Arguing Three-Year-Olds

By Greg Baer M.D.

June 19, 2017

I could not count how many times I have listened to adults argue. The following is representative of thousands of them:

First Person: “You were unkind (rude, snotty, mean, thoughtless) to me.”
Second Person: “You were unkind to me first.”
First Person: “You were unkind to me more.”
Second Person: “But only because you were unkind to me first.”
First Person: “No, I wasn’t first. I was just responding to you when you said X to me first.”
Second Person: “Only because you weren’t listening.”
And so on, often for a very long time.

Sure, the variations on this conversation are considerable, but the root pattern is very common. Insanely, the people involved in such arguments actually believe that they sound sensible. How could this possibly be? How can adults sound so unreasonable while believing that they’re not?

The other day I listened to two three-year-olds in the backseat of a car:

First 3-y.o.: “You touched me.”
Second 3-y.o.: “You touched me first.”
First 3-y.o.: “You touched me harder.”
Second 3-y.o.: “No, you did.”
First 3-y.o.: “You moved close to me first.”
Second 3-y.o.: “No, you did.”

Notice the similarity between the adult argument and the one between the three-year-olds? That’s because they really ARE similar—almost the same. Most adults arrest emotionally at age three or so, and for the rest of their lives they search unproductively for what they missed as children. Unfulfilled and angry, they encounter other three-year-olds in adult bodies, and the ensuing arguments are predictable.

If we don’t get the love we needed as children, we continue to behave as children. Our bodies may grow, and our ways of responding to our pain may become more varied, but we still react as children to needs that were never fulfilled when we were children. Whatever age we are, we must find the love we did not receive when we were very young. Only then will our conversations and behaviors become worthy of who we really are.


Recover from your negative habits and beliefs!


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

Subscribe to our newsletter now!