You know you have a 'threenager' when...

Do you allow an extra 10 minutes to get ready in the morning because you know your daughter is going to refuse each and every outfit option until she comes up with what she wants to wear?

Do you buy one extra cake from the shop as a treat, just in case the first one offered has some unseen imperfection?

Have you stopped defining your discipline method as ‘bribery’ and now think of it as a way of life?

You might just have a threenager.

The seemingly never-ending stage where your previously sweet toddler turns into a pint sized teenager overnight. Where your sweet dimple cheeked gal who liked nothing better than making her Mama smile discovers that when she sticks her heels in she might actually get her own way.

You might just have a threenager. Via IStock.

Life with a threenager is a rollercoaster ride of hissy fits and attitude.

The threenager tests you, asserting their language skills.

I want to do it.

Their independence.

No go away.

Their decision making skills.

I want to wear the green shoes.

And their new found ability to hold their captives in fear.

My bikkie is broken.. I want a-a-a-a-a-a-nother one......

American father and writer Chris Cook writes for BabyCentre: “A threenager has the same sense of entitlement and desire for independence as a teenager, but without the social maturity to sense judgment from the world around her. Where a teenager might hold back on screaming at you at the top of her lungs in Wal-Mart, a threenager will carry that scene out the door as you drag her upside down through the parking lot."

“Don’t try to reason with a tantrum.” Via IStock.

Parents describe it as challenging, frustrating as their threenagers push them to the limit.

They share tips online:

“Always show her who is the boss.”

“Stick to your routine.”

“Don’t let them get hungry.”

“Don’t try to reason with a tantrum.”

“Do whatever it takes to get through the day”.

"Kids are constantly growing and changing, and meltdowns can happen at any age." Via IStock.

But does a threenager really exist?

One expert, Katie Hurkey, a child and adolescent psychotherapist says no. She says, by coining the term “threenager” we are putting unfair expectations on our preschoolers.

She writes for Mom.Me “Negative comments laced with sarcasm to describe fairly average behaviors for both age groups suddenly became the new normal. Instead of working on things like sharing (for toddlers) or expressing emotions (for teens), parents decided to draw the comparison, roll their eyes and dismiss them.”


She worries that while there are comparisons developmentally for both ages with both toddlers and teens experiencing rapid brain growth and rapid physical growth. She say that both three-year-olds and teenagers have a developmental need for sufficient sleep, (exercise) and nourishment as well as both seeking independence.

“But, if we're being honest” she writes, “Those things describe almost every stage of childhood. Kids are constantly growing and changing, and meltdowns can happen at any age (even for adults).”

She says a toddler is a toddler.

“When we laugh off behaviours and compare them to different stages, we minimize the needs of the individual child. When we rely on sarcasm and words like "drama" to describe young children, we send the message that we think their needs are silly and meaningless. When we refer to toddlers as teens and talking about trouble coming down the line, we set them up to fail. Even very young children build core beliefs in response to our feedback, after all.”

She has a point.

But there is solidarity in being able to label behaviour we can’t quite understand isn’t there?

When our 18-month old first points to a toy and demands “mine” we groan that the “terrible twos” are starting.

When a three-year-old wants to do everything her way, refusing to budge, refusing to do what she is told in a way its comforting (though damn scary) to label her as a “threenager.”

When they hit four and you walk on eggshells for fear of setting them off its good to know there are other parents going through life with a "fournado."

It's harmless really these labels but they have prompted some parents of teenagers to bring us back down to reality, one writing on Facebook:

“When they turn 13 it's a whole new ball of hormonal crazy. I have 2 daughters, one is 18 and the other is 2. At least the 2 year old can be picked up under one arm and put into the naughty chair.”

What do you think? Does a "threenager" exist?