I really dislike the term ‘terrible twos’. It makes me feel like my child has suddenly become an unruly brat. When people, well-meaning as they are, say to me “Ah, the terrible twos” in reference to Miss A doing something irrational, I do my best to bite my tongue. I’ve taken to saying, “She’s not terrible, we love the twos”.
What I really should be saying is that she is being normal, displaying age-appropriate behaviour. And if they feel their child is going through (or went through) the terrible twos, then there’s some helpful things they can perhaps do to make parenting this age more pleasurable.
I think its okay to feel overwhelmed by our little ‘twos’ at times. I find it helpful to express these feelings. I also find it helpful to remind myself of the huge developmental growth that is happening in their lives. They’re refining physical co-ordination, learning language, and rapidly absorbing vast new concepts about the world. A friend of mine described toddlers as ‘little scientists’ – which helped me reframe everything my child does in terms of her learning through testing and exploration. How refreshing!
Yes, toddlers can be exceptionally oppositional and exasperating at times! But there’s very healthy reasons for it. They’re developing a sense of self, they’re learning about separation, they’re learning that they can feel differently to you and still be okay, they’re becoming more confident, and they are very VERY passionate little beings! They want things intensely, and they feel their disappointments intensely.
It may sound obvious, but I believe that toddlers are people too. By this I mean that they have dignity and a right to be respected. I believe toddlers have a right to express their frustration and a right to be heard. And I don’t believe they are, by nature, ‘terrible’.
My challenge to myself is to hear my two year old, to listen to her emotions and frustrations (even if I find them irrational). My challenge is to understand her heart, to be in tune with what makes her tick. My challenge is to have compassion for her as she goes through this huge peak in emotional, mental and physical development. My challenge is to find pleasure in watching her grow in strength.
I found this excerpt from Robin Grille’s book ‘Heart to Heart Parenting’. It reads rather like a manifesto for toddlers, and I’ve paraphrased a bit so I could write it down and frame it for myself as a daily reminder of how I can better relate with my tremendous two year old. If you’ve got a two year old, I hope you find it helpful too.
Be my safe home base,
be my support team
and say ‘Yes’ to my pioneering spirit.
Please be available to me,
but let me go and make mistakes,
let me fall over and graze my knees
and let me have fun.
Watch over me and protect me,
but don’t smother me,
let me run.
Please be patient with me,
let me wander from your side at my own pace,
but don’t leave me until I can really trust others.
And please remember
how to play and be playful,
and play with me.