Some kids at this stage can get dressed without help, so prepare for them to change their clothes — A LOT. Go ahead and let them express their own kooky style; it could be the last phase in their lives when they’re totally comfortable wearing something certifiably insane out of the house, and that’s one aspect of toddlers that’s definitely worthy of respect. If it’s completely inappropriate for the season or the weather, don’t worry — just like adults, sometimes toddlers need to learn lessons the hard way. Maybe next time you won’t have so much trouble convincing him not to wear his head-to-toe polyester Batman Halloween costume in August!
• Your toddler is getting better at using plurals correctly (the days of hearing “foots” instead of “feet” are numbered) and strangers don’t need you to translate as often when your 3-year-old speaks. They can also string together two or three five-word sentences and describe things accurately, all of which means your toddler is fun to hang out with on a whole new level because you can really start to chat it up — get ready to hear them say some hilarious things!
• However, get a handle on your reactions. It’s hard not to laugh out loud when your toddler blurts out something shocking, or even just shockingly cute, but beware — they like making you laugh and will KEEP DOING STUFF OVER AND OVER in hopes of getting the same reaction again. Unfortunately, the funny fart sound they made or the surprise of hearing them innocently babble a naughty word really loses its humor on the 593rd repetition; plus, your toddler can’t understand why his loud declaration that, “I have a penis!” made Mommy laugh in the kitchen… but not so much at the library.
• Make a deal, not a bribe. Bribes often work in the short term but bite you in the long run, resulting in a kiddo who only complies if given something in return. This doesn’t apply to the occasional treat for particularly good behavior or for learning a tough task (like potty training) however, which can be a great motivator and just plain fun. Ultimately, you want your child to learn that making the right choices is its own reward, not that they should only suffer through eating their peas if there’s going to be ice cream afterward. Negotiating, compromises and positive reinforcement are a better bet — plus that’s leaves more ice cream for you to eat after they go to bed! And speaking of bed…
• Toddlers need about 12 hours of sleep per day, either all at night or combined with an afternoon nap, but that doesn’t mean they’ll sleep willingly. In fact, bedtime can be one of the most stressful part of a mom’s day. Be patient, and remember that toddlers are strange little backwards creatures who actually resist sleep the more tired they are; you might be tempted to postpone bedtime to get them to zonk out, but the right fix might actually be moving bedtime earlier. Hallelujah!
Scary Mommy tip: At age three you can predict your toddler’s adult height with some accuracy; divide a boy’s height by 0.53 or a girl’s height by 0.57 to get an approximation of how much they’ll tower over you when they’re full grown. It probably seems like that’s not too far off — believe it or not, you have a pre-schooler now! Enjoy the coming milestones and pre-school phases, but first take a minute to celebrate. You survived the toddler years — well done, Mom!
View the entire Scary Mommy Toddler Guide