One thing that all parents look out for with great trepidation is the terrible two’s stage. This is a stage that is well known as being one of the most difficult that parents have to face while bringing up their children. An important thing to remember is that the terrible two’s stage is often ‘in the eye of the beholder’. In other words, parents expect their children to be difficult and therefore start interpreting their behavior round the age of two as being more aggressive and oppositional than usual. In response, the child behaves in an oppositional way. However, that being said, there is some truth to this stereotype.
Opinionated Two-Year Olds
There are two ways in which opinions play a role in the terrible two’s stage of development:
- One of the reasons why the terrible two’s have such a bad name is not that two year olds are extremely opinionated, but rather because this is the first time that your child starts voicing their own opinions, which comes as a bit of a shock when you’re used to being the one in charge with all of the knowledge.
- Another reason why this new found interest in their own ideas can be hard to deal with is that two year olds are not self conscious and don’t get embarrassed.
In other words, they’re perfectly happy to scream in the middle of a shopping mall to make their opinions heard. Older children and teenagers are far less likely to do this.
It is important to look at this in a positive light. At least you know where you stand with a two year old, because they like to tell you what they feel and what they want, whereas a broody adolescent or teenager comes with a whole range of secrets that they won’t tell you.
Even though two year olds love telling you what they feel and think, they don’t always have the verbal ability to fully express what they mean. A sobbing two year old who can’t tell you what is wrong can be very frustrating, especially when you want to help them, but can’t, simply because you can’t understand them. The trick here is to not try to get to the route of the problem – your child may have already forgotten why exactly they’re crying and just clinging to the unhappiness. Rather you should try to distract your child and get him or her to think about something else instead.
Just like adults, two year olds are slaves to their moods. They tend to be cranky and unhappy if:
- They’re tired
- They’re hungry
- They’re somewhere in between tired and hungry
Of course, adults often feel the same way, but children are not able to rise above their feelings like adults are. What you need to do is be prepared for meltdowns. Understand what it is that makes a two year old cranky. Carry snacks and treats with you at all times to offer a hungry child who is starting to show signs of losing his or her sense of humour. If you have errands to run and you plan to take your two year old with you, try to schedule these errands for after they have had their nap. Another way to keep them happy is by keeping engaging toys with you that can be used as distractions at the first sign of trouble.
Nothing Better To Do
Two year olds have nothing better to do with their time. Older children may worry, even if only a little bit, about being late for school and meeting with disapproval from their teacher if they are late. A two year old simply doesn’t care if he or she makes an entire family late for work by throwing a tantrum. They have no other plans for their day and they don’t feel the same sense of urgency. It is interesting to note that you could use this to your advantage: if you’re late for work because you were dealing with a troublesome two year old, you will probably be let off the hook by a sympathetic boss. You could even use this as an excuse on days when your two year old is not to blame for your tardiness. The thing to remember is that attempting to reason with a two year old about time and about how they’re making you late is basically a waste of your time and energy.
The Terrible Twos As A State Of Mind
The terrible two’s stage of development is not necessarily restricted to when your child is two years old. The terrible two’s can happen before or after your child’s second birthday. Some parents expect their child to be difficult during this time and start interpreting behavior that previously went unnoticed as being ‘terrible’ signs of a major change in personality. Two things will get you through this stage:
- Accept that the terrible two’s is a normal stage of development that all children go through and that it is a necessary part of your child’s growth process
- Focus on the positive moments and praise your child for their positive behavior
This does not need to be a ‘terrible’ stage for you or your child if you approach it with the correct way of thinking.
5 Ways Of Knowing That The Terrible Twos Have Arrived
Although the terrible two’s is an easily manageable stage if you take the right approach, it is still helpful to look out for the warning signs that this stage is about to start as this will help you to be better prepared for the problems that could follow. Understanding this stage of development and knowing how two year olds generally perceive and react to their world will help you to raise your child through this tough stage of development with the best outcomes for them as well as for yourself. There are five main signs that the terrible two’s are about to hit. Note that not all children will exhibit all these signs, while some will show them all as well as a whole lot of others that are not on the list. Don’t be paranoid and don’t panic: your attitude towards the terrible two’s stage has a lot to do with how your child behaves at this age.
When your child seems to only have one word in their vocabulary, it may be a sign that terrible two’s are on their way. That word is “no”. There are some important things to remember here:
- Your child learned this word from you: you spend a lot of your time telling your child what not to do, and children feel powerful when they learn to vocalize this word back at you
- Once they’ve learned this word, they’ll use it for absolutely everything
It is important to note that your child does not necessarily always mean no when they say it. Use this to your advantage. When they’re saying no to everything, including questions like “Do you want some ice-cream?”, they will soon learn to think before they speak if you take their “no” seriously and stand your ground. Don’t give them the ice-cream because they said no the first time. This is harder than it sounds, but you won’t have to do it for long before they start choosing their answers more carefully.
Another sign that the terrible two’s are on their way could be that you, the parent in the situation, are eating more junk food and drinking more coffee than usual. This could be due to the increased stress of dealing with a child who has suddenly become far more challenging than before. The best way to deal with this is by asking for advice from others. Do some research on how to deal with tantrums, and ask other parents about what they do (or did) to deal with the terrible two’s stage. Getting help and advice from others will go a long way to relieving your burden. Eating too much and drinking too much is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you do not let it get the better of you, and as long as you identify why you are doing it so that you can deal with the problem.
If you are married to a stay-at-home spouse you can be fairly certain that you are approaching the terrible two’s if:
- Your partner takes every opportunity available to run errands and leave you alone with your child on weekends and in the evenings
Parents who have to deal with two year old meltdowns on a daily basis need a break every once in a while. Be there to give them that break. At the same time working parents would not have a child that they are not used to dealing with dumped on them every time they’re at home. The stay at home parent should also be on hand to assist. Essentially it is important that there is a clear and fair division of labor. Each parent must have a turn dealing with the troublesome child, and communication is needed to make sure that neither parent feels that he or she is taking the most strain.
If you realize that you are using food, like sweets or your child’s favorite dish, as a negotiating tool, the terrible tools are probably upon you. However, it is important to remember that this is not an ideal strategy for dealing with a troublesome child. Food should only be used in an emergency situation, or in unusual situations that you and your child do not encounter very often. If you start shopping based on the bargaining power of food, you need to take a step back and analyse your situation. If, after careful consideration, you decide that your child is being more troublesome than usual, seek assistance and try to find other methods for negotiating with your child. If your child realizes that they get sweets every time they throw a tantrum, they will just throw more tantrums.
Time out is a popular ‘punishment’ these days. If you haven’t yet heard of it, time out involves placing your child in a room or corner for a set amount of time, usually a minute or two, for pushing the boundaries. Before they are placed in time out, they get a warning and are given until the count of five to stop doing whatever it is that they shouldn’t be doing. It is a highly effective strategy and can be a very powerful tool.
If your child starts putting YOU in time out, they may be in the terrible two developmental stage. In this case you should only comply if you have done something that you shouldn’t that your child picked up on – this is a good sign that everyone should follow the rules and serves as a good example. If your child puts you in time out on a whim or for fun, do not comply as time out is a punishment and not a source of amusement.
The terrible two’s stage can be a real problem, but if you have the right approach and mindset, this natural developmental stage can pass by with very little trouble. Children pass through a set of distinct stages from the day they are born until we consider them to be adults. Each stage serves a purpose and allows your child to develop new skills and abilities as well as to gather knowledge and learn their own limitations. Clear boundaries are necessary, but a certain amount of freedom needs to be given to children in this age category to allow them to develop further. If you’re lucky you and your child will breeze right through this stage without any trouble at all. Even if you have a particularly tough time of it, just keep in mind that there is always an end in sight and that the next few stages after the terrible two’s are far easier and more enjoyable.