The Battle of the Three-nagers

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Twos and threes are nothing like your 4–12 month olds. They bring on a whole new meaning to happy hour.

These older babes have lots to say and lots to protest about… even something as simple as brushing teeth or throwing dinner on the floor can be a whole new struggle. 

So for all you moving into the three-anger stage, I’ve been through this and here’s what I’ve got for ya…



First thing’s first, set some boundaries for them. Structure is their sense of security. You may not know that you need the boundaries until that Thing happens again and again. Then you realize you need them, and that’s when you can put boundaries into place.

If it’s around bedtime, decide what requests from your little one are acceptable. … and then limit them to two or three before bedtime.

Decide what you are going to do and how you want to respond when your child throws a tantrum because she didn’t get her way. If you need help with this, I’ve got you.

For instance, decide what’s going to happen if food gets thrown on the floor. That way you have a plan, and you’re less likely to lose your cool (it may still happen, but the important thing here is you’re trying).

What ever the situation is (that Thing that’s not working for you) decide what you want to do when that action happens next time. Having a plan will make things much easier for you… not easy, just easier.



It’s important to be receptive and not reactive. I know that’s easier said than done too, but your littles don’t like seeing you out of control. (Let’s face it, we don’t like seeing it either). 

Your words a really powerful, and your littles learn from them. 

Sometimes you can’t help it, and you lose your cool. I know I don’t like when I do it, and unfortunately these situations cause us to take a good hard look at inward and makes us realize what we like least about ourselves (more on that in a second).

Instead of telling them “no throwing food on the floor” and getting upset about it, tell them what you do want and WHY. Try not to say “No”.

I like to try and start sentences with “I need you to… “

So, I need you to keep food on your plate, so the dog doesn’t get it. Or if you don’t have a dog, so we don’t waste food, or so the floor doesn’t get dirty. 

You may need to repeat yourself several times and you can use different ways of saying it, so you don’t feel like a broken record.

If the action keeps happening then it’s, “I will put your plate on this counter until you’re ready to eat your food and not play with it.” (enter tantrum) 

Remember, try and keep your cool. Repeat to yourself over and over again that this is not an emergency and if you need to, just lay down on the floor and wait for this tantrum to subside and take some deep breaths (or open a bottle of wine, my personal favorite).

When you’re little one is done with the sobs… connect.



Here’s the great part. When your little is calm, you have a great opportunity for learning to occur. 

You get to put into words how they’re feeling and how you felt.

“You’re sad I moved your plate. I was sad you through food on the floor when I asked you to please stop. When you’re ready to try again, let me know and I’ll hand you your plate back.”

If you’re little is not verbal yet, then you can be there with them as they calm, and when they do, hand them their plate again. 

If the throwing of the food happens again, you can repeat the process. 

At some point you may need to end the meal and try again next time. Just make sure you give them notice of trying one more time. Then really just make it ONE MORE TIME. Stick to what you say.

And now back to the not liking how we acted if you lose your cool. Well, the one thing that we can do is redeem ourselves. 

It is really important here that if and when you do lose your cool (and we all do) come back and apologize. 

You make yourself accountable and your little one will more likely be accountable for her actions and apologize too. It’s really amazing when you hear “I’m sorry too mommy” reciprocated.


Be Consistent.

This is probably the hardest part. When you say you’re going to do something, make sure you follow through. When you don’t follow through, it sends your little one a mixed message. When you give in, you’re likely going to see that behavior again.

Your consistency is their safety net.

They want to know that they can trust that you are going to come through with your words. When you don’t follow through, they may think about ways they can get away with something next time. And the cycle continues.


Last but not least…

If your having trouble handling your little one’s situation, and need a plan to help resolve that “Thing,” you can set up a free initial 15 min call to get acquainted and tell me what’s going on. Yes, I do more than just sleep consulting.

Also, every other week I share 5 things on how you and your little can get the most out of their first 5 years of life in my newsletter — The Healthy Little Note.

If you have little ones, I’m sure you’ll love it!

You can check out the most recent issue here.

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