The big girl is 3.  And she’s good at it.  I’ve been feeling ill-equipped at handling her totally appropriate behavior.  (Again, my engineering degree has failed me. A child psychology major would have been far more useful for my current line of work). My mother, the wise 11-time parent (4 of us, 7 grandkids), suggested I talk to someone to gain some knowledge and acquire some tools for how to deal with this age in the best way. Better to do it now, before there’s an irreparable strain on our relationship.
As firm believers in preventative action (duh!), we headed to the child psychologist that I had seen before my surgery when I wanted to ensure a smooth transition for my girls during my recovery.  This was the first time my husband met her and he was just as impressed as I was.  She really shed some light as to what was appropriate behavior and what was not.   What we should address and what we should ignore.  What’s a big deal and what’s not.  It was exactly what I needed, because as I had suspected: the big girl is just fine, it’s my expectations and reactions that need fine tuning. I get incredibly frustrated when this little person is defying me all day long. Why must she disrespect me and be non-compliant?
Turns out, this is all developmentally on target. In fact, that was the best guideline the doctor gave us for understanding her behavior.  “Always start with development.”  Knowing what’s appropriate for your child’s age and if it’s simply a phase of development that she’s going through is important.  I imagine if it’s not a typical pattern for the age, then a more serious conversation needs to happen between therapist and parents.  She said that her desire to defy me is completely normal (it is also the time for my 18 month old to go through a similar phase. Her favorite word is now “NO!”  Fabulous!).  At 15 months, babies tend to go through a clingy/separation anxiety phase.  Then at about 18 months, they go through a period where they need to separate.  You can see how this would be a natural survival instinct.  The same separation happens at ages 3, 8-9 and then again as teenagers (that’s a generalized guideline for girls, in particular).  They have to know that they can stand on their own a little bit.  That they can make their own decisions and still get by.  It makes sense. Now that I know there is an underlying reason that she tells me that she doesn’t like me, I feel a little bit better about it.
When she says, “I don’t like you”, I simply finish the rest of the sentence for her.  It’s a coping mechanism that’s working for me.  “I don’t like you…” and then instead of feeling like I’ve been dumped, I just add on whatever action she doesn’t want me doing at that time.  “I don’t like you…” + “… to comb my hair. I love being knotty/naughty.”, “… to put my pajamas on.  Being naked is much more fun.”  “… to feed me.  I’m trying out for America’s Next Top Model.”  I just add in whatever makes me feel better.  It’s like MadLibs for Parents of 3 Year Olds.

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