Yes, you read correctly, this is the terrific twos, not the terrible twos. This is a terrific time as your two year-old if gaining independence, is learning how to be a person separate from you. Your two year-old is testing their wings and seeing what they can do ALL ON THEIR OWN! They are gaining their own voice! Isn’t this terrific!! You are watching your two year-old’s personality take shape right before your eyes; your little butterfly is emerging!
As terrific as this stage is, it is not an easy stage, so here are some survival tips.
- OFFER CHOICES. Your two year-old is wanting to feel the power and control that they are gaining over their world. Give them this power in appropriate places by letting them make choices, “Do you want to have your story before bath time or after bath time?” “Do you want to wear your red dress or your blue dress?” Do not give choices like “Do you want to watch TV or have a nap?” A good rule of thumb is to give a choice when you can live with whatever the answer is.
- GIVE THEM RESPONSIBILITIES. Two year-olds love to be helpers. They love to get jobs to do. It makes them feel powerful and also shows them that their contribution in the family is valuable. Give them the job of putting the napkins out at dinner time at each place setting. This is also getting them to do some pre-math skills – one to one correspondence.
- ENCOURAGE. Encourage all positive behaviour that your child displays. Encouragement is specific and sincere. “Thank you for helping me set the table. That was a big help!” “Good job!” on it’s own is not encouragement as it is not specific. Being specific is an important part of encouragement. Beware: Do not encourage behaviour that you do not want repeated – “Wow! That was a really loud yell.” – will only lead to way more of those yells!
- CORRECT, CORRECT, CORRECT. You are constantly having to correct your two year-old’s behaviour. They are not able to understand consequences yet as they have not reached the age of reason. This means “Sand is not for throwing, you may put sand in the dump truck.” If your child continues to throw sand, you will have to take your child out of the sandbox for a bit and then try again. If it repeats, it is time to go home. They are constantly testing limits and you are constantly correcting and setting limits.
- CONNECTION BEFORE CORRECTION. It is important to connect with your child before correcting a behaviour. Connecting as in the above example or throwing sand may be as simple as putting your hand on your child’s shoulder while making the statement or if a child is biting you may say, “I love you but I don’t like the biting.”
- SLEEP. Make sure that your two year-old gets enough sleep, including naps. Most two year-olds still need naps at this age. Keep sleep routines regular.
- FOOD. Make sure that your two year-old is getting enough to eat. This means snacks during the day. Some two year-olds are grazers so make sure that there are always healthy snacks out for your child to eat. Low blood sugar will lead to moodiness and irritability.
- IGNORE. Ignore negative behaviours after you have taught the correct behaviour and encourage positive ones. If your child continually eats with their hands when you know they know how to eat with utensils, ignore the behaviour as it may be a way of getting negative attention. Wait until they eat with utensils to encourage this with an encouraging statement or use encouragement on another person at the table who is using utensils. “Way to go Daddy! You are using your fork to eat!” Watch how quickly your two year-old picks up their utensils!
- CONNECT. Connect with other parents and build a network. Join a group if you aren’t already part of one. Get to know parents with two year-olds so that you can arrange play dates as well as see that other parents are having the same struggles as you are.
- STAY COOL. This is easier said than done but do try to stay calm and be patient. Do lots of counting to 10 and breathing! These little people are learning so much and depend on you to teach them. This is draining so take care of yourself so that you can be the best parent to your little one. Make sure you get a chance to recharge your batteries.
- ATTEND PARENTING CLASSES. Taking a parenting class is a great way to meet other parents and share struggles as you hone your parenting skills. Parenting classes are invaluable.
It is amazing how quickly these years pass and remember that this too shall pass. Keep reminding yourself that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Keep smiling!