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by Greg on August 13, 2011

Today I thought it’d be nice to devote an entire post to everything I love about our daughter being three.

And now, with the time I have left, I’d like to ask what my daughter’s fascination is with this view:

To me, it’s just a corner. But to our daughter, it’s a sight that inspires song, finger tracing, and protest. Maybe to see the beauty in this I need to look at it through our 3-year old’s eyes. The same eyes that communicate to her brain that chocolate syrup is the perfect accent to our drapes.

When she was two, this corner symbolized the penal equivalent of being sentenced to death row. If condemned to the Corner of Doom she would wail in contrition and collapse at the feet of the parental judge begging for mercy. The parental bailiff would then be forced to drag her the entire length of the Green Mile to serve out her sentence.

If the offense was merely a felony, like confirming that our cat could float, she was instead relegated to the timeout step. A punishment that still elicited tears and bubbling snot, but didn’t deliver quite the same emotional trauma.

Ah, the good ol' days. We had no idea what we were in for.

Before you start yappin’ about the Terrible Twos, I can say with 100% certainty that the Terrible Twos are a total myth. A myth spoken by parents of 2-year olds whose worst calamity is a spilled bowl of Cheerios. Every parent who claims they are in the throes of the Terrible Twos takes it all back when their child hits the Tyrannosaurus Threes.

Back when Kamryn was two, way before she completely shredded every last fiber of patience remaining in my soul, we only had to deal with her testing her limits. Now, at three, we have to deal with her testing our limits.

The punishments that once dissuaded her from drawing on walls, throwing remotes, and folding our pets into suitcases are no longer effective. Confinement changes a person, and as a hardened repeat offender, Kamryn is no longer concerned with discipline and no longer respectful of authority.

Something happens when a little girl turns three. The moment the last of her three birthday candles is extinguished, she instantly morphs into one giant moody hormone. A hormone that parents are saddled with until someone comes along and marries it.

Kamryn does have her moments of sweetness but I’m seasoned enough to know that every hug, every kiss, and every cuddle is all part of her “time off for good behavior” charade. When she’s not causing household mayhem (i.e. when she’s asleep) my wife and I fawn over her. All while her cuteness is hard at work lulling us into a false sense of security.

On the plus side, all of her malfeasance training helped her make short work of the pinata.

We need to remind ourselves that the same girl who looks so sweet and innocent in her Dora jammies will soon be confronted by the primal urge to lodge blocks in her brothers’ skulls. It’s a battle she will lose. A 3-year old is no match for compulsion.

As we stand and repeatedly shout “No!”; “Don’t you dare!”; and “If you do that you’re going right to the corner!”, her brain becomes locked in conflict. The cog responsible for chucking the block will seize and hold it in mid-throw as it awaits further instructions. It’s at this time that the brain is busy comparing the potential joy of the crime with the potential severity of the punishment.

This is the same reflexive phenomenon that parents witness when their child holds a finger a few millimeters away from something he or she isn’t allowed to touch. The pulleys and gears responsible for movement inch the finger closer and closer until you say, “Stop!”

With your admonishment, the cogs grind to a halt until the brain orders them to resume the approach. The finger will then make yet another reflexive movement forward until you shout “Don’t you do it!”, at which time all the cogs will again seize. The child will then stare at you, rather through you, trying desperately to communicate that the impending offense isn’t their fault, but rather the fault of a power stronger than themselves. It’s at this time that the finger makes contact.

This is the same impulsive synapse that resulted in a block careening off Michael’s forehead. Once placed in the Corner of Imagination, she’ll sit there and sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star or trace her fingers on our walls as though she’s drawing. If we tell her to stop, she turns to us and says with all sincerity, “Thhhbbbbbbtt!”

Other times she’ll perform what I call the “Cross, Turn, and Snoot” maneuver. Staring straight into my or my wife’s eyes she’ll cross her arms, turn her back to us, and with a “Humph!,” raise her nose to the ceiling. This drives Heather absolutely crazy. If it weren’t for a few laws forbidding it, Kamryn would probably be listed on Craigslist.

Cute right? In the next frame she's flushing Cheetos.

If we kept adding time to her sentence for all of her corner antics, she’d be sitting there until the following Tuesday. If she isn’t singing, drawing, sticking her tongue out, or acting French, then she’s screaming and yelling in protest of our parental laws.

“I don’t LIKE you!”

“Leave me ALONE!”

“I’m going to my ROOM!”


The threat of more timeout accomplished nothing. We were lost and void of ideas. Until yesterday morning. After a screaming match over us not allowing her to have an Ice Pop for breakfast she was marched to the timeout corner. There she stood laughing. LAUGHING! Then she broke out into song before turning around the second I reminded her that she’s not allowed to turn around.

It was then that I said, “Fine, if you can’t behave then your toys will go to timeout.” I picked up her etch pad and set it atop our book case. It was like a Corner of Doom revival. She flipped out and apologized profusely through dripping tears for all of her malfeasance. I’m no sadist. It’s not like I seek out tears to feel satisfied. But I do like to make sure that corrective messages are delivered. Any punishment that results in laughter, song, and defiance can’t be all that effective.

With the discovery of the effects of toy banishment it looks as though we finally found something that works. While she cares little about her own fate, she is absolutely hating watching her toys take the fall for her behavior.

So far, it’s working like a charm and we’ve noted some improvement. I’m just not sure what we’re going to do once all of her possessions are on top of our book case. But, considering her timeout pace, I shouldn’t have to worry about that until Wednesday.


Amanda August 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Rest assured she sounds like every other 3 year old I’ve ever met. People warned us of the “terrible two’s.” After having my first child, I’m the parent telling parents to enjoy the 2’s and watch out for the “mofo 3’s.” The 3’s are this struggle between the child wanting more independence and still wanting to be the baby. It’s hard on everyone’s psyche within 50 miles.

Audra August 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm

As I read this, I let out a sigh of relief that I am not the only parent out there who contemplated selling her child on the black market during the Thoroughly-trying Three’s. Absolutly NO one prepares parents for the 3’s because all the emphasis is on the Tempting Twos. I call it “Tempting”, as most parents are tempted into believing that once you’re past the 2’s, your home free. LIES. I watched my daughter terrorizing the household pets the day after her third birthday, wondering if she somehow bent time and threw off the age-tantrum contimuum, as all signs pointed to her acting 2 now, rather than when she was actually 2.

Melinda August 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Aww She’s so cute I’m this is all just fiction. 🙂 Threes ARE worse. I think they just tell you twos is bad so you don’t sell them and hopefully hang in there while waiting for better days. Nature makes babies cute for a reason. Personally I think 12/13 is when you find out your definition of what is challenging levels three fold. The difference is dealing with fractions that you thought were hard before experiencing an equation for nucleaur fusion. Toy time out always works better. The toy can’t break out when you turn your head.

Judy Pearson August 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm

So sorry to tell you, that your in the good, fun, cute years! Puberty to about 17 or 18 are the worst!! At least in girls. They are crazy, I dont know where their brain goes, but something happens to it. Mine made it thru, and I’m happy to say she is a normal, happy, 22 year old. Hang in there!

Emily Williams August 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm

For me, three was nothing compared to the hideous reality of six. At three, his timeouts resulted in the same types of behavior as your daughter; he would sit and tell the wall stories. When I finally found him there of his own accord just because he’d come up with a good story he wanted to share, I started looking for alternative punishment. That’s when I discovered vinegar.

I was at my cousin’s house and when her little boy said what she considered a bad word (darn), she dipped her finger in vinegar and swiped it on his tongue. He flipped.

I thought she was brilliant. The next time my son looked me in the eye and said no, I used this method to great effect. I did not, however, like how long my finger smelled like vinegar afterwards. On my next trip to Walmart, I bought a little spritzer bottle in the travel size section and carried it everywhere.

It worked fabulously. All I had to do was reach for my purse with a threatening look and I had instant angel. A spritz of vinegar in the mouth is unpleasant, to say the least. Then he started to get used to it. After a month or two, he told me he was thirsty and asked for a squirt.

I’m pretty sure he outsmarted me by making me think he liked it. I did consider switching to hot sauce, but that was a little too cruel for me. By that point, he was addicted to NickJr. and a couple of other kid sites, so I took away computer time.

Six was when the tears started, but I’ll let you enjoy your three-year-old for now. Good luck.

chris August 14, 2011 at 7:42 pm

What you have is a strong willed child. I have 4 of them! A great book is called “The Strong Willed Child” by James Dobson. It can be a help when you want to run away or sit in the corner yourself!

heartlightdg August 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm

oh my….I feel bad for you….my granddaughter sounds an awful lot like your daughter….she turns 8 in a week and it’s still ongoing. Everything has to be her way, in her time, and everything is HARD with her, nothing is easy. We are camping and today we had a meltdown because she got put in time out for a. being verbally snotty to grandma and b. a few minutes later rolling eyes at gramma. Said time out resulted in a major meltdown for hours….omg. Ten minutes of quiet time could have been over with but oh no, gotta be obnoxious, stubborn and mean about it. Yesterday, I got gutteral screams of graaaaaaaaammaaaaa (scary evil screams lol) because despite plenty of notice and endless warnings, she was digging her heels in at leaving the pool so I left without her rather than fight. She screamed at me at the top of her lungs from behind because I didn’t wait for her. She always sounds like we are killing or maiming her, geez. It never ends. It is so much fun to do this stuff at a campground where all sounds are magnified!
This child was just like yours at that age, we keep waiting for her to grow out of it, not so much…. sigh. My daughter counts on me to keep her from giving said child away, no Craig’s list needed, absolutely FREE!
I had two kids, one was a terrible two, biting and hitting, but that child was 1 1/2 to 2 and she was over it and the best kid ever after that. The second one was great til he hit 3 and omgosh. He liked to throw himself full body face down on the floor (oof!) and kick his feet and screaming if I thwarted him. LOL Well he never outgrew his antics, they just got more sophisticated. I used to take all his tv and video games away then he found other things to get into trouble with…making potato guns and blowing up the dog’s toys…. :s
But hey, you are experienced parents, I am sure you will be fine!
Best of luck to you!

Tonja August 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Oh yeah….eye rolling and feet stomping will send me into my own tizzy…lol

Lanie August 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm

We put my niece’s toys on top of the fridge. It drives her absolutely NUTS. We tried on top of the fireplace mantle, but the little bugger actually climbed the bookshelves attached to it to get to them.

Tonja August 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Yeah, when she’s about five, she’ll start the biting phase. I could tell you what cured my nephew, but people would probably think badly of me…lol

You ain’t seen nothing until she turns eleven. You’ll swear the aliens have replaced your daughter.

However, that pucker pose is one of the cutesy pics I’ve seen in a long time! Hang in there!

Eric August 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm

The method of punishment you discovered is effective no matter what the age, and the way you worded “watching her toys take the fall for her behavior” perfectly illustrated the same form of punishment still used in military (at least Marines anyway) boot camp. If one of us screwed up, we got pulled aside and watched as they punished the rest of the platoon for our misdeed.

One dreaded night, I had failed to fully engage the padlock on my rifle. It was discovered by a Drill Instructor the next morning. The entire platoon was subjected to a vicious round of push-ups, sit-ups and leg-lifts that lasted a non-stop half an hour. My role in it . . . stand at ease at the front of the squad bay and count out the repetitions for them.

I don’t think I slept the rest of the time I was at boot camp stressing about that padlock and checking it every 10 minutes.

And they wonder why I’m OCD now.

MrsTellingDad August 15, 2011 at 7:18 am

Genius! I think I am going to include Tellingdad on this one…it may be the last time I pick up shoes and dishes. My guess is I will have the most buff children in town and Dad will drop from the rank of favorite. Win, win for Mom! 🙂

CJ August 15, 2011 at 7:41 am

Oh geez…the memories…

Just thank your lucky stars she is not a boy. Even toy banishment doesn’t work with the boys bent on destruction with a capital D.

Jennifavor August 15, 2011 at 9:16 am

The only thing that’s ever really worked for my son was to put him in the corner where he couldn’t play with anything but was still in the same room with everyone else. He could hear us watching TV or playing games, or whatever we were doing. It’d drive him crazy that he couldn’t join us and he’d behave so he could come back. The rule was that he had to stay there, quietly, for 5 full minutes. So if he started screaming or singing or something, his timer started over. He was a little bit older though.

Michelle August 15, 2011 at 10:12 am

Oh my, this sounds soooo familiar. My daughter is like that, still, and she’s 9! When she was about 6 or so she made me so mad that we ended up removing everything from her room except her bed and her dresser and putting them in the garage. EVERYTHING. Including her door. She had to earn every piece back. It took almost a year but she did it.

Currently at 9 we get a lot of eye rolling and huffing and a ton of tears. We are digging the dungeon under our house for when she hits the teen years. Not sure if we are going to put her in it or ourselves. Good luck!

Jaime August 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm

haha… I noticed the same thing with my nephews at about the same age… toy timeout was extremely effective and continues to be effective for them at 11 and 13 years of age. It’s also effective on my 10yo step-son…. ps3 time taken away is like a knife to the heart of a 10yo boy.

Dana Young August 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I was literally counting down the days to my daughter’s 4th birthday. Her entire 3rd year was traumatizing to me as a parent. I was pretty sure I lacked some gene or personal qualification to be an effective parent – until all of my other friends with kids her age started gnashing their teeth about the same issues I was experiencing.

Almost none of the approaches advocated by friends, parenting sites or books (time-out, 1-2-3 Magic, speaking softly but firmly at eye level, etc) worked. My child would only do things if and when SHE decided to do them. I was really beginning to think I needed to send her to her own island for a year, but then remembered “The Lord of Flies” and reconsidered that approach. My daughter already looks and acts a lot like the kid in the original “Mad Max” when she’s ramped up and has bed-head. I don’t need her flinging a boomerang at me too.

And then, by some miracle, in the last month or two we suddenly have cooperation most of the time*. (*Some exclusions still apply.) We ask her to do something and instead of pointedly ignoring us or pitching a fit, we hear, “All right” and she complies with the request. We rarely count past 1 or 2 before she’s responsive. We haven’t had to haul her little butt out of a restaurant in mortification or to “have the talk”. She will also confess to me when she’s not been listening to her nanny or babysitter (she’s a little too proud of that, which worries me. LOL.)

So, have faith – it will get better. At least for a while. I also have a 13 year old stepson, so my respite is sure to be short-lived. 😉

Laurie August 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Dear God, that is my Benjamin to a “T”! I’m going to have to try that “toy timeout” soon (read: when he gets up from his nap, because that is the one and only time he’s not misbehaving). Thanks for the tip!

My husband and I “joke” between ourselves that if Benjamin had been our first child, he would have been our ONLY child. It takes both of us to handle him and our poor seven-year-old son is left out in the cold (OK, not really, but you get my drift…).

Julie August 16, 2011 at 10:26 pm

As a preschool teacher, I can tell you that three is without a doubt worse than two! I’ve actually always considered the 1/2 ages to be the worst. For example, my youngest will turn four at the beginning of September. She was difficult from the moment she turned three, but the last six months have made me question whether or not see might actually be some sort of demon-spawn. Tonight I told me husband that my birthday present to her was going to be letting her live to see the age of four!

As for the book “The Strong-Willed Child,” I also highly recommend it. When my daughter started to exhibit her forceful personality at, oh BIRTH, my mother gave me the copy she read to survive my childhood. 🙂

Yasmel August 17, 2011 at 9:23 am

She is cute and totally normal lol
I would never recommend you read Dobson’s books. There are better ones out there.

Melody August 18, 2011 at 9:54 am

Yep, preaching to the choir! Losing toys is akin to losing a limb here. The first thing to go is always her trike (which she loves to ride around the house). That usually does it, but in case she still isn’t committed to following directions, next to go is the fisher-price airplane. By the time she see that disappear (into my closet), she is in total compliance.
Now, if there is screaming and carrying on, she is sent to her room to sit on her bed with the door closed. Even if she isn’t on her bed, something about being banished, all alone (because you know how nosy they are, can’t miss anything!) is enough to halt and redirect. We have found that telling her she can come out when she is ready to calm down and listen works pretty well. She is in control of how long her punishment is and that’s a huge incentive for her to get her act together quickly and there’s no yelling or threatening on our part, just calm, matter-of-factness. She usually comes out a new girl. If not, back she goes. Sometimes she forgets she’s in time out and hangs out in there, playing (which means a little bonus
quiet time for mama and daddy!).
Fortunately, those two punishments effectively cover a multitude of sins. If they stop working, I suppose I’ll have to come up with something new. Maybe I should be proactive and start planning..

Jenelle August 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm

My little boy is about to turn three…sigh. I already see signs that I should have been rejoicing at the 2s instead of hating them. Toy time-out works for him too but I found out it was important to also give the toys back after awhile. poor kid had none of his favorites after a week. So if I caught him doing something good, I’d just quietly hand him back a toy. He still hates a toy being taken away…but usually it makes him try to behave really well so I’ll be tempted to give him a different toy back soon. (Oh and make sure you put it somewhere secure…almost a horrible accident when he climbed up the oven door and stove top to get to the top of the fridge…Yikes)

I’ve also punished other people for his behavior…yeah probably not my best idea – but it worked. My sister (his aunt) taught him to lie. So when he lied to me I made Aunt Tiana go sit in time-out for 5 minutes. He begged and pleaded for her not to get in trouble for his “naughty.” He hasn’t lied since 🙂

Melody August 18, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Typically, toys go away for a day here. Like, if it’s early in the day, it goes away for the rest of the day and comes back tomorrow. If it’s at night, like of she won’t pick up her toys before bed, then it goes away all day tomorrow and comes back the next day. I figure, take it away so they miss it a little bit and can be freshly reminded of why it was taken away, but longer than that and it’s lost to short term memory. Besides, if you give it back and it is a very beloved toy, you can again use it as a bargaining chip! Pretty soon, they should connect that certain actions will result in losing that item.

Shan @ Last Shreds Of Sanity August 19, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Taking the toys away will stop working soon enough. My Ro is much like Kamryn and just as stubborn. She has laughed at us while getting disciplined, done the arm cross-hhhrmpph move and many others you are likely experiencing with your own bundle of moods.

Call me when you get to the Fearsome Fours, the Frightening Fives and the Sanity-Robbing Sixes. We’re in that last one right now. It’s HELL, I tell ya! It makes me very afraid for what age seven will bring and makes me want to stockpile Valium, Xanax and Patron tequila. 😀

I’m also thinking of creating a huge supply of Midol for when that horrible event begins. If my past experience is indicative of what my own daughter will be like, we’re completely screwed.

I wish you and Heather lots of luck. Godspeed, my friend.

Sarah August 20, 2011 at 1:27 am

*sigh* I soooo relate. I have a 3 yr old right now and he was an angel at 2. But I already knew that 2 yr olds weren’t a problem because I also have a 13 yr old. And let me tell you, nothing is more mentally exhausting than talking to a hormonal, drama queen girl. But she was a piece of cake at 2. I also have a 12 month old little girl who’s the cutest thing I’ve seen. She gives me hugs and cuddles with me and giggles…..it’s wonderful. But I’m not fooled for a second. I know what’s coming. Today my 3 yr old threw his cup at me, screamed at me, kicked me and hit me, and told me no at least 100 times. Yep, it’s a good thing I love them!

Tammy August 21, 2011 at 3:10 am

I have put Giraffe into timeout. I have sent Gorilla to Alone Time in his room. And I have told Big Puppy he has to sleep in the closet. I have no idea why this works, but it’s like a secret magic trick parents learn, and it’s brilliant.

Rachael September 30, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Bwahahaha!!!! I have laughed until I honestly cried over this post! Only because my 5 yo Ryleigh and your Kamryn appear to be kindred spirits. And I’m pretty sure you forgot the “HAVE BROKEN THE SOUND BARRIER HIGH PITCHED SCREAM!!!!!ELEVENTYONE!!” in that description there. Holy frijoles. My 11 yo son should be eternally grateful he was born first, because I GUARANTEE he wouldn’t exist if Ryleigh was first born. I feel your pain, I really, really do.

Talon October 29, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I’m reading backwards…obviously but I felt compelled to comment on this post anyway. We also had trouble with our then three-now-eleven year old girl. Getting her to stop doing something, or DO something (Come here right now for the fifty-eleventh time) was near impossible as she seemed selectively deaf.

My parents by the way, thought this hilarious. I understand most grandparents do.

We used the 1-2-3 approach. But with a variant that to this day I’m STILL not sure why or how it worked but it DID. If we counted in English, she MIGHT grace us with her attention. But if we threatened to count in German…we had her attention. “Eins” was almost always sufficient. “NOOOOOOOOOOOO NO GERMAN!!” We seldom had to resort to “zwei”. And if we reached “drei”, she was convinced that Armageddon had occurred and the universe was over.

She could count in several languages, but not French, nor Spanish, Korean or Japanese or ASL ever evoked a reaction. German worked, and German we used relentlessly until she reached the age of reason.

I’ll drop you a line when I find out when that actually is.

Charity January 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Three is infinitely worse than two. I LOVED two – so adorable! Then three came along and b’tch-slapped us. In our experience with two daughters the worst ages are three, five and eleven-twelve. You understand why three is on the list. Five is there because that’s when the kindergarten teacher replaces you as the smartest human she knows. Eleven-twelve is when the hormone roller coaster hits it’s peak. Good luck!

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