Several of my young friends have three-year-olds. I myself have four grandchildren in or nearly in this age group. All of us agree that the threes have become the “terrible threes.” It used to be the “terrible twos,” but today more moms are being driven crazy by bossy, strong-willed three-year-olds.

Recently I asked a twelve-year veteran teacher of three-year-olds what she thought of our theory and she concurred. Three-year-olds are just plain hard. They have a need to know exactly what they are going to do next. “And then what will we do Mommy?” is a phrase you might hear twenty times in one day. They want a schedule that doesn’t change much — especially the little rituals, particularly at bedtime. If you don’t read in the same position or snuggle a child just right, look out!

And loud noises. Most of them don’t like loud thunder storms or trains that come roaring into the station. Oh, they can make the noises themselves, they just don’t like to hear them! If they have a sibling just a bit older, they’ll want to do everything that sibling does. And they definitely won’t want to wait or to share or to take turns. In some ways it seems that strong will which used to manifest itself in the terrible twos has decided to wait until three and violently erupt. This can be disconcerting to a mother of a three-year-old who thinks she should be past this difficult phase of parenting.

What is wrong with this child, she wonders? My child is now three — I ought to be over “this.” What am I doing wrong? Probably nothing. You are a good mother. Your expectations are just unrealistic. Once again, the rules have changed. Three is harder than two. Simply “keep on keeping on” and call a friend who has a child the same age! She will make you feel normal. And just think. One day you’ll be the grandmother of a three-year-old! And then you’ll know that child really is adorable and he will grow out of this phase and you will like him again! In fact you’ll adore him.