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Everything you need to know about the 3-year-old crisis in a child


Sooner or later, every family faces the phenomenon of the 3-year-old crisis in a child. If your little one used to be sweet and responsive, now it seems like a different child. The toddler starts showing character, being sassy and objecting to parents over every little thing.

Today, we’ll delve into how to recognize if your child is going through this challenging period, how long it lasts, and what to do to get through this difficult time while maintaining the same trusting relationship with your little one.

Key signs and symptoms of the 3-year-old crisis in a child

First, let’s understand how the crisis manifests in 3-year-olds. It’s important to note that bad mood alone cannot be considered one of the characteristics of a 3-year-old’s crisis. It’s much deeper and more serious than momentary tears and whims.

That’s why we’ve gathered the main signs and symptoms of the 3-year-old crisis in a child that will help you diagnose your little one’s state:

  • Negativism

This term means that you may have noticed your child resisting your requests or even their own desires. They may resist not because they don’t want to do what you’re asking, but simply because you asked them to do it. Typically, negativism is directed at the requests and wishes of a particular person.

  • Self-will

This is an “expanded” version of the previous symptom of the 3-year-old crisis in a child. In this case, the little person ignores not only a particular adult but protests against chosen norms of upbringing and lifestyle in general.

  • Despotism

In this case, the toddler turns into a little tyrant who tries to manipulate adults, demanding that they do what they want.

  • Stubbornness

This often manifests in a child insisting on something not because they really need it, but because the child had previously asked for it. What the child asked for may not actually be very important, but the little one follows their emotions and simply cannot refuse their request.

  • Depreciation

Favorite toys and activities no longer seem as interesting to the child as they used to be. For example, your child may start arguing with their parents, to whom they previously showed respect, or suddenly start breaking their toys.

  • Protest

This is reflected in frequent conflicts with family members, as the child feels that their opinions and desires are not of interest to the older ones.

  • Self-will

In some ways, this trait overlaps with the previous one, as it is another sign that your little one wants to be more independent. For example, your child may try to do everything themselves, even if they are not yet able to or don’t know how.

How long does a 3-year-old’s crisis last?

No child psychologist can give an exact answer to how long a 3-year-old’s crisis lasts. It depends on a variety of factors:

  • including upbringing;
  • individual character traits;
  • the efforts made by family members to overcome this difficult period.

Usually, if a child is 3 years old and you notice signs of a crisis at this age, in most cases the situation should normalize by the age of 4.

Here are some tips for parents on what to do if their child is going through a 3-year-old crisis:

Atypical behavior, manipulations, tantrums, and whims are a serious test of nerves. We will try to help you and tell you how to cope with a 3-year-old crisis in a child.

First, here’s what you shouldn’t do during this difficult time:

  • Don’t be too authoritarian – give the child more freedom within reasonable limits where it does not harm the little one’s health;
  • Avoid hyper-protection so that your child can grow into an independent personality;
  • Do not behave too harshly or, conversely, be excessively accommodating.

And now, here’s how to survive a 3-year-old crisis in a child so that your little one can return to their normal self:

  • Try to find a middle ground in parenting and be flexible: keep yourself in control and remember that all of this is temporary.
  • Do not interfere with what your little one is doing if they do not ask for your help (of course, if it does not threaten their health). This will help the child grow into a self-sufficient individual;
  • Watch your own behavior, as children often copy our actions.
  • If your child is too stubborn, try to redirect their attention to more neutral topics;
  • If your little one is throwing a tantrum or having a meltdown, do not tell them they are wrong while they are in that state. Wait until they calm down, and then calmly explain everything.
  • Be on equal terms with your child so that they understand that you respect their opinion.
  • Try to diffuse crisis situations through play. For example, if your child refuses to eat, suggest feeding their favorite toy and convince them to eat a spoonful themselves in the process.
  • Tell your little angel how much you love them and how important they are to you. You can express this by surrounding them with care and comfort.

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