Terrified of the Terrible Twos? How About Terrific Twos Instead!

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Yes, it is true that two-year-old children don’t have much impulse control or emotion regulation skills and that coupled with their very strong preferences has given them a bad reputation as irrational and explosive. I’ve been told all sorts of things about “the terrible twos,” especially when I was a nanny and again as I prepared for motherhood. But it really doesn’t have to be this way. Tantrums and other toddler behaviors that are difficult for us are actually just a signal that a child’s needs aren’t fully being met. Luckily, we CAN meet those needs and enjoy far less of those pesky behaviors.

A couple of years ago I saw an amazing documentary film called, “Edison’s Day” which is about a 20 month old boy whose parents are both Montessori trained. Their whole home is set up to accommodate the budding independence of toddlerhood.  And their son Emerson is clearly thriving as he’s included in meaningful work, helpful tasks, and independent activities throughout his day. If you want to be completely inspired by what a toddler can accomplish if given the opportunity, definitely watch “Edison’s Day.”

I’ve done my best to set up my home in a similar way and have always encouraged my daughter Julia to develop independence as well as nurturing her ongoing cooperation in every possible moment.

And with a few adjustments to your home environment, the way you handle transitions, and your daily routines, you can have terrific twos just like Julia and Edison have! Here are some tips to get you started:

1)   Track your child’s ability to communicate and offer help.

Sign language, guessing what he wants and verbalizing for your child, and helping a child to simplify a sentence can all support toddlers in gaining the confidence to communicate their needs. “You want the cup? Can you sign ‘please’? OK!”

2)   Set up a leaving home and arriving back at home routine

complete with low hooks, a bin or basket for shoes, and a playful but consistent attitude. “We put our shoes away when we come inside.”

3)   Warn toddlers of an impending transition with plenty of time for them to get on board.

“We need to go to the grocery store. Would you like to go now or in 5 minutes? Is there anything you’d like to bring with you?”

4)   Empower your child with the skills and knowledge of the daily routine, self-care practices, and household tasks.

Toddlers are FAR more capable than we might think, so invite your child to try new things and try not to do things for them if they’re capable and willing to do it themselves.

5)   Establish a few very clear rules, post them publicly, and ask everyone in your child’s life to help you maintain those boundaries.

Also, offer an acceptable alternative if your child breaks a rule. “It’s not OK to throw books, but here’s a ball you can throw instead!”

6)   Establish a consistent daily routine and ask your child to anticipate what happens next.

“Do you remember what we do after we take off our shoes and coat?…That’s right! We go to the bathroom.”

So, why do these things make such a huge difference in the life of a two year old? For young people, routines create security. So the more predictable the daily routine is, the more likely your two year old will know what to expect and feel comfortable and prepared for what’s next.

And then there’s their budding independence. The “I do it,” stage. The more we can embrace and nurture a toddler’s autonomy, the happier and more relaxed they will be. That’s because a toddler’s main goal in life is to grow up and become a capable adult. They want to be just like us, so let’s help them learn how!

Have a fantastic week, Shelly

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