My tiny dictator is like Jekyll and Hyde. I never know when he'll snap. How long does this phase last?
Humor Parenting

My Three-Year-Old’s a Jerk

My tiny dictator is like Jekyll and Hyde. I never know when he'll snap. How long does this phase last?

By Katie Walsh

Are most three-year-olds as bossy and rude as mine? I mean, he’s kind of a jerk. Sure, he has his sweet moments, and of course, I love him with all my heart and wouldn’t trade him for the world. But seriously? It’s like living with Jekyll and Hyde. Here’s an example.

My son’s in the living room putting a toy car together when he yells, “Who took my screw? I know you have it!”  My 5-year-old daughter and I look at him bewildered.

“What are you talking about?” I ask.    

“You took it!” he yells at his sister.

“What? I did not,” she says.

“Did too!”

“Did not!” You know how this story goes. They keep arguing until I lose my temper and yell at them or one of them slugs the other. But seriously, why is he so rude and bossy? This behavior must be another one of “those traits” he learned from my husband, not me (Wait, am I accusing someone of something too? No way, I’d never do that).

According to the website What to Expect, “Bossy behavior is very common among two- and three-year-olds. That’s because toddlers have poor social skills and an egocentric view of the world.”

Egocentric view of the world? That’s an understatement. My son thinks he created the world. Is my three-year-old destined to stay this way forever? I keep reading.

“Most little dictators,” yes, dictator should be his middle name, “outgrow this phase as they begin to realize that they’re actually not the center of the universe and that other kids really don’t dig being told what to do.” Actually, my son doesn’t seem to give a crap what people think. And how long are we talking? I’m not the most patient person in the world.  And what about these other kids? Are my husband and I included in this statement too? If not, I take the liberty to say that we are.     

“Mom! Get my blankie!”

“I want more milk!”

While riding in the car, “Stop looking out my window!” Does he own his window now? Maybe this is more serious than I thought. So what do we do to curb this tyrant behavior?

I find another article in my desperate search to cure my son of his unruly behavior, and it suggests that this is a learned modeled behavior. Does that mean I need to stop telling my husband to get me milk at two in the morning? I’m only kidding.

It also suggests role playing. My son is three. His attention is that of a fly, not to mention, how the hell do you role play with a three-year-old? Thanks, but no thanks.

I would ask some of my mommy friends, but they’ll just give me the, “I’m sorry to hear that. Have you talked to your pediatrician?” Why does everyone always suggest talking to a pediatrician? If your pediatrician is anything like mine, they look at me like I’m wasting their time and want to hurry up and move everybody out so they can have their three-hour lunch and operate during the most ridiculous office hours ever.

I think of the adage, “This too shall pass,” but my dilemma seems far from over. During dinner, my husband and I are trying to have a civilized conversation (like we used to before we had kids) and our son thinks this is the time to yell out “butt,” “poopy face” and other “you better watch your mouth” timeout words. He finds this extra attention humorous and continues.

“You’ve got five seconds to stop. One, two, three, four…” at this time I panic because I have no backup plan. “I mean it. If I get to five, you’re going to timeout.” My husband steps in to save me. My son doesn’t back down. The balls on this kid! I’ve always thought to send your child to boarding school was cruel, but now I’m starting to see why parents do this. Do they accept three-year-olds? Trust me—mine will give you a run for your money.

I even go so far as put on a few more Daniel Tiger shows in the hope that the Mr. Rogers-inspired show will instill some kind and empathetic lessons on the boy. I close my eyes and tell myself that in one year I’ll look back at laugh at all these moments. How my son will have matured and become the sweet young boy I always knew he could be. But for now, if you’ll excuse me, my son would like a glass of milk.


About the Author

Katie is a lover of nature, a kindergarten teacher, and mother to two kids ages 3 and 5. She holds a master’s degree in education with an undergraduate in journalism. When she’s not busy with her son and daughter, you can find her trying to create a family homestead complete with three chickens, two dogs, and one cat in a suburb of Chicago.