Now that I am embarking upon my fifth round of terrible twos, I think I finally figured it all out. I had a “eureka” moment today that I’d like to share.
In the last several weeks I have been in the presence of several two year olds and have observed the interactions with their respective parents, other children and adults. Interestingly there is a common complaint most first time (and second time) parents express with their two year old child.
I hear it all the time and I was one that would constantly grumble myself.
“What am I doing wrong? Why is she so fussy, cranky, feisty, aggressive, antisocial, selfish, volatile…”
Because she is two years old! There is a fascinating transformation that occurs when a child turns two. The once sweet, docile, smiley baby that everybody knew and loved mutates into a whiney, belligerent, annoying little creature.
Folks, it is child psychology 101- your two year old is beginning the process of independence and is seeking to establish an identity of his own. He wants to break away, yet is insecure about how to go about it. He wants to make his own choices and feel like a big shot. He needs to feel that we as parents are there for him should he need us, but only on his terms.
I say that when his temper erupts and he flings himself onto the floor in a rage and lands on his back floundering like a cockroach, leave him alone! Do not try to talk him out of it or reason with him or pressure him to discuss his feelings. He is pissed because he is two and is going through the equivalent of puberty with all its accompanying emotional complications. He is confused and wants freedom yet still wants to be a baby at the same time. He wants it all and still lacks the vocabulary to express his sentiments. He is an irrational being!
My advice for any parent would be to-
First allow the child to have their rage attack- just make sure there is nothing dangerous in the designated tantrum area that could injure the poor soul. Do not interfere nor give any credence to their wild passionate display of wrath. Simply let them know in a very stoic and nonchalant manner that you will be waiting for them to continue playing, eating, etc. when they are “finished” with their “episode.” This allows them to feel in control, albeit of their own fury. This way they experience a little independence which is what they crave.
Now, I’m no shrink, but this way you are validating the child as a free thinker who chooses to enter into a well deserved frenzy.
Second, do not engage the child in decision making when they are in such “a state of mind.” Two options will suffice at this tender age for simple choices such as,
“Do you want to wear the blue or the red shirt today?” Open-ended questions with endless options like “What do you want to wear today?” will overload their already overstressed brains and take hours for them to reconcile. The key is to encourage simple independent decision making when they are sane, never in a moment of fussiness or exhaustion.
Thirdly and most importantly, ignore your child’s negative behavior. Rest assured that they are normal and are undergoing inner struggles to emotionally break free, (but not too much) from their primary caretakers. Allow them that freedom. Don’t be overbearing, overprotective, over-analytical of their plight and do encourage them to delight in “alone time” without you trying to be part of their every waking moment.
Give them some breathing room for crying out loud!
If none of the above works, try sending them to an orphanage until they’re three. I am certain that with the lack of attention and doting, they will become more independent, self-confident and well balanced as a result.
PS- Try this at your own risk and please don’t send any lawyers after me if it doesn’t work. I am a parent learning via trial and error just like the rest of you!