More unformed thoughts on those rough times (3 1/2-year-olds)

So I've been thinking a lot about this 3 1/2-year-old thing. And how it really seems to me like all the "difficult" stages seem to be at times that double: 4 months, 9 months, 18 months, 3 1/2 years, 7 years, 14 years. I don't know if that means anything, except that if you're 28 maybe you're having a tough time, too. And 56 might also be rough…

Anyway, it seems like the difficulties start out more weighted toward the physical but become progressively more emotional as the people get older. So that first rough stage at 4 months is mostly about being fussy and not being able to sleep. Then at 9 months it's not sleeping but more generalized crankiness. 1 months seems to be a tie between physical and emotional distress, and then by 3 1/2 it really seems to be mostly emotional (even if all of this is caused by some physical process of development in the brain).

It feels to me, from being on the outside of it, that the developmental spurt that's happening somehow seems to remove the protective emotional layers somehow, so that all the person's emotions are right there, waiting to bubble over at any second. The person on the inside can't process or deal with or control them. Which is why they get stuck in a "Pick me up!! Put me down!!" loop. It's like they have an exposed nerve, and any time anything brushes against it they just go off from the overload.

I've noticed that when I'm feeling emotionally fried, my child being in one of these emotional wack-out times just sets me off, too. But when I'm on an even keel, my response just instinctively seems to be more one of "Oh you poor sweet little thing. Let me give you a hug."

Does this resonate with anyone? About any of the stages? About yourself? Or do you think there's something different or more going on?

0 thoughts on “More unformed thoughts on those rough times (3 1/2-year-olds)”

  1. I totally agree with this. My son is coming out the other side of 3 1/2, and while he hit this spurt a little early, it was scary to see just how raw his emotions were. He is an incredibly sweet and even-keeled child, so the loss of control on his emotions was particularly challenging. I have a 16-month old who has always been a temperamental little beast (said lovingly), so the disparity between the two is startling.You are also so right about the ability to deal with these problems based on our moods. My husband has been traveling like a crazy person for the last three-months, so I’m doing solo parenting 24-hours a day. I’ve hit an all-time low for my ability to keep my shit together, which totally colors how I parent the kids. Luckily, the period is over and I’m coming out of it. I do not understand how single parents function!

  2. This really resonates with me right now…my youngest daughter is 3+ and going through all the obvious “3” crap but it’s my with older son, who’s 7, that this really strikes me. Yesterday he asked me about the location of a cub scout meeting, and when I told him something other than what he was expecting, he started to cry. His emotions are constantly right there, just on the edge of spilling over…with the smallest thing sending him over that edge….

  3. Oh, absolutely. My daughter turned 3 in August, and she’s been so emotional and fragile since then. I read “I Don’t Know How She Does It” recently, and in it the author writes something about the kids’ feelings being to big for their bodies. And I thought, “Yes! That’s it exactly!” She’s growing and communicating more and understanding more, and it’s all just developing faster than she can process. She’s overwhelmed, and I’m trying so hard to remember that when I get overwhelmed by her behavior. It seems to help her when I can make the environment calm and quiet when she’s getting overwrought.

  4. “I’ve noticed that when I’m feeling emotionally fried, my child being in one of these emotional wack-out times just sets me off, too. But when I’m on an even keel, my response just instinctively seems to be more one of “Oh you poor sweet little thing. Let me give you a hug.””yesyesyesyesyes…and yes again…
    just realized we’ll be closing in on 4mos(bean) and 3.5(pnut) in another month- OH, THE JOYS!
    sigh.

  5. Yes, definitely. Though I think there’s a progression from physical to emotional to social to relational to intergenerational (down) to intergenerational (all) in there…At 7, the big hit is the emotional progressing to the social. At 14 it is the social progressing to the relational (positioning for procreation, I guess), and at 28 most people (even guys) start suddenly shifting into ‘you know, settling down and having kids doesn’t sound so bad anymore’ (at least, by 29, most guys I know are suddenly in that mode), and at 56 grandkids (or charitable work or politics or other caretaking-the-future activity) doesn’t seem as far-fetched a concept, either.
    So, a scale, progressively moving through the stages of physical, emotional, and social interrelationships and processing.
    And yes, when I’m not doing so well, it all rubs me raw. And even when I am not doing well, if I can capture the essence of the issue (put it in perspective, get a glimpse inside the child, have my developmental expectations refreshed, whatever), I am *more* able to feel sympathy and empathy and want to give them a hug (granted, they don’t always know if they want a hug right then…). Though ‘more’ able may not be ‘really easily able’! Just more than not.

  6. It always seems to me that baby hitting a rough patch coincides with mum and dad going through a crappy time, to the point when it is all one brain melting cycle of evil. i wonder if we cause it or he causes it or what. it’s definitely developmental, but his growing pains seem to impact on my husband and myself in such a way that renders us pretty useless too. I think it is because all three of us are kind of hyper-sensitive and moods/emotions can be so overwhelming at times.The good thing is that just when you think it can’t get any worse or any more stupid, something shifts and life goes on much more sweetly. I think you have noted that lots of times, Moxie. When baby boy was younger (he’s 2 now) and the good times would return, I would always feel as though a spell had broken. Magic. Cos sure as hell anything you try and do won’t make life better.
    At least as they get older, things get rough for more explainable reasons, or at least it seems you can figure out what is going on more easily. And those good night kisses, pats on the face and ‘mummy NICE!’ moments are there to compensate….

  7. I think that there’s both an emotional and physical component to most spurts, although I think one tends to be dominant. I think one of the main emotional components that is scary is the separation component – it seems like with most of the spurts is the realization that you are big and separate and then it hits them that it’s a little scary.My 9 month old is (a)working on cruising, (b)working on language (she has a sound for a lot of things – da-da-da is daddy. ma-ma-ma is me, Nah-nah-nah (angsty sounding) is either bottle or done, get me out of here, nah-nah-nah coupled with a hand gesture is either, “I want to touch that, bring me there.” or “Come here.”, depending on the hand gesture. She’s also figuring out some separateness from me, and that things/people can leave and come back.
    This is a scaled down version of what the 14 year old is figuring out. The 14 year old has been working on: navigating the world on his own with a bicycle, laptop, and a cell phone; being able to hang out with friends, with little supervision; being responsible for getting his stuff done and planning ahead; figuring out when to ask for help; formulating (his own) opinions on the world around him – the social stuff at school, world events, etc.
    I think also that there is a little bit of regression in other areas while the child is working on something big. There are a lot of plates to juggle, and there are some growing pains (emotional and physical).
    It’s much easier to cope with this, as the parent, when you are well rested, healthy, and not in the middle of post partum hormonal crap (from my experience).

  8. I don’t know or can’t really comment on the stages as much. BUT OH YES, if I am out of wack I don’t respond as I want to or should.I am a very emotional person, I am sensitive to what others are feeling, tap into emotions sometimes too easily. Some days I feel like my only job is to just make sure I keep myself on an even keel so I react as a parent how I want, love being a parent how I want to. Keeping myself on a even keel, means getting the down time I need, making sure to eat regularly (I get VERY grumpy, on edge when I need food) and keep checking in with myself.

  9. sheSaid, I think you hit the nail on the head, and you have put into words exactly how I feel about the whole thing. ESPECIALLY with the lack of food and feeling on edge link! such a good and pertinent comment. I guess, as the parents are the source of emotional regulation for their kids, the first step is to keep ourselves emotionally regulated!

  10. hmmmm, i think this is what is going on with my 3&3/4 yr child. Yes, her emotions are on the surface, Yes, her development is growing so fast that she wants constant interaction with me/someone to keep it going…and YES, I’ve got too much going on (sick 6 week old, new house that is totally disorganized and driving hubby up the wall [leading to those irritating ‘what in the H did you do all day?’ looks–umm, nurse?] and teaching a new class 3 hours a week, plus office hours) that my ability to stick with her is totally hamstrung. I can’t even keep up with *myself,* let alone with her energetically learning body.

  11. As someone who just yelled, “because we don’t have the money for it!” at her 3.5-year-old, I can TOTALLY relate.It sucks when all members of the family are emotionally raw and wrung-out.

  12. What about 12 months and 20? Both awful awful developmental stages for my daughter. 9 months was a sinch for her, though. Obviously depends on the child. But in the second year, there is just one after the next, it seems.Still waiting on 3.5. I think my kid did it early ( more around 3) and has come out the other end, but he has always been a very easy child that didn’t suffer through developmental spurts. Who knows what he’ll be like later.

  13. Hmmm… 28 WAS a rough year.We’re coming up on 18 months, and yes, it is very much a roller coaster. But I’m handling this one marginally better than the previous ones, so maybe I’m learning how to keep myself on the even keel that so many of the PPs mention is important for handling toddler emotional meltdowns well. I also need to be fed on a regular schedule or I get very, very grumpy. This is a well known fact in my family, and Hubby has learned to steer me towards food when the first signs of grumpiness start to appear!

  14. Oh, my God, I just counted backwards and 28 was the worst year of my LIFE. Complete identity meltdown and dis-integration. Whew. Glad I’m older now.And I remember being 14, too. Emotions on the surface, no words for what I was feeling, no sense that anyone else had ever felt this way before, no way of connecting. I often think this is how my 3.5 y.o. must feel, too. The First Adolescence. 🙂

  15. 7 might explain my 6-3/4 (as he just pointed out) YO. . . Thanks! Good to know it *isn’t* just me – somehow the older sibs didn’t do it quite as spectacularly.

  16. I’m with everyone else. 28 kinda sucked. I imagine that 56 will probably start to feel like the “end” (even though it’s not!!!), and I can’t imagine a more horrible feeling right now. I have actually had this thought before because I was trying to figure out the pattern for the babies–doubling all the time. I think we’re all on to something.Here’s another thought to throw into the mix. I have a really hard time with my own emotions, or, more precisely, I take on the emotions of the people around me very easily and it can make me very upset or very happy (depending). My mom was never the “emotions are OK” type and I feel pretty confident that as I went through the younger “emotions are too large for my body” phases, she did her best to show me that I needed to squelch my feelings as soon as possible.
    I wonder if, as a result, I never actually learned to deal with them. Instead, my toddler emotions (teenage emotions, adult emotions) are all just sitting, festering, inside me, ready to spring out with the slightest suggestion of emotion from my surroundings.
    Thanks for listening, Moxie-therapy-folks.

  17. That’s really cool.I had a thought on the 3.5 thing. My son is coming into it and it seems to me to be some confusion about whether we can hear his internal thoughts or not. It’s like a profound realization he has to test over and over.

  18. 28 was probably my darkest year ever. But 4 mo was great for us, it marked the END of fussiness, and 9mo, aside from awful sleep, was OK too. 11 was really tough around here, mostly due to ridiculous separation anxiety.

  19. haven’t read all comments yet (dealing w/3.2 y.o.) but I read somewhere, can’t remember for the life of me Where, that after the initial phases of development, as adults we go through big phases of development every 7 years, which would explain 28, 35, and 42 for me!@attiton, your comment caught my eye, and I’m with you on the not handling my own emotions, trying to work through that so I model better for my son. some other PP mentioned about food too, my self-care stinks and things always get better for both DS & I after we have a meal or snack, blood sugar comes up, and we’re both more able to deal.
    being interrupted incessantly, gotta go.

  20. I wonder if it is different in girls v. boys because they mature at different rates…14 was the worst time in my life and is so traumatic for girls, where as I’m not sure that boys/guys go through it then or when they do. Being a mom at 29 was definitely emotional for me.

  21. My 3 year (and 3 month old) is exactly how you put it – the emotions are right there and raw and the slightest brush with them will ignite him. It seems to me that this stage is a lot about him really realizing that he is growing and getting bigger. The simple phrase of “you’re getting so big” triggers freakouts with him insisting no, “I’m small” or no, “I’m a baby.” Which isn’t really too far a stretch from the 28 year old freakouts. Every woman I know has had a rough emotional time at that age, by the way. No one ever talks about it, but 28/29 for some reason does a number on people.

  22. Well, something *just* shifted with my 16-month old that makes him easier, happier, more adaptable… and I know that part of it is that I started taking antidepressants – I’m modeling better behavior, I’m able to roll with the punches better – when he gets frustrated, I’m more likely to feel FOR him, instead of feeling like I’m pitted AGAINST him.I was also raised in the “squelch all your feelings” mode, and I hope I can find a way to model better for little guy.

  23. It’s a long one, sorry.The seven year cycle is mentioned in many, many different traditions, from Kabbalah to the I-Ching and many more. It’s like Mercury in retrograde, but for the entire year!
    It really challenges your life. My son just went through 28 and it sucked so much it transformed his life and he moved to New Zealand! It’s powerful stuff.
    3 ½, half of seven, is the age most parents begin looking for kind, supportive discipline because they’re all dealing with what I lovingly call the stage of emotional belligerence.
    I posted something at the very end of the Why, why, Why post a few days ago and I think most missed it, so I’m going to recycle some of that post here.
    I did some research in my parenting library and found the following; I hope it makes what’s going on a little clearer.
    “One common thread running through all the research findings about a young children’s ability to think about thinking is that 3-year-olds just aren’t capable of thinking about an object in two different ways at the same time. They form one representation about an object and answer all questions in terms of that one thought.” (Flavell, Green & Falvell, 1986) from, Understanding Children.
    “At this stage children also link all those ideas that pertain to *me* and all those ideas that pertain to *not me*. In this way, they begin to make the distinction between fantasy (things that are inside me) and reality (things that are outside of me).” The Irreducible Needs of Children, T. Berry Brazelton and Stanley Greenspan.
    “You’ll notice that children at this stage often have a tendency not to close their circles of communication. Instead they go from one idea to another idea without respect for the logical bridges that commonly move our conversations from one topic to another. The experience can be quite jarring, as your little conversationalist leaps from one topic to another while you desperately try to keep up.” Playground Politics, Stanley Greenspan, M.D.
    So how does this play out? From 0-2.5 or 3 a child has been basically dealing with the emotional and physical side of development and language, but not really *thinking* as we know it. Age 3 begins analytical thinking in its most basic form. The problem is this new analytical thinking is being mixed with the emotional side of being 3. 
It’s called Emotional Thinking.
    The child is working with the difference between fantasy and reality and needs to check in and ask a ton of questions to see what exists in their mind and what’s real, what applies to me and what doesn’t apply to me. That’s why this age loves movies, and can be so scared by them at the same time, Monsters Inc anyone! 

    That means he wants you, the source of all knowledge, to answer his question. But if your answer differs from his thoughts on the subject, then he can’t hold both thoughts, it’s too much for him to understand, so he retreats to where he’s been focused for 3 years—he gets emotional.
    It can sound like this: I love you, I hate you, I need you, but I hate needing you cause I’m big now, but now I’m afraid so I guess I’m not so big, I’m scared, I hate being scared, cause I need you when I’m scared, maybe if I let you pick me up I won’t be scared, wait only babies let mommy’s pick them up. I AM CONFUSED so I will cry now!
    Sound familiar?
    So what can be done? That’s a personal choice. Some parents have reported feeling emotional wrung out or beaten up by their child at this age and find they’re reacting and doing things they hoped they’d never do or say. Those parents say they want discipline to help manage this.
    Other parents want to know when can I say enough is enough without sacrificing his budding intellectual interest? What kind of boundary will do that? How do I say, it’s not okay to scream at me when I’m simply answering your question or trying to help you. How do I say I know where you’re headed with those questions or that emotional request, and I don’t have it in me to go there with you right now—I am fried!
    What if you became silent as your child was going through these demanding emotions?
    When a parent becomes silent for 10-30 seconds as a child is “emotionally vomiting” (that’s what we called in our house) on the parent, the parent is actually dropping their end of the power struggle and you would be amazed at the power of that type of silence.
    When you use silence like this over and over again during childhood the child comes to realize, she is not joining my emotional reaction, I have no choice but to look at myself.
    It is done very gently during the preschool years, and gains power and momentum as a child grows toward the tween and teen years.
    What happens if silence really throws your child, and it will. As soon as you see that happening is when you begin your quiet, calm dialog, followed by supportive discipline if needed.
    I think there is a big misunderstanding about what discipline is. I interpret discipline as being another form of normal dialog, not big, bad, ugly punishment. I interpret discipline to mean the words I use to draw a boundary, what I do as things are swinging out of control, the ways I redirect and change the direction of where this moment is headed.
    Will they reject and react to silence followed by discipline if needed, most likely yes, that’s the stage at work. However, if you keep using the same type of response each time the child begins getting emotionally out there your silence becomes like a transitional response telling him this behavior isn’t going to fly —time to get yourself together and we will work together to calm down. When that is the normal way things are handled in your house, the child begins to feel comforted by the way his parents regularly handle his big emotions because it’s in sharp contrast to his emotional reaction, and he relaxes and comes to accept this over time.
    This is the age when they’re dealing with conflicting issues, thoughts and emotions, and there isn’t one way to deal with this. This is where you *begin* to decide how to handle these things for you, your child and your family, every family is different. I just wanted to answer Moxie’s WHY…

  24. Whew. I needed to read this today.For me, the doubling effect does apply, but it was to 13 and 26. At 13 I had the dubious honor of being the “odd girl out” in a class with five girls. At 26, I had my first (at least that I recognize) major depression. Hmmm.
    Maya (4 a week from today) is still in that exposed-nerves phase of emotions. The way Moxie described it sounds SO MUCH like me. Actually, it also sounds like how I am with my husband, except that I’m infinitely less patient with him (whoops).
    @ramy, I went through the same “what the H did you do all day” with my husband when baby boy (now 6mo) was between 6-8 weeks. I seriously almost left. It was really close, and there are still times that I wonder whether I want to be in this for 10, 15, 20, 50 more years with him. I hope your situation actually improves more than mine has. For sure, I give you a high five for handling all that’s on your plate without giving him a complete slap up and down! ***hugs***
    Now, off to put the nearly-4 down for a nap (at least she still naps) so I can search for inner peace when the baby-with-ear-infection isn’t screaming at me. Man, am I whiny today.

  25. I don’t know if it’s because I have an easy kid, or that I am just a roll with it kind of parent, but I didn’t really notice any of the younger fussy stages. BUT I did stop saying, “THIS is my favorite age,” when my son hit 18 months. 18-24 months so NOT my favorite age. And he’s hitting 3 come March, so we’ll see what happens.I also have to say – you all have me worried about next year! I’ll be 28. Maybe I’ll just work on the power of positive thinking:
    “28 will not suck. 28 will be awesome.”

  26. I have nothing to say about 3-1/2, but 29-1/2 is what’s known as your Saturn Return — and six to twelve months on either side of that is traditionally brutal. Ditto 59. The Saturn Return usually entails your life upending somehow, and usually for good in the long run, although hold on for dear life in the short run.In other words, you’re onto something here with the doubling thing. 🙂

  27. Woah. I have an 18 month old AND a 3.5 year old (and I’m 7 months pregnant with #3) — *NO WONDER* I feel like I am losing my mind! Thank God I’m not 28. 🙂 Heh.

  28. yeah, i was just thinking along the lines of cloud and heather et.al. about how much more difficult it would be to do this alone- i really don’t mean that in a patronizing way to those of you who *are* doing it on your own- i mean it to say that not only am i in awe of you, my heart goes out to you with the hope that you find other people/support systems to lean on during the times when you need it the most.

  29. I’m getting really scared of 3 1/2 now… But I guess forewarned is forearmed, and I have time to read up on parenting techniques.@Sharon- my Hubby’s from New Zealand, and I’ve visited several times. It is a wonderful place. Tell your son to work on speaking quietly and not interrupting and he’ll probably fit in great. It took me awhile after I first met my Hubby and some other Kiwis here in the US (a work thing- they were collaborators) to figure out why they never talked when we were out in a group. It is because Kiwis in general won’t talk over someone else, so the typical American pattern of one friend talking over the end of another’s sentence was really intimidating for them. When I went and worked down there for a couple of months, I had to watch myself so that I didn’t come off as rude. I still try to keep this in mind when I visit or when I’m hanging out with a bunch of Kiwis. And I really notice the difference in speaking volume whenever we come back from a trip. For the first few weeks, I’m always saying “What???” to Hubby, until he readjusts to American volume levels!

  30. @lisa f- you might be thinking of erik erikson, also, if your memory is from a child or human development class…he’s also the one who coined the term “identity crisis”…not to say that sharon and pronoia are wrong, but more that many people come up with the same ideas/theories all over the world at many different times.

  31. Cloud THANK YOU. You have no idea how helpful that will be for him. I’m sure no one can tell that we’re a very vocal family. And talking over each other has been a big issue in our house, so this is GREAT!pnuts mama, thanks for reminding me of erik erikson, you’re bringing back fond memories of child development classes, I digress, way too much multitasking going on here.
    I also agree that when many, many different theories and traditions end up with similar information, seven year cycles, there is more than a grain of truth in it.

  32. FWIW, at 28 and 56 (approximately), people experience their saturn returns – an astrological term for, “this time sucks.” google it for more info. i know there are probably many people who poo-poo astrology, but everyone i know felt the weight of this time… granted, it’s still twice as easy as raising a toddler :)!

  33. I also meant to say, please don’t be afraid of 3.5.There are so many bright and happy things they do too. Since I don’t have the exact quote for this next part I’m paraphrasing.
    The 3.5 stage is the first real bid for independence, it’s much bigger than 2. How a parent handles this stage, do they give boundaries or do they let the child rule the roost, that information is stored in the child’s psyche and is retrieved by the teenagers unconscious when they begin their teenage stage of independence.
    So it does become important to “begin” including boundaries versus letting this stage go without boundaries. No pressure, LOL.
    I remember one incident that explains this perfectly.
    When my guys were little I would say “freeze” and they would. It saved my preschooler’s life and stopped several other things that could have gone terrribly wrong when they were 3 and 4.
    When Taller was at the height of his belligerence around 16, he took my car keys and was planning on just leaving without permission or a license! I yelled “freeze” and he did, it shocked us both. I silently gestured—give me the keys, and he did.
    The word “Freeze” that I used when he was 3 or 4 was so deeply embedded in his unconscious that when I needed it again 12 years later it still worked. I asked him why he gave me the keys and he said, I have no idea.
    So don’t be afraid of 3.5, try looking at it as practice for what every parent isn’t looking forward to—the teen years.
    Which by the way were actually great, expect when they weren’t.

  34. WOW! Ok, now I’m scared. I’m due with number #2, a month prior to #1 turning 3 1/2. Here I thought 3 1/2 years was perfect. But as a previous poster said, guess I am forewarned.

  35. @maura – I don’t think 28 sucked. I was in a bit over my head – with a one year old and most of the year pregnant with the second, so it’s a bit of a blur, but not sucky. It was more a time of challenge and growth than suck. 45-46 has also been a huge time of challenge with a lot of suck, but only because of the big C…. otherwise it’s been pretty damn good ;-)@Sharon aka – the teen years aren’t always all that bad. My teens are the joy of my life and really pleasant people I am thrilled to have around the house (when they’re around the house.) Yeah, they’ve done incredibly bone-headed things on rare occasions (one child) or can be truly exasperating at times (the other child.) But except for 3 distinct occasions, one a nasty car accident, dread? Really, no.

  36. I’m really sorry — I have to rush to get relieve the babysitter, but I just wanted to say that YES! Shandra, you’re SO onto something. From a developmental pscyhology perspective, theory of mind comes on line at 3. 5 and it’s a HUGE shift. I’ve written about this and its possible links to the onset of shame reactions. Here’s a cut and paste job (sorry… long) because I don’t have the time to summarize:”One of the most important changes, usually observed at 3 ½ to 4 years, is broad enough to apply to some rather diverse features of children’s social cognition: that is, perspective-taking. We descibed this as the capacity to shift one’s perspective (or to see that another person can shift her perspective) in order to see things from a different point of view—sometimes a more objective point of view. And one particularly important aspect of perspective taking takes place underneath the skin, in the psychological realm of thoughts, beliefs and consciousness itself: false-belief understanding—the last major milestone in the acquisition of theory of mind. As you may recall, theory of mind is the understanding that other people have their own goals, feelings, internal states, thoughts, and opinions. In short, they have minds of their own, and the contents of those minds are very often different from the contents of one’s own mind. False-belief understanding marks the culmination of theory of mind: the child can now predict that other people will believe whatever they perceive through their own senses, regardless of whether it’s true or false. Many studies have demonstrated that 4-year-old children understand this basic principle of human perception, while 3-year-olds do not. By the age of 3 ½ to 4, children can predict that a puppet will look for a hidden cookie where the puppet thinks it is located—where he last saw it hidden—rather than in a new location where it was hidden a second time, outside this puppet’s awareness. When children can separate their own beliefs from the beliefs of others, they have undertaken a remarkable shift in social understanding. They have now begun to glean that each mind is like a chamber filled with its own perceptions of the world, and no two minds need ever see the world in the same way.
    Understanding that your parents have minds of their own can be quite a shock to the 3-4-year old child. Up until now, you took it for granted that Mom saw things the way you did. In fact, you didn’t have to explain to her how you saw things, because there was only one way to see things: the way they really are. Now that people’s beliefs are seen to be private affairs, carried around in their own heads and not accessible to others, a number of issues have to be worked out. One parent tells the story of her daughter Chloe who rode on the back of his bicycle to nursery school every day from her third birthday on. She would typically point to interesting sights as they rode by, saying, “That flower is blue! That boy has a funny hat!” and so forth. Around the age of 3 years and 4 months, however, her language changed. She began to phrase these comments as questions rather than statements: “Did you see the blue flower? Do you think that hat is funny?” She was clearly conceding that his reality was not the same as hers. But other changes were less cheerful in tone. At exactly the same age, Chloe would be sitting at the table eating her cereal when her father came downstairs, and Chloe would shout “Don’t look at me!” While turning her head away or hiding behind her cereal box. What could possibly have prompted such outbursts? If your parents have minds of their own, and if you don’t know what’s inside them, then you might well worry. They might be looking at you, and they might be thinking…anything! They might be thinking that you just spilled your cereal, or that you were supposed to wait, or, more generally, that you’re a bad, selfish little girl. How would you know?
    In this way, false-belief understanding can be a ticket to a new suite of insecurities. A private mind, with its own thoughts and beliefs, might harbour thoughts about you that aren’t very nice. This conjecture has been reinforced for us by many anecdotes. Parents of 3 ½ -year-old children would tell us that their daughter suddenly stopped letting them hear her sing. “Go away! Don’t listen!” Or “Don’t look at me!” Or “Go away until I tell you!” This is often also the age where children suddenly stop letting their parents help them at the potty, if they’ve been potty-trained for a while. These reactions suggested extreme self-consciousness. These kids apparently worried about being seen, or being heard, because there was something about themselves that might not live up to such scrutiny. Something unpleasant, or greedy, or bad. In fact, false-belief understanding seemed to bring about a spurt of intense shame reactions.

  37. @Sharon- hmm, now I’ll think about what sorts of things I want to implant in Pumpkin’s subconscious for use during her teen years…. (insert evil laugh). If your son wants some more info on an American’s take on the differences between NZ and the US, point him to my blog and tell him to search “New Zealand”. I wrote a post on that subject once. And he is more than welcome to drop me an email with any specific questions. The other thing that comes to mind is the “tall poppy syndrome”- how you don’t want to stand out, even for good things. So none of my Kiwi scientist friends like to put the “PhD” in the email signatures or on their business cards- which is of course what you are expected to do here. But all the Kiwis I know are aware of the differences in American culture, and are usually pretty tolerant of us as long as we’re trying to get along, so I’m sure your son will do fine in NZ!

  38. Cloud, there are no words, so I’ll just say thank you so very much. I already sent your first post and will send this one and your site next. You are making this mom feel much better about having a son at the other end of the planet. Funny, he is grown, makes all his own decisions and has for so many years, but this move made me feel like a mom sending her child off to first grade, all over again.

  39. My oldest daughter is 3.5. For her, so far, the emotions have not been the hard part. It’s that she’s mentally and vocabularily (ha! you see where she gets it?) so far ahead of her own emotions and experience.So she asks questions for which she doesn’t possibly have the experience to understand the answers, and so the questions lead to more questions, and soon we’re both confused.
    I remember when I studied a technique called “Active Listening” – my mentor told that “Why” is NO good as a question – it can’t really lead to more meaningful information. I didn’t really GET this until now; now that I’m inundated with “whys” from morning until night.
    It’s like little Miriam’s brain literally gets stuck in “why”, sometimes. She’ll ask why questions around in circles until sometimes I just have to say “listen to yourself! I gave you the lemon yogurt because that’s the one you ASKED for!”
    It’s hard, alright. And my younger son is 18 months, too. Whee!

  40. @Sharon- I suspect I’ve been guilty of causing similar feelings in my parents from time to time! Don’t worry about NZ, though. It is such a safe country that car accidents get reported on the national news. Check out nzherald.co.nz, and you’ll see what I mean. Bad things can happen anywhere, but I’d say your son will be pretty safe in NZ. And he’ll have a great time! Ask him to send you some chocolate sauce with hokey pokey… yummmmmm.

  41. @Bella–in our family we’ve been talking about this a lot recently, although we’ve discussed it more as 4 is the year when we wake up and realize the world is not us, the year we see ourselves as individuals.In our family mythology, everything happened to my sister when she was 4. Many of the cutest stories were from when she was 4. I clearly remember her as a 5 year old telling my mother “but when i was 4 you let me do xyz.” It was the year she began to separate her life experience–and remember them.
    My daughter turns 4 in November. My sister has said she can’t wait for her niece to turn 4 b/c that is the year when everything happens!
    I hadn’t thought about the 3.5 phase as a necessary prerequisite of all of our favorite family stories! Now if i could only get some consistent sleep and get used to the baby maybe I could enjoy the end of the awakening in my daughter…
    btw-another 7 that hasn’t been mentioned–the “7 year itch”.
    loved seeing the Mercury and Saturn references btw. Its not my first thought on any topic (so, what is planet x up to?) but it is my father’s first thought so eventually I hear it. and its always interesting.

  42. I really needed to hear this today…I have an 18 month old who is driving me crazy with the “up-ups.” I will console myself that it is a stage and will END.

  43. I gave birth only 3 months before I turned 28, so 28, so far, has been the BEST year of my life 😀 With 27 being the second-best b/c I was pregnant.My daughter isnt 3.5 years, but she is 4.5 months, and this month is the best one so far! Based on what I have read here, I was prepared for some horrible child to emerge, but she is just getting more and more awesome every day.

  44. 28 gave me a taste of success and acclaim. Then it beat me up, broke me down, and left me sleeping on my best friend’s couch and crying every day (think Holly Hunter in _Broadcast News_). 29 was when I started building the life I was meant to have, not the one that made everyone else happy.And OK, that life sometimes bites it – like today, which included 4 hours of driving, husband reactivating head injury, and kid having full-on hour-long meltdown (which I probably could have prevented had I been more present and less sleep-deprived). But it’s often quite wonderful, and it’s the right life for me.
    It’s hard being a person, huh?

  45. and thanks, all (esp. Shandra and Bella), for the fascinating stuff on theory of mind. It’s so interesting to see flashes of empathy in kids before that age, but it always seemed a bit… ungrounded? in even the sweetest ones. I think maybe the emotional understanding is there all along, but with no way to process it intellectually… it can’t really connect the wires until that differentiation is in place…?

  46. Sharon, does this mean that I don’t have to worry about “spoiling” my baby until he’s 3ish?He’s currently not even 1 yet, but I am starting to get flak from my mother that I am spoiling him, mostly though different parenting styles (which are actually mostly caused by VERY different family circumstances).

  47. I SO needed to read this today!@ paola – I am in the 12 month thing now, exacerbated by a move, starting day care, and a cold. Mmm…yes! It’s the hat trick of fussiness! The wee one is not napping as well at DC and this is translating in to poorer sleep at night. For the first time in months, I had to soothe him back to sleep three times from 7pm to 11pm tonight. And he’s waking several times a night and waking early (like real damn early – 4:30). (And here I am, unable to sleep at 12:30 am).
    I am feeling frayed emotionally and dealing with the wee one (while DH is out having a good time) is *work*. Seriously. When he’s freaking out doing the uber-back-arching-screaming-
    pulling-hair-grabbing-glasses-how-
    dare-you-try-to-soothe-me-with-a-pacifier-
    you-horrid-wench freak-out, and my last nerve is being rubbed raw, I focus on the following mantra, “he is a baby. Repeat. He is a baby.” Or, if things get really nasty, “Back away from the child.” It’s the hair pulling that really sets me off. or the hitting. I can deal with the screaming etc by dissociating from the sound, but the physical stuff I find hard to swallow and it sets me off. But, like Moxie says, when I’m feeling balanced, it’s like water off a duck’s back and my pool of patience is deep.
    Ok – I really must try to sleep. 4:30 is coming fast…

  48. Thanks Sharon. Interesting questions.We both see “spoiled” as a kid with no boundaries, who always gets his own way so never learns to be considerate of others. So I think our conflict is because she and I had/have different requirements of where, and WHEN, to draw the line.
    So that was why I asked about time-limit thing – if he doesn’t really “think” until 3ish then until that age any learning is just habit/training, not understood why. So do I have until around then to get the “ground rules” established? That it won’t matter if I wait until he seems more ready to accept them easier so long as they are established and consistent by the time he can “think”? And anything that requires understanding rather than just compliance is pointless until then because they don’t have the cognitive skills?

  49. @chaosgirlMy sympathies. Does he constantly want to nurse too? That’s what got me with 11.5-13.5 months. Wouldn’t eat anything I cooked her, but constantly wanted to nurse. BTW, she’s going thru that now too at 20.5 months(except she does want to eat almost everything on top of booby). 12 months was extra bad as she was also learning to walk and so naps were extra short as her body just wanted to practice walking. Sheer torture. Hope it gets better for you.

  50. @Tor, in our experience, there’s a lot of ‘filling in the blanks’ before there is definite understanding of the process. So for us, yes, we work on boundaries and ground-rules and values/principles and limits all along, using age-appropriate guidelines. Like, for 12 months, safety and no-hitting/hurting limits (but LOTS of architectural solutions/prevention), and moving from there through more modeling and verbal process modeling (that is, ‘do as I do’ stuff – showing how to be kind, considerate, thoughtful, how to take turns or share – EVEN though sharing is a later skill, model model model!, plus talking through the emotional-cognition skills, ‘when I feel angry, I take a deep breath and calm myself down, then I ask ‘what do I need?’ and then I talk to someone to help me get that’ – that kind of thing). We also adopt problem-solving and empathetic/active-listening/nonviolent communication as early as possible, because it sets up the patterns. EVEN though they can’t always use the information, they will have the memory and structure to draw upon later.For example, we practice calming down and problem-solving a lot. Miss R right now is finally grasping that problem-solving is a process of two people working toward a solution they can both accept willingly. She’s VERY angry about the solution having anything to do with the other party, and is resisting actively the very IDEA (oh, the offront!) that the other party should agree. We’re getting a lot of ‘this is MY SOLUTION, I said I wanted this, this is MY solution.’ … but that’s because she now recognizes that it maybe wasn’t always about her solution, but ‘our’ solution, and is reprocessing all of that. BUT, how much better is it to already have the words for that? The understanding of the structure of the process? She can (and has) said to her twin sister, ‘you need to calm down so we can talk. When we’re calm, we’ll talk.’ And they DO it, because it has been modeled and practiced and modeled and practiced endlessly – Miss M will go off to the peace corner, or she’ll wail and complain and then calm down (either, depends on the day), and then they *will* talk and find a solution, together.
    So, the time between now and 3 is laying foundations – but not much real building. Still, laying foundations of understanding, empathy, language for emotions/emotional literacy, concepts of safety, respect, kindness, etc., all that is really important. It isn’t so much that the child ‘gets away’ with everything they want, but that we address their needs understanding that they need and want different than they are able to process and understand. It isn’t necessary to jerk the chain, set absolutes as limits, etc. It IS, IMHO, useful to set up patterns of limits, work on prevention strategies and problem-solving skills, and develop the basis of effective communication of both feelings and needs.
    There’s some stuff in my blog about architectural solutions, and some examples of what we do… not that we’re perfect by any means! Sharon’s downloads are also well-regarded (I’ve noticed a few people noting they’ve used them and found them super-useful…), and cost less than most parenting books (plus more targetted to your actual issues du jour).

  51. Oh, and I wanted to say that I also adore the same ages that wind me up. It is FASCINATING to watch them change so rapidly. These are the times when they become ‘people’ in really crystal-clear ways. I’ve laughed more, and smiled more, and been more astonished, during these phases. I also learn a lot more about me in these phases, which is really valuable. Even if it isn’t always ‘fun’. It’s exciting. It’s the whole rollercoaster life thing – whipping through the ups and downs so fast sometimes everything is a blur, but it’s a rush, too.Now, ep, he likes the merry-go-round. 😉
    (50 cents for anyone who knows the movie reference…)

  52. @chaosgirl I also found it so frustrating when mine would do the same back arching-screaming in my face-push mom away-but wait don’t put me down thing sometimes multiple times a night. I never found a good way to talk/soothe him down esp. if he didn’t want a bottle. Then I was really in for it. Sometimes we went outside. Not really effective for getting back to sleep quickly. It seems to have mostly gone away – the nighttime freakouts. We still have plenty during the day but somehow it’s a little bit easier to not take it personally or feel like as much of a failure during daylight hours. No good advice but I totally get it and hope it’s a short phase for your little one.

  53. I remember half of 23 was rough, but it was a totally predictable thing: boomeranged home after being very independent in college, couldn’t afford a place until I got a job (and even then, not so much), and whacked my head up against the ceiling of curfews and such that didn’t apply for four years already, so hugely dissonant boundary issues made it impossible for me to live with my mother (my father and I were both very sorry I felt compelled to leave). As I now live three blocks from my parents, it’s clearly not permanent damage.As for 28: 9/11 happened then. I think the suckage of 28 had more to do with the outside coming in, rather than an inside-out emotional life. OTOH, who could tell? The whole world was suffering the same thing.
    Tinkerbell’s sleep was wonky coming into 9 months; now that’s straightened out, pretty much, but she’s yesterday and today having these other little outbursts not clearly related to basic physical needs (eating, sleeping, diaper), so it’s either teeth (finally?) or emotional growth (very likely). We mostly just try to live through it, but I now wonder how motivated I’ll be to think about a #2 just as Tink is emerging from/entering her next disrupted cycle. Forewarned, forearmed…for sure.

  54. for those of you with babies doing the back arching screechfests at night, have you ruled out reflux? that’s what it looked like in my son.this has been a really interesting discussion. i wish my baby were typically developing so i could get my head around the time references, but, alas, it ain’t gonna happen. (he’s 21 months, working on first words and cruising.) still, he’ll hit it sometime & perhaps this will help me recognize it for the stage it is.

  55. Hedra is correct. And I want to jump off of two things she said, “laying the foundation and it isn’t necessary to jerk the chain, set absolutes as limits, etc.” Hedra you’re such a great writer!Tor, let’s talk for a moment about what boundaries really are. It seems to me that a lot of people think that boundaries are harsh, rigid and need to be applied without empathy. My version of boundaries includes a huge helping of empathy, step-by-step information sent at the preschool level and patience for the child and the stage they’re in. Most parents I have witnessed seem to say “I am giving him boundaries” as they punish and yell. That’s not the kind of boundaries I’m speaking of or that I offer.
    Ex: Suppose you’re at the park with a friend who also has a three-year-old. The children see a large ground level fountain and run off to explore it. You warn them “don’t touch the water” and you and your friend begin walking toward the fountain. You see both children lean in, almost far enough to fall in, as they try to touch the water. You run up and warn again, no water! And you start talking to your friend. You and your friend warn the children at least 4 times, and finally you say, “do it again and we’re leaving and you’re in timeout.” The children do it again, and as you’re leave you say, “he never listens!”
    What if you sent information at the preschool level, and took into account the developmental need for repetition and said, “Look with eyes, no hands and feet on the ground.”
    What if you repeated that information each time the child leaned in to the fountain.
    And what if each time the child needed to flex his developmental muscles and test this information, you just scooped him up, gave him a kiss, repeated the information and then put him back down to try again.
    That is laying the foundation of discipline it’s not punishment. It uses modeling, repetition, support and boundaries.
    Foundational boundaries are crucial to pre-threes or there’s nothing in the child’s psyche / foundation to draw upon when they do reach three and begin thinking as has been described in several posts.
    Do not wait. If you do the child will have registered in his pre-three unconscious that life provides no boundaries and he will think he runs the roost. That will cause you to have to change his outrageous (it will have become outrageous by that point) behavior with a (figurative) sledgehammer, you get the image, just to make an impression on him that you mean business. I had a client where we had to do this—it wasn’t fun.

  56. Thank you so much for that example. I often wonder what the practical application is of “setting boundaries” in a way that isn’t just saying “No, don’t do that” over and over again.Why don’t these things just come naturally? Why is it that I’m having to re-learn so much about just basic human interaction? It’s crazy hard sometimes.

  57. Repetition is key.Think about all the songs that children sing, the words are at the preschool level, and the same rounds are sung again, and again, and again.
    When you teach a child about their letters you don’t say memorize this letter because you will never see it again, you repeat it and repeat it.
    And when you leave a situation you use transition warnings to help prepare the child for leaving.
    That’s how I view discipline.
    Give them the boundary using words at the preschool level and repeat it and repeat it. Then it slowly becomes the transition from not listening to listening, but due to development, it take time.

  58. Thanks so much Sharon and Hedra(I love ‘Parenthood’. We planned to watch it the night before my scheduled c-sect. Except it turned out I’d already had him by then LOL)
    I think that I am using already, and plan to use more in the future, your method of gently teaching boundaries over time, tailored to the child’s development level. I think my mother sees boundaries as something rigidly and ruthlessly enforced from the start because it is easier and quicker that way. So she doesn’t recognise my boundaries as existing, especially the “in progress” ones.
    I have the luxury of being able to indulge my child more than she could, and I think she is worried that I will go too far, so is trying to help by playing devil’s advocate. I also suspect (but she’d deny) she may feel that when I parent differently to how she did that it means I think she did things wrong, when usually I don’t think that, I think she did as best she could at the time in a very unfortunate situation. But I don’t think that means her ways were the best possible ways in all situations.
    She is going to be babysitting for us in a few weeks so I can see this niggling nagging resulting in a confrontation conversation soon. Thank-you for helping crystalise my thoughts on the area. What is it about arguing with your parent than makes you feel like a little kid again? hehe

  59. Okay, very late commenting – just had a really rough evening. I just spanked my 3 1/2 yr old boy out of complete frustration and am feeling horrible and I know it is just because I lost all control. He cried afterward and wanted a bandaid and was understandably angry and upset and confused about it. I am feeling the worst mom today. It was just because he wouldn’t stay in his crib and was terrorizing his brother each time he got out of his crib. We tried taking away every meaningful toy (one each time he got out of the crib) and it was obviously not working. Hard thing is this one time it worked – but I think it was more because it took the wind out of his sails and made him cry which settles him down. He seems to need to cry to calm himself down before he can go to sleep. I’m having a really hard time understanding. Any way to undo the damage from spanking him? Any suggestions on bedtime – keeping in his bed/crib – that is less volatile?

  60. Hey, anon, you haven’t ruined everything.I’m picturing my eldest walking around after me for hours, saying in tones of wounded offront and outrage, ‘You HIT me. Mommy, we don’t HIT! Hitting is mean! You hit me. You hit ME! No hitting!’ … so, um, yeah. Doing it once out of control sets the lesson to not do it again.
    So, the ‘now what’…
    1) damage control. Acknowledge the guilt, shame, regret, fear, and anger (all of which are typical in reaction). Guilt for having acted in a manner you believe needs to be redressed. Shame because you feel like it means you are a bad person (you’re not, by the way, but you can recognize that this is where you went, and how you feel – doesn’t make it true). Regret for the situation that moved out of your skill range and not being able to stop and recognize where to go instead – it’s okay to regret the error that you didn’t know how to not make. Fear that you don’t know how to do ‘this’ (whatever ‘this’, big or small), and that you will not BE able to do it (common fear, not usually grounded when someone actively seeks answers). And anger at yourself for losing control, and anger at your child for placing you in a situation you were overwhelmed by, and anger at everyone who didn’t teach you the skills you needed, etc.
    2) Regroup. You and him, regroup – make your apologies. And by apology, I mean the full deal – I’m sorry, I did X, I understand that was wrong, in the future I will do Y instead, are you willing to forgive me so we can try again? (Tips: a) kids don’t know the word ‘forgive’ but they practice it regularly. b) sometimes they’re not ready to forgive yet, and that’s okay, too.).
    3) Check Sharon’s downloads. That was a react vs respond issue.
    Note on the removal of toys thing: Punishing by removing toys for me just led to me choosing to not care if my toys were mine anymore (which meant that I abused them and didn’t pick them up MORE, and lost respect for other peoples’ things, too). I could not choose to stop my parents from doing that, so I chose to not have it bother me. Just like being spanked for me made me determined to not be bothered by what they did. The ‘you can hit me, but you can’t touch me’ thing. One tip on the ‘it worked! WOO! we’ll use that again next time!’ reaction, from experience. If a method works 100%, for us it is probably ‘too far’ – it should work 85% with effort on our part. Otherwise, we know we’ve stepped across the line.
    4) What to do instead.
    a) The crib may be too confining a space. None of my kids would stay in a crib at that age, and your son may know that staying in the crib is required BECAUSE of the sibling issue, which means he’s going to be angrier at the sibling and want more to take it out on him until he feels better. Is there a way to gate off an area that is bigger? Put the mattress on the floor or get a child bed, and gate the area entirely – a big area, big enough to get out of bed and play (QUIETLY)? Are there any other ‘prepared environment’ or ‘architectural solutions’ ideas that might be able to be employed? How can you take his needs and turn them to positive skills? Can you provide him climbing equipment so he can make ‘climbing’ a good thing?
    b) expressing at sibling. Try Siblings Without Rivalry if you don’t already have it. Most of the ideas are ‘older kid focus’ but they do apply down. Like writing up signs ‘for the baby’ so the baby knows to stay away from big brother’s things (even though obviously baby can’t read, you can play out scenarios where you point to the sign and remind the baby about the rule then remove the baby from the situation, etc.).
    c) At 3+ you can use ‘get out of bed free’ tickets. You choose how many tickets he gets to start, but each time he gets out of bed, he has to give you a ticket. On the flip side, if he HAS a ticket, he gets to get out of bed ‘free’ – NO anger, frustration, annoyance from you, just do what he asks for a set amount of time (5 minutes tops, preferably 1-2, use a timer?), then it gently returned to bed. The standard starting point is actually just one ticket, but you could issue two or three if it seems to suit his personality better. Then, start reducing the number of tickets per day, and then per week. At this age, they tend to ‘hoard’ the ticket in case they might need it later. You can prompt for that – you give me the ticket, you won’t have one later if you want it… though don’t lean too far on that or you’ll push anxiety buttons. Watch for the level of reaction, and tune to that. Most kids by the time they get to 1 ticket a week are done getting out of bed – they have a sense of what is important enough to get out of bed for, and what is not. (They can still call for you, from bed, by the way. I have mixed feelings about the ‘I have to pee’ option, though – I’m not going to make them stay there for that… and this program doesn’t have an exception setup. However, it has been shown to be pretty effective with 3+ kids, in research, without causing undue trauma, for 70% of the kids who were repeat bed-leavers. The rest it either didn’t suit so the parents dropped it, or it just didn’t work.)
    d) many of the ‘sleep better’ tricks like starting much sooner in the evening, or changing up the routine, or posting a list of things to accomplish for bedtime but letting them choose the order, any of that might help.
    5) Not much help here for the crying releases tension kid – I think I was one of those, but I don’t think any of our kids are that type. Some are closer – in that IF they cry, they release tension, but they also increase tension by being separate/apart, so most sleep training things are not on our list. And they have other release-tension activities. Like bouncing on the mini trampoline, or massage (not that oh-peaceful baby massage, but vigorous scrubby massage), or back scratching (one likes ‘scritchies’ to help settle), and most really just want company until they’re 5 or 6 years old. (M is okay mainly without company, but not every night, R needs company EVERY night, B needs company sometimes, G needs company occasionally. Good thing they’re all in one room at this point…)
    I hope that helps a little. You don’t suck, you just got sucked under. And as Sharon/Mommy Mentor noted earlier, this is THE age where parents start looking for another answer, because their old answers aren’t working, and they’ve dug down so far into the parental toolbox they’re pulling out things they don’t like/want and trying those.

  61. Hedra – thank you so much for the reply post. So helpful. On the get out of bed free ticket thing, what happens if they get out of bed again when they have no tickets? My boy having the most problems here has such a hard time getting consequences and has very little impulse control at this point (how do you teach that and does that signal some kind of disorder if it seems to be on the extreme side?)I know you have twins so how would you approach the bed thing with the twins… if one uses his get out of bed free card, the other automatically wants to use his at that same time and then things escalate and the boys get ramped up and hyper.
    Both boys seem to like sleeping in their cribs but perhaps this is a signal to try beds – scares me to death as there are even less boundaries but I suppose can’t get much worse since they are able to pop out of their cribs so easily.
    Back on the twin thing – have you found that your twins would “permit” you to discipline them completely differently. Taking the toy away and then allowing them to earn it back the next night really worked for my other twin.
    I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to post. The paragraph describing the damage control sooo summed up all my feelings.

  62. Oh, yeah, the twins issue is a huge deal. One of the hard parts for me is that you have to complete the ‘work cycle’ with one without interruption, and then work the other. But the other wants to participate, and they get into the process and then you’ve lost track and try to recapture but it slips away and then you’re trying to handle the other for interrupting and the first one loops into that and gets mad or pulls on you and then you’re back to the first one and… and by ‘you’ I mean ‘I’, here… ;)But it’s important to work just the one. Hard, crazy, but important. OR, work them together but intentionally rather than incidentally.
    As for the bed thing, we didn’t do the tickets, because up to this summer we were pretty much in bed with everyone anyway. Like, where would they go? Between 2 and 5 years old is the highest rate of bed sharing, around the world. For a reason. This is the age where they CAN come get you, and they have enough mental toughness to beat you when you’re tired. Putting the toddler bed(s) in your room may even be a possible solution. One of my nephews went from parents bed to toddler bed next to their bed, then toddler bed near the door in their room, then bed outside the door in the hallway, then outside his room in the hallway, then finally in his room. The other four kids (of theirs) had different patterns.
    The different pattern thing is essential, I think. It is a mind warp, I know, but if it isn’t working for one, then it isn’t, so don’t. BUT, I do recognize that a consequence that worked for M would freak out R – to the degree that she’d attack me in outrage that I was being so cruel to her sister (even though it was a tolerated and effective method with M, since R couldn’t cope with it, R wouldn’t ‘let’ me use it on M, either). And heaven forbid I do something that made one of them cry (like, refuse to give them jello for breakfast). It’s nice that they come to each other’s defense, but… if the other isn’t angry at me for her sister, she’s just telling me over and over again how I need to solve the problem.
    Another possible solution is just to let them loose in their room – because sometimes when you take down the boundary, the conflict goes with it. It isn’t that they’re seeking another way to expand their range instantly, but they’ve now had their problem solved – they want to get in and out of bed at will. As long as your problem is also solved (safety, rest for you), then ANY solution should be okay if it meets that test. Even if it means they’re sleeping on bean bag chairs ((over the age of 3 this is probably safe enough). And by the way, our almost-11 year old sleeps every night in his bean-bag chair. Right in front of the air conditioner (his body temp is on the low side, room temperature is ‘too hot’). So, the solution might not be anything like what you picture, yet.
    So, what to do from here. They’re old enough you could ask THEM for solutions. NOT at bedtime, but talk through what you need, and what they seem to need. If they want to pair up their tickets, ask how to manage that – what is fair? Is it that the ticket is for both, and yes, both get to go if one goes, but they have fewer total tickets then? Because really, if that works for them, it does. Or, is it that there are a few joint tickets, and some solo tickets? If they use up their tickets, then they are to be put back in bed, gently but firmly (or back in their room, which may be more effective if they can roam in there). There are times we’ve forced the kids to work in tandem (all four) to solve a problem, because a solution for one created a problem for the others – so, look at how that affects your siblings, and solve the whole thing – both the original problem, and the secondary ones. You did X, now Y person is upset because they felt scared, so now you still have to solve the problem for X and also now for Y. Work together, see what you come up with. It takes practice (sooooo much of this age is practice!), but it is JUST practice. If you worry that it isn’t solved yet, you’re jumping ahead (an issue for me – I want it solved on the first try, and have to remind myself that many things are learned over a lonnng span of time, not on the first go!).
    Also, try to separate out your problem, and each of their problems, and see if there are solutions that are not all bundled together. For example, for us, one of the bedtime issues was really that *I* was tired and needed MY sleep. So I started going to bed earlier. MY problem solved. Then we could work on what was really their problem – which was more along the lines of ‘being forced to sleep isn’t working for us’. A lot of the time, I was trying to solve my problems on their heads, which just created another problem without solving mine.
    I don’t know if that gives you enough ideas to work from… hopefully it helps. And know that it doesn’t last forever – it DOESN’T. Not even with twins. The oldest just sighs now when we say time for bed, and while he forgets to brush his teeth unless we remind him, he isn’t fighting us, getting up, going elsewhere, etc. He just gets ready and goes to bed. Self-running system. It will get there. Just make a bridge you can live with between here and there… good luck!

  63. oh gosh i am 28 now and this HAS been the worst year of my life!! and my daughter is 3 1/2 and man i am having a time with her! at night she refuses to go to sleep unless i lay with her..and if i say no she screams and cries to the top of her lungs, and gets so upset she starts shaking! and she has a 1 year old brother that i am always scared she will wake up so i usually cave in to her..i feel like a single parent dealing with all this cause her daddy can never seem to breakaway from the video game long enough to help me at night when i am wrestling with my 3.5 year old..i am emotionally and physically exhausted! how can i get my child to be calm and sleep at night without the aid of me being in there with her?

  64. @mingram, if that wasn’t a rhetorical question… I’m not sure there’s a good solution other than ‘time’. I haven’t succeeded at that age except for the child who was not like that at that age (much), and even then it was constant cycles of needing me for two days, me being able to extract earlier on day three, going to bed with little work on day four, and sometimes on day five, and then starting over at day one. Eventually the cycles got longer – the need-mommy stayed the same, but the don’t-need-mommy got longer. But that was closer to 4 years old by then. And I’m not at all sure that it had anything to do with me.Cosleep? Give DH the 1-year-old to sleep ‘on him’ until he comes to bed (whereupon he delivers said 1 yr old to his sleep location)? Timer on the video games? Very long talk about games addiction (if it is interfering with your life functions, you know…)?

  65. I haven’t sucked, I’ve been sucked under. I’m crying as I read that and grateful for seeing it written above. Thanks, Mommas. I needed that.

  66. If current prvaite companies can’t rid a sudio apartment for $1500, what makes you think there gona get rid of them for the city salary, of I m sure, lets be generous, $15.00 per hour. LOL You have to be kidding me!!! You have prvaite PCO’s charging thousands of dollars, yet have an employee making $12.50 an hr, who can care less If the employee was making even a small percentage of that $1500, mabye they would look into providing a quality service, yet the boss has them doing 12 stops a day with 3 budbug jobs included ITS A JOKE!!

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