My daughter Tracy’s 3rd birthday is around the corner, and reflecting on the past year, or what is known as the ‘terrible twos’, I thought it would be a good idea to share my survival tips with my mom readers who are approaching this phase.
1. Put a positive spin on your child’s 2nd year and think of it as the ‘terrific twos’. Hope for the best but expect the worse, and once you get into that mindset you will automatically be optimistic and mentally prepared.
2. Keep in mind that your child isn’t having a tantrum to anger you, it simply means that they are overloaded with emotions they don’t know how to deal with, because their mind and body are unable to process them at this young age. Instead try to understand what they are going through and save the lecture for later on when they are calm again. Bring them in for a big hug, no matter how hard it seems, it is in these challenging situations that they need the most love.
3. Many children won’t appreciate sudden plans, such as interrupting their play time for a bath, so make sure you explain beforehand what will happen. What I usually do when Tracy is playing, is going through the minute steps of what we will do. ‘How about you continue playing for five more minutes, then you can start taking off your shoes (etc) by yourself because you’re a big girl, then we can shower and you can play with your bath toys, then when we’re done you need to drink your milk….’ is my typical sentence. That way you can avoid unpleasant surprises for your child, they will know what to expect next, and most importantly you create the illusion that this was all their idea which is a good way of building up their confidence.
4. Avoid ‘time-out’ because it will signal to the child that difficult feelings aren’t normal and they should deal with them on their own. Have a ‘time-in’ and show your toddler that you love them even when they are on their worst behavior.
5. Keep your cool and try not to be provoked, because once you get worked up and try to stop the tantrum it will only spur more action. Each child will deal with it in a certain way, some will scream, some will throw everything in sight and make your home look like a landmine exploded, and some will lay down and roll on the floor and transform into limp lifeless bodies as you try to make them stand up again. Breathe, count to 10 (or 100), and remember that this is just a phase, and be careful not to lash out verbally (or physically) because an instant’s act might take a lifetime of undoing.
6. Offer a distraction. Each kid has a soft spot for something, perhaps it is a certain type of food, a sticker book, a toy or a car ride. Keep trying until one of the options you have works and calms your child down.
7. Every task will require a lot of patience and creativity from your side, things that you never would have imagined needing this much effort will leave you begging for your child’s compliance. Drinking milk, finishing a meal, brushing teeth, getting outside the door, sitting in the car seat, and the worst of them all…sleeping! Try not to give up or give in, some issues are a clear yes or no without any gray areas, depending on your house rules.
8. Toddlers are trying to assert their independence so it is a tricky phase, and while we don’t want to break their wings and force them to submission, we must set boundaries and consequences. If you say no to a request, make sure to stand your ground no matter how much wailing they do. Once they settle, explain why you said no and offer an alternative activity.
9. Sometimes the root of the problem is something you can solve at once. Is your child hungry? Thirsty? Cranky? Don’t ignore the simple solutions, they might have worked up an appetite, its a wonder how calm they become after they eat. Is it past their nap-time? Put them down for a short while in their bed if they are over tired.
10. Connect with other mothers on forums, the internet is full of parents on the verge of insanity so you can be sure you are not alone. Make sure you also look up parenting memes and humor, you will laugh endlessly and will feel relieved when you realize how many millions of parents are going through the same issues!
Parenting is challenging to say the least, and although the difficult times may seem to go on forever, in retrospect they actually pass by really fast, so learn to enjoy the good and the bad before it goes by in the blink of an eye.