I first came across Dionna’s Code Name: Mama blog after someone shared this post with a clip of breastfeeding on Sesame Street. I snooped around her site and was taken by her descriptions of gentle interactions with her son and smart commentary on social issues that affect natural parents. When she co-founded Natural Parents Network soon after, I jumped at the chance to volunteer as an editor. I’m thrilled to have her guest post here. You will know why she is one of my mothering mentors. Thank you so much, Dionna!
I have a confession to make to my fellow gentle parents. I find the “three-year-old” age much harder than the “two-year-old” age.
Holy. Night. Dear readers, I have been at my wit’s end this past week – what with the smoke damage to our house, the resulting stress from the clean-up, the hotel, the not having a kitchen (a.k.a. the crap food) for over a week now, the Carnival of Natural Parenting, other deadlines and activities that fell right in the middle of the mess, and the fact that our three-year-old son, Kieran, has been just as stressed about everything as I have been. Suffice to say that I have had several parenting moments that I would not want televised.
And it’s not just the stress and the lack of routine (although those two have played a large part in the past week’s frustrations), it’s the very three-ness of Kieran.
Do any of these sound familiar to other parents of three year olds?
- The not listening.
- The stubbornness and the agenda that just happens to be the exact opposite of whatever I wanted to do.
- The nothing-pleases-me-ness. For example, if I change my mind to go along with Kieran’s plans? He suddenly changes his mind to want something else.
- The constant whining and crying. Oh for the love of everything holy, the whining!!
- The attempts to control everything in his environment. “Don’t look like that!” “Don’t hold my hand!” “Sit over there!” etc. etc. etc.
For a few days there, I thought that perhaps we had everything about this gentle parenting gig wrong. That there was something fundamentally wrong with my child. That maybe if I yelled at him or slapped him around a little, he’d get in line and the rest of this third year would be easy. (Ok, I didn’t think that – but doesn’t it sound silly when you say it out loud?!)
But here’s the thing – I had simply forgotten that three is a pretty . . . difficult . . . age.
And then today, my dear friend Acacia (of Fingerpaint & Superheroes) loaned me Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy by Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D. I read the first chapter, and then I excitedly texted my mom, sister, and husband – all of whom have been on the receiving end of my Kieran rants this week – and I said, “I’m reading a book about three year olds, and it sounds like she wrote it while standing in a room with Kieran!”
In other words, my child is not a brat. He’s not being ruined by gentle parenting.
It feels so good to read that Kieran’s behavior, that my frustration – they are typical.
And it was a nice reminder that part of gentle parenting is being gentle with myself – to recognize when I need breaks (particularly amidst stress!), to not feel guilty when I need someone to take Kieran for a few hours so we can both decompress, to find new ways to connect to my three year old, ways that are sometimes vastly different from how I connected to my two year old. And most of all to remind myself that this too shall pass; this three-ness, this newness.
So . . . four year olds are easier . . . right?
Photo credit: author’s own
Dionna Ford writes at Code Name:Mama where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting, consensual living, eclectic learning, and compassionate advocacy.
-  Well, according to Your Three-Year-Old, the really frustrating behaviors are those of a “three and a half year old,” who is in a state of “disequilibrium.” By the way, as with any parenting book, take what works for you and leave the rest. Bates includes some discipline techniques that will likely not resonate with every gentle parenting or consensual living family. ↩