The A to Z Guide To Parenting a Three Year Old

I’ve got a three year old little boy. He’s a proper little boy these days, absolutely no baby left. We got through the “Terrible Twos” and have launched head on into the “Threenager” phase. It’s a time of much discovery, for everyone involved. So, as a quick guide to what it is like, for the unfamiliar, here is an A to Z guide to Parenting a Three Year Old.

The a-z of parenting a three year old

A is for Anxiety.

They don’t tell you the full extent of this beforehand, but your life from now on will be fraught with anxious moments. Are they eating enough? Is that slide too high? Is the stairgate going to stop them from killing themselves today? Will they ever sleep? They’ve not woken up yet, are they still breathing? The worry and the stress is all because of how much you love them, so it’s not really something you can combat, but it IS normal. Try to take it easy on yourself, they’ll be grand (but maybe check the stairgate, just in case).

B is for Bananas

As well as being driven bananas, my toddler seems to believe that I have an endless supply of them at a moments notice. While it’s great to know he’s not likely to have a potassium deficit any time soon, it does worry me slightly just how much he lives on them.

C is for Coffee

It’s life fuel. Essential for the nights where they’ve decided bedtime is for losers and morning starts when the sun wakes up (in May!). It will stop you from snapping, it will fuel many rounds of imaginary play for inane games you don’t see the point of. Worship the coffee, it will get you through.

The a-z of parenting a three year old


D is for Dirt

The boy is a dirt magnet. He leaves creche every single evening looking like he spent the day rolling in the mud and clay. He manages to make more of a mess with two squares of chocolate than previously thought to be scientifically possible. It’s questionable whether or not he actually gets to eat any of it, such is the mess. Entertainingly, he is happy out to be filth from head to toe aside from his fingernails – he requires a proper manicure to be happy. Kids are weird.


E is for Echo.

I cannot get away with saying ANYTHING. If he feels like there’s a chance it’s controversial or annoying to repeat, he parrots it to his hearts content. This makes things like road rage rather interesting, listening to the things I shout out repeated by my tiny person definitely gives it a different twist.

F is for Finger Family

“Mummy Finger, Mummy Finger Where Are You?”. This is the soundtrack to my nightmares. MAKE IT STOP.

G is for the Gruffalo.

If he’s not part of your life, count your blessings, because mine is absolutely obsessed. Now, he’s a cool enough dude, the Gruffalo. We head hunting him every single woodland walk we take, and he’s a favourite bedtime story character. I should be thankful he’s dropping the Paw Patrol books at bedtime, I know.

H is for Hungry

He never stops eating. First it’s a banana, then a yoghurt, then an apple, then another yoghurt, then a bagel, oh and the other half of Mummy’s bagel, then another yoghurt request, oh are they some grapes and did I see Daddy with a chocolate biscuit? Like, it’s great that he’s eating. He spent enough time eating like a sparrow when he was smaller. I know, I know, she’s never happy. But he’s eating me out of house and home. He would happily live on the Glenisk Goats Milk yoghurts if he could. Not that you can tell looking at him, he’s a tiny skinny little thing because he never stops moving. I for one am very jealous of his metabolism, which he certainly didn’t get from his Mama.

I is for Imagination

It is incredible just what their little minds can think up. The world to them is such a new and magical place. Everything has possibility to be anything, and looking through their eyes at the world is like a tonic to grownup life. It’s a bit more awkward when they require you to have an active role in their imaginative play. Despite studying drama and doing improv stuff, my mind goes blank for toddler-scenarios that he’s willing to work with. Must do better.

J is for Judgement

Everyone has an opinion on how other people parent their children. In particular, the behaviour of a defiant three year old has a magnet effect to those who love to dole out judgey looks, and most frustratingly, tuts. I know my child is having the tantrum from hell, I’m dealing with it the best I can. No need for the glares or the “If I had that child…” comments. I already feel like enough of a failure in those moments all by myself, I don’t need your help! Sinead from Bumbles of Rice wrote a piece which has stuck with me about this that everyone should read and take heed from!

K is for Kindred Spirits

The people you need around you for the Threenager phase are others who have been (or are) in the trenches with you. They are your kindred spirits who know the traps you’ll fall into. They might be in person, online or just over the phone, but their presence in your life is a saving grace much of the time. They’ll know just how much of a victory getting them to sleep past 7 on a Saturday is, and just how horrible you consider the parents who put the money into the machines in the shopping centre (they show the children they move! Why????). They’ll get you through it with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and a lot of encouragement. And they’ll not judge you for your lack of a social life, because they’re right there with you.

a to z of parenting a three year old

L is for Love

That burst of love that you feel when you’re looking at them playing nicely with other kids, or when they’re asleep – it makes the whole lot so worthwhile.

M is for Mess

He’s a walking tornado. A room can be perfectly tidy and in seconds, it looks like it’s been struck by a hurricane. The people who manage minimalism and toddlers in one fell swoop have me in absolute awe. On the plus side, he is well trained for disposing of his yoghurt cartons and rubbish, and we’ve managed to stop him throwing spoons in the bin. Baby steps!

N is for NO

He’s stubborn, he gets that from me. It becomes a bit of an issue when both of us are putting on the full stubborn act and refusing to give in. Those are the really frustrating moments, knowing that it’s the exact part of you that they’re using to get under your skin. There are lots of Nos. No to bedtime, no to going to creche, no to putting his shoes on….

It’s great that he’ll grow up to be an assertive adult, but while he’s a toddler, it’s a major pain!

O is for Outside.

As much as humanly possible. It means my house gets less wrecked, he gets worn out and maybe, just maybe, bedtime isn’t awful. I HATE rainy days. Living in Cork doesn’t really lend itself to the going-outside-in-all-weathers, meaning there are many days of promises for “scooting” tomorrow. He’s been up trees, through forests and is a regular visitor to most of the surrounding playgrounds. There’ll be enough years where I’m trying to get him to head out so he doesn’t suffer from severe Vitamin D deficiency, while he’s this small and loves it I’m making the most of it.

P is for Paw Patrol

I’m fairly sure that the three year old is ready to up and leave me for a life in the Lookout with Ryder and them all. He demands particular episodes, sings along with the theme songs and is VERY enthusiastic in his re-enactments. I’ve got a million and one questions about the show itself, even more since I last asked, but as of yet, no immediate answers are becoming apparent aside from the main one: Commercialism. Still. 20 minutes of peace to sip my coffee and remember what life was like when I could pee without an audience, bliss.

Q is for Quiet

The true sign that either your child has managed to escape the house, or your walls have a new crayon mural on them. Unless they’ve got at the sudocrem. FEAR the quiet. You’ll wish for it, you’ll pray for it, and then once you have it, the feeling of dread kicks in instantly.

R is for Running

My son doesn’t walk. He either runs or drags his feet, dependent on his energy levels. Since he likes to attempt to kill himself at every opportunity, much of my time with him is spent in a run, ensuring he doesn’t head towards a car bumper or off a height.

S is for Sleep

He’s finally sleeping through the night. FINALLY. Bedtime is still a bit of a trial if he’s napped during the day (or if he’s just decided he has better stuff to do), but three years in, I can finally say he sleeps. Summer proved to be a bit of an issue, as he decided that sleeping hours should correlate with sundown and sunrise, but I’m hopeful that was a phase we won’t be revisiting.

The sleep does come after various stories though. I can read The Very Hungry Caterpillar without looking at the book, and The Gruffalo is almost as engrained in my brain.


T is for Tantrums

The Terrible Twos are not aptly named, they make it seem like they’re the bad thing to look out for and it’ll all be fine afterwards. No. Not the case. Having a Threenager comes with its fair share of tantrums and tribulations.

U is for Under Appreciated

Three year olds don’t always have the whole empathy thing down just yet. Nor the noticing what is done for them (and why would they, when it’s always been that way?). So there can be a lot of times where you’re left wondering why you bother at all. It can seem relentless. The snacks. The needing to be different places. The demands for tv shows or toys. (This can all go away with an “I love you Mammy”)

V is for Victory Party

You take all of the little victories. You feel like throwing a party when they do a poo in the toilet. Them sleeping past 6am is reason enough for a celebratory cake. Being told you’re the favourite parent out of the blue? Yeah, thats a good day. There are so many moments of sheer doom in toddlerhood that you really do cling to the moments of joy and run with them.

W is for Whining

Some days it feels like it never stops. I’m hungry/tired/don’t want to do whatever you want me to do. And we haven’t even gotten to the bored years yet. I may be investing in ear plugs and a safe room to hide and eat my chocolate stash in peace. (Also Weight Gain. They are related).

X is for X’s

Lucrative cuddly kisses from little people who are starting to feel like it’s not cool to be seen as affectionate to Mammy. Definite bonus rewards from parenting. I am making the most of them!

Y is for Yelling

Something I’m trying to curtail. On both our parts. He’s loud and enthusiastic. Our neighbours potentially think we’re killing him when he doesn’t get his own way. At least we know his lungs are in good working order I guess!

Z is for Zebras

And lions, and tigers, and buffalo. The child is zoo obsessed. And cow obsessed. Which, given the fact that zebras and cows have the same colour scheme going on, has led to many a discussion about why they aren’t the same animal. It’s interesting to see the world through their eyes – as adults we just accept things being the way they are but for them, everything is there to be questioned.

So, there’s a glimpse of life parenting a three year old, from A to Z. Have I left anything out? Let me know what you would have included in the comments, or if you do a similar post, comment and let me know! I’d love to see them!


BadMammy is rambling on through parenting toddler days over on Facebook, come say hello.

1 comment

Comments are closed.