The Terrible Threes and the Ability to Respond

“The other problem is that the label [terrible twos] seems to give an excuse for some behaviour that I’d rather not encourage. I make no secret of the fact that I expect a lot from my daughter in many ways, and I don’t make any excuses. If she’s having a not-so-great moment, it’s just that – it’s not because she’s two, it isn’t because she doesn’t know any better. It’s just a bad moment.”

I read this quote from Megan Blandford’s post on the Terrible Twos the other day and it really resonated with me, specially at a time when I have been tearing my hair out at Kalyra’s “Terrible Threes” stage.

The twos were full of sweetness and newness with Kalyra, but lately it has all turned to fierce foot stomping tantrums and the assertiveness of her firey and wilful spirit. When you name someone a “wild and pleasant place” you have to expect these sorts of things.

A wild and pleasant place

A wild and pleasant place

There are other factors that need to be taken into account apart from the fact that she is becoming more aware of her independence and intelligence.

We had our big international move last year that neither Craig nor I wanted. She misses America too and the adjustment for her has been difficult. We are really unsettled and unhappy with our current life circumstances, so I am sure she picks up on a lot of this. (which just overwhelms me with guilt)

But, as Megan points out, this is no excuse. It’s a reason but not an excuses. Reasons allow us to work and change our behaviours; excuses allow us to ignore them.

Craig and I don’t believe in excuses either. I see the effects of these a lot in our schools, whcih I spoke a little about in Banning the time out corner. Excuses don’t allow us to take accountability and responsibility.

Responsibility is the ability to respond.

If we don’t understand that excuses don’t help us to learn and grown then we will never be able to respond appropriately to situations in our lives. It will always be someone else’s fault.

Just look at our society and the effect this has had on it. People get sued for ridiculous reasons, fathers can throw their babies of bridges and be let off lightly due to their unbalanced mental state. Not their fault after all.

The twos or the threes, fours and even fives are the most formative years for our children. We need to teach them the ability to respond not excuses.

My Dad told me a quote the other day

Give me a child until he is five, and I’ll show you the man.

Proving that these are the years that help us shape the path that our children take. We need to give them the tools to function effectively in society and to develop that ability to respond.

I would so love to excuse Kalyra’s behavour as “just being three,” and let her do what she likes because of it. Why wouldn’t I? This is the easy road. The road where I try to get her to like me.

It takes so much time and energy to be constantly addressing the behavour and putting consequences in place to try and correct it. But, if I take the easy road then I would have lost my ability to respond. Just because she is three, doesn’t mean she is not smart enough to learn.

So for now, I silently congratulate her for her wilful spirit as I know it will serve her so well when she is older. I will continue to lose my hair strand by strand and drink more wine, give her the consequences she needs, and relish every single second she decides to be peaceful and calm and sweet.

She is a wild and pleasant place after all.

Your Turn to Share Tips:

What are your thoughts on these terrible twos and threes that we label our children with and teaching them the ability to respond?

posted in: Parenting
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  • Vanessa Williams

    The three year old stage is extremely difficult. The three’s are much more challenging than the two’s. However, as they continue to get older you will have many more stages to go through. I have a wide range of ages, 14,11 and two, and each age represents a new challenge that Greg and I have to work through. But as parents we are hopefully doing our best to bring up our children with lots of love, encouragement, respect and they know right from wrong. They know they can come to us with anything.
    I am sad that you are not happy with your life at the moment and that you did not want to come back to Australia. I hope that everything works out for you.


    • Caz

      It sounds as if the challenges never end,they just take on different formats. It’s all part of the job we signed up for and even though sometimes you may tear my hair out, in the next moment all if forgiven and forgotten and you are loving them to bits. Your children are just wonderful Ness! You and Greg have done an amazing job.
      Everything will work out Ness. It is just one small part of our life, and everything else is great enough to take our focus away from the stuff we’re not that happy about.


      • Vanessa Williams

        It will all work out!! Things do happen for a reason, although a lot of the time we don’t understand why. Everything will get back to normal for you soon.You have just hit a little hiccup, things are meant to try us sometimes, but we only grow more knowledgeable and stronger from these experiences. Believe me Greg and I look back now and wish we had done alot of things differently. We have learnt from these lessons as well. You have an amazing little girl, and another one on the way. You are a wonderful little family and you and Craig are fabulous parents. You have alot to look forward to as the year progresses.


  • Jenn Fox

    Great post!

    There is a real lack of accountabily in our society, at least from my perspective. It is always someone else’s fault . . . we are not to blame . . . this should not be happening to me.

    I agree, my three year old if just about driving me around the bend but we continue to remind her that it is her responsibility to learn to listen. If she is sent to her room to cool down, it is because she did not listen, not because Mommy is mean (which she told me).

    Hopefully we don’t make excuses for our kids behaviour. I understand that they are trying to learn about their world and are learning ways to handle their frustrations but it is not an excuse for bad behaviour.


    • Caz

      It’s something that irritates me to no end. Just take responsibility for your actions so you can move forward and do better. I try so hard to teach my students this, but it is such a challenge.
      And now the challenge teaching my daughter. The hard work is beginning to pay off now as her tantrums have really subsided and she is making far better choices. But then one day is good and the next is back to sqaure one!! The joys of having a three year old. There are so many wonderful moments that make up for it though. thanks for leaving a comment!


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