‘Terrible twos’ are a myth.
Readily avoided with a simple shift in parenting which starts in the very earliest of days. Neither my daughter nor any of our grandsons have suffered the affliction of being a “terrible two”. Don’t leave it too late. They do have miserable days and are grumpy if they do not get their own way but no tantrums.
No it is real you say
Do I hear thousands of parents screaming ‘it does exist’ as they recount endless tales of children screaming even kicking, biting, pinching. Triggered when their child is told s/he must leave the park or they must eat X for their tea, they cannot get down from the table or a toy is not to be used. Or for no apparent reason at all.
The preventive tool we all have at hand is ‘ words’.
Babies understanding rapidly runs ahead of their ability to communicate themselves. By talking directly to each child from their very first days, as if they have understanding my experience is that they pick up the words associated with the activity or intent far sooner than the age of two. Once they have words to use their behaviour does not spiral into utter frustration.
Words alone or in sentences
Each of the boys had a small repertoire of useful words by the age of 16 months. Home videos prove this to be a fact and not a rosy view of the past. Before the age of two phrases and simple sentences were in regular use. With a great deal of excited copying of everything a parent says to them- mirror language. We have two friends now who have had exactly the same result with one boy at full sentences by 21 months.
Use your words
Whenever a moment of frustration begins… the tantrums trigger associated with ‘terrible twos’ …their Mum and Dad get down to their level and say calmly and gently ‘ use your words’, ‘ I can’t understand what you want if you do not use your words’. The boys have all learned to understand this request and dig deep into their small vocabulary to find a good proxy if they do not know the exact word needed. A bit of parent guess work and a solution is found.
Add good listening
An early example of the benefit was when I was looking after our then 16month old while Mum and Dad had a night out. They said goodbye to their boy sitting in his high chair. Smiles all round, Within moments and while they were still in the hall all hell broke loose. Screaming and demands to ‘down down’ were initially met with ‘no you have not finished your food’… “Down , door, door’ , then I realised that he wanted to say bye-bye to his parents at the door. It was nothing to do with the food or rules about eating. It was an emotional call and matched the morning routine when he went to the window to wave “bye bye” to Daddy and big brother on their way to school.
He was whisked from his high chair, rushed to the hall in time to see the door open. His parents immediately understood and made much of waving at the door. He beamed. He was allowed to push to door closed after them. All smiles again and back to finish eating his food. Had he not had the few words needed we would have had a full blown battle about ‘finishing your food’. With words and good listening no ‘terrible two tantrum’ occurred.
- Hold the 8-12 month old in front of you facing a mirror and make letter sounds …wait for your mimic
- Changing nappies is a chance for repeating sounds with aggregated mouth movements to help build words.
- Treat the baby as if they understand before they can show you that they do.
- Listen to the emerging rhythm of words
- Repeat repeat repeat words with actions..eg. ‘up’ as you lift and ‘down’ as you do the opposite.
- But do think about hearing if this seems like a possible factor ….. I am not saying it is a panacea but my experience is that it is worth the work