As we navigate through parenthood, there’s so much we learn, while we are busy trying to teach. A shift in our attitude towards our children could be the key. Although entering a 2-year old’s mind is not an easy task, but let’s take our chances. We might surprise ourselves.
My child turns two years old in a couple of months. As I interact with parents of children in a similar age group i.e. 2 to 3-year old, I often hear mommies telling me about the ‘Terrible Twos’ phase. Curious, I ask them what it means. Raj*, a working professional and a young dad told me, “It’s a phase where children start throwing tantrums until they get what they want”.
Puja*, a homemaker and a mother of a 3-year-old says, “My son refuses to listen to me. The other day, he flung one of his toys outside the window and tries to do it often to seek attention”. My closest friend, in a fit of frustration, scolded her almost 3-year-old son, as he tried to climb the window. In fact, she turned around and bawled at me, “This is the 20th time I’m telling him.”
Some quick online research suggests that the ‘Terrible Twos’ as we call them, is nothing but a child’s big developmental stage where he’s learning new gross as well as fine motor skills like climbing, jumping, stacking blocks, and scribbling. His verbal skills are developing but aren’t developed enough for the child to clearly articulate his feelings and actions. While children get better at a particular activity, they try new ways to explore it.
I understand why parents’ lives are dominated by ‘no’. Often, already tired of working from home and finishing up household chores, the last thing you want is your child climbing up the window – as an expression of his newly found skill! Having already gone through a series of ‘Nos’ for the day, it seems natural for either of the parents to reprimand the child or lightly slap his back. What started out as a fun activity for the child, is turning into a nightmare, for both the toddler and the parent. What’s worse, the behavior continues the next day and the next, and our frustration as parents continues to soar. We seek solace in reprimanding them, confiscating their toys, or punishing the child for his or her ‘unruly’ behavior.
So, the question is, is there a better way?
Lubina Agarwal, an eminent holistic therapist based out of Mumbai, suggests drawing clearing boundaries with your child and letting him or her know that certain things are non-negotiable. She further says, “Parents need to stay calm and consistent”. No matter how many times you tell your child not to do something, he or she will. It’s her way of seeking your attention. Scolding and confiscating will drain you of energy and the child will get busy crying, but the behavior won’t necessarily stop. The child may alter his behavior when the message is emphasized enough times and he understands why he shouldn’t do something.
I don’t mean lecturing a 2-year-old, you might just get him to sleep (I know that works too! Just kidding!) but politely letting him know what the right thing to do is. For instance, if a child tries to throw the toy again, let him know he might hurt a passerby or his toy will break and he won’t get the toy to play with, and so on.
As I have come to interact with my child in a certain way, I have realized that I must go through the same thing practically every day. The crux of the matter is – you’ll probably have to say ‘no’ over 20 times and keep your calm! We are talking about toddlers! You’ll need patience, care, and importantly, you’ll have to find ways to beat your own frustration.
It’s not the ‘Terrible Twos’ that needs a makeover, it’s our attitude towards our children that needs change. It’s the best time of your children’s lives as they explore and take on bold new adventures, we need to understand their world. To put it in perspective, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time on this wonderful planet while our kids have been around for about two or three years. It’s only fair that we give them multiple chances.
We, as adults, make mistakes and are learning to forgive ourselves. How about we do the same with our kids, routinely and politely? It’s how we treat our children that will eventually shape their attitudes and understanding. As we teach them the good from bad and the right from wrong, they will learn to play their role in society and eventually, in the larger scheme of things. Lubina also reminds us, “This development stage is building a healthy ego for the child. Parents potentially suppress the child’s development by scolding or slapping.”
If we distract them onto some other chore, we might have some temporary respite. And the trick works. I have friends and family saying, “children are such tricksters”. But believe it or not, they’re being themselves. We are the tricksters – and distracting them into another creative pursuit might be one way for us to engage them. As they learn to get better at everything – be it vocalizing their feelings, learning to eat by themselves, or developing a new skill, we need to shower them with love. Lots of it. Let us enter their world with love and respect, they might pleasantly surprise you.
As I start thinking about what my childhood was like, my parents had a different way to teach me life lessons. I’m sure, if we try, we can do better. Let the ‘Terrible Twos’ turn to ‘Awesome Twos’ because, honestly, we still have a long way to go, before we sleep.
*Names changed for privacy
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