I thought I would have several more years before I encountered the kind of defiance and eye-rolling disdain my three-year-old son, Joshua, has been dishing out for the past few months. We all know that computers and other hi-tech gadgets are making children old before their time, but teenage mood swings from toddlers? 'Yep, the word 'no' is one of the first Daisy learned,' says Margie, a friend whose daughter, being a year older than my son, seemed a good yardstick for kid development discussion. 'She prefers to turn her back on me rather than roll her eyes.' Another year-older yardstick is George. No eye-rolling or back-turning for him: he's more of a believer in dynamic destructive action. 'If he doesn't like the idea of something, he'll grab the nearest object and throw it at a wall or across the room,' his dad, Phil says. 'We've tried telling him off, punishing him somehow and talking reason, but he just won't stop this.' So, both threat and reason have been tried by parents of these sometimes moody minors, but to no avail. There are common factors: all three youngsters are only children and have parents who work full-time. In Joshua's case, when my wife Ada recently took a full-time job and he fell into the charge of my mother-in-law, there was a quick, perceptible decline in his previously good behaviour. Joshua's grandmother can't help but spoil him rotten. But we know this isn't the sole reason. On the brink of employing a domestic helper, I note that both Daisy's tantrums and George's outbursts occur even though they're both in the daily charge of one. Defiance, in Joshua's case, happens at any time of day, not only when tired, a time when all kids are irritable. Ada and I are too busy to attempt to spot patterns in Joshua's mood swings - and therein perhaps lies one of the reasons for them: attention-seeking. With generally only evening and brief morning time with his parents, a well-exercised but nevertheless energetic three-year-old may sometimes want and, in his own way, demand attention. And one fast way to get it is to defy parental expectations. Well, whatever the reasons, I suppose it's better to have an element of feistiness than be a pushover. Let's hope I remember that when Joshua is next playing up. And another plus should be that by the time he's a teenager, my wife and I should be well prepared for the adolescent hormonal emotional roller coaster. Footnote: names of friends and their kids have been changed to avoid tantrums.