Raising 3-year-olds: Explore helpful parenting tips

You’re past the terrible two’s and moving into a new age of development; learn some helpful tips to guide you through this fun, developmental age.

If you have a 3-year-old, then you know how funny, amusing, smart, and yes, challenging, they can be. I have had the wonderful experience of having raised three wonderful children and have been lucky to also be trained as a parent educator for Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, which has offered so many trainings that enables me to become an expert in child development. I would like to take this opportunity to share with families some information that may be of some use if they have a 3-year-old.

Three-year-olds can be very helpful and enjoy helping out, particularly if they choose what they want to do. My suggestion would be to pick a number of reasonable tasks that need to be accomplished and let them pick. One thing that I like to share with the families I see is, as a child gets older, we don’t always have to praise every effort. One way that parents can let the child know they are proud of their accomplishments is to pretend you are on the phone and in a loud enough voice within hearing range say “You know what did? He did such a nice job,” and so on.

Three year olds are also very smart. In our family we always read, just for fun. Being a poetry lover myself, I shared my favorite poetry. I would read it over and over. I would read it slowly so they would get the picture of what it was about. I had a picture in my mind and I wanted them to see it, too. It wasn’t hard to reread poetry I loved. One thing that stands out is when two of my children had the same class in college, they let me know they were reading what we had read when they were small. It was just something we loved. I never realized it was higher level, but they got it then and would ask to read it again.

As my children became readers, not wanting them to miss out on the story, it was common practice to ask them to tell me about it. As they got older and I was too busy to read, the newspaper became part of our reading materials. I continued the habit of as asking my children to tell me what they read. They can also be very funny, too. Joke books can be fun to read.

Another thing I share with families I see is to start teaching family values to their children around age 3. This age is ideal because they are old enough to pick up on what goes on around them – both good and bad. At the same time, they haven’t been exposed to more public practices that we may not agree with. The idea is to share with them your views on numerous topics, like smoking, swearing, and so on, so that when they are exposed to it, they have a reference point to draw from. They will know it’s wrong or not. Just remember: do as you say; you are the best example for your children. 

Finally, 3-year-olds seek and want parent and /or adult attention. If they don’t get the attention of people they love, they will seek it from someone else. This can make them vulnerable to predatory individuals. So, enjoy your 3-year-old. They are like rainbows.