How to Survive the Terrible Threes

terrible twos threes, terrible threes tantrums, what comes after terrible twos | Mamma, it's Okay

We’ve all heard about the terrible twos; but everyone failed to mention that they are nothing compared to dealing with a three year old or a “threenager”.

Whoever coined that term needs to be fired. The twos were a piece of cake compared to the last year. 

Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t change a thing & man have I learned a ton over the past year, but it was nowhere near as easy as raising a two year old. 

Jolene just turned four last week; & while I’m excited to get out of the threenager stage – I’ve heard the term “Fearsome Fours” & I’m pretty worried. 

Someone please put my mind at ease!

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terrible 3 tantrums, terrible twos and threes, threenager,

2 year old vs. 3 year old

Here are some major differences between a two year old & a three year old.

Your two year old will eat a variety of food; but at 3 you’ll get lucky with three options. Jolene eats Mac N Cheese, Quesadillas, and Eggs. 

You can’t really understand your two year old – but your three year old will talk & talk, & talk some more. Oh & don’t you dare ask them to repeat themselves. 

A two year old temper tantrum might seem scary; but at three expect the full horns to come out. This entails screaming, hitting, & sometimes even biting. 

Your two year old will let you help them; at three – they must do everything by themselves because they are “big kids now”. 

At two, your child doesn’t really understand how the world works – but at three it’s like they just took a five year course on manipulation & the things they come up with will surprise you. 

You might be saying to yourself that your three year old doesn’t do any of these things & the terrible threes aren’t even a thing. 

I’m guessing the threes just started for you or you are really lucky.

I’m pretty sure the day Jolene turned three the next 10 things started happening. 

10 signs you’ve entered the terrible threes

  1. Your child starts arguing with you & actually making sense. 
  2. Bad words are used correctly & at the right times. 
  3. The most common word you hear around the house is  “NO!” 
  4. Meals are completely missed or at total random times of the day because your three year old is too busy to eat. 
  5. You catch yourself laughing instead of discipling because you can’t believe what came out of that tiny mouth. 
  6. You have to step up your white lie game because your three year old will call  you out on the silly ones. 
  7. You’ve been hit, kicked, or bitten when leaving your child’s favorite places. 
  8. There’s pee on the floor, everywhere – because your toddler wouldn’t stop playing to use the restroom. Oh & it’s most likely jumped in too. 
  9. The attitude has started. 
  10. Nap-time has stopped or pushed way past any nap-time should ever be. 

Parenting a three year old

Honestly, I’m not sure I could have survived without the Magic 1,2,3 Method. 

You’ve most likely heard about Magic 1,2,3 & if you are like me – didn’t think much of it. However, I am here to tell you that it WORKS. 

If you want to keep your sanity, I’ll give you the best parts of the method right here, right now. 

How to do Magic 1, 2, 3 – 

It’s actually quite simple; but works like magic. Seriously, Magic. 

  1. You give three warnings. 
  2. “That’s one”, “That’s two”, & “That’s Three” 
  3. If your child makes it to three without stopping the behavior you HAVE TO give a consequence. 

At that time, I will usually say something like, “Oh no, I’m at three & you haven’t stopped – let’s take a break” & I take Jolene to her room for time out. 

My Time Out Routine (in a nutshell)

I will quickly say here that I don’t spank Jolene, but I don’t judge you if you do. Instead – time out has worked wonders for me. 

Once Jolene has made it to three – I say some sort of Love & Logic phrase & get her to her room for time out. Sometimes she goes by herself, other times I have to take her. 

I put her in her room & yes – there is some crying involved (& maybe even in a full on tantrum). 

Once in her room – I start a timer on her TV & close the door (I use these door monkeys from amazon). 

I turn on the nest app in my phone & I watch her while she’s in time out. 

Once the timer stops on the TV – Jolene will usually yell out that it’s over & I come to open the door. I don’t continue discipling her at this time. 

She has had her consequence so I tell her how much I missed her & we go on with our day. We have both forgotten why she even went to time out. 

This is the best thing about little kids – they forget and move on very quickly. So please don’t hold on to anger with them. 

Do you want an article on how to implement a timeout routine?

“My 3 year old behavior is out of control” What should I do?

First, remember that your child is only three. It may seem like they are out of control; but they just really don’t know any better.

Be patient with them, Mamma & be patient with yourself! 

10 tips to survive the terrible threes

Be consistent

One of the best things I’ve learned from Love and Logic is that consistency is key. How can you expect your child to believe a word out of your mouth if you are changing things up all the time. 

Say what you mean & mean what you say

Do not make empty threats. If you say it – you need to follow through. If you can’t follow through, don’t say it! 

Model the behaviors you want to see

At three, your child is going to copy everything that you do. If you yell when you are angry, so will they. 

Show them how to respond to bad situations. Show them how to be kind & respect the people around them. Teach them to love. 

Give your child your full attention

Put your phone down, turn the TV off & really pay attention to your three year old when they need  you. They have short attention spans, so this time won’t last long before they are off to something else. 

Use a behavior Chart

You can find these anywhere! Print them & use them. At three, your child really understands how they work. 

Get help when you need it

It’s okay to need help. Ask grandma or grandpa to watch your three year old while you go shopping or to get your nails done. Take time for yourself. You deserve it. 

Allow screentime –

There is no need to have to entertain your child every single second of the day. Sometimes, you can just put on the TV or give them an iPad & sit and relax. 


When you lose it & you will – apologize to your child & let them know why that wasn’t the right way to handle the situation. Discuss what you could have done instead. 

Implement a quiet time routine

If your child has stopped napping, you can start a quiet time routine. I have a full article about how to start & implement a quiet time routine. You need a break each day. 

Remember, you are the adult

Your three year old will push your buttons. You will want to quit so many times (every day) but remember, you are the adult. 

Jolene said to me one day, “Mommy, I don’t like you,”  – instead of asking her why or getting upset & punishing her. I simply responded, “that’s okay honey, sometimes I don’t like me much either.” 

She looked at me, smiled & ran to tell my mom that she didn’t like her. Don’t react & most importantly try your best to keep your cool. 

If you are struggling right now; I hope these tips & insights will help you with your little threenager.

The best Terrible Threes Quotes

“Whoever came up with the term “Terrible Twos” had obviously never met a three year old”

“Your total mega-meltdown tantrum really helped me see your side of things. – said no mom ever.”

“The ‘Terrible Twos’ are just a warm-up for the ‘terrorist threes’”

“Threenager – a person of age 3 years old that acts and has the attitude of a teenager”

“Fact: Toddlers are crazy cute because once they hit the terrible threes, it will be vital to their survival” 

“Everyone always talks about the terrible twos. Nobody ever mentions that they get worse!” 

I actually heard the term the thunderous threes && that seems about right.


Jolene just turned four; so I’ve officially survived the terrible threes.

If you need some humor to get through the day – the book Toddlers are A**holes will have you laughing out loud! I don’t read, I listen with audible.

How are you hanging in there, Mamma?

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    1. Mimi June 30, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      The 1,2,3 method sounds so interesting, I don’t have kids but my cousin does so I’ll point her here

    2. Nadalie Bardo June 30, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      Oh man, terrible threes and even twos for sure. It’s a tough age for everyone involved. This is so great though. Sharing with my friend.

    3. Kim Byars Croisant June 30, 2020 at 5:09 pm

      …and the four’s and the five’s and so on. I have a strong-willed boy and oh my goodness, he’s 10 now and still hard-headed!!

      1. Josephine July 2, 2020 at 11:37 pm

        Oh no! Don’t scare me!

    4. Lecy | A Simpler Grace June 30, 2020 at 10:01 pm

      I don’t have kids of my own, but I remember when my nieces and nephews went through these stages. Looking back, I can confidently say that they weren’t as bad as the teenage years. These are great tips for getting parents through these times. 🙂

    5. Amber S Battishill July 2, 2020 at 1:17 am

      This is SO true! I’ve always felt that 3 is SO much harder than 2!

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