Step 1: Look in the mirror
Take a look at that poor sap in the mirror. Are there blood shot eyes? Make-up out of place? If so, do a quick fix-up. Three year olds are vicious and they will go for any perceived weakness to change the subject: “You have cracks in your eyes.” “What is that black on your face?” All familiar derailing techniques. Do not give him/her the opening.
Step 2: Take a deep breath
This is going to be worse before it gets better. I’m here for you. Take solace in that. Not too much solace because I can’t actually “win” this for you, but maybe level “yellow” solace in a sliding rainbow scale.
Step 3: Verify that you are, in fact, disagreeing
I cannot tell you how many times I have argued with my 3 year old only to find out that we were actually in agreement. Embarrassing for all involved (though admittedly she doesn’t really show any signs that it bothers her.) For example: she says “turn up” the radio, but I want it turned down. We bicker, I turn it down further, and she says, “See, that better- I say turn it up.” At this point I could turn it into a disagreement about how she needs volume control instructions, but it’s better for both of us to feel like it’s a win.
Step 4: Be the bigger person
Both figuratively and literally. I touched on this above when I said I made like Elsa and ‘Let It Go’ when it came to the volume. Additionally, don’t slouch. Tower over the child. Assert dominance. Wait a second. That’s called being a pack leader of wolves. Maybe literally is not as important.
Step 5: Prepare for tears
Have Kleenex on hand. We hope this is for the three year old when they finally feel the soul-crushing feeling of being wrong. The realization that his/her parents are totally amazing for looking out for his/her best interests all along. The other thing that could occur (not to scare you, but you should be prepared, just in case) is you could have a small weepy breakdown from answering “why” for the 15 bazillionth time. Chances are small, but I need to be honest with my readership.
Step 6: Create a PowerPoint presentation
Three year olds are visual. You can’t just talky, talky, talky at them. They want to see pictures. It can be vacation pictures or graphs. Doesn’t matter really, just have a presentation available.
Step 7: Make up a rap song
Have the child beat box for back up. Bonus points if you comment below with said rap song. Keep the swearing to a minimum… or not – your kid, your choice.
Step 8: Enlist backup
I find favorite stuffed animals are great for backing me up in arguments: “I’m Princess Sparkle Rainbow Bear and I support the message brought to you by your mommy.” Practice throwing your voice before trying it in case it’s above your current station. Ventriloquism is a skill you should have, though, so even if you aren’t good yet, practice up. It is only a matter of time before the skill will come in handy outside of parenting — dark alleys, doctor offices, and funerals, to name a few situations.
Step 9: Make faces and move on
Redirect. Tell them, “I’m the mom,” and button down the hatches. Did you really think that you were going to win an argument with a 3 year old? In my limited experience, they never admit defeat. Keep that innocence, though, and stay sweet.