Three-year-olds are sometimes called “three-nagers.” They can go from excited and playful to moody and recalcitrant with seemingly no explanation.
In those moments, I sometimes get upset too. I like playing with Grace, even to the point of spoiling. But when I take the time and effort to put her fun first, that three-nager attitude doesn’t just go away, so at my worst I feel like she’s intentionally being ungrateful. And that’s not fun for either of us.
When I’m at the top of my parenting game though, I notice that she actually has plenty of opportunity for fun but she’s hitting a mood. A great tool for these moments is to find something completely absurd to make her mind reset.
“Did you know the sky is pink when you’re not looking?” has worked – she instantly switched from grumpy to playful, trying look down then back up at the sky.
One day she would respond to everything I said with “NO!” so I timed out a click of our car’s panic button with her response and by the time she was done yelling, she was smiling at the distraction. That was a better game than ‘yell at daddy.’
If you just need something to change, a bit of craziness can be effective.