It's not easy being two

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Parenting columnist Ian Munro offers some advice on coping with temperamental toddlers.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

What is it about being 2? As youngsters pass their second birthday things seem to start becoming unstuck.

The temper tantrums can often now be exceptionally violent to the point that you wonder how such a little thing can be so strong.

They become bossy, obstinate and fight being held. They can be very contrary, demanding one minute that Mum does it and the next minute wanting to do it for themselves.

They can struggle to get out what they want to say because their brains are working faster than their vocal ability can handle, while making choices can be difficult when there are so many interesting options.

They can get upset when stories aren't read the same way and routines aren't followed but, equally, they're inquisitive beings, ready to explore their world for new experiences.

I've quoted this little exchange from Trina Paulus' Hope for the Flowers before, but I think it worth repeating as it sums up the situation well.

"How does one become a butterfly?" she asked pensively. "You must first want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."

Two-year-olds want to stop being caterpillars. They're now confident with their mobility and want to get out and experience life; to see, touch and taste everything around them.

Unfortunately, they're not always ready - physically or emotionally - to cope with doing this and haven't the experience to know the dangers.

Until they feel the pain, they don't know what to avoid and we don't want them to have to experience the broken limbs from a fall off the balcony or the pain from eating poisonous berries. Nor do we want our computer keyboard smashed or our car keys lost in the garden.

However, 2-year-olds can't necessarily appreciate what we're up to and become very frustrated at the limitations and restrictions we impose. And this is the challenge that faces parents: limiting the bad experiences without stifling the inquisitiveness and wonder a 2-year-old has as they push personal boundaries.

So, put your precious things out of reach for a year or two, make access to computers and the like difficult and use child-proof catches and gates. This may seem a pain to set up but, to a 2-year-old, your things have no meaning beyond being something to investigate.

Balance these restrictions by providing places they can explore safely and which contain all sorts of interesting things. Avoid endlessly saying, "no" or "don't" by giving a certain amount of positive direction. Let them know specifically what they can do, or why they can't so something.

In these ways you can reduce the frustration and tears - on both sides!


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