TERRIBLE TWOs: Surviving Toddlerhood
Every new parent hears the stories: The tales of previously sweet-natured toddlers who suddenly turn into tantrum-crazed, "no"-spewing, toy-throwing two year olds. There's a reason we talk about the "terrible twos." But don't despair -- this too shall pass. All of those extreme personality changes actually serve a very important purpose for your child. And yes, you will survive this stage.
Your toddler seems to be absolutely compelled to utter (or shout) this word at every opportunity. Two-year-old children aren't exactly nuanced creatures; they explore the world in extremes. They often feel conflicted and confused, and so they try to assert their independence in the most obvious way possible: By declaring "NO!" at every opportunity. It's not necessarily about defying you, it's about learning how to make choices, test limits and thinking independently -- as frustrating as that may be for you as a parent. This stage should pass in a few months' time.
"Like this! Not like that!"
Two year olds are undergoing a period of great change. They crave independence, but aren't ready for it yet; they deeply want to be understood but don't yet have the language skills; they want to do things for themselves but aren't physically able to. Demanding the same food for lunch every day, freaking out if the stuffed animals aren't tucked in the exact same order every night, refusing to get dressed unless the shirt goes on before the pants -- these are all ways two year olds try to impose order on their unruly world and bolster their fragile sense of control. Sameness, ritual and order provide comfort to them.
The tricky concept of "sharing" won't come into play for another year or two. For now, you're probably hearing the word "mine!" quite a bit. A two year old is still figuring out the idea of ownership -- in her mind, she simply owns everything she sees. She isn't trying to be selfish or aggressive; she is still learning about autonomy, boundaries and personal power. Once she has those figured out, she'll start to develop the ability to share. (Not that she'll be happy about it, but all things come in time!)
- Start with some compassion. Your child isn't trying to be "bad". She's just being two. Separate misbehavior from your child: Correct one and love the other.
- Continue teaching proper behavior. Your toddler needs to learn to respect limits, control her impulses and value the feelings of others. Even though she isn't quite ready yet, your consistent input helps her get there.
- Act more, talk less. There is little point in arguing with a two year old. If it's time to go and she's pitching a fit, gently pick her up and go. She'll still fuss, but at least you'll be getting someplace. Although she doesn't show it, she desperately needs you to set limits.
- Don't expect her to share. Continue working on sharing, but also prevent conflicts by having two of the same toy or putting away special toys when friends come over.
- Use plenty of praise for good behavior. Study after study has shown that kids respond to positive reinforcement -- so when she's acting like an angel, be sure to let her know it!
- Adopt the attitude "This too shall pass." Your child won't be two forever. Remember: After struggling to get out of the cocoon, a beautiful butterfly emerges.
Picky eating is one way your toddler can assert their independence leaving you wondering how to hurdle yet another challenge!