Rejecting the terrible twos and embracing toddlerhood 

I hate that phrase, the terrible twos. I don’t know how to put into words why I hate it, but I just do. 

I also hate to admit, that honestly two has been a little terrible. There have been a lot of days where I’ve thought to myself, “what happened to me? I was such a good mom, everything used to be so easy! What happened to Laila, my easy going happy go lucky baby?” 

I was just reading a mom page where each woman was saying what age was a struggle for them. One comment particularly struck me, in which a mother said that every year since age two had been successively worse. I felt so sad reading that. I don’t want to struggle every year of my daughters life! 

The phrase “my child is not giving me a hard time, my child is having a hard time” comes to mind. There is so much growth and learning in childhood, some times it’s hard to be a kid. 

I’ve sat down and really thought about my struggles and changes in motherhood. I know that two doesn’t have to be terrible. I firmly believe that a parent child relationship is not 50-50. I think it starts out as 100 percent the parent in infancy and slowly turns to 90-10 etc. 

The way Laila reacts to things is developmentally appropriate. The way our culture expects toddlers to behave more like adults and less like babies is not appropriate. There is this fear that if you don’t “teach” them while they’re young, they’ll never learn. It’s a mantra a lot of us heard from the older generation, but we need to unlearn it. Simply put, it’s just not true. 

Time outs and other punitive methods are not the healthy way to teach toddlers. (See this Postfor alternatives) Actions speak louder than words, and toddlers are watching our actions. I grew up in a home with constant yelling, and that is my biggest weakness. Unfortunately it’s also Laila’s weakness. But she’s not a mean child, or a brat because she yells too. She learned that weakness from me, and so we need to unlearn it together so that one day her kids don’t learn it. 

As parents we need to learn what behavior is developmentally appropriate, because that is the behavior that we don’t need to stress about. It’s something our children will outgrow naturally. 

But what behavior of ours are they mimicking? That’s where we need to take responsibility. Sometimes we unintentionally make the twos terrible. 

Going back to the phrase “my child is not giving me a hard time, my child is having a hard time.” It disturbs me how many things are considered “permissive parenting” and how kids in general are viewed as these unruly little people who have to constantly learn lessons the hard way and there’s just zero grace for them, but oceans of grace for adults. You know never once in church have I heard about children getting grace- but I digress.

PHALT has been a lifesaver for me in the toddler years. It stands for Potty, Hungry, Angry, Lonely(because children’s emotional needs are real important, and should never be invalidated or ignored) and Tired. 

It is not permissive when I am standing in the checkout line at the store after shopping for the past hour and a half and Laila is tired and hungry and throws a fit, and I give her a bag of m&ms. I know that the grocery store is a boring place for kids full of interesting objects that they’re constantly told they can’t touch. I know that I forgot to bring Laila a snack and she’s hungry. I know that I like to get a smoothie or a piece of candy for myself in the store, so why shouldn’t Laila have the same. She is just as important a person as I am. At two years old it’s ok to throw a tantrum, it’s ok to need your mommy to hold you and give you the right words to use, and help you calm down. As the mother of a toddler it’s ok if my child acts her age in public! 

It’s taken me most of age two -and honestly I’m still really struggling with that whole yelling thing- to realize that two is an age I can cherish and enjoy, if I can just learn how to work with it. Power struggles are not worth it, I’d rather teach Laila that as her mother I am here to help her, to teach her respectfully, and to give her grace, not show her who is the boss. It’s my reactions that matter the most because I am the adult. The more that I leave behind society’s expectation of two year olds acting like adults, the less terrible twos are for me.

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