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DSCN0736Some things don’t change…from child to child, the stages are very similar. Although my daughter is much more verbal than my son was at age two, she still struggles with some of the very same things. I just have to remember…she’s doing the best she can.

I try to keep my son’s routine as predictable as I can. He knows the order of events, day after day, and although we sometimes deviate from the schedule, I feel really strongly that having a schedule helps him feel in control of his life and prevents meltdowns. Generally, he’s an easygoing child. However, during transitional times that are impossible to explain, I can see his world crashing down around him, and I just feel. so. bad.

Take this morning, for instance. We were at a friend’s birthday party, and he was having so much fun splashing in the baby pool, riding the little baby bikes and playing at the water table. When it was time to leave, I gave him his five minute warning like I always do, and then when it was time to go, told him we were going to go home.

He immediately backed his bike away from me. He can’t yet communicate in complete thoughts, and he doesn’t often use the word, “no,” but his demeanor and sad face told me everything. He wanted to stay. But it was time to go. We got him out of his bathing suit and into his clothes, and walked through the house, thanking the hosts. He saw all his friends getting ready to leave. But when it was time to actually walk out the door, it was also time for the tears.

So we carried him outside. When we got outside, he asked to be put down, so I did, and then he darted back into the house, hoping to get in a few more minutes of play. My husband was frustrated and scolded him for running. But I felt horrible for him. I remember that feeling as a kid; wanting desperately to stay somewhere, but having to go with my parents, because they had decided, seemingly randomly, that it was time for the fun to be over.

When kids get a little older, they understand that parties start and then they end. But at age two, this concept is so difficult. I told him we would come back another time, and that seemed to calm him. A few minutes into the drive, he was asleep, exhausted from all the fun. Obviously, it was time to leave.

But this part of toddlerhood has to be incredibly frustrating. They can’t fully communicate their needs and desires, and often times, there are ridiculous rules that just don’t make sense, like “don’t bring your crayons into the living room,” and “when Sesame Street is over the television has to be turned off.” Our kids do the best job they can at “going with the flow,” but sometimes, just like adults, they have to express their displeasure. Unlike adults, however, they don’t have the power of their voice. And, worse than that, often, no one listens to them. They get silly responses like, “We don’t draw on the couch. Crayons stay in the kitchen.” Can you imagine if, as an adult, you disagreed with someone, and instead of listening to you, they just repeated the rule? So frustrating. No wonder kids have tantrums.

Evidently, they call this, the “terrible twos.” I think this label is misleading. It’s not the kids that are terrible. It’s the fact that their world is getting harder to navigate, and they don’t have the tools to understand and communicate their questions. So, my newest quest is to read and learn new ways of helping my little one move through this phase in growing up.

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34 thoughts on “Why the “Terrible Twos” Aren’t Terrible…for Parents

  1. This is such a beautiful post, Sarahlynne! I think you really got into the two-year-old frame of mind. It is so important to remember that they are not (usually) trying to be “naughty.” They just need tools, lots of love, consistency and time to sort it all out.

  2. This is such a good point. I often feel bad for my 9 month old daughter because it bothers me that babies have no power or control over their lives. I often wonder what it must be like to be crawling around happily, and then all of the sudden your mom just picks you up and straps you into your car seat. “What just happened?” That being said, children do adapt remarkably well. I also agree with you that having a consistent routine is super important.

    1. I totally agree with you! I always think that about babies and toddlers; that all of a sudden, someone just scoops you up to go somewhere else! That is where their trust in us is so important. They don’t become upset because they trust you and where you are taking them. That’s another post for another time! :)

  3. Very, very true. I teach my kids sign language and that seems to help the terrible two’s a lot since it gives them a way to communicate before they have the words. It really helped my daughter. Even at 5 I try to remind myself that she isn’t being rude, disrespectful or like the previous commenter said, naughty on purpose. It definitely takes a lot of patience and pride swallowing to take a deep breath, stop the yelling and get down and really figure the situation out with her.

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder!

    1. Sign language is so useful for these times when they need to communicate. You’re absolutely right! And yes, this frustration does extend past two; thanks for these great points!

  4. Well said! I often focus so much on my own frustration, but should be looking at my toddler’s! You are right–can’t imagine how hard it must be for him to try and figure out the world!

  5. Having had 2 kids that went through the two’s…I agree. They are trying to navigate a complicated world! Here from SITS…happy Saturday!

  6. Great post babe, you hit the nail on the head. I relied on body language and what I knew about my sons’ reactions and what he really wanted. It’s hard to be patient and calm, but doing so models for them how to act themselves.

    1. Thanks, Karen! It is hard sometimes, but I try to remember that he really wants to listen, but sometimes he just doesn’t understand why!

  7. This is an awesome perspective! Its hard for parent sometimes to stop thinking about how the behavior affects them, rather than how the child is feeling. Great post. Happy SITS day!

    1. thanks! I like to try to see things from his point of view…it doesn’t always work, because sometimes we just have to get things done! But, generally, at least talking about his feelings really helps!

  8. My kids are 14-21 so toddlerhood is long past. However, the best information I ever received for parenting (and teaching and other relationships) is that people misbehave because they have a need that isn’t being met. It isn’t always my need to meet it, sometimes it’s theirs, but it still helps. It helps me slow down and try to see why they aren’t doing what I want instead of just assuming they’re being difficult because things aren’t going my way.

    Nice post.

  9. This is such a great post. It IS hard to be that age, when they are starting to want more autonomy, understand what’s going on yet can’t communicate. We also kept a pretty predictable schedule with our kids to help prevent meltdowns and so that they could feel more control or at least predictability in their day. What helped for us was stopping, getting down onto the same eye level as our kids, listening and repeating back what they said (or you think that they are trying to say) so that they feel heard. I can’t remember what book this was from. Happiest toddler on the block maybe? Great post and happy SITS Day!

  10. I think you nailed it right on when you said that our kids are doing the best job that they can with going with the flow. It is so hard to remember that sometimes, but deep down all they want is to make us happy. They don’t understand why we do things the way we do sometimes, and they shouldn’t be punished for that. But sadly I am guilty of reacting to their actions, not the situation, on more than one occasion. I sometimes look back on how I handled a situation with one or both of my boys (ages 2 and 4) and realize that I was the one in the wrong, not them. Then I feel horrible! Thanks for the reminder to think about how they see things instead of what I see! And congrats on being featured on SITS!!

    1. thank you for this comment! I’ve definitely done this too; become frustrated because we have to go somewhere and my son wants to play and not put on his shoes…haha.
      But, I find that talking him through it usually helps. At least for now! :)

  11. This is an AWEsome post. Whenever you hear of a child about to turn two, you hear the warnings, but kids are kids. Good for you for wanting to make the transition easier for your kids. Thanks for being an example!

    Congrats on being featured on SITS

  12. Having been through this phase going on a 4th time, you are handling it all just the way you should. And when it’s over there’s a whole new phase you get to go through that will have its challenges and its great rewards. Parenting is full of ups and downs and the fact that you understand that your child is simply lacking in the communication skills is paramount in making it through and setting up clear routines and warnings of the transition time is helping beyond belief, especially when school starts. Happy belated SITS day.

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