My boy just turned two last month and oh what fun has it been! Along with a sudden surge of confidence and independence, comes an overflow of words. He has begun experimenting more, trying out things he has not done before. The adventurer in him begins exploring places by himself.
He started expressing himself in sentences, though not always linear, still comprehensible, at least to me. His personality starts showing as he voices out his likes and dislikes.
He has tested some boundaries and pushed our limits at times. His daringness keeps us on tippy toes; his insistence tries our patience. These are coupled with the constant yelling of no and bursting out into tears, all part of tantrum throwing as frustration builds up when things do not go his way.
In short, hello terrible twos.
Terrible twos is the infamous period when your child is no longer a baby yet not as matured as a pre-schooler. This in-between season is trying for parents as we do our best to make sense of our toddler's behaviours. Often, this happens around their second birthday. Some earlier and some later.
The journey to independence begins but there is still so much growing and learning to do. Mastery is at a beginner’s level at this age since they have just started this journey of trial and error. Our toddlers start wanting to play in the big children playgrounds but might not be tall enough for the steps and slides. They look forward to interacting with the older children but are not eloquent enough to articulate exactly what they want.
A series of self-determination, insisting, tantrum throwing and meltdown repeats itself almost every day.
We often try to reassure parents with two year olds that they’ll do a good job during this trying moment by prophesying terrific twos instead of the expected terrible twos. We encourage them to believe for a great year ahead despite their child turning two and going through a period of development from reliance to independence.
While the overall concept to speak forth the good over our children has its importance, this idea might be setting them up for an unrealistic expectation – the ideal child who doesn’t throw tantrum despite being frustrated and trying to figure out the big world.
The truth is our child will go through a period of working things out with their newly learn linguistics, honing their motor skills as well as managing their often overwhelming emotions. With all the juggling of new things physically and emotionally, there’s a high probability our child might respond in ways that are inappropriate and unacceptable in society. All these will probably still happen, in spite of us praying for them to be terrific twos.
Understanding the reason
One of the crucial point in dealing with terrible twos is to understand - we need to know the reason behind their actions. First and foremost, understanding that their actions are out of learning and not defiance, is very important.
As parents, we might sometimes misinterpret that our child is acting up because they do not want to listen to us. However, they are not intentionally disobeying us but trying to find a compromise between having their own way and still pleasing us. Often them managing this dilemma is what results in tantrums and outbreaks of tears.
Understanding that our children’s stomping tantrums aren’t focused at making us angry neither them lying on the floor in tears targeted at making us embarrassed, helps us to see the situation clearly without being emotionally hurt in the process.
Modelling the way
When we take this into consideration, we are less likely to burst out in anger and helplessness but more likely to stay composed and calm. As we understand love is in the middle of all these uproar, we tend to respond with love too by caring for the little ones and empathising with their mixed feelings.
Since our toddlers are learning what’s right and wrong, what’s proper and not, it is even more crucial for us to set the right example for them to follow. Their sponge-like brain is absorbing how we deal with daily events and also how we respond to them. Our toddlers need to be pointed in the direction we want them to go rather than just stopping them from going their way because they were off course.
While it’s often easier to focus on telling them not to do the wrongs they have been doing, more importance should be placed on not only telling but showing our children what should be done. They need to know and see what they can do and should be doing, instead of us continually pointing out what shouldn't be done. Instead of just instructing them not to shout or stomp, we should model the behaviours we want by saying please politely and being gentle with our hands and feet, in turn encouraging them to do likewise.
A different perspective
So is it possible to turn terrible twos into terrific twos? No and yes. No because we won’t be able to skip the entire process of our child's development from reliance to independence and the struggles that come with it. Yes because from a different perspective, this particular developmental stage isn’t terrible but in fact a terrific stage of their life where we have the privilege of being a catalyst of Godly behaviours.
When we look at our two year old from a different perspective, instead of labelling their behaviours as defiance, but understanding they’re learning through trials, we’ll begin to see how tremendously blessed we are to play a pivotal role in sowing the right seeds in them at this age. This period where parents wished would pass by quickly now becomes an investment arena which we hope will last so we can deposit more into their lives.
Esther Koh is a stay-at-home mum living in Wellington with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
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