Two years old. I feel like I get a look of sympathy and understanding every time I say my son is two. We all know and have heard about the ‘terrible twos’. Is two that terrible? Sometimes yes. But I would like to believe I am beginning to figure this age out. Since turning two, my son has began a never ending quest to assert his independence – “me do it!” is a common phrase in my house. Some things I will gladly allow him to do independently, after all he needs to learn how to do things! Many things, he is unable to do independently. “No honey, you cannot use the knife to cut your food. Nope, you cannot use the stove to cook your own mac and cheese. No, you are too young to drive the car yourself.”
Saying no the right way.
For every time I hear “me do it!” I hear myself or my husband saying “no” twice as much. Lesson number one. The more he hears no, the more he wants to do it. Not only the more he wants to do it, the more he DEMANDS to do it. Our tantrums are a direct response to us saying “no”. Now, I assure you I am not proposing you never say “no” to your child. That is crazy. However, I am proposing we consider how we say it. I have noticed that when given a reason first, the tantrum does not always appear. Or when given the ability to do something to be helpful, the tantrum does not always appear. I try things like “The stove is hot, and it is just for grown ups to use, my job is to keep you safe, and you cannot use the stove right now.” and he totally accepts it.
Another thing I have implemented is expectations. We use this strategy in schools as well. If a child knows what the expectations are before the experience happens, they are much more likely to behave in the way you would like them to. We had to go to church for the first time ever. The whole car ride to the church I talked about what the expectations were. We were to sit quietly while others were talking. You could look at books, but you had to whisper if you wanted to say something. You had to stay by mom or dad. I have to say, our first church experience was amazing.
Give them a job.
My son has really attached himself to the idea of jobs. I use this to my advantage. He now has many jobs. After he is done eating, his milk goes to the fridge, his napkin to the wash, and he pushes his chair in. We have worked on this so much, all I have to say is “Lane, do your jobs” and like magic they are completed. I also use this when things may not be going well. If we are on the verge of a breakdown, or not wanting to follow directions, I simply say “Lane, your job right now is to…..” and then he decides he has to do it.
Making small changes.
Now, I realize I have painted quite a rosy picture of these strategies. Do they always work? Absolutely not. But when you Google “terrible twos” it sounds awful and daunting, and I have made the decision that it doesn’t have to be if only I change a few things to help him become more successful. Do you have any other strategies that you have found to work for your toddler? (Also, please don’t tell me three is worse, I’ve heard it, but I am just not ready for that yet!)