighttime).

My son knows now that he can go to the bathroom whenever he needs to at night, but he can’t leave his room until his alarm sounds at 6:50 a.m. He knows he gets dressed while I feed his sister, and then it’s time to wash his hands and face and brush his teeth. Then breakfast, packing the car, and off to school.

He can listen to his music in the car if we get through the morning without any meltdowns or fresh talk. We have a similar routine at night that is very predictable and productive.

The only problem with routines like this is that when they are broken, havoc may ensue.

For example, we spent a night at my parents’ house this weekend. While Grandma and Poppy are always fun and exciting, Grandma didn’t serve the dessert correctly, so there were tears at the dinner table.

As always with parenting, each day is exciting and a new learning experience. I’m just trying to raise healthy, happy, and good children.

What are some tips for dealing with age-induced changes in your babies?


  1. Laura, You’re doing great! I can say from experience that routines work really well but take patience and consistency. Especially at nighttime I have learned that a routine is key – especially when the meltdowns occur – because they will. Learn to mix in the fun too. Have “off” days where some routines and rules are broken but keep the really important ones (i.e. bedtime). If you have only routines, Mikey will not be able to adapt and adjust when the unexpected changes happen. And hang in there – the “terrible 3s” were worse than 2’s for us too but they do end and then a new set of challenges and adventures come.


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