I’ll be the first to admit, I have learned a lot from my children over the years. However, lately I have felt that I have learned a lot thanks to my middle child, so she has become my teacher of life lessons.
The first thing I would say to someone who has a three year old or is about to have a child turning three is that you must have both patience and grace for both you and your child (oh and some stellar ninja skills to navigate some quick on the feet thinking when maneuvering some challenging conversations). Oh how I was quickly reminded of what our year with a three year old would be like. When I think back to when my oldest turned three, I am pretty sure it was on her actual third birthday that I realized it was going to be a hard year. I often tell folks that whoever said “terrible twos” was a thing, obviously hadn’t yet experienced having a “three-nager” as I like to call it. You know, the challenging, sassy side?
It was recently during one of our challenging moments that I had an “ah ha” moment. I realized that the things I was struggling with most with our middle child, were actually personality traits that I only wish my girls would have as young adults and on. Some of these personality traits can be really tough at this young age for sure as she doesn’t know how to use them in a productive and calm way. You know, right now in my current season of life I do not want to continue to have hostage negotiations every single time I ask her to do something. I just want you to brush your dang teeth so you can GO.TO.BED. But someday, yes, I want you to navigate a conversation to let someone know exactly what you want to do my child. Just not today. Brush your teeth.
So I started capturing some of the characteristics I was seeing in her and trying to flip them in my mind on how we could embrace them, not stifle them, but teach her how to start using these in a more productive way for her age. Below are some of the characteristics, but I dig in a little more on what this looks like for her.
- Determined. This kid is determined. Determined to do it herself. Determined to get the answer or result that she wants. Her tenacity is something I wish I had at my age now. The word “can’t” is not allowed in my house. She may have a struggle but she asks for help. She does not give up and I love that about her. It can sometimes backfire on her though as she can get so frustrated at times and does not understand to maybe take a break, walk away and come back to it. It is something I think we could all benefit from doing throughout our lives.
- Brave. This child has no fear. Zero. She will make a pillow tower from all the furniture in the living room and then dive from the top of the couch onto the pillows, with no fear that those pillows could easily topple over and she will be on the hardwood floors. It’s happened, trust me, but she makes the tower again and repeats. Or she will climb to the highest point on the rock wall at the gym, look down and wave to the crowd under her, calling out to me to make sure I’m okay as I am climbing behind her to catch up, palms sweaty from nervous sweats due to my fear of heights. Oh, this is my recent favorite (not so much). She will reach the top of our back deck stairs and ask her father to stand at the bottom and catch her as she jumps off from the top. Arms out as if she is a bird, soaring in the air. Though this scares the crap out of me, I think to myself, I hope she always jumps!
- Straightforward. Some would call it blunt, frank or matter of fact. I say she is just being direct. She calls it how it is. You have spinach in your teeth, she’s going to tell you. Your breath smells like coffee, oh, you’ll know. The things that come out of her mouth are never from a hurtful place, she’s just telling you how it is. No fluff, no need. Just the facts. I actually really like that.
- Leadership. I often hear my daughter being called bossy. It could be her teachers, her friends, our family, you get the picture. This one frustrates me a lot to be honest. I often find myself correcting them and saying something along the lines of “no, she’s just being a leader.” We wouldn’t call the little boy in class bossy for asserting himself the way she does. Or when one of my adult friends, family members or employees is assertive or taking the lead in conversation, we wouldn’t tell them they were being bossy right? We’d say wow, look at those leadership skills. But for some reason when my daughter and other little girls say something with direction, or confidence, letting you know exactly what she wants, we tell them they are being too bossy. No thank you. My husband and I always remind her that the words that come out of her mouth have to be kind. If she wants her little sister to play with her, but she doesn’t want to, that’s okay she can try again later. This is one area that I will continue to correct, educate others and empower her to continue marching forward with her leadership skills. You keep being you girl. Lead on.
- Confident. When my daughter was learning how to get herself dressed, we tried really hard to have her own it, no matter how the clothes were put on. Were the shoes on the wrong feet, sure, but they were on. Shirt on backwards? Yup, but it was cold out and she picked a long sleeve shirt, perfect! Pants on backwards? They are elastic band spandy pants, who cares! The point was she got herself dressed and she was so proud. Why would I deflate that confidence in her? So she didn’t do it the “right way”, but she did it her way and on her own. Next time we’ll work on educating her where tags should go, or the tricks to learn which shoe goes on which feet, but today, thank you for getting yourself dressed! You’re such a big girl! Thank you for listening to mama’s ask for help.
- Positive body image. Another area I see her confidence strong in is around her body. Never do we shame her or say things that would make her feel that her body is not perfect just the way it is. You want to eat dinner in your underwear tonight, why not? You’ll probably make a mess because it is spaghetti and sauce so really you’re doing me and your clothes a favor! You want to flex in the mirror and point to your elbows telling us to look at your big muscles, you go girl. Flex away. Every child is born with positive body images, they don’t know any differently. It is the world that tells them to think otherwise. You need to be careful what you say about your own body image, they are listening to your every word.
Look at this list. Are these words you WISHED described you? Things you WISH you could be? Personally, I strive to be every single one of them daily. Why wouldn’t you, right? Each and every one of us started life with these traits, but at some point in our lives someone told us that this wasn’t okay or that we had to be something different. We had to fit in the perfect little box that society put us all in. Be quiet. Make sure you behave. Don’t be too loud. Don’t be too shy. Be this size. Don’t say that. The list goes on and on. I get it, at the age of 3, these are things that challenge me FOR SURE, but why stifle them? Why not teach her how to use these things in a more appropriate way for her age, but not making her believe she has to be something or someone else.
So tell me, is there a quality above that you would want your inner three year old to bring back out? I’d love to hear which one! We were all born with it, we just have to dust it off. Does your child(ren) have characteristics that you look at and wish they would hold onto as they got older? I’d love to hear about them!
Your child is like a blank canvas. Embrace their qualities, teach them at a very young age to be all the things we wish were as adults. They are magical little human beings. Learn from them and remember, they are always listening, even if you don’t think they are. Your words hold power over them and will mold them to who they will be as adults.
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