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The Contrary Nature of Being Two

Ah the Twos. Each age and stage has certain characterists, good and bad, that seem to affect just about every child in the world. Each child has their own personality and interests that shapes the experiences of the age/stage. But I think we can all agree that there are many things that are simply common to an age/stage across the board.

I often think of a post that Becoming Mommy wrote when her son was one. They were at a party and she spent the whole time chasing her son around. An older girl at the party asked her mother what was wrong with Becoming Mommy's son, and the mother answered that he was just being One.

Well, my daughter is absolutely being Two these days. The contrariness, the tantrums, the unwillingness to do things that she didn't have a problem with before, the headstrong determination, the willfull disobedience... I could go on and on. But those of you who have or have had a two year old know exactly the Twoness of her behavoir. Those of you with younger kids? Prepare yourself. You'll get it to some degree also.

What's really surprised me during this age/stage is my ability to handle it all relatively calmly. Or maybe it's the fact that I've usually been able to handle it pretty well while my usually-laid-back-roll-with-the-punches husband gets so frustrated. If someone told me pre-kids that I'd get less frustrated than my husband at the tantrums and whining and contrariness, I would have called them crazy. This is not saying that he's not handling it well, because he is. But I believe he would even tell you that some of this behavoir drives him up the wall, especially the contrariness and tantrums and when she doesn't answer when he asks her something.

While I don't love the behavoir, I think that I understand it and am perhaps "closer" to it than other people might be. I've always been emotionally sensitive. I really feel my emotions deeply, and when I'm upset, I understand the rage that rises and I remember letting go of tantrums. I remember how hard it was to calm down. I remember being told no and not understanding why and really wanting it anyway and getting SO VERY FRUSTRATED that I couldn't. I think it's my memories, my understanding and my sympathy/empathy with the feelings that keep me calm in the face of some very frustrating Twoness.

That is not to say that either my husband or I just let her freak out over everything or get away with her boundry-pushing. We enforce the boundries, even if it means she screams in protest. We also enforce politeness as much as possible.

Because if the child is going to yell no at everything we ask her? The least she can do is yell "No, thank you!" (Incidentally, it can be hard not to laugh when your child is deparetly yelling "No, thank you!" over and over again, even though you have to wash the shampoo out of her hair despite how politely she is telling you not to.)

And if the child is going to demand that she wants yogurt--that she NEEDS yogurt for dinner? The least she can do is say, "Please have yogurt."

And if the child is done with her food and wants it away from her immediately? The least she can do is set it aside without shoving it or throwing it on the floor.

And if the child is going to throw a tantrum because we won't let her bang and destroy play with our computers? The least she can do is let us know when she is done having her tantrum and ready to talk to us again using her words.

I actually have strong feelings about tantrums, including the fact that children should not be sent off on their own or reprimanded for having these strong emotions (the book Playful Parenting has some really good information and advice on how to handle tantrams without making a child feel guilty for having strong emotions). I get down to her level on the floor or whereever and let her know I understand that she is really upset. I stay nearby when she is having a meltdown, and I tell her that when she is ready, I'll be whereever I am nearby. I tell her that when she wants a hug, let me know. But I also tell her that I can't understand her unless she calms down and uses her words. I stay as calm, patient and understanding as I can be.

I generally don't let the contrariness get to me either. Let me give you an example of why. She's been learning the difference between school days and weekends over the last few weeks. The other day SHE asked ME if it was a school day. I said that it was. And she said, "No. It's a weekend." I replied that actually it was a school day. And she said, "Actually, it's a weekend." I think we had one more iteration before I just gave up and said whatever. A little while later, we go downstairs and she says to her daddy, "Daddy, today is a school day." So even though she was arguing with me just to argue with me, it did sink in that it is a school day. So I just tell her the right answer and let it go when she argues more than a couple times.

I understand these emotions and boundry-pushing behavoir. But that still doesn't make dealing with the Twoness easy. It helps that the Pumpkin is incredibly loving and happy and fun to be with most of the time. It really helps that I know it won't last forever.


OneHappyCow said…
I totally needed this today as I have been feeling the same way as Londo lately. I find myself getting so frustrated, so this helps to put things into perspective for me again and to act on how I know to. Not let my emotions rule me (like I am the toddler!). The main thing for me at this age is the constant negotiation, the stalling, and the contrariness. Oh and boundary pushing. BUT, the joy and laughter and fun of this time is soooo worth it - but, sometimes that is hard to remember when you are ready to pull your hair out. Anyways, it helps to refocus - so thanks for sharing!
paola said…
'Two' will be over in 3 weeks time. Yeah!!

'Two' will be over in 3 weeks time. Sob Sob!
Katie said…
I'm just trying to survive 18 months right now.
Becoming Mommy said…
oy. Sorry, I feel your pain.

We find it best to switch off when one of us feels we're about to lose it.

But that being said, I know we've gotten off easy.

As for tantrums, I do something similar...I tell him big boys use their words and when he's ready to be a big boy he can come tell me what he needs. Then I go about my chores or read a book or something and ignore it.

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