Ahhhh, Three Yeal Olds

You just can’t seen to win with a three-year-old. They want to do things themselves, make decisions but still expect you to do everything, especially read their minds. Their vocabulary has exploded, it seems easier to communicate to them and they you but boy can they tell you when you do something that is not quite what they exactly meant/want. NO MOMMY, I DO IT! seems to be their favorite thing to say, at the top of their lungs.

This is a good time to be giving choices and asking questions. Choices give both of you control. You present 2 or 3  (no more) acceptable choices for you as the parent and your child feels empowered when one is chosen. For example: “do you want cherrios or pancakes for breakfast. Do you want to wear the red top or green top today.” Again, make sure the choices you give are ones that you are willing to follow through with, don’t give pancakes as a cjpoce if it’s the last thing you want to fix before school.  The “I wonder” statement (see Teri’s Tip below) gives you a chance to check in when you want to ask emotionally charged question, “don’t you need your blanket today?” As a parent you need to recognize that there will be times when choices and I wonder statements will not be effective with your child  because of various, internal reasons, (too tired, hungry, not feeling well) but if you can get into the habit of checking in now, at this age, it will not only benefit your relationship going forward but even into the teen years when behavior isn’t far from 2years to 3 years.


The “I wonder statement” is a way to neutrally ask questions to elicit an answer or behavior. For example: Your child has taken her transition object to school for the last four months and today she doesn’t have it with her. You are unsure if she needs/wants it but know from experience that if you get it she may throw a fit saying she doesn’t need it and when you get to school, want it for the transition. So, to avoid this potential land mine, you ask “I’m wondering if you need your blanket today.” This allows your child to check in with herself, recognize emotionally if she needs her blanket or not, communicate if she does or doesn’t and then she becomes responsible for retrieving it. Be warned, just because she says “no” doesn’t mean she may not change her mind when you pull up at the school door. If possible, maybe sneak the blanket into the car just in case. You can also “I wonder,” with just about any check-in-topic: “I wonder what school was like for you today, I wonder who will be in class today for you to play with,” and know that you may or may not get an answer but as you continue to ask, responding positively to her answers, your child will respond.