Fighting the ridiculous fights

As she stands in the water table in her Tinkerbell panties and jammie top, frantically waving an orange toothbrush in the air, I think, “I should really make her get down before she inevitably falls and bashes her head on a rock.” And then I’d have to make the ever difficult decision of whether or not her gaping wound rendered a trip to the ER. And you and I both know that with 3 kids, a trip to the ER is a last resort kind of decision.

But then again, making her get down is sure to incite more whining, crying, and begging for the latest favorite movie, because oh my GOD our backyard is just too boring for words, and what else is there to do but stand in the water table waving my toothbrush in the air? I quickly decide it’s not worth it.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not really that much of a pushover. I insist on manners, discipline naughty behavior, and reinforce positive attitudes. But these types of ridiculous fights are a part of my normal these days with these 3.5 year olds. Oh, yes, you were all soooooo right when you said that three was the magic number — the magical age where the adorable fruits of your loins go from sweet, kind, and loving children to angry, irrational, possessed demons, inciting death, destruction, and tears {theirs and yours} at every turn. “I love you” snuggles turn into a scrappy cage fight, all because you decided to sing a little Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and how could you not know that would send her over the edge into fits of absolute three year old rage?


Oh, the toothbrushes. It all started innocently enough on Tuesday, when after some early baths and a pizza dinner, they somehow got a hold of the things and occupied themselves for no less than thirty minutes, bouncing them around the living room, pretending that they {the toothbrushes, that is} were Buzz, Woody, and Zoe’s was Stinky Pete.

Those thirty minutes seemed like a blessed eternity in which Christian and I got to lounge on the couch, giggling and snuggling with Zoe, and actually have, I don’t know, A CONVERSATION while they played. It served as a beautiful foreshadowing to a life ahead in which although our kids might stay up later, they can entertain themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and this {sometimes} fun age, but guiding their every move for all of their waking hours is down right exhausting.

When the time came to get back to reality, I convinced Rachel to let me brush her teeth with Woody. Or Buzz. I’m not really sure which was which. All was fine and dandy until I had the audacity to return the toothbrush to it’s rightful resting place in the Sesame Street cup next to the sink, sending a screech out of Rachel’s mouth that practically made my ears bleed. She was zero to hysterical in .6 seconds flat.

But that’s where the toothbrush goes. We don’t take toothbrushes to bed. We just don’t. Do you? I didn’t think so.

Having witnessed her sister flipping out over my malicious actions, Claire was already panicking before I was even within 5 feet of her. Shoving hers into the Little People house, she clawed and kicked to keep me from extracting it so I could brush her teeth.

People, we’re talking about toothbrushes!

Toothbrushes that they ended up taking to bed with them because really? It ended up not being worth the screaming and crying and the blows to the face I was taking for being the bad guy. And I’m not talking “I didn’t get my way so I’m gonna pout,” I’m talking “Oh my GOD the world is ending!!! I’ll never ever ever be able to recover from you putting my toothbrush in the cup {where it belongs, I might add!}!”

I’m talking real, big, honest to goodness crocodile tears. Whimpering. Trembling. Like I killed their puppy or something. In front of them.


And then there’s the bedtime stalling. One more story. One more potty trip. One more sip of water. And when I relent to one more story? It’s “No! I hafta do it myself!” And she slowly turns the pages, one by one, all the while eyeballing me because she and I both know she’s testing me. And boy have I failed.

So again the epic battle:  one more reading of their favorite book against the fact that I already laid out the plan and this is the way it’s going to be. It’s “Come on…it’s just one more story. You’re going to rob your children of the gift of literacy because you want them to go to bed? They won’t be this age forever, you know!” versus “I know you’re stalling you little punk, now get in that bed before I get Samuel L. Jackson in here to read you a REAL bedtime story!”


Where do we draw the line between putting our foot down, being the parent and being lenient because really, one more story is NOT that big of a deal, I know it’s not? Where does the rationality end and the insanity begin? Where do we stop fighting these ridiculous fights and just say “Eff it???”

Age three, you make me want to claw my eyes out with my own ragged fingernails.

Please make me feel better by telling me about some riduculous thing you fight with your kids about.

Join the Conversation


  1. Wow! Sounds exhausting. We haven’t hit 3 yet. My baby girl is only 9 months. I do remember babysitting my niece once around that age, and she was all about the toothbrush too. I think I ended up distracting her with something else.

  2. This is so funny and I can relate. I can never find our toothbrushes, and I have a set in each bathroom for this very reason. They get stuck in someones hand and I can’t convince them to put it away. Ridiculous.
    I’m with you, its so pointless, why fight?

  3. Oh my doodle.
    My child takes her toothbrush in the car!
    She is obsessed with it.
    I say choose your battles, which you are doing very well.
    Kids are quirky.
    If it isn’t harming them then it’s no biggy.

  4. …..Yep I’ve been there….

    @ Samuel L. Jackson book I laughed so hard because I remembered seeing a video of a Filipina grandmother (i’m filipina) reading this book and going “Oh my, dis is bad book” in her cute little asian accent. Thank goodness to a tiny baby who would never be able to understand. She was set up by her kids with video camera in hand. Poor lady was O.o

  5. We are exactly two months away from turning 3 in our house and I have already noticed the “change” creeping in. Something so simple as taking off a t-shirt for bath time or accidentally giving one of them a granola bar when what he really wanted was a cereal bar has turned into what could be a torture scene out of some horror movie (at least the screams sound the same). It really is like some switch was flipped. Emotions are out of control. I’m floundering, trying to figure out which battles to fight and when to just put my head under a pillow and let it all play out. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. Why is it so encouraging to hear that others are suffering equally?? Thanks for making me feel less alone in this battle, though!!

    1. Oh you are NOT alone! It’s ridiculous these fights that we are having. You said it — emotions are out of control and flip like a switch!

  6. Your story is toooo funny. I think you said it all when you said, “Ridiculous fights”. There is NO logic to it, ok, maybe 3.5 year old logic (which is wishy washy at best). First, know that you are doing a great job! And it doesn’t help that at times you are out numbered. Pray for the good days and look for the pony under the poo poo. Don’t take things so seriously,pick your battles and know there are no mistakes, they love you no matter what. Each day is a new day Scarlet and it all comes together in the end. Love you.

    1. No logic AT ALL. This has been a horrible week, except for today. Claire will be dancing, stub her toe, and then get mad and storm off, not even allowign me to console her. So ridiculous!

  7. I say this in utter and complete seriousness when I say “Three nearly broke me as a human being with my oldest child.” And it was more 3 1/2 when it got really difficult.

    It WILL get better (around 5 – sorry about that). You definitely need to pick your battles. Because you can’t battle everything. They sure as heck can though!

    And I tell my kids ALL THE TIME that they make their consequence worse by how they react. When they react with irrationality they will get into more trouble. When they calmly talk it through and state their case and I state mine, the consequence will often be less. Doesn’t seem like it’s getting through at 3, but it will eventually.

    Promise. 🙂

    1. I love wise words from someone who’s been there and lived to tell about it! Yup, they are exactly 3.5 right now, and I know that it’s always tougher at the half years. One of them in particular is extremely strong willed. Thanks for the hope!

    1. OMG when mine were the age of yours, Rachel kept putting my powercord in her mouth and ruining it — and Mac cords are NOT cheap! I think I went through 3 of them.

  8. I know that full blast screech (without warning sign in advance), preferably then they are close to your ear. I try to pick my battles but sometimes, my sons quirks are just so irrational that I have to smile (ok, laugh) when he’s throwing a fit. This is the worst mistake ever.
    We’ve passed the toothbrush stage, now we’re in the I-am-doing-it-myself-and-don’t-you-dare-to-help-me phase. But sometimes I really have to help, for his or my sake, or have to do it myself, and that’s resulting in a major screaming attack. It’s exhausting. Sigh.
    But we just have to hang in there, in some 2 years it’s getting better. 😉

    1. Oh I hate the do it myself stage! They insist on doing the things they really can’t so, but want me to do the things they can!

  9. My kids have slept with their toothbrushes. {sigh}

    The bedtime trick we have just started using: If your teeth aren’t brushed and pjs not on by 7:30, no story.

    We don’t get upset. We just state it as fact. It gives them 15 minutes to decide (bedtime process is 7 to 7:30) We still have to help them with brushing and pjs but it’s surprisingly motivating. Good luck dudette

    1. That’s a good idea. I wish we were as strict with our bedtime routine as we were when the twins were younger. Now every night feels like a struggle — not a struggle to get them to get ready, but just a struggle because we are always outnumbered.

  10. I seem to be blocking specifics from my memory, but every ounce of this post rings true. Lord, three year olds are CRAZY.

    Of course, we’re just getting into the thick of Four, and it appears Four has only a hair less crazy and a whole crap-ton of attitude. Delightful.

  11. This had me laughing out loud. My boys are 2 and so attached to their toothbrushes too. I may not “let” them take their toothbrushes to bed, but doesn’t mean I haven’t “found” them in their cribs. I too have learned you just pick your battles when it comes to potential catastrophies. I used to be so good at keeping them down and out, but now I just shrug. Oh, there you are. Standing on top of the table? Hmmm. I guess you wont hit your head on the light fixture. Carry on. Thanks for a great read!

  12. Wow! You just described our world. Except I have a 3 1/2 year old boy so most of the fights are around cars, trucks and screaming their engine sounds at decible levels that make the dogs howl.
    What we fight over is pretty much…………..everything.
    I try and pick my battles, but more often than not, the battle is picked by my son. Reverse psychology only works till about age 2 if you’re lucky, then they really get smart.
    Every night I collapse exhausted into my bed wondering what I am doing wrong to cause such behavior and how I must really be messing him up.
    At least I know that somewhere in the world a similar, parallel experience is happening at the same time.
    Thanks for making the rest of us not feel so alone.

    1. You are NOT alone! I have been wondering what I was doing wrong too. I read a little bit of a book Parenting the Strong Willed Child (I’m ordering it from Amazon), and realized in a few pages that I let her get away with too much bc I want to avoid a fight. Once I started putting my foot down more heavily and sticking to my guns, there is hardly any fighting. 🙂

  13. I love this post & can relate to EVERY word! Pick your battles is something I live by with my 2 year old son! I nannied in my late teens/early 20’s for about 6 years and when I look back on that experience I see how much I ABSOLUTELY HADN’T learned this important lesson yet! There are a heap of times during each day when I have to check myself and say… is this REALLY that important? For example, my son is OBSESSED with ice pops and will ask for them in that life or death way multiple times per day. I’ve successfully laid the ground rule that we’re not having more than 2 in a day, but the timing I’ve let go of. An ice pop with breakfast or before dinner?! Are you crazy!?! That’s just not right!! But really, it’s frozen juice… what’s the big deal? I’d let him have a cup of juice right?! I know I’ve ONLY gotten to that because of the PICK YOUR BATTLES idea. It’s a crime against humanity when he doesn’t get the pop! Thanks for sharing your experience! You are NOT alone!! 🙂

    1. They get obsessed with the most random things, right? Right now one of them is gaga over a tape measure. She takes it everywhere she goes and freaks out if her sister has it.

  14. So you’re telling me this DOESN’T get better? My 18mo old and I have tiny little head-butty battles nearly every day.

    I am trying SO VERY HARD to pick which battles to fight and which to let go. Her walking around in the wet grass with her jammies on last night? I didn’t want to let her, but hey…why not? You want to pull the cats tail and smash your head into his belly? NO FREAKIN WAY.

    I’m starting to see the stalling of bedtime too. She refuses to give her Daddy a kiss because after that kiss we head upstairs to bed. It’s become a big fat game. The problem is, if I just swoop her up without the kiss, Daddy feels like shit. Humpf.

    1. They’re tricky! I read something last year about how kids have a hard time at the half years: 18 months, 2.5, 3.5, etc, caused by disequilibrium. They get all out of whack. So it’ll get better. And then worse. And then better, and then WAY worse. 🙂

  15. I am so glad to know that I didn’t break my daughter because I thought I did. A month away from 4 and we’ve had epic fits of rage lately. Today we fought about the shirt she would wear, carrying her Dad’s briefcase, riding in the car, needing a blanket while riding in the car. That was just between 7 and 8 AM. Can’t wait to see what tonight is like. Love your story.

    1. Oh yes….there are definitely some battle to be picked. They’re not too picky about their clothes yet, but I’ll often give them 2 choices so that it’s not too much of a battle. They like getting to pick. Good luck!

  16. I’m just now getting around to reading this, mainly because I have a 3 1/2 year old boy who has went from sweet and loving to…… being a mean little tyrant. It’s the nicest thing I can come up with right now.
    It’s not the trying 3’s, it’s the Tyrannical 3’s, the Screaming 3’s, the OMG 3’s!
    They say to pick your battles, but which ones??!!
    I mean, I don’t want to let him win this one because next time he will be worse right? That’s what goes through my head when I throw down the gauntlet and enforce something.
    But what is worth fighting and what is ok to just let go to live to fight another day?

    1. That was exactly my dilemma. If I let this slide, then they’ll totally take advantage of me. I had a talk with a good friend about picking your battles, and she said that you just have to ask yourself, “Is this the hill I want to die on?” It really put things into perspective for me.

      I also read a snippet of “Parenting the Strong Willed Child,” and realized that I was worsening situations by not putting my foot down when I needed to because I wanted to avoid a confrontation or I didn’t want to be “mean.” Now I’m more firm, and they whipped right back into {more} shape. Still not perfect, but much, much better.

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