Is the “Threenager” Stage Worse than the “Terrible Twos”?

terrible twos
Image adapted via Flickr/ thejbird

You are walking through the grocery store, minding your own business and you walk down the cookie aisle to a very familiar scene: A 2-year old girl is losing her cool at her mom who is standing her ground as she wails that she really wants those cookies on the shelf. She doesn't seem to answer to any reason her mother is trying to give her (ex. that they have cookies at home, that she won't get her way screaming like this), but the girl is continuing her tantrum.

For any parent, this is what we would call the “terrible twos” — a normal developmental stage where a child starts to assert independence. This is one of the stages other parents will warn you about, because you don't get a name like “terrible twos” without there being some real solid examples behind it.

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I braced myself for the terrible-two stage with full expectation that it was going to be a grueling year when all sorts of buttons would be pushed. When the stage came and went without it being as terrible as anticipated, you can imagine how caught off guard I was when the next year came (my child turned three) and all those buttons started to get pushed.

I am not alone in this discovery — that three is harder than two for some parents and kids — and a new term coined the “threenager” stage has been named. It's exactly what it sounds like — your 3-year-old suddenly acts like a moody teenager without the same maturity and communication skills that you would expect from an actual teenager.

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I asked some fellow parents which stage they found the more challenging one — the “terrible twos” or the “threenager,” and here is what they said:

Image via Flickr/ storyvillegirl

They do it anyway.

Threenager: “Because they know exactly what they're doing, and yet they do it anyway. It's a stage where they are pushing the boundaries with deliberate defiance, whereas age 2 is boundary seeking and learning good from not good. Three is way more frustrating!” — Jacqueline

Image via Flickr/ dickdotcom

Communication issue.

Terrible Two: “Mostly because of the communication issue. Two-year-olds have the same willfulness and desire to test boundaries, but I feel like their communication skills don't always match up yet, especially in boys, and it leads to a lot of frustration because they can't communicate what they want as well or understand any kind of reasoning. Also, potty training. I loathe potty training.” — Chaunie, Tiny Blue Lines

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Image via Flickr/ Theodore Scott


Threenager: “Terrible two is a breeze compared to the willpower of a 3-year-old.” — Amber

Image via Flickr/ russteaches

Talking back.

Threenager: “Three. The sass is unbearable. I feel at two you get tantrums, but [at] three, they understand and can argue back, and they don't have a filter yet or know what's good for them. We are hitting three, and I want to fast forward to four.” – Renata

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Image via Flickr/ Philippe Put

Different reasons.

BOTH: “Twos is hard with Brielle — really bad temper tantrums, kicking screaming, and goes from a good mood to bad mood in an instant. With Nevaeh, three was harder but for similar reasons.” — Cindy

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From those I talked to, it seems the threenager stage is even more challenging than the terrible twos, but what do you think? Which stage did you find to be the harder one?

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Is the “Threenager” Stage Worse than the “Terrible Twos”?

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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