Just How Terrible are the Twos?
Say the word “Toddler” and the dreaded T-words come to mind: Temper Tantrum, Terrible Two’s and Toilet Training. But although this is undeniably a challenging phase, it can also be one of the most rewarding periods if you take time to understand and support your precious little person. You might even learn a thing or two from them!
What’s all the Fuss About?
The dictionary defines the Terrible Two’s as: “a period in a child’s social development (typically around the age of two years) which is associated with very defiant or unruly behaviour”. A lot has been written about this time, and there are many scary first-hand accounts involving two-year-olds. Parents often try to outdo each other with horror stories about this dreaded phase, but it’s refreshing to know that you can make up your mind beforehand to embrace it and make the most of this time, because it too shall pass.
Understanding is Key
The main reason for the turbulence is that this is when your little one is transitioning from a baby to a child. They understand more than they can communicate, they know what they want, but don’t know how to get it, and they often feel frustrated. This is a scary time characterised by overwhelming emotions that can make them go from zero to hero and back again in a split second; from wailing at the top of their lungs the one minute, to laughing their heads off the next.
As Alicia Lieberman, author of The Emotional Life of the Toddler explains: “The most important emotional accomplishment of the toddler years is reconciling the urge to become competent and self-reliant with the longing for parental love and protection.” Whether your toddler is difficult, whining and cranky or hyperactive and wild, there is a very good chance that all she wants is to spend some quality time with you; her parent, so just bear with her.
Many parents feel totally unequipped to deal with this unpredictability, but your toddler needs to have the reassurance that you, as the parent, will stay calm and in control at all times, even if they lose it completely.
The three most common triggers for bad behaviour such as throwing temper tantrums, are fatigue, hunger and sensory overload. The good news is that all three can be prevented. By having a snack handy in your bag, making sure they take a nap before leaving the house and limiting your time in shopping malls (notorious for sensory bombardment), you will significantly decrease the chances of having to deal with a public toddler melt down.
If knowledge is power, consider yourself armed with this knowledge. You’ll be sure to have more empathy with your tiny terror next time he is spitting the dummy (literally and figuratively!) and you’ll relax knowing that soon he’ll be a Happy Little Vegemite again!
The Bigger Picture
So, if you’ve come to the end of a particularly rough day with your strong-willed toddler and you feel completely worn out and frazzled, keep the bigger picture in mind. Follow this advice from Jana Murphy (The Secret Lives of Toddlers) and go “tiptoeing in to watch her sleep for few minutes before you go off to bed. When they’re screaming, or throwing the dishes from the toy tea set, toddlers may seem powerful and miserable beyond their years; but when they’re sleeping, you can’t help but be reminded of how vulnerable, small, utterly beautiful, and needy they are.”
- They’ve got artistic flair. Why limit yourself to a piece of paper when the wall can be your canvas? As Picasso said: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up!”
- They see the best in people. Strangers on a bus, the lady behind the counter. They’re friendly with everyone, no matter what their social standing, name or age.
- They find true joy in everyday things. Like a flower, the stars, a lady bug. Look! Smell! Taste!
- They are willing helpers and quite considerate. You can easily give them a small task, and they will do it without moaning, even if they don’t do it as well as you would do it. Let them sweep the floor with a little broom. It will make them feel very ‘big’ and responsible.
- They show emotion. Albeit sometimes overwhelming emotions, but they don’t try to hide their feelings.
- They live in the moment and they won’t hold anything against you. They forgive easily and even if you’ve been out the whole day; they are always happy to see you.
- They test the limits and are true adventurers at heart. As modern parents, we often overprotect our children and discourage their exploring spirits in a well-meant attempt to keep them safe. But they are wired to discover new things. We actually all are.
- Life-long learners. Toddlers love learning new songs, words, dances, shapes and colours. They are like sponges who just want to soak up new information. We can all take a page from that book!