3. Help Me with My Three-nager

Tina’s three-year-old daughter has become stubborn, showing tendencies of being what we call a three-nager. If you have a child around this age, you’re probably familiar with the struggles of this phase! Tina has three questions this day, the first of which revolves around sleep. By this age, it’s reasonable to think that a child should be able to sleep through the night. (You might be laughing, but it’s true!) With some strategies, you can make things better, even if your child is like Tina’s daughter and struggles with sleep.

The best strategy is to eliminate any gain for getting up after bedtime or during the night. Simply walk your child back to her room, put her back in bed, and say, “See you in the morning,” with minimal interaction.

Tina’s next question is about her daughter not wanting to continue with her swim lessons. Should she force it, or let it go? Honestly, at this age, it’s best not to push things that your child isn’t ready for (whether that’s swimming lessons or potty training). Letting your child approach things in their own time can be more productive in the long run than trying to force them into things that they don’t want to do.

Has your sweet toddler turned into a defiant, stubborn #threenager ? @DrPhilBoucher can sympathize! As a pediatrician and parent, he knows what it’s like & has advice to make it better. Click To Tweet

Finally, Tina asks about eating. Her daughter doesn’t want to try new foods, and sometimes even the bribe of M&Ms afterward isn’t enough to convince her. As I explain to her today, the first thing to realize with food refusal is that there’s no reason to expect that children will ever be perfect eaters. Kids who are pathologically picky to the point of it becoming a nutritional issue are very rare in my practice, so that’s probably not something you’ll need to worry about.

My easiest advice is to have your kids eat what they’re given, or else experience a bit of hunger (in other words, don’t let them skip dinner and then have a fun snack later). Be as nonchalant as possible, cover the plate, and put it in the refrigerator. When your kid later comes back saying she’s hungry, remove it from the refrigerator, warm it back up, and give it to her. Repeat this cycle until she realizes that she’s not going to get pizza, chips, or other tasty treats if she says no.

In This Episode:

[01:19] – Dr. B welcomes listeners to the episode, and explains the format of the show.

[01:44] – Today’s question comes from Tina, who has three issues with her three-year-old daughter.

[03:38] – Dr. B explains that it’s reasonable to think a three-year-old can sleep through the night.

[04:00] – We learn about a useful strategy for dealing with children who have a tendency to get out of bed at night.

[06:46] – Tina’s next question revolves around her daughter not wanting to stay in her swimming lessons and suddenly saying she’s afraid of the water.

[07:03] – Dr. B responds to Tina’s question about her daughter’s swimming lessons.

[08:32] – We hear Tina’s third question, which is about eating.

[09:52] – This is the perfect age to get some food issues under control, Dr. B points out.

[11:24] – Kids are picky eaters by their nature. Dr. B offers an easy way to avoid food issues.

[12:34] – Dr. B offers advice for dealing with food rejection issues in kids starting as young as 15 months.

[15:22] – Cave-baby often didn’t get exactly the food she might have preferred, Dr. B points out, and missing the occasional meal won’t prevent her from continuing to grow.

[16:06] – Tina shares an update about her situation after implementing the advice that Dr. B has offered in this episode.

[16:56] – Dr. B responds to Tina’s report on her daughter’s progress.

[17:31] – If this episode helps you, please share it with someone else who also has a three-nager! And to learn more, join the Facebook group Present and Productive Parents with Dr. Phil Boucher.

It’s a common scenario: you spend the first two years of your kid’s life thinking you got lucky, only to wake up with a stubborn #threenager. To reduce stress, implement the solutions that offers! Click To Tweet

Links and Resources:

Dr. Phil Boucher on Instagram

@DrPhilBoucher on Twitter

@DrPhilBoucher on Facebook

Present and Productive Parents with Dr. Phil Boucher Group on Facebook

Dr. Phil Boucher


We’ve all heard of the #terribletwos, but having a #threenager can be just as bad. Make things easier on yourself (& your child) by listening to what @DrPhilBoucher has to say. Click To Tweet


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