Terrible Two’s and Theatrical Three’s

This month I asked some other dads to contribute their own stories, give advice or just share whatever was on their mind.



It starts as they approach the age of two. Your parents, friends, co-workers, and anybody you know who has children of their own begin to warn you of those terrible two’s. You shudder and cringe as you hear their personal horror stories of this dreaded age. Then they finish the story by saying “but the Three’s are worse”.

How can the three’s be worse? We all hear those stories about the two’s being that age where children start to develop their opinions and push every button you didn’t know you had. The “terrible two’s” are supposed to be the biggest nightmare of raising a child. Are the “terrible two’s” more of a myth?

I have a 3 year old son, Keith, and as I reflect on his second year of life, I don’t recall it being as traumatic as society’s label indicates. Certainly not as miserable as those horror stories I heard. There were moments when Keith was two where he would sigh, or grunt, or stomp off in a huff when he didn’t get his way. Yet he usually was teachable and most of the time was able to work through any issue with minimal drama. So as the “terrible two’s” came to a close I definitely felt that I made it through with virtually no emotional scarring. We were successful. It made me think that the “terrible two’s” were just a myth. Maybe my kid was just a product of phenomenal parenting? There was no way those other parents were right about the Three’s because this certainly couldn’t get worse. Right?

Well, as those “terrible two’s” were coming to a close, Keith started showing more signs of challenging behaviors. Those buttons I didn’t have started to show their ugly faces. We are only 3 months into this age of what at times seems to be an attempted overthrow of the leadership and control in our home.

He throws fits when he doesn’t get his way. Not “throw myself on the ground kicking and screaming” fits, but there is occasional screaming and he is much more difficult to redirect than he was when he was two. The worst happened when we went shopping for a Halloween costume. After striking out at the first store we went to, Keith must have thought he wasn’t getting a costume when we left the store and went to our car, despite our constant reassurance that we would go to another store. He screamed and cried all the way to the car. He fought me every step of the way because he had to be physically removed from the store. He proceeded to scream and cry in the car which caused us to abandon all shopping and seek the respite our home and nap time could provide. Yet when we got home the screaming and crying continued. He cried continuously for an hour in his room. We attempted multiple times to console him with absolutely zero success. Eventually he fell asleep. We got his costume the next day. We will always remember that day as a day that contained the worst 2 or so hours of our parenting lives. We call it the Halloween Nuclear Meltdown.

He protests. When I ask him to get dressed he often responds with “No, I don’t want to” and runs away from me. As I calmly remind him of what’s expected he will yell “stop it daddy”. Or my personal favorite response to suggesting that I help him with something “no, you can’t do it, mommy can”.

He negotiates. An example:

Me: Keith, in 10 minutes we are going to go brush your teeth, put on jammies, read books, and go to bed.

Keith (in the sweetest 3 year old boy voice possible): Ummm, how about, we brush teeth, put on jammies, then I can watch a tv show, then read books, then go to bed. Does that sound like a deal? (and he finishes with a sweet smile which renders my attempt to redirect useless).

He tries to get away with things he knows he shouldn’t be doing:

We have our 6 month old, Paul, in the pack and play the other day. Keith starts peering over the pack and play and starts to climb in. I see him from outside of the room and sternly tell him he is not to be climbing in there. He looks at me as I am standing in the hallway observing his blatant disregard for rules. He then says to me “Shh, daddy, close the door”. As if by telling me to close the door I won’t see him doing what he shouldn’t be and that will make it acceptable.

Yet, along with these challenges, the child demonstrates amazing growth of intelligence, critical thinking, and creativity…some of which are demonstrated regularly in those challenging behaviors. He remembers so much, most importantly he remembers to boo the Packers when they are on TV (we are avid Bears fans). He pretends to be dinosaurs, zoo animals, and anything he may see in movies. He builds structures with Lego’s and makes up songs to sing. He is absolutely the single most hilarious person I’ve ever known. There is so much creativity and dramatic behavior that it makes me believe that the Three’s, which are supposed to be worse than the two’s, are really just more Theatrical. The Theatrical Three’s.

Sure there are more challenging moments than when he was two, but to see the depth of changes in his personality makes this age of theatrics much more enjoyable for me. As his father I am proud to see how much his personality has developed. He creates, he thinks independently, and he is incredibly enthusiastic about virtually everything he engages. I remember one night at bedtime I asked him “what are we going to do tomorrow?” and he quickly and excitedly responded “make the most of it!!”. If I could bottle and sell his energy, humor, and enthusiasm for life I would be a multi-millionaire…without a doubt.

There is some truth to what they say. There are parts of the Theatrical Threes that are more challenging than those so called “terrible two’s”. To me, however, I will gladly take those more challenging times so that I can be witness to all of their wonderful accompanying moments.

Keith continually teaches me to make the most of every day. Engage what I do with enthusiasm and passion. Get out of my comfort zone and use creativity when dealing with unexpected challenges. I firmly believe that one of the most important things to do as a father is to just be there for your children. I knew parenthood would teach me a lot about myself and what it means to be a father. I honestly didn’t realize how much I would learn from a little theatrical three year old.



A little about the writer:

I am a 33 year old father of two boys. I am an avid Chicago sports fan, BBQ’er, craft beer hobbyist, and Dave Matthews Band junkie. I have the most amazing wife that I’m not sure how I lucked into. I definitely out-kicked my coverage when I convinced her to marry me. I maintain a small craft beer blog when my fatherhood allows at www.beerdaddyblog.blogspot.com and can be found on twitter @beerdaddyblog. Many thanks to Pete for allowing me to share some of my thoughts.

Similar Articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


From our Sponsors