I’m not sensitive to phrases or words but now that I experienced all the years in toddlerhood, I can say that we really shouldn’t say “terrible twos” – As a first time mom, going into age two I automatically believed it would be the hardest year and after age three things would get a lot easier. Having a four year old, in retrospect, I can now have a laugh at this 100% myth.
I know now that the parenting journey is constantly changing as kids get older, but will always have its challenges and it surely does not magically get easier at age three. I could even argue that it got a little more challenging at age three and early fours, but just around five years old the tide does begin to turn – so hang in there, mamas! You’re doing an amazing job.
By labeling “the terrible twos,” parents end up expecting the worst and it gives us the misconception that for the whole second year of our child’s life, things will be hard and terrible. It’s like we are setting ourselves up for failure in a way – or better yet, setting our sweet two year olds up to be deemed “terrible” for all of age two. Just put yourself in your two-year-old’s shoes. When they have a tantrum and hear – “This is the terrible twos again” – for a developing toddler this is not really the best choice of words. Using the terrible twos as a scapegoat or catch-all for meltdowns is not accurate.
I read on Austin Moms that meltdowns may look “terrible” (especially to outsiders) but a meltdown is really the toddler’s brain becoming overwhelmed. We have to remember that the child is unable to sort out their emotions and logic. Something that is logical to us as parents may not be so for our toddlers because they don’t have this ability yet. They feel emotions instead which lead to tantrums over silly things.
During this time, two year olds are also learning to self-soothe. It’s crucial during a meltdown that we stick by our child’s side to let them know we hear them, we are there, and give them a little space to do their thing (I know it’s hard especially if in a grocery store or out in public).
“Labeling this stage of toddlerhood may be making the stage worse. Giving this stage a name that provokes feelings of dread may cause us to hold expectations that make the stage worse. When we see the first glimpse of tantrum that looks similar to what others have warned of ‘the terrible twos,’ it may warp our perception. Thinking of the stage and tantrums as a symbol of ‘the terrible twos’ may cause us to roll our eyes rather than show our children compassion and understanding. Instead of viewing the child’s experience as difficult because of their stage in brain development, we may view our children as giving us a hard time. “
Read more: “Stop Calling it the Terrible Twos” by Austin Moms.
While you ride the waves of the toddler years, here are three ways to encourage good behavior in kids.
#1 The Three Minute Method
I saw this on Instagram and LOVED it! So the three minute method refers to the most important three minutes three times of the day.
First three minutes when a child wakes up
Example: “Good morning, sweet boy! Did you sleep good? Today is going to be an amazing day. I love you so much. It’s going to be sunny today! Here’s the plan for our adventure. etc. etc.” (hugs + kisses)
First three minutes when a child comes home from school
Example: “Did you have a fun day at school? Tell me one thing you liked about today? What did you learn? What games did you play with friends? Mommy missed you so much. etc. etc.” (hugs and kisses)
Last three minutes before a child goes to sleep at night
Example: Sing a song, say good night words, hugs & kisses and go through gratitude list.
#2 The Whisper Technique
When a child is misbehaving, I get down on eye level with my son. For me, it’s like evening the playing field. Instead of looking down on my son, I get down on his level, say his name, and have eye contact. Then, I use something called the whisper technique. Because I am whispering, it’s like I’m telling my son a secret, and he listens intently.
My son was being very rowdy and wanted to wrestle (Papa “wrestles” with him before naptime and bedtime every day). So I came down on his level, said his name, made eye contact, and whispered, “Papa is eating right now. Once he is done, I am sure he will wrestle with you. Let’s go ask Papa if he will wrestle after he is done eating.”
It worked! I couldn’t believe I was able to get my toddler to listen by whispering. But I did! He stopped trying to wrestle with me, and we walked over to Papa just as I suggested. Miraculous!
#3 Acknowledge & Redirect
A toddler and even small kids don’t cannot separate reasoning and emotion so saying no to something and even explaining why usually won’t cut it. Avoid the back and forth ending with a tantrum and instead use the A & R approach.
First, it’s important to acknowledge what the child is saying or wants.
For example we were going for a walk and our son wanted to stop at the playground on the way home. We just went on the hiking trail and it was close to nap time. So instead of saying no, next time we said this instead:
“The playground is super fun. You must be excited to go again. It’s naptime right now so we’ll pick a day to go. I have a game while we walk home! Whoever sees a flower first wins. Ready. Set. Go!”
So this acknowledges what he is asking for, does say why we cannot go at this time, and then quickly redirects to something else that’s fun. It works so well!
BONUS TIP: I learned this from my son’s preschool teacher and it stuck with me and has made a HUGE difference. My son was having a hard few days at school so the teacher was informing me and my son looked up (was age 3 at the time) and said to me, “I had boy.” His teacher quickly said, “You’re not a bad boy. You just have to work on a few things and good listening. Tomorrow is a new day.”
Calling a child “bad” hurts their self-esteem and it’s just a negative way to address a child when they are misbehaving – all kids are good and pure. So we never called him a bad boy every again. Instead we said “bad choices.”
Read more tips in an article I wrote: How to Get Kids to Listen without Yelling, Bribes or Threats.
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