Member question:

Tips on parenting a defiant 3-year-old? Right now, he is the type that gives Threenagers their reputation – and when I try to correct, he laughs in my face or Hulks out by clearing tabletops/slinging smoothie cups across the kitchen. And then…he is the (insert the best superlatives here). I’m exhausted.


Rachel’s response:

It can be so exhausting, especially when it makes our lives harder. Right now many of us are overwhelmed and dealing with this just makes it worse.

But that’s honestly the place we all need to start — by asking ourselves how WE are doing

Because when we’re in a good place (which many of us are not right now), we can see that this behavior is happening because they’re 3. They’re not little adults. They’re little people who probably have an idea in their minds of how things will go… and then it doesn’t go that way, so they’re disappointed or frustrated, and they have ZERO control over changing the situation… and then when they express their upset in an immature way (because the part of the brain that regulates that is barely developed) people get upset with them….

Here’s the thing. It’s hard to be us as parents right now. It really is. And it’s hard to be them too.

So we have to find a way to correct their behavior (otherwise it won’t get better and we’ll be even more exhausted and resentful), but we can’t forget that we have to do it in a way that is also respectful of what they’re going through.

All of that is to say.. Try to remember Calm, Connect, Correct.
Calm means we remember that we can handle the situation (this is hard when we’re in Yuck, which is why we MUST address this first!).
Connect — which always comes before correct — is to see the situation from their perspective. Are they tired? (As in: have they just woken up from a nap and are still a little sleepy and therefore act irrational?) Are they feeling out of control? Are they having a hard time with the fact that things aren’t going the way they imagined? Are they sensing negative energy because we as parents are struggling?
Correction — which is about teaching them how to act better — absolutely has to come, but unfortunately it’s not going to “work” when they’re in Yuck. When they feel out of control, or tired, or disconnected, or sense that WE are anxious or overwhelmed, they can’t hear logic. They can’t act better. (We are the same way as adults.) They will act better when their Yuck is addressed… and we’ll act better when ours is too!

So my guess is that the reason you’re feeling like you can’t win is because of the fact that you’re trying to address their behavior when they’re in Yuck…. possibly because you’re also in Yuck?


Member response:

I’m in a vicious cycle of yuck ? so him sensing it is probably accurate.


Rachel’s response:

You’re definitely not alone! it’s important to (slowly) work on our Yuck if we want things to feel and get better.