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Is Three Worse Than Two?

Robin Taylor of Los Angeles got a double-whammy tantrum one morning recently: Will, 2, threw one because his bananas touched his blueberries, and his sister, Ella, 3, refused to put on her shoes. "I was able to distract Will," says Taylor, "but Ella kicked and screamed until I gave up."

Though 2-year-olds get pegged with the "terrible" label, 3-year-olds can actually be more challenging. Tactics that once calmed them may no longer work, and they can now throw fits for longer periods of time, thanks to an increased attention span.

Your child's new tantrums may drive you crazy, but there's a silver lining: "They mean she feels self-sufficient," says Sharon Bergen, a senior vice president at KinderCare Learning Centers. To nurture this independence while still keeping control:

Pick your battles.
If she balks at wearing shoes when you're going out, make it nonnegotiable. If she wants to wear party shoes and you'd prefer sneakers, skip the fight.
Limit her choices.
Letting her decide which of three travel games to bring in the car gives her enough power that she likely will cave on her demand to lug the dollhouse along.
Be consistent.
Part of the thrill of acting out is seeing your reaction. If it's always the same -- calmly standing your ground -- your kid will become less interested in testing you.