Do things really get easier after age three? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 23 Old 07-15-2009, 09:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm finding three to be such a tough age. It's hard to separate that from the strains of having a new baby in the house, but I think even apart from that, I'm just having such a hard time adjusting to my son as a three-year-old. I feel like it's the worst of both worlds...he is still almost completely dependent on me, he's not potty trained in the least, needs me to dress him, feed him, take care of all his needs great and small. Yet he's also so willful now, with such strong ideas about what he wants to do and when, what he wants *me* to do and when, and so on. And his needs are so complex now- he gets bored so easily, he gets his feelings hurt, he gets upset when I'm in a bad mood. The combination of his intense dependence and intense desire for independence is so exhausting.

anyway, I'm sure I don't need to go into every detail, because those of you who have or have recently had three-year-olds know the deal. I guess my question is: When can I expect this to become a bit less difficult? We've gone through tough ages and easier ages before, and this is the toughest by far. Around when does it stop being quite this hard? If you have any inspirational stories to share of some nice shifts that happened, that would help. I just keep feeling like I miss my sweet little baby. He was always pretty intense, but he was so sweet, and I feel like the sweetness isn't there the same way that it was. It's little things, like I make his favorite breakfast and I used to get "WAFFLES!!!!" and excited hopping around, and now it's like, "Can I watch TV while you make them? When are we leaving for camp? I want milk." And I'm standing there all deflated and feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated.

I know it's part of growing up and becoming the kind of complex creature that we all are, it's just painful to be around right now.

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#2 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 01:10 AM
 
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Well . . . . four has it's challenges, and five as well. Heck, they all do! However, yes, they DO become more independent. You don't have to be worried constantly about their safety, and they DO learn to use the potty. So I would say it definitely gets easier. The best thing you can do for yourself right now is to encourage good habits in certain areas and involve him in stuff you are doing around the house (cleaning, cooking). You shouldn't feel that you need to be his primary source of entertainment - he needs to start relying on himself for that. These stages are like sand through a sieve, so don't despair. . .
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#3 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 09:11 AM
 
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I would have to say YES!!!! Three has been the hardest age by far for both my boys. My six year old is such a breeze compared to my three year old. 5 was super easy for us too. I cannot wait until ds2 is 4. For ds1, it got sooo much easier then. Three just knocks me over and leaves me feeling incompetent as a parent.

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#4 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 11:26 AM
 
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It gets easier in some ways and harder in others.
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#5 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 11:57 AM
 
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Three was our most challenging year yet and my dd could dress herself and was potty trained at that age. She was just , well, bratty. My second who is ten times as high needs- her nickname is "Crab"- will be three in October and I am wondering if she will get worse, because I don't see how that is possible.

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#6 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 12:03 PM
 
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Three is the worst for us because DD keeps TRYING to communicate her feelings, needs, wants, etc. but doesn't quite have the vocabulary or patience to make a whole lot of sense. I mean, she talks and everything, but really has to concentrate to tell a story or explain something and has to start over two or three times because she wants to say it JUST RIGHT.

My four year old DD is much better - I can just have a conversation with her. Far less frustrating than having to sit still for five minutes while my 3yo tries to work it out. (If the phone rings it's tantrum city with door slamming and "I don't love you" screaming while she runs to her room. There's so much less of that with my 4yo...)

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#7 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 02:30 PM
 
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I agree it DOES get easier after 3. DD is almost 4, and a lot easier to reason with now, plus she is going potty pretty much on her own.

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#8 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 02:43 PM
 
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I definitely think that it gets easier each year from three on. At least through age 9 -- I haven't gotten any further than that yet! But as they become more independent the day-to-day grind of taking care of them is definitely less stressful. Not that there aren't challenges still, but the really basic stuff gets easier by far.

Have you tried to work on some independence skills? Seems like, with a new baby, your life would be easier if he could dress himself and such. I know it took some really consistent work on our part with DS at about that age, but unless there is something unusual this should be a reachable goal. And once he can dress/undress himself, potty training is much easier! By 3 my kids could get their own snacks (including making a simple sandwich). Unless its a matter of he doesn't want to, rather than can't? I could see where a new baby in the house might make him want your attention for these sorts of things. I know that was the case with DS, who was 3 1/2 when DD was born.
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#9 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 02:46 PM
 
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There were days when I wondered how children ever lived to see four.

And five.

And six.

And seven.

But there are more days that I miss now that they're not four.

Or five.

Or six.

Or seven.


SANDRA, 41 year old VERY laid-back mama to VERY free range kids Brett (16), Justus (11), Autumn (4), and Ayla (1)... four perfect NCB's! :::
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#10 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 02:49 PM
 
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My son is only 10 months, so no experience with kids of my own, but I will say that in my experience with watching other peoples' kids, 3 year olds have been the most difficult, probably because there seems to be an imbalance at that age of what they want to express and the tools they have to express it. It seems like they're constantly frustrated, and I kind of feel bad for them. I can imagine it is very hard to be 3!

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#11 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 03:25 PM
 
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for me I think it does, at least until puberty, but the real answer I believe it that it is just different. Once one problem is solved, another comes along.

Happy Wife & Mama to 1 boy 12/6/05
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#12 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 03:35 PM
 
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I worked with lots of children before I had dd, and the 3 and under crowd were the most challenging since they still had potty issues, communication issues, understanding emotion issues, etc. The 4's and 5's were sooooo much easier to enjoy. I remember I taught a class of 3 year olds for one week and that was the hardest week I ever had.

My dd is a bit odd because she was super high needs as a baby and each year for us has gotten easier. She is now 3.5 and very, very verbal and introspective but she will not do any independent play, which is tough on me. I'm really hoping that 4 and 5 will bring with it more independence (dd CAN do so many things on her own now but WON'T).

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#13 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 03:40 PM
 
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my ds is six and it hasn't ever gotten easier. the challanges change but certainly nothing is easier. He's a super bright, former high needs, fearless and athletically inclined kid, who has been allowed to learn and grow very child-led and A/P soooo... I don't see "easier" any where in my future.
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#14 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 03:58 PM
 
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DS, from 3.5 to 4.25 was the worst - and he is a relatively mellow guy. But yes, it was that combination of being totally dependent, and at the same time being totally independent about his opinions, where, when, why, how... the combination was awful. DD is going through the same thing now, but it is easier just because of the mere fact that I now know there will be light at the end of the tunnel. In some ways I think it is so much easier with the 2nd DC. Hang in there OP.
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#15 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 05:13 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Evergreen View Post
Three was our most challenging year yet and my dd could dress herself and was potty trained at that age. She was just , well, bratty. My second who is ten times as high needs- her nickname is "Crab"- will be three in October and I am wondering if she will get worse, because I don't see how that is possible.
:
i'm worried my 9.5 month old DS2 is going to be ridiculously challenging; he's challenging now, so how much worse can he get?!

DS1 has always been so easy going but some days he's like a different child! i have learned NEVER to give him chocolate and to make sure his relatives don't give him all kinds of sugary stuff (his MIL likes to hand out candy--we generally eat the treat bags she gives him ) and that he is always worse when daddy's home (no idea why) and that we are NOT going to cause supper battles with DS2 (i ASKED hubby not to battle DS1 about food and now he won't eat supper but he eats fine for me all day when we're home alone.) thank goodness he's pretty independent and goes to sleep easily for naps and bedtime or i don't know what i'd do b/c DS2 is not a good sleeper at all.

i feel so bad that DS1 ticks me off so easily with all his little 3-year-old "quirks"--he's so noisy and nosey and knowitall at this age! i do lose my temper with him a little too easily but i'm getting better about it, trying to learn patience. it helps that he goes to a summer program every day so we're apart for 2.5 hours every morning (DS2 and i go for a 3.5 k walk and do whatever during that time) and he's gone to preschool on Tuesdays. OP, could your LO do something like that? give you (and him) a break? we are getting along so much better now that he has interesting activities with other kids (which he loves) to do every day.

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#16 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 07:02 PM
 
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I think 3 years old is very young to expect very much in the way of independence.

I would say by the time a child is 5 or 6 that they are a little easier and more independent.

I have a 7 yr old and she still needs someone to prepare meals and do certain things for her but she can do most every day life skills for herself. I do still run her bath and check in on her occasionally or if she chooses to shower I will shower her because she's too hyper to do it on her own and I would be afraid she would get hurt and slip and fall.

My children are like night and day. DS was extremely easy and still wasn't independent until closer to age 5/6 and a little older in some things. My DD, however, has always been the tough child and independence came a little earlier and easier for her than it did her big brother.

Proud *single* mom to 3 amazing kiddos
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#17 of 23 Old 07-16-2009, 11:48 PM
 
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I have found 3 the hardest with both of my boys, despite huge differences in ability and personality. Neither were in diapers, but they were just cranky little monsters much of the time! My littlest is only 3.5 but I swear, he is 100 times better now than he was 6 months ago. I am just loving being around him and he seems so much more sweet and reasonable now.
I have enjoyed 4, 5, and 6 with my oldest and expect smooth sailing now that my baby has passed the dreaded 3.
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#18 of 23 Old 07-17-2009, 12:05 AM
 
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This thread is very reassuring for a mama of a 3.25 yo ds!!! And yes to the being easily annoyed that tjjazzy mentioned....really trying to work on my patience with the little guy and that is tough! Somehow it is so easy when he is sweetly asleep, and when he wakes up all of my convictions fly right out the window : Thank you to all of those who've btdt and dropped in to give hope to the rest of us

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#19 of 23 Old 07-17-2009, 08:51 AM
 
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I thought 3 was a very hard age for me. 4 wasn't very easy either. But once both my kids were 5 and on, it started getting much easier. They could go play outside by themselves, they could pour themselves a bowl of cereal, I didn't have to dress them etc. My kids are now 8 and 10 and I can run to the grocery store by myself, they can go our for dinner and act appropriate for a restaurant... they are their own persons and are able to do much for themselves. I enjoy teaching them skills to be independent, like how to do a load of laundry, how to cook an egg, how to wash the kitchen floor. I didn't like having to do EVERYTHING for them! I'm my own person too!

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#20 of 23 Old 07-17-2009, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you SO much everyone! This has been so helpful to read...I'm glad I asked. I know it will be OK. I just love my son so much and it pains me that things are difficult between us right now. I'm trying to focus on the good moments, and to do what I can to facilitate more of them.

On a practical note, I've decided he may need to start napping again. He gave up his nap, but I think with the increased activity of summer he may be too tired to skip it. His crabbiness is out of control by the end of the day. He's napping now...we'll see if he a) feels better tonight and b) is able to get to sleep, which is one of the reasons we stopped the nap in the first place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SandraS View Post
There were days when I wondered how children ever lived to see four.

And five.

And six.

And seven.

But there are more days that I miss now that they're not four.

Or five.

Or six.

Or seven.

This is so true. Thank you for saying it...it can't really be stressed enough. I know that these days slip by so quickly. I already miss him as a baby, so so much. I know that in a few years, I'll be missing him as a three-year-old. I'm trying to get future me to tell present me to chill out and enjoy the now. Part of it is that I need to rest more. When I get enough sleep and me-time, I can deal with his various behaviors so much better. (The book "Time Out for Parents" helped me so much with that.)

Anyway, thanks again everyone, and if any of you have more stories please share!

SAHM to 6.5yo DS and 4yo DD. PCOS with two early m/cs. Married 8 yrs. Certified birth doula, writer, editor.

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#21 of 23 Old 07-18-2009, 10:42 AM
 
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you know, i was just thinking, you just never know with 3.5 year olds! this morning, mine entertained his brother (he was in his crib) and cleaned his room while i slept in (til 8...from 7:30, but still LOL)!

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#22 of 23 Old 07-18-2009, 10:44 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Alyantavid View Post
It gets easier in some ways and harder in others.
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#23 of 23 Old 07-18-2009, 01:35 PM
 
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I found 3 very challenging. To be fair, I was pregnant or occupied with a newborn for much of that year, so that was probably hard on ds. My ds was constantly testing the boundaries at that age, much more so than during the "terrible twos" phase. He also was also very inflexible, wanted things exactly a certain way, etc. etc. I remember being frustrated and tired at the end of the day too often during that year.

Now he's 4, and he's a tiny bit more laid back, and he seems to have a tiny bit more awareness of other people's feelings and needs. Like he realizes if I'm running low on patience and he'll adjust his behavior, for example. Or he'll apologize spontaneously if he realizes he's crossed the line. He's also more fun to be around--he can express more complex thoughts, he can joke around, he has more skills at the playground or playing ball in the back yard. He's also good at playing by himself once in a while, which is a nice change of pace during the day. I'm still looking forward to the day when he's a little more responsible for his own toileting and dressing.....I was hoping that would happen at age 4, but he still needs constant reminding about using the toilet, help with hygiene, help putting on clothes, etc. Someday!

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