The Terrible Threes – the Parent’s Role

In the first year, it was the wonder weeks.  Then it was the terrible twos – which apparently spanned from the second year to the third.  Now it’s the terrible threes.  If you speak to other parents, they’ll tell you the fearsome fours and frightening fives are just around the corner.  And just when you think it’s all over, they hit puberty…

Well, if you ask me, I think all these labels just set parents up.  Throughout Gavin’s first three years, I have seen him go through waves of good and bad behaviour.  After the book tearing incident, we hit a rough patch and then things went back to normal.  Gavin’s behaviour had been great, if not exemplary, for a period and now we’ve hit another trough.
Ironically, just as we seem to be spiraling out of control again, I happened to read a segment from Shichida’s notes about the importance of viewing your child in a positive light.  He states:

“Every child is in the middle of growing up.  The current state is not final.  Accept this state of your child without looking at his shortcomings.  Instead praise his virtue with loving words.  Then you and your child will be able to relax and build a good parent-child relationship.  You will experience a wonderful thing: your child will change rapidly because your child’s heart opens up.  His personality will become mild and nice to others.  Conversely, his heart is closed if you are viewing him negatively and responding to him in a negative way.”

Shichida believed that when children act out, it is a cry to parents that they need more love.  It is important that parents examine the way they are treating their children.

Life has it’s ups and downs.  We all ride the rollercoaster and it is easy to get sucked into the maelstrom once we get too close to it.  For example, it begins with a bad day, you’re crabby and you take it out on everyone, including the kids.  Your spouse responds negatively.  The children feel the tension between their parents and get stressed.  Then they act out to get attention because they feel insecure.  Since you’re already having a lousy day, the last thing you need is a difficult child.  Instead of responding appropriately, you react with more negativity which serves as a negative feedback loop to your child who acts up even more.  Then that one lousy day has just triggered off a week of bad behaviour.

As long as you can snap out of it and find solid ground again, you can break the bad behaviour cycle – that’s what I found worked for us the last time.

Aside from this, there are a couple of things I believe can make a difference to a child’s behaviour.  Don’t underestimate the effects of insufficient sleep.  It doesn’t just have to be one bad night, it can be a cumulative effect which adds up over time.  To be fair to Gavin, we often push his routine so far out of whack between the weekdays and the weekends that I feel we are partly to blame for his misdemeanours.

The other one, which I read a long time ago, was the effects of food additives on children.  It has been found that food colouring can effect the way children behave.  In some children, the effects are worse than in others.  I think it all boils down to our individual genetic makeup.  Some things can affect one person so negatively and have almost no effect on another.

For instance, there was that Super Size Me experiment that one guy did on himself  where all he did for a month was eat from McDonald’s.  The doctors monitoring him found that his health deteriorated so badly that they strongly advised him to stop the experiment or it could cost him his life.  Yet, when a professor conducted the experiment with his medical students, he found that not all his students ended up the same way as Mr Super Size Me.  Some even put on muscle despite the fact that they did no exercise and avoided all physical activity  like the plague.

One mother tested the food additives theory on her children and found that the behaviour of one child went downhill while the other child was relatively unaffected.  I know that Gavin is also affected by junk food.  I can literally see him bouncing off the walls after having Baskin Robbins.  If you know that your child is affected by food additives in this manner then you really have to accept partial responsibility for any poor behaviour that arises from it.  And if you insist on feeding these foods to your child, then you need to accept the behaviour that comes with it.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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