5 Signs You Have a Threenager on Your Hands



Recently, I did something bad. Have you ever lost it with your toddler? That’s what happened to me right in the middle of the bedtime routine. 

My three-year-old told me that she wanted to go to Italy alone (we have an upcoming trip to Europe) and she did not want me to come. In fact, she did not want to see me again. 

“OK!” I said. 

Then, I put my firstborn child outside on the front porch, and shut the door. #badmom

I waited approximately one second with my eye pressed up against the peephole, and then I opened it. 

Tears streamed down my baby’s face and she came in for a hug. Feeling a little guilty, I waited for her to tell me she never wanted me to leave her, and actually she does love me after all.


She wasn’t crying for me.

Do you know what she said when her sobs subsided?

“You forgot my suitcase! And my shoes!”

And she began to pack. The kid was ready to walk out the door solo and head for Italy. 

And that’s when I began to understand the meaning of the word threenager.   

A threenager is a three-year-old child who acts like a sassy teenager. Just like teens, they crave independence and autonomy. And just like teens, they can drive you to do crazy things like put them outside on your porch.

Here are five signs you have a threenager on your hands:

1. You’re the meanest mommy in the world and he’s leaving.

Threenagers aren’t afraid to tell you how much they don’t like you and they don’t need you. And apparently, you can’t teach them a lesson by throwing them out. 

2. She is so done with naptime.

Naps are for babies, and threenages are NOT BABIES! 

3. He did it anyway.

Talking to a three-year-old can get weird. I’ve noticed a new trend that when I bring up something that’s against the rules, my toddler tells me very matter of factly that she “did it anyway.” Threenagers know the rules. They break them anyway. 

4. She tries to buy things herself if you say no.

This actually began happening to me when my daughter was two. I take her with me to get coffee each morning at a local bakery. I only buy her a cookie on Sundays, since we are very mindful about sugar intake. She asked if it was Sunday, which it was not. The next thing I know, she went and ordered the cookie herself. 

The thing is, a two-year-old is not being willfully disobedient, she’s discovering how the world works and experimenting with cause and effect. The threenager knows the cookie is off-limits, and she orders it when you are out of earshot. 

5. He’s gonna buckle himself in thank-you-very-much. But also freak out about it. 

Car seat or shopping cart, a threenager can buckle himself. Remember, he is NOT A BABY. Disclaimer, if the straps get tangled or he pinches his finger, he’s definitely gonig to flip out. 

Truth be told, I love three-year-olds. I also really appreciate their need for independence and autonomy. It’s so special to watch the baby whose head you once held up because his neck couldn’t even do it grow into a confident and capable individual. 

There are times where you need to set limits and make executive decisions for your three-year-old but also look for ways to meet his need to assert himself and control his world. Let him choose his outfits, dress himself, decide which side of the street you’ll walk on, or even pack his own lunch. When time is of the essence, go ahead and buckle his car seat yourself. It’s all about balance and keeping a loving attitude. 



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