Sunday 25 February 2018

How to survive the terrible twos and come through with your sanity intact

The toddler years have a reputation for being difficult, but there's lots to appreciate about this time

Crying toddler
Crying toddler

Olivia Willis

The young toddler years are tricky ones. Children in their pre-school years are grown enough to have their own ideas and wants, but their little emotions haven't kept the pace. It can often be a trying time for parents, and there is no easy way to manage little toddlers, especially when they have a meltdown.

'Terrible twos' kids come with a bad reputation for being loud, mischievous and having the worst tantrums.

So, how can you tackle the 'terrible twos'?

While the celebration of your son or daughter's second birthday is joyful, it is hard to ignore the feeling of dread as the word 'no' begins to dominate their vocabulary. Though their outbursts are frustrating, keep in mind that their actions are not acts of defiance directed towards you: they are developing independence and learning how to express frustration.

The biggest tip I have for parenting a young toddler is that you really do have to take each day as it comes when you are raising a two-year-old. Accepting that things can change rapidly is half the battle. Plans can come undone at the drop of a hat and you can find yourself cancelling, rejigging or ending things very abruptly.

My son has just left the toddler stage and it took me a long time to accept that this is just a really normal part of life, and every family experiences it on some level.

But do you know what? There is so much written about how awful these 12 months can be, but there isn't much written on how great they can be, either. Rather than speak of the meltdowns, the defiance, the stubborn behaviour and the days you'll have when you will want to drop them off at the nearest fire station (just for a couple of hours, mind), there will be days when you'll sing and dance and play and see the world in the brightest colours. So let's concentrate on the positives.

Two-year-olds get a lot of bad press, but the truth is tantrums and mayhem can strike at any age. You can survive 'the year of the two' by looking at how positive it is.

There's no denying it: two-year-olds are ultra-cute. Their curiosity about the world is infectious. And while they certainly get into trouble, their mishaps feel accidental, making them easier to forgive. This is a magical age for memories and self-discovery. Even in the hard moments, you can be completely smitten with those blossoming little creatures and their strong spirit. In their despondent 'no's, they are finding a voice all of their own. So let's celebrate the reasons to love this pivotal age, knowing that one day you will look back and wish it hadn't passed so quickly. Here are 10 reasons why you should appreciate the terrible twos.

1Their cuteness while learning to talk. While we delight in hearing them say their first word, it's just as exciting when they start to babble out full sentences. They make lots of mistakes along the way, but this only makes their efforts even more endearing. I still giggle at the thought of my eldest son when he used to call his spaghetti his 'piss-getty'.

2They're big thinkers. Drawing flowers on the walls and hiding jammy toast in your underwear drawer may not seem like acts of genius, but two-year-olds do have their own unique way of looking at things. They are creatures without inhibitions and with raw creativity, and they approach everything they do with fresh eyes and passion.

3They're not afraid to express their opinions. From what clothes they're going to wear to what activities are on the agenda - if you ask a two-year-old their opinion, they'll give it to you, and sometimes they don't even need to be asked. There will be times when your child grows up and you'll find it hard to find out from them what they really want to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon, but not with a two-year-old. They'll tell you, and it's so much easier to plan things when your child has expressed their enthusiasm for something.

4They can let you know what's wrong. Babies cry a lot and you spend hours playing a guessing game in order to find out what's upsetting them. If a two-year-old is upset or not in the full of their health, they can immediately explain what's happened or what hurts and you can do something to help them and get things back on track. There's a great comfort when that stage comes.

5They're adventurous little mites. They're climbers. They launch themselves into thin air with no fear. This perilous play can fray your nerves but, with supervision, it can instil great courage. They learn from an early age to realise their limitations, strengths, and their ability to make things happen on their own.

6They develop their own personality. No two kids are alike, we know that, but it's not until our children hit those early toddler years that their true personality is revealed. We really get to know them even better at this age and can distinguish whether they're an introvert or extrovert and what other amazing characteristics they have.

7They love to help. Two-year-olds are notorious for an 'I can do it myself!' mentality - a stubborn attitude that can discourage even the most patient parents. On the bright side, this self-sufficient spirit also makes for great helpers who love to assist in putting away the washing, setting the table or even feeding the cat. They love to get their hands dirty in the garden and throw things in the shopping trolley, so you need eyes on the back of your head in the supermarket. Enjoy their 'help' while it lasts.

8They live in the moment. You can only admire their 'mindfulness': we read constantly about how we all need to live more 'in the moment'. That's not a problem for a two-year-old. Though their short attention spans can be wearisome, we could all learn a thing or two about being present. They don't hold grudges or worry about things that happened last week. They only focus on what is before them: often content, amused and in awe. From eating a sticky bun to building with Lego, every second is savoured. And although their meltdowns are many, you can take comfort in the fact that if you just wait a few minutes, they'll soon forget and be over what irked them.

9They see the good in everyone. They have an innocent and innately trusting spirit - all they see is new, kind faces and potential friends. This willingness to play with and smile at anyone they come across is unique to this age. They are quick to laugh, easy to entertain, and at this heartwarming stage, we get to teach them about loving relationships, healthy boundaries and how to carry out acts of kindness. They have a naturally soft-hearted nature, and by offering them a little patience and gentle guidance, we can show these tiny tots how to have good interactions with others that can last a lifetime.

10Last but not least, they believe that kisses and hugs fix everything. To a two-year-old, cuddles are magical. When life gets tough for these little folk, they often need nothing more than a kiss from their mammy or daddy. At this tender age, this powerful, affectionate gesture is a parent's most impactful tool. What these innocent little humans need from us at this incredibly young and affectionate stage is love, guidance and the security of knowing a parent's fond cuddle is only ever a split second away. Time goes by in the blink of an eye. Cherish this phase of your kid's life, and every stage. It's tough some days being a parent but, as we all know, it's the best privilege in the world.

Olivia Willis is the co-founder of - an Irish family website with information for parents, family things to do, daily blogs, reviews, competitions and expert family advice

Irish Independent

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