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Surviving the Thunderous Threes

by Megan

If you thought the “twos” were terrible…here come the “threes!”

My little guy, Harrison (Harry), just turned three, and so far I have to say that the threes are pretty terrific. But I know a lot of parents say the threes are terrifying! So I may just be in for some trouble as the year goes on!

Everyone says the "threes" are worse than the "twos!" Is it really that bad? Come find out and get some tips!

Harry is super smart, super lovable, and fun to be around. On the other hand, he refuses most food I offer, rejects my potty training efforts, and his favorite pasttime is hitting things (mostly siblings) with lightsabers.

harry being cute

This guy? Never!

I decided to take it to Facebook to get some advice (because you can always find opinions on Facebook!), and here’s what my mom friends had to say about the “threes!”

Surviving The Thunderous Threes

Okay so most of the advice was of the “wait it out, there is no escape” variety, but there were some gems of wisdom behind the pain!


Amanda: “Bubble wrap and play dough- I had some challenging kids in my preschool teaching days-redirect with something for their hands to use instead of hitting their friends.”

Katelyn: “With my daughter distraction is the BEST trick up my sleeve. When she’s throwing a fit I tell her to try and find the puppy or even look at a tree and she stops!”

Darcy: “Netflix and ear plugs. Teach them how to find their own shows. Keep the ear plugs for yourself, you’ll need them.”

Distract them


Jess: “The key word is patience. With yourself. It’s easy to feel like the world’s worst parent when they are three because of the tantrums, back sliding, and their tendency to go on explorations.”

Sense of Humor

Jamie: “Remember to laugh. At all the good stuff- the fun stuff. Don’t laugh at the bad stuff while they can hear and see you.”

Christine: “3 is hard, but they can be so funny. Record the funny things they say and use it to blackmail them when they’re teenagers.”

Positive Reinforcement

Hillary: “When Linkin was three I carried little pom pom balls with me and when he did something good I gave him one. He had a jar he was trying to fill up and once the pom poms made it to the top he got to pick out of the prize box. (Dollar toy stuff nothing crazy). It worked really well for him to express how much we enjoyed his good choices. It made him want to make more good choices!”

Guided Independence

Janice: “When giving them choices, give a list of 3 things, placing the choice you prefer at the end of the list. They’ll usually pick the last thing you say.”


Leila: “Consistency (especially between caregivers and in rules/discipline). They CAN and DO understand chores and helping. They DO understand basic rights and wrongs. Fits and tears are required!”

1-2-3 Magic

Vanessa: “The book 1-2-3 Magic helped us! There’s a handy video that summarizes the techniques for husbands with a short attention span!”

And here’s my favorites from parents who sound like they need a break:

Nicole: “Just accept that the 3rd year is a bust. There’s nothing you can do so crack open the wine and hope 4 comes quickly.”

Cynthia: “Just give them all the snacks and let them watch all the things. This year shall pass.”

Megan: “Treat them like you would your drunk friend who won’t stop trying to party even though they are falling down. Three years old usually need attention, a snack, and a nap. It’s science.”

And of course we have to include the Gramma perspective:

Sharon, aka Harrison’s Gramma: “Surely you are not talking about Harrison, right?!?!?! We just had him for five days and he was an angel! Never had a meltdown, or tantrum, or even pouted. All we did was indulge him big time, let him eat candy and ice cream, buy him new toys and take him to the zoo.”

Threes are so cute

Potty Training

My biggest struggle with 3 is that’s when my kids potty train! My two older kids both potty trained between 3 and 3.5, and Harrison looks to be on that same time frame. The benefit to training a bit later, I’ve found, is that they don’t tend to have accidents. And personally, I would much rather change a diaper than clean up a mess!

Harry with lightsaber

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Whether you are struggling through the terrible twos, the thunderous threes, the frightening fours, or beyond, know that your little ones love you, they really are pretty great, and there’s always a bedtime around the corner!

Always time for a nap

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