Tips to ease those Terrible Two's
Everyone warned me about those terrible twos. They said "just wait, it'll get worse." "The worst is coming." Terrible Two's are defined as such, because at two years old, a child is going through intense growth and development. These changes going on within your two year old, often result in swift mood changes, rapid melt downs and demanding independence.
"Momma! Momma! I want bath time! I want bubbles and a ball (Bath bomb" I reach over the tub and turn on the water. As I wait for the water to heat up to the right temperature, I reach for Addie's pink princess towel. "NOOO! I no want Princess towel." I pause, and reach for her giraffe towel, "NOOO! I no want gaff towel!" *Sigh* The tears begin to fall when Addie realizes that the floral towel she wants is no where to be found.
I pull both towels out - the last of her clean towels - and sit down on the floor with Addie. Her whining has been at an all time high today and my patience seems to be on vacation. A headache is creeping in. I could pull the mom card, shut this down right now, I realize that this moment is a learning moment.
Addie is trying to exert her independence and share her opinion with me. She wants the floral towel, but is dealing with the disappointment of her beloved towel missing. She is confused as to why mom can't just fix her problem and is realizing that she has to compromise. While the bubbles filled our tub, Addie and I discussed her options: She gets to choose which towel to use and get to enjoy the bubbles or she could choose to be upset and cry, by the time she is done crying, most of the bubbles will have disappeared.
I did not tell her that one option was better than the other or that she should do one over the other. I told her I would sit and be disappointed with her over the floral towel, or I would play Snowman with the bubbles with her. The choice was completely hers to make. Had I pulled my mom card, chose which towel she would have and told her she needed to just deal, I would have been telling Addie that her disappointment and way of processing was irrelevant.
At this stage in life, toddlers go through intense emotional, motor, social and intellectual development. There is a struggle between wanting independence and realizing that they have to rely on mom and dad. They are realizing that they have the ability to do things for themselves - eat, drink, use the potty, but still need assistance in refilling sippy cups, making dinner, etc. They are also realizing that they have to adapt to a set of social norms, there are expectations of them - some they may disagree with.
This stage is hard. It is hard on the toddler and it is hard on the parents. Patience is tested. Sleep is still a distant memory and hanger sets in for all of us. Your toddler is experiencing feelings and having opinions that are now being expressed both verbally and physically. So how do you ease this season? Is there a way to make the Terrible Two's better? Here are a few ways to ease these Terrible Twos:
When a tantrum starts to form, get down on their level. I stop what I am doing and get down on eye level with Addie. I show her that the frustration she is feeling is important to me and that I want to help her.
I verbally identify the emotions she is feeling and put a cause/reaction response with them. "Addie,you are crying. Is it because you are feeling disappointed that your floral towel is dirty?" "I am sad the towel you wanted to use tonight was dirty. Do you feel sad too?"
As Addie has developed the ability to identify feelings, I ask her to tell me what she is feeling. We talk about that feeling and the appropriate ways to handle that feeling. "Addie, you are feeling sad. It is okay to cry when you are sad. Mommy cries when she is sad. But it is not okay to hit Mommy. What can we do when we are sad that will help us feel better?"
There are times when trying to defuse a tantrum fails. When this happens, Aaron and I try to respond the same way every time: We try to remain calm, remove Addie from the situation, and allow her to have a few minutes to her self. We allow her to be in a safe space where she can scream or cry it out, then we discuss with her what happened. We walk through the situation that started the tantrum and we allow her to talk through what she could do differently next time. We remind her that she is loved abundantly and that there is nothing that will ever change that. We remind her that she is allowed to feel and express her emotions. We remind her that she is a child of God and has already been given grace in abundance.
We end tantrums with reminders of who she is and who she can be. We never want her to feel shameful for feeling emotions or being emotional. We believe that it is our responsibility to teach her how to process and express those emotions in a safe and healthy way.
I have heard from many parents that they hate the terrible twos. That they are the worst and that your sweet little child becomes uncontrollable. Yes, the emotions are HUGE at this age, there is a desire to share them, but an inability to verbalize it. That same voice that screams "No!" "Gimme" "Go Away!" is also the same voice that is quick to scream "I wub you Mommy!" "One more hug!" "You're the best!"
The terrible twos have been my favorite stage because I have been able to watch Addie's personality blossom and the "I wub you" I hear each day just melts my heart.
How do you handle those crazy, emotional, wonderful terrible twos?