I’m talking about the two’s. The terrible two’s. I used to think this was a saying that was setting parents up for failure. I used to think, well of course it will be terrible if you assume it’s going to be terrible. So I walked into this period of development with eyes wide open (or, perhaps shut is more accurate) to the various behavioral possibilities. K has been an enormously low-key and pleasant kid so I thought, how bad can it be?
Many parents of toddlers that I have talked to recently have all had similar things to say about the “terrible two’s.” It came on fast, and and it came on intensely.
Such has been the experience with K gaining a sense of autonomy and control over his pint-sized world.
Sometimes, while dealing with hitting, yelling, and pouting, I can’t help but think where in the world has my child gone? Those are the more melodramatic days though, because despite some tantruming, compared to some other kids I’ve witnessed he is still really quite good! He listens (most of the time) to directions, does what is asked of him, and is really pretty pleasant and hammy. But, as with many kids his age, he’s got a low frustration tolerance. So he tends to respond accordingly.
In light of this change in behavior, however, here are some things I have learned about how to deal with an unruly toddler:
1. Give choices (no more than 2 or it is overwhelming); they will involve the same “end” if you will (that being, whatever it is that mom wants you to do), but your toddler still feels like he has some control over the situation. Ex: “you can walk up the stairs like a big boy by yourself, or mom can carry you if you’d like.” Usually he picks walking himself, but the boy is still going up those stairs.
2. Nothing (or maybe, almost nothing) is so important that it cannot be stopped momentarily to interrupt a tantrum. If we are out in public, not giving K the opportunity to hold people hostage while he freaks out is important. I am perfectly okay with picking him up and removing him from a situation until he can calm down.
3. And when he can’t calm himself down, you better believe we will be leaving. Because honestly, at that point he is probably either overtired, overwhelmed, overstimulated, or possibly all three. Staying anywhere to prove a point or try to teach a lesson is simply not worth it, because you may find that you don’t get very far. Or at least, I don’t.
4. “Quiet time” is a wonderful thing. And sometimes, it’s not even really for the kid.
In short, this is all normal, which I have to remind myself at times. At this age, kids are developing a sense of self-awareness and control; they want what they want, and do not necessarily understand when things don’t go their way. Really, toddlers are just the inner-most parts of our adult selves that we’ve learned how to tame and control, because it is socially unacceptable as adults to throw ourselves on the floor and yell when we’re frustrated. As adults then, we have to use those moments the best we can to teach. And when you can’t, well, there’s always quiet time.