TWO AND A HALF
Hold him a little longer
Rock him a little more
Tell him another story
(You’ve only told him four)
Let him sleep on your shoulder
Rejoice in his happy smile
He is only two and a half
For such a little while!
– Author Unknown
Back in September 2013 I discovered I was going to be a mother. I remember being overcome with euphoria, a state of extreme happiness. I also remember the days shopping endlessly for baby clothes, car-seats, diapers, formulas, and other necessities to welcome the arrival of my child. Those were just a few of the things I did willingly and excitingly along with buying books on parenting and how to take care of a newborn. The journey to become a first time mom was adventurous however, I will not lie, as the time drew near there were doubts, fears, pressures, and opinions from people that stirred many disturbing and harmful thoughts. One of the most harmful thing I came across when doing my research was the concept of the “Terrible Twos”. I am sure if you are a parent you have heard of this myth and many other alliterations that follow the terrible twos, such as the trouble threes or threenagers and the feisty fours. If you haven’t heard of this, basically when a child turns two they are often categorized as defiant, moody, and demanding. You name it and it’ll pretty much describe a two year old’s behavior. So why do I say this myth is harmful? It is, in my opinion, for several reasons. I am going to share my top three reasons why it is harmful for parents to believe in this myth and explain how to approach a two year old who may exhibit the characters above.
MY BEAUTIFUL NEWBORN BABY
My son arrived on June 27th, 2014. He was the most precious thing I’ve ever held in my arms and was my most prized possession. His first days turned into weeks and months. I remember during the first couple months of his life, I would talk to him and tell him I could not wait until he crawled, walked, talked, ran, and started school. But, was I fooled by his size because in the blink of an eye he turned one, then two, then three and just last month he turned four. So why do we become frustrated and label our child as a terrible two toddler when he starts to talk and starts to run all over the house, the store, the park, etc.? As parents, we need to cut it out, step back and reflect on our responses to our child because we are the adult here. So consider the harm in believing in the terrible twos:
1. Harmful to You and Your Child’s Relationship
It can harm the relationship you will have with your child as he grows up. If you’ve already made up your mind early on and prepared yourself for your child to turn into a little demon at the age of two, you’ve set yourself up for failure. You are burning a bridge you have not yet crossed. How do we as parents know that our sweet child who just took his first two steps is going to become defiant and start throwing tantrums when he turns two? We do NOT. As a matter of fact, we are making assumptions and we are waiting patiently for it to happen. When it does, we are going to point fingers and blame our child for being two years old. This is going to establish fear in our child, hinder their curiosity, and most importantly break their trust that it’s safe to express their feelings to us. It may even teach them they are terrible which will have a long term effect on our child’s confidence.
2. Destructive to Your Parenting Experience
If you’ve fallen into the trap of believing your child is terrible at two, you are going to start anticipating the threenagers at three, then the feisty fours when he’s just about to turn four, and so forth. The point is, it is a NEVER ending cycle. As a parent, who would want that? What kind of experience will you have as a parent if the most vulnerable periods of your child’s life was nothing but anticipated chaos? Before you know it, your little “terrible two toddler” is leaving for college and all you’ve done with him was nothing. Do yourself and your child a huge favor by not falling into this cycle.
3. You Are Raising A Monster
Parenting is one of the toughest job in the entire world. I question every day what I can do differently to make sure my children will have a better experience the next day. There is one rule I absolutely live by and it is to never use the phrase, “kids will be kids“. This phrase intertwines with the Terrible Twos myth. We falsely believe our kid is acting out because he is a kid or because he is two years old. For this very reason, we do not discipline our child for their unruly behaviors. As a matter of fact, we even justify their behavior by saying “oh, he’s in his terrible twos” or “oh, he’s just a kid and kids will be kids.” These phrases are extremely harmful. What is going to happen when a child turns into a teenager, a teenager who was not properly disciplined because his parents fell into the endless cycle of the terrible twos? A parent who justified their child’s behavior based on these age old myths? I don’t have the answer but I can see a self-made monster in the far future.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A DIFFICULT TWO YEAR OLD
I do not claim to be a professional of some sort in this field but am a mother who would like to simply share my experience with the rest of the world. I will share how I’ve approached my two year olds during the good, the bad, and the ugly times in hopes to eliminate the constant use of the terms such as terrible twos.
- As a one year old turns two, his curiosity sparks. He starts to understand a range of emotions and will not hesitate to use them. His little brain grows up to about 80 percent the size of an adult brain and his little mouth will start to tell you ‘no’ about a billion times a day. It is our duty as the parent, to learn about the brain of our child and understand their behaviors. If we fail to do this simple duty as a parent, we fail our child because we start to place blame on foolish things like age.
- It is important to understand that during this period of growth, you nourish and teach him. Whenever he throws a tantrum because he cannot get what he wants, see it as a teaching moment, not a terrible two moment. If he is angry, do not dismiss his emotions and tell him he is wrong. Instead acknowledge his feelings, comfort him, and when he is ready to listen explain to him your expectations. Avoid placing blame on his age and giving him what he wants because this is where you start to fall into the endless cycle and create a monster.
- I understand it is not as easy as it sounds. Some kids will not stop the tantrum. If you are at the store, do not stop what you are doing. Finish what you were there to do, do not give that child what he wants, go home, and maybe let him cry himself to sleep. When your child is up and calmed, start talking about what happened at the store and explain your expectations. You must understand that every moment is a teaching moment when you have a toddler.
- Lastly, as your child becomes older, he develops his own thoughts and starts to speak them. Do not make the mistake by silencing their little minds. Let their voices be heard, make sure they understand their thoughts and opinions are just as important, and use this opportunity again as a teaching moment. Your child will understand that although he wishes to put out the candle with his fingers, it is dangerous and painful. With this strategy, you will foster confidence in your child’s decision making. This has an extremely positive long term effect.
I hope this was helpful to you and your child. I will admit that raising two boys is difficult, especially because their age gap is so little. There were many times where I lost it, became frustrated, and said forget all these rational things and started screaming from the top of my lungs. Most of the time when I do lose it and scream, it works but the downside is that I’ve only instilled fear in my children. They did not learn anything from their mother other than screaming or yelling when they are am upset will get them what they want. Remember that we are the parents, we only have a few years to mold and guide our babies to become loving and hardworking adults. For this reason, do not waste time believing old tell tales or myths. Do research because parenting is a life-long learning process. Do what works one day and maybe change it the next if it fails. To be successful as a parent, be willing to always learn even if it means learning from your own children.
Best of luck,