My reality: dealing with a 2yr old toddler

Around the time my son turned two, people, used to comment about the fact he was now a terrible two. I have extracted a definition of what the phrase terrible twos mean from the Mayo clinic website below for your information.

The terrible twos are a normal stage in a toddler’s development characterized by mood changes, temper tantrums and use of the word “no.” The terrible twos typically occur when toddlers begin to struggle between their reliance on adults and their desire for independence

Basically, in lay man terms, this just means a lot of screaming, misbehaving, mood swings and making mummy and daddy look like they have taught you absolutely no manners! 

When people passed this comment to me about my son, the Nigerian Christian in me was rebuking and saying it was not my portion or his and he would skip this phase. However, within 2 -3 months after he turned two, I couldn’t deny that my son was exhibiting the characteristics of what was a terrible two! So many times I just stare at him like are you being serious! I will give you an example.

Our son is normal 2 year old toddler, he pushes boundaries, but which male (and some female) toddler doesn’t. He knows to say please, thank you and sorry at the right times and if you tell him off for doing something once (e.g picking things up from the floor and eating it), he would in most cases pick them up and bring them to you to take away this temptation from him lol. If he wants a snack or water or to eat he knows how to ask and if he has a dirty nappy he will 80% of the time come and tell you he has a dirty nappy or even bring you his baby bag so you can change him. So there is a background to this lovey young chap.

Imagine my surprise and genuine shock the first time he throws himself on the floor crying like he has been beaten or just fallen down. I rush to him to ask what the matter was but he just kept crying. Eventually I offered him some apple or crackers and he stops crying and says crackers. In my head I’m thinking, why didn’t you just ask, why did you need to cry or scream! So this happens on and off and if it isn’t water he wants, it is a snack or he wants you to get up and play with him. It is something he would normally, in his own way articulate. 

How do I deal with this I ask myself? I try so hard not to lose patience and to deal with the situation as positively as I can. However, when I can’t deal with it positively, I simply ignore him because I know he is fine and he is not in harm’s way. So I simply ignore the screams, carry on with what I am doing while he rolls on the floor or throws his tantrum in whatever way he chooses on that day. On some occassions he eventually comes to me by himself for a cuddle shortly after which he would stop crying. Other times, I go to him eventually and offer him one of the usual culprits or give him a cuddle. On a few occasions, I have made funny faces at him or mimicked him crying and he often starts laughing. This doesn’t always work though. 

I find that it helps to know you are not the only mum going through this and a number of toddlers go through this stage. I have extracted a little bit more information from the Mayo clinic website below that nicely summarises what they are going through and why they respond in the way they do below.

While the terrible twos can be difficult for parents and caregivers to navigate, keep in mind that 2-year-olds are undergoing major motor, intellectual, social and emotional changes. Their vocabularies are growing, they’re eager to do things on their own, and they’re beginning to discover that they’re expected to follow certain rules. However, most 2-year-olds still aren’t able to move as swiftly as they’d like, clearly communicate their needs or control their feelings. This can lead to frustration and misbehavior — in other words, the terrible twos.

Like I said earlier, I try to be patient and understanding, but I am also very concious that he is beginning to learn that there are rules and consequences. I am therefore careful to make sure that however I decide to handle his tantrums positively, I am not undoing the good work instilled in him already. It is ultimately important that when these episodes happen, we are not coming across to our child or children as reinforcing bad behaviour. Therefore, it seems ignoring them until they calm down or until you feel it is appropriate, may be the best way to deal with this. This is obviously easier said than done, but I constantly pray for the grace and strength I need!

It is particularly hard to curb these tantrums when you are in a public place. My least favourite activity to do with my son is going to the supermarket because he wants everything and ends up crying because I don’t give it to him. On the fruit aisle he wants banana, then he wants ham then he wants cheese and so on, you get the gist. It is a frustrating experience for the two of us. In as much as I want to give him exposure to the supermarket and point out things to him and teach him what they are, I’m afraid at this stage, all he wants to do is eat them! As a result, where possible, I leave him at home with a responsible adult and go on my errands. If I must take him along, I pack his own snacks with me and give him those instead at various intervals. This seems to work for the majority of the time. I would like to shout out the men and women out there who see a mum struggling with a toddler throwing a tantrum in public and try to help in their own way by making funny faces at the toddler or by speaking reassuringly to the toddler. This usually distracts the little one and could even result in the toddler laughing. Worse case scenario, they keep crying, at least the kind stranger tried to help.

Most of all, regardless of what they do, as mums, we will always love our children. It is important  that we communicate this to them often, especially at this difficult time. We should keep trying to help them understand better ways to communicate. I know they are still building their language skills and may not understand what you are saying, but I have been so pleasantly surprised by the amount of what I say my son understands. He may not be able to speak to me clearly but I know he understands me majority of the time. So, don’t underestimate your little genius!

If like me you are in the same shoes, hang in there (I know I am, sometimes by a thin thread!). This phase too will be over soon enough. I hear by the time they are 4, we are in the clear! 

Enjoy the rest of your week and don’t forget to share your experiences and tips (if any).

JDIM