Lawd, help me. Chase is turning two, in a few weeks. Scott and I have already observed behaviors that can only be explained as “The Terrible Twos”. Now, I’m no expert. I have only been around children and babies for many, many years. I think the terrible twos can manifest in many different ways. And, there is no one size fits all description of it nor remedy for it. In this blog post, I’m going to share some general things I’ve learned about this critical stage of life. And, how I am literally praying my way through it!
Sometimes There is NOTHING You Can Do
Yesterday morning, I took Chase out to run an errand. We drove to a nearby town to order a cake for his second birthday. (Coming up soon.) By the time I parked in front of the bakery, Chase was asleep in the car. I should have known better that this errand was too close to nap time. So, I decided to drive home. I figured I could grab my laptop and work in my car, while allowing Chase to sleep. But, of course, Chase woke up as soon as I parked in the driveway.
It was only a 20 minute nap, if that. So I proceeded to take him out of the car with the intentions of putting him in his crib. Chase loves nap time! He has always been a good sleeper. But, as soon as I took him out, he began crying hysterically! I’d rather spare you the details. Let’s just say… All. Hell. Broke. Lose.
For the next 2 hours, Chase did not behave like the sweet little boy I know. He was literally out-of-control. Screaming crying. Inconsolable. Erratic.
I did my best to comfort him. Everything apart from a song and a dance! After an unsuccessful process of trial and elimination I realized there wasn’t much I could do. That was my first lesson on dealing with the Terrible Twos.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is NO-THING. Maybe Chase needed some space. Maybe he needed time for his little brain to process and regulate his feelings. Even though I knew he was tired and frustrated for having an interrupted nap. A not-quite-yet two year old may not be able to make sense of that icky groggy feeling. (You should see me in the morning before my coffee!)
Quality Time is Critical
During those moments that Chase was having his meltdown, I almost felt rejected. He would come over to me and I would pick him up. Only to have him throw his head back and swing his arms frantically, so I would put him down! It became frustrating, and at one point I felt nervous. (Is this how it’s going to be, now?)
But, then I remembered how just a few hours prior, Chase and I were having a great morning! We spent some quality time playing, and I got enough free kisses to carry me through the week. It made me realize that quality time is critical. It may not always be on my time table, but whenever I have time and Chase is open for it, I absolutely love playing with him and showering him with love and affection.
Like money in the bank, during a bad day or “episode”, it’s helpful to reflect on the quality times that were a success.
Terrible Twos are Better Described as The Boundary Years
I hope it goes without saying that I don’t feel Chase is terrible. Not at all! I wouldn’t even want to skip this stage (if I magically could, somehow). I am choosing to savor every single moment. The good. The bad. And, the terrible. And, that’s really all it is. TERRIBLE MOMENTS.
In fact, the Danish refer to this “stage” of life as “The Boundary Years”. Because children are merely learning their boundaries. It’s helpful to remember that this is a learning stage. It’s temporary. And, it is NECESSARY for growth and independence.
(Great Book, by the way: The Danish Way of Parenting) Which leads me to…
Teach Boundaries NOW!
Lately, Chase has been pushing boundaries to the extreme! He wants to know how far he can go before Dad or Mom get upset. But, it does make sense that boundaries need to be taught. For the first year, babies never really hear the word, NO. Once they begin moving, they don’t understand that they can’t just crawl or walk anywhere they want! There needs to be boundaries.
And, just as boundaries are INVISIBLE, they are DIFFICULT to understand.
Chase hits. Throws things. Bites! Runs from us! He tries to stand on tables. TABLES! He is also in the “You can’t catch me!” phase. There was one day he was trying to stand on the kitchen table after I had already given him a warning. As soon as I went over to remove him from the table, he tried to hop on the next chair and slipped.
Just like my mamma use to say to me when I was little, “SEEEEEEEE!? That’s what happens when you don’t listen.”
It takes many, MANY TIMES for a toddler to process and remember that certain behaviors are inappropriate. These are behaviors that push the envelope a little too far. But, eventually boundaries can be learned. So, Scott and I will continue to reinforce them. Every day. Sometimes, every hour!
There are quite a few strategies that can help a child through the Terrible Twos. A few I have been practicing are:
1.) HONOR the NAP! Now, I know better. Unless it’s urgent, I won’t take Chase anywhere further than ten minutes, prior to his nap! Car rides make him sleepy. In hindsight, I was asking for trouble taking Chase on a drive at that time of day.
2.) REDIRECT! It can be exhausting going over the same lesson. Don’t do that! Stop! NO! It’s sometimes better to redirect Chase to an appropriate behavior. After all, it’s very unlikely that he’ll be tempted to stand on tables as an adult. So, let’s not exhaust ourselves any more than we need to, MOMS!
3.) MAINTAIN STRUCTURE! Now that Chase is in daycare 3 days a week, we are spending the off days with a similar schedule. We nap at the same time Chase naps at Daycare. We eat lunch at the same time, etc. Consistency is key.
4.) STAY CALM! A mom friend of mine recently told me that when her daughter was young and misbehaving, she (THE MOM) would put herself in a Time Out! In my opinion, THIS IS GENIUS! If and when I feel myself getting really agitated, I will move away from Chase. It keeps me calm, and tapers off Chase’s negative behaviors.
5.) PICK YOUR BATTLES! A few weeks ago, Chase found the 3-step stool in our bedroom closet and tried to climb it. I must say that Chase has exceptional gross motor skills. He can climb, balance, and run probably better than most of his chronological peers. I decided to help Chase get the curiosity out of his system. Here’s how that went:
“Chase, you’re a little small to be using this step stool bud. So mommy will watch you, just like when we’re at the park. Because I don’t want you to fall.”
I pulled it out from the closet one day and put pillows around it. I told him as long as I was watching him it was OK to climb and sit on the step stool.
GUESS WHAT? Chase no longer has interest in climbing the step stool.
In closing, I want to stress that I am no expert with the Terrible Twos! Chase is our first two year old child. Scott and I are learning daily how to be the best parents we can be. At the end of the day, nobody is perfect! And, NOBODY is really terrible.