Veteran parents and inexperienced ones like myself all speak about the strange phenomenon that is the ‘terrible twos.’
I wanted to know more and did some research about it, hoping to put together a strategic, full-proof plan that would save me from this dreaded stage. Much to my disappointment, and probably yours too, I found one common thread in every article I read: whether you want it, know it, or acknowledge it, your child will go through some type of ‘terrible two’ stage. But even in its most terrible stage, the ‘terrible twos’ are terrific too. Your child is learning something new every single day, sometimes multiple new things in one 24-hour cycle. They are changing from toddlers into little people and it’s during this stage that you begin imparting wisdom and sacrifice and discipline and compassion into your child’s soul too. It’s terrifying and terrific all at the same time.
In my head, I’m screaming “Why meeee?” on my knees in a very theatrical way. The good news is that we aren’t alone. But knowing that I’m not alone doesn’t help when your toddler is throwing a tantrum in the middle of the road on the zebra crossing in front of the SupaQuick with everyone watching…
What helps me is knowing exactly why he is doing the things he’s doing. Put simply, the reason why children go through the terrible two’s is because they have the mental capacity to know what they want and need but lack the physical and verbal skills to express that need. Imagine yourself wanting a cup of delicious Hooligans & Gentlemen Coffee but you physically aren’t able to get it yourself and the only words you know are “mama” and “papa” and “no”. Imagine the frustration you feel when the label on the inside of your shirt is scratching you, but you can’t prevent it from happening or tell the big, lumpy adult what’s bothering you either. The only form of communication and the thing that makes the lumpy adult react, is when you start crying and roll around on the floor kicking and screaming. This is not to say that every child will be prone to tantrums. Like with all things, there are a million different ways in which your toddler can go through this stage. Some will breeze past tantrums and make a pitstop at picky eating before continuing on to frustration station.
William is 4 months away from turning two, but I can already see his little personality emerging. That being said, I’ve also started to notice some behavioural changes. Like pushing limits, temper tantrums, defiant mood swings and the incurable need for independence. He wants to do everything himself. The ‘terrible two’ stage can start anytime from 18 months and last to about 30 months. This is not to say that it can’t begin earlier, but if tantrums don’t begin to decrease after 3 years old, I suggest you seek out a professional. By three years old, children start using physical and verbal tools to help them express themselves and should be able to tell you when they want something or when something is bothering them.
“How should I manage and navigate this stage?”, is probably your next question. Or if you’re anything like me you might be asking “How do we just get through it without someone dying?”. The good news is that you can make it easier on you and your toddler. By now, you probably know when he/she might get angry or frustrated. So, try avoiding these scenarios. If you know your child gets temperamental when he’s hungry, then try to keep snacks with you. Or you can rely on parents’ favourite friend: distraction. Try and keep your home environment safe. It causes less stress, but also decreases the chances of you having to deal with a crying toddler because you won’t let him eat the Sunlight Liquid. The biggest thing is to remain calm. Not only does it allow you to take rational, well thought-through actions, it also stands as an example for the little person who’s copying your every move. If you scream every time your toddler does something upsetting, you can bet your bottom dollar that he will be screaming every time he’s upset about something too.
* As a language fundi and language teacher, I can tell you that never in my life have I found skill of language more important. The better they can communicate, the less reason they have for getting upset because you don’t understand them. Let me know in the comments if you would like me to put my language teaching skills to good use and write an article about the tricks of the trade that is language acquisition!