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The Challenges of Raising a 3 Year Old Boy

by retirebyforty on February 10, 2014 · 48 comments

in kid, stay at home dad

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It’s time for a stay at home dad update! It’s been a few months since our son started preschool and I’m happy to report that he is doing well there after the initial adjustment period. The one persistent problem we have is when he gets frustrated, he’ll throw toys or hit other people, so we are working on that with the teachers. Anyway, he made some good friends his age and he is enjoying preschool overall.

The truth is that life is much better for both of us on Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend. Currently, he goes to preschool from 9:30am until 1pm on Tuesday and Thursday. On the weekend, Mrs. RB40 spends some quality time with him so I can go to work for a few hours after lunch. Those days are good because we get a little break from each other.

Winter is tougher because we’re spending more time indoors. We have been stuck at home since Thursday due the recent sleet, snow and ice situation in town. We did enjoy the snow this weekend. It was a rare treat and hopefully, the town will get back to normal on Tuesday. Generally, it’s much easier in the summer because there are so many things to do within walking distance.

stay at home dad challenges 3 year old boy

School is still closed on Monday. Yay!

Don’t do that!

It’s tough to keep your patience all day with a rambunctious 3 year old boy. He is a good in general, but he just wears me down. It seems like I had to tell him “don’t” every few minutes throughout the day. It’s a long list and here is a small sample:

  • Don’t hit, kick, or push
  • Don’t throw your toothbrush
  • Don’t touch that yellow snow
  • Don’t chase and scream at the cats
  • Don’t Gangnam style in the street
  • Don’t climb on the wine rack
  • Don’t slam into the fridge and dishwasher
  • Don’t push random buttons on the DVD player
  • Don’t bite mama’s hair (while playing horsey)
  • Don’t throw cat toys at mama

It must be hard being an active 3 year old boy as well. He has to hear a constant stream of don’ts and I’m sure he tunes out most of them… We send him to timeout once in a while, but not for every little thing. He’d be in timeout all day if he’s sent to his room every time we say don’t do that!

Kids are full of energy

RB40 Jr. is the most active boy I know. He is always running around and I can’t keep up with him all day. Whenever I sit down, he’d use me for a jungle gym. He is also napping much less these days so we often don’t get a midday break. The funny thing is when it’s bedtime, he seems to rev it up another notch. Especially on those days that he didn’t nap, he’d be running around screaming at 8:30pm. I guess some kids are like that when they get really tired.

As for us old people, we get worn out much easier than that. This is why it’s good to have kids while you’re young and energetic. We waited awhile to have kids. Many of Mrs. RB40′s high school friends have kids who are heading to college already!  We would have felt double or triple the stress if we didn’t feel financially ready to have a kid. So we feel like we made the right choice in waiting, even though we are feeling our age these days.

The Challenges

Jr. is good at many things. He is potty trained and never wets his bed. He can communicate well and he is very chatty. He is also really good at physical activities like climbing and jumping around the playground. He is assertive and isn’t afraid to express his opinion (a little more about this one later).

On the other hand, he has his challenges.  At school, he’d rather play than eat and usually he only takes a few bites of his lunch. We have to finish it after we get home.  His teachers probably think we don’t feed him at all.  At dinner, we have a hard time keeping him in his chair and he takes forever to eat. He is also getting pickier about food these days. I think he gained only 1 pound over the last 6 months. That’s not good.

Brushing teeth is another point of contention with us. He doesn’t like to brush teeth and he doesn’t listen to my instruction at all. He doesn’t spit out the toothpaste so we use just a tiny dab. He also does a terrible job brushing so I end up brushing his teeth for him after he chews on his toothbrush for a while. He also wants to run around while brushing teeth… Anyway, I guess it’s not a huge problem, but it’s always a frustrating end to a long day. Hopefully, he’ll be able to brush his own teeth soon.

Dilly Dally King

I don’t know if this is the same for every kid, but I suspect so. RB40 Jr. just takes forever to do anything. Everything is a game to him and he doesn’t have any sense of urgency. It can take him 5 minutes to put on his underwear and pants after going to the bathroom. Every time we get ready to go outside, we’d have to plan for a 10-15 minute delay…and this is just to get out the door. Luckily, I am not in a huge hurry these days but I still get irritated about the delay.  When an adult is ready to go, they want to go now. It doesn’t work that way for kids. I suspect if I was still working and had limited time, I’d be much more impatient with him. These days, I’m much more relaxed and I usually don’t mind the delay that much.

Jr. is very stubborn and insists on doing certain things himself, which can contribute to the dillydallying. He also wants to do things that make Mrs. RB40 worry about him getting hurt.  He insists on closing the front door when she leaves for work, and she watches him closely to ensure the door doesn’t close on his little fingers.  He wants to close the kitchen cabinet doors by himself, but forgets to push in the sliding shelves first. (Note: we remodeled the kitchen a few years before Jr. arrived, so the missus is a little sensitive about things getting damaged).  He wants to scoop the dry food to feed the cats himself and throw a fit when Mrs. RB40 gives the cats food herself. Like I mentioned before, he is very assertive and I hope we can turn that into leadership qualities as he get older.

It’s fun, but not easy

Being a stay at home dad is the best thing ever, but it can be challenging too. Spending the whole day with Jr. is exhausting and I’m really thankful that preschool is working out. It gives us a little time apart and we appreciate our quality time more. It would be nice if Jr. listens to us more, but I guess no kid is perfect. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this update.

Do you have any stories about kids? I don’t mean to scare anyone from having a boy. Girls seem so much easier at this age from what I’ve seen. :)

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Indian Thoughts February 10, 2014 at 1:38 am

Hey,
I am a old reader but i think commenting for the first time.
I have 2.5 year old so i was nodding on all post and literally ROFLing at dillydallying part.
Kids actually take forever for everything and every time is fun time for them.
Thanks god I am not only parent who feel this way towards end of the day.

Keep writing, I really enjoy reading your blog.

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 9:48 am

Thanks for reading and commenting! Dilly dallying is probably the hardest part. He knows that if he keeps delaying, we’ll get mad and he does it anyway. Then he’ll ask “are you mad, daddy?” I try not to, but it’s tough for adults to dilly dally.

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Emilie February 10, 2014 at 3:22 am

I can totally relate, as a stay at home mom to 3 young boys (with another on the way). Some advice….stop with the “don’ts”. It’s really frustrating for them (and you) to hear that all day. Instead, focus on what TO DO. So instead of “don’t run in the house” say “walk please” or instead of “don’t stand on the kitchen table” say “please sit in your chair” or whatever. Focus on teaching them what to do, instead of focusing on what not to do. Also, getting really rowdy at bedtime is completely normal but also a sign he’s way overtired. All of that energy during the day too might be a sign as well that he’s not getting enough sleep – this is common as that nap disappears around age 3. It might sound crazy, but trying moving his bedtime up. Like WAY up. My boys are lights at by 7 (oldest is 7) and it is so much better. Sleep begets sleep so the more rest they get they easier it is for them to fall and stay asleep. More info can be found in Healthy Sleep Habits Healthy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, an invaluable resource for all parents. Hang in there! Feel free to email me if you’d like!

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 9:52 am

OMG! That’s nuts. My mom had 3 boys and I have no idea how she did it. Oh yeah, she had cheap nannies back then. :)
I’ll try to reduce the don’ts. It’s hard because he doesn’t listen to my TO DO. I’ll work on it.
Okay, I just told him right now to please walk in the house and he responded with “we run in the house…”
I’ll check out Healthy Sleep Habits. If he didn’t get a nap, we usually get to bed around 8pm. I guess that’s a little late.
Thank you!

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Amy K February 11, 2014 at 12:29 pm

My daughter turned 3 last month, and I am nodding my head at most of this!

And i can relate on bedtime. Ours sleeps 10pm-7am each night, which is getting to sleep WAY too late in my book. She naps 2 hours at daycare (1pm-3pm) and can’t seem to fall asleep less than 7 hours after waking up from nap. Hopefully she can drop nap soon and get to bed at 8 instead. If she skips nap (which she does some weekends) she sleeps 9pm-8am.

I can relate to the rowdy at bedtime, I’ve learned that when she starts delay tactics or being really energetic, she needs to go down ASAP because she’s tired and fighting it the best way she knows how.

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retirebyforty February 11, 2014 at 10:43 pm

We try to get him to bed by 8:30pm. We’ll read a bit and he’ll usually be out by 9pm. Some days, he naps for 3 hours, then it gets push out to around 9:30pm. Thanks for sharing. 10pm really is way too late for little kids.

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MSL February 10, 2014 at 4:56 am

Kids shouldn’t brush their teeth alone until they are eight according to the ADA.

Also, instead of saying don’t, don’t, don’t guide hi to yes things, here play in this snow, close the door quietly, be gentle with the frig!!!

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 9:54 am

Really? I need to read up on brushing. We’re taking him to the dentist next month so I’m sure they’ll give us some guidelines.

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Justin @ Root of Good February 10, 2014 at 6:37 am

Joe, I feel your pain, bro. My littlest one sounds like that except he’s not quite 2 yet. Which means we are super screwed since he’s going to be a bundle of trouble for the next couple years!

Now our little one will sneak off for 10-20 minutes, do something mischievous, and then return smiling. And usually holding some “no-no’s” in his hand. Like a fistful of cough drops (sometimes partially eaten or at least licked on), his sisters’ fingernail polish (occasionally unopened), or a few dozen flosser sticks.

Maybe boys are crazier than girls? I don’t remember my other two being quite this bad.

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Cheryl Celebi February 10, 2014 at 6:52 am

LOL – I know what you mean! It’s usually a few dozen flosser sticks that have ALL BEEN LICKED!!!

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 9:57 am

We know where he is at all time because he’s so noisy. He doesn’t know how to be sneaky yet. IMO, most boys are just more active than girls. At least, that’s what I’ve seen so far with my friends.

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Cheryl Celebi February 10, 2014 at 6:50 am

I’m a 43-year old working mom of 4 girls 6 and under (2 planned pregnancies, 1 set of twins, and one “WHAT?! I can get pregnant naturally after 5 IVFs!!”). Talk about feeling your age – girls are easier, but not when you have 4 of them :-) But we always have a playgroup since they’re all within 3.5 years of each other. That helps, since they play with each other.
Totally agree with previous comment about “Do’s” instead of “don’ts” A reward chart didn’t work for us until after 3.5 years old, but maybe you could start it with something simple like brushing his teeth with the reward of something important to him, like an indoor playhouse or open gym at gymnastics place? Even Chuck E Cheese with a friend, whatever it takes. It’s all about rewards. Our 3 older girls all do gymnastics, which helps tremendously with expending energy, especially in the winter.

Dilly Dally King/Queen – isn’t that the truth?! My 2.5 year old wants to do EVERYTHING by herself and it takes forever.

At least Jr. doesn’t eat the cat food, like they have in my house. I win MOTY (Mom of The Year) award for that!

My goal is to be a stay-at-home mom and do a blog (life coaching) in 2 more years. I will certainly have plenty of experience to coach other moms in meeting their goals, working or not! I enjoy your posts, thanks!

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Kurt @ Money Counselor February 10, 2014 at 8:08 am

These posts are great Joe, thanks. And exactly what’s wrong with Gangnam style in the street?? :-)

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 10:01 am

There too many cars around. Let’s just do Gangnam style on the sidewalk.

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Brittany February 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

Okay, I was just coming over here to find out about Gangnam style, as well. I’m cracking up!

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Chris February 10, 2014 at 8:36 am

I forwarded this post to my wife, because she will empathize with you. She has two at home though, which may make it a bit easier for her at times as they get along pretty well. If you have room we put up a “high” bar in our basement which they can play on for quite a while. It is a bit “ghetto” but it gets the job done. You can see a picture on my blog. Anyways, keep up the great work. I can’t imagine the challenge of being a stay at home parent.

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 10:02 am

I don’t know if 2 is easier. It sounds like 3 times the trouble to me. :) Your high bar is pretty cool, but we don’t have room right now. Maybe once we have more room. Thanks!

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Pretired Nick February 10, 2014 at 9:10 am

Pretired Baby is just now starting to get into mischief, but he’s not a very adventurous kid so far. The biggest problem lately is he’s been terribly sick — going on two weeks now. That’s bad enough, but then he just wants to be held and walked around (by me) so I’m exhausted and can’t do anything else.
Where’s the video of the Gangnam style dancing?

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 10:05 am

Sorry to hear about him being sick. We have been sick since Christmas too, but now it’s just low level stuff nose and cough. Our guy is really sticky too. I’ll get the video up soon. :)

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Wilson February 10, 2014 at 9:34 am

Oh man you’re a saint. Thank heavens we have a reasonably priced Montessori school our 3 yo girl can go to 5 days a week, because otherwise I’d soon need a neck fusion with all the jumping and climbing on me she already does. She’s mostly passed her hitting/ biting phase, and the tantrums have subsided somewhat, but that’s only because we generally allow some dillying and dallying. If we try to move her before she’s ready she unleashes an unceasing torrent of wailing. One or the other is inevitable – you can’t reason with them and get them to accept that the tea party or imaginary train ride can be resumed later.

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 10:08 am

Haha, yeah. I don’t mind the hitting too much because it doesn’t really hurt. Of course, I don’t want him to hit other kids so now we are working on that. They love dilly dallying! He threw a few tantrums when I tried to force him to go too. Now, I try to give him more count downs. You got 2, 1 more minute. etc…

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Mom @ Three is Plenty February 10, 2014 at 10:26 am

Ours is currently in the throes of “do it myself” – even things we know darn well she can’t do herself. But if we try to explain that to her, she just screams. We let her do as much as she can, and keep her from injury until she figures that she can’t do something (rinse, repeat the next day). The excitement before bed is *definitely* a sign of an overtired little, see if you can catch him before that time period and get him bundled off to bed while he’s still pretty mellow.
As for not gaining weight? Daughter Person gained 1 lb from 2 years to 3 years, and that’s perfectly normal according to her doctor (she also gained 4-5″ in height). Don’t worry so much about his eating – it’ll go in spurts, just have lots of good stuff on hand for when he does want to eat!

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Jr. is taking more and more easy tasks like feeding the cat and putting a DVD in the player. He won’t let other people do those things anymore. I like it that he’s learning new things, but it can be puzzling for other people when they come visit. Thanks for the tips. I worry about his weight because he is smaller than other kids. We are smaller people so I guess I shouldn’t worry too much.

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Andrew@LivingRichCheaply February 10, 2014 at 11:26 am

Thanks for sharing! My son is only 7 months so not that mobile…I can imagine it gets a lot harder when they’re running around. I’ve heard that boys are easier than girls later own…so there’s that!

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payitoff February 10, 2014 at 11:41 am

try twin boys :D we just graduated to the 3 year old stage and yes, more than a handful for sure. one thing i have learned is whenever we say no to something, they still do it, but if we let them know WHY it’s a no, they stop and think about it, what’s even better is they remind each other at times when the other forgets.

like: do not touch the buttons on the DVD, because if you break it, then you might not be able to watch Cars 2 anymore, and we have to save for a very long time so we can buy another DVD. so its your choice ;)

let him have a choice, kids this age are testing the waters of independence, and they are loving the idea of them making their own decisions..

im a working mom, and after having kids, i started to love Mondays, now you know why :D :D :D

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm

That’s nuts. I can’t imagine twin boys. I’m trying to tell him WHY more. He just isn’t a very good listener. I’ll keep working on it. Maybe I’m not putting it in the right context. I see why you love Monday now. :)

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SavvyFinancialLatina February 10, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I remember those days when I used to babysit/nanny all day. I spent an entire summer away from home being a full-time, live in nanny when I was 14 or 15. It was rough. And the kids were 7 & 8. I have babysat toddlers and they are impossible to keep up with. I think it’s great you are open to suggestions on how to raise kids. If I think about how my parents raised me, they definitely just did. Never consulted books. Although sometimes I think they should have. I was very much raised under strict guidelines. My mom never had any flexibility. So appreciate parents who do.

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 9:57 pm

That’s tough. I don’t think I can put up with other people’s kids. The time is different now so we need to keep an open mind.

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Zee @ Work To Not Work February 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I don’t have kids but my sister does (so I get to sneak away when they get cranky!) [ages 3 and 5] and from my experiences hanging out with them the 10-15 minute delay that you mentioned of seems pretty normal. I’m sure you could help the kids speed things up by helping them put on shoes and jackets, but in my personal opinion I think it’s good for kids to get used to doing these things on their own. Letting them know that you won’t do everything for them when they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves is a good lesson to learn. Over time they get quicker at these things too so it eventually gets better. But at the same time as they get older the list of things they need to get ready for an outing gets longer. No longer are they just responsible for the items on their bodies, they you start to ask them if they have whatever security items they need such as blankies or crackers. We don’t make them carry everything, and there’s no way they would remember the whole list of items, but we have them assemble the items they need if they can so that we can put them in a backpack or something to hold for them. I’m sure eventually one day they will be responsible for the list of items that we keep in our heads for them too.

Once a kid is able to do something on their own I think it’s good to reinforce them to keep doing it themselves. My cousin has some kids that are MONSTERS because she does everything for them. There’s nothing more upsetting to me than a 5th grader asking me to tie their shoes for them because their parents always do it for them! The thing is, these kids can do the task, but they are just not good at it because they don’t have practice so they default to just asking someone else. There are harder struggles in life then tying shoes, if you’re getting stumped at that age you are going to have a hard life coming to you.

It may not seem like much responsibility to pass on to your kids, but at the same time who wants to tie their kids shoes their whole lives!

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 10:03 pm

I think he can do a lot of stuff, but he is distracted easily. He wants to play, rather than do what I want him to do.
We don’t carry anything when we go out these days. I really don’t want to start carrying a bag everywhere again.
He has Velcro shoes and I think they’ll be fine for quite a few years. :)

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PM February 10, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Joe,

My wife and I are both over 35 and we are expecting our first in May. Like you, we both have high school associates who are having one or more kid entering college soon. This will be the first for both of us.

Perhaps I will be proven wrong, but my take is that having a kid when you’re older keeps us on our toes easier. I’m definitely feeling being 35, but I’m hoping that having a young one running around will give us a renewed sense of energy. Only time will tell, but I’m starting to think it’s 50% mental. If I think I’m going to be tired, then I probably will be.

I’m also wiser than I was 10 years ago, no doubt about that.

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 10:04 pm

We definitely have more fun now with a kid around. We feel more youthful, but we are exhausted all the time. It’s hard to keep up with our kid. I’m really happy that we waited.

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Nicoleandmaggie February 10, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Your gender stereotypes are BS.

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retirebyforty February 10, 2014 at 10:06 pm

It’s just from what I’ve seen. I’m sure some girls are more difficult, but most 3 years old girls are so much more mature than boys. They listen and communicate much better.

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Dear Debt February 10, 2014 at 10:06 pm

“Don’t Gangnam style in the street” LOL. That was so funny! I’m sorry you are going through a tough time, but good job at keeping us laughing :) He is a rambunctious boy, but at least he has a personality! I don’t want kids, so I’ll just enjoy from afar.

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retirebyforty February 11, 2014 at 10:37 pm

It’s good that some of us don’t want kids. :) It’s pretty good for the most part. The end of the whole days together is the only really rough part.

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John S @ Frugal Rules February 11, 2014 at 9:40 am

“Every time we get ready to go outside, we’d have to plan for a 10-15 minute delay…and this is just to get out the door.” Lol, we have the same exact issue with our four year old boy. I thought I had seen some slow people in my day, but he takes forever to get most things done. We ask him to pick up his toys and he’ll just walk around in circles pretending he doesn’t hear us. But, I guess it could show he’s smart because he’s allowing his six year old sister to do the work. ;) Seeing our four year old and now our two year old start to develop more, I think boys are simply in their own little world most of the time. :)

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retirebyforty February 11, 2014 at 10:40 pm

They just don’t know why adults are in a hurry all the time. It’s a good thing we’re not in much of a rush these days or I’d be mad all the time.

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Daizy February 11, 2014 at 11:07 am

Have you watched any of those Nanny 911 or Super Nanny shows? At the beginning I am always glad that I don’t have kids but by the end when she whips them in to shape I have learned a lot. Those shows have actually helped me deal with my nieces and nephews and friends’ kids. I’m a visual learner so I don’t get that much from books. I need to see it in action.

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retirebyforty February 11, 2014 at 10:40 pm

I watched a few episodes a while back. We should get that show from the library. Thanks!

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Chris February 11, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Try 4 kids altogether! Luckily they are more like me, which is somewhat even keel prone to random bursts of energy.
Tooth brushing is one of the “benefits” I usually take care of after I’ve gotten home for the day (to relieve my wife).
You think this is tough, wait until the heavy homework starts! LOL
Good luck sir!

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retirebyforty February 11, 2014 at 10:44 pm

That’s nuts. I don’t know how you do it.

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Little House February 12, 2014 at 7:01 am

I don’t have kids but as a teacher, this sounds pretty normal. As for the “don’t’s”, try redirecting his attention to something else. He sounds strong-willed, but if you find something he likes instead of chasing the cats or smashing into appliances, that might work. Also, have you tried a timer to get him to hurry up a bit? Make it a game, “Beat the clock” and see if that works. Of course, kids catch on pretty quickly and he might realize what you’re up to. Good luck!

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retirebyforty February 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm

I’ll try redirection more. It works sometime, but he’s pretty obsessive. I haven’t tried a timer yet. I have been telling him 2 minutes, 1 minute, etc.. That seems to work okay. Today we spent about 20 minutes trying to get out of the toy store. That’s tough for any boy.

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awakeinwa February 16, 2014 at 4:42 pm

At the root is micro nutritional deficiency – there’s an epidemic shortage of magnesium in our diets. While milk is fortified with calcium, an excitatory mineral, it’s yang cousin magnesium is nowhere to be found in our food supply.

Long story short, after extensive research, one of the most effective ways to fortify your kids with adequate magnesium and then some i aptly named Natural Vitality, Kids Natural Calm Multi http://www.iherb.com/natural-vitality-kids-natural-calm-multi-organic-fruity-splash-flavor-30-fl-oz-887-ml/22855#p=1&oos=1&disc=0&lc=en-us&w=natural%20calm&rc=819&sr=null&ic=7?rcode=ted180

I provided a link with a $10 discount code if interested. It has fruit extracts, highly absorbable B vitamins and magnesium, omega-3s. I give our 3 year old one capful daily, mixed in with whole milk. This is akin to replumbing his neural hardware not just reforming his software with timers, time-outs, and what nots. Without sufficient calming agents your kid needs, in my experience, those are all short-term solutions.

Alternatively, cook green leafy vegetables and meats and cut back on foods like milk which over supply calcium artificially.

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retirebyforty February 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

That’s interesting. I’ll run it by Mrs. RB40. Thanks!

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RetirebyFifty March 4, 2014 at 5:21 am

Hi
I’ve been reading your blog for a while and thought I’d respond to this post as it’s very similar to my position. We’re a bit older and our little one is nearly four and we both work from home, so we get a lot of time with him although he now goes to nursery two mornings and pre-school two and half days.
We followed Gina Ford from birth and are very strict around bedtimes. Around age three (?) we dropped the lunchtime nap but he is still on strict 7.00 p.m. bedtime and 7.00 a.m. wake up (and thanks to a Gro Clock he never disturbs us before then). It seems to suit him well and he never has trouble going to sleep. He never naps although very occasionally he’ll fall asleep in the car, such as when he’s been running about all day at the beach.
He now knows how to be just naughty enough not to go in the naughty corner although night time toilet training is proving a bit tricky. Getting ready can be a battle but recently I’ve taken to him racing me (‘I bet I can put my shoes on before you can’) which seems to work really well.
Good luck and he’ll really appreciate all the time you’ve spent together when he’s older.

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retirebyforty March 5, 2014 at 8:54 am

Our guy is going to bed from 8pm to 7am now. That seems to be just enough for him. He naps once in a while on those days that he is too tired. Thankfully, we didn’t have much trouble with toilet training.

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