Frequently, when I’m talking to another parent of a two year old I hear groans, moans, grumbling, and of the course the famous line “they’re going through the terrible twos.”
I don’t really believe in the terrible twos. I try to not use that expression because I don’t think a two year old has to be terrible. Can it be a busy, challenging, and yes, even a trying time raising a two year old? Yes! But it certainly does not have to be terrible. You really can learn how to parent a two year old with joy!
Right now I’m in the midst of parenting our fifth two year old. She’s probably been the easiest as far as temperament, but she is super active! I don’t remember any of our children climbing all over everything quite as much as Deborah does!
After trying out a lot of different parenting methods, I don’t tend towards some of the conservative child training principles taught in regards to toddlers. Some books teach that if you start training at the first sign of will being shown (before the age of one) by the time they are two they should be sitting still in church and restaurants, they will be quiet when they are told, they should always come to you when you call their name, etc.
Those are wonderful goals, but for our family we tried the methods presented along with those goals and we did not see the blessings that came from it. Our first child was a strong willed toddler, and after having read so many parenting books that talk about breaking the child’s will, we attempted to train our toddler accordingly. We had those 1-2 hour sessions of attempting to get our 1 year old to come to us when we called him. The child never came, and we only grew very frustrated. What was worse – he grew very frustrated. We looked at our young child through the eyes of his will, instead of through the eyes of his innocence.
We still regret how we parented our first toddler, and we believe we’re dealing with it’s effects even today. I actually have a hard time recommending child training books to people because I’ve gotten rid of a lot of them. Don’t get me wrong, we are not at all in the mindset to just let our children be children. We are still training them, but it’s not through the mindset of following someone’s parenting rules down to XY and Z.
Here is my list of what I attempt to teach my two year olds (and remember, it’s just the list *our* family works on!).
To respond saying ‘Yes Mama, Yes Papa’.
I’ve worked hard with our youngest in teaching her to respond to us in this way. She is 2 ½, and I still have to remind her a lot to say it. But I’m teaching her to acknowledge that Mama or Papa has told her something to do.
This has been very helpful with our youngest because it has pulled her out of quite a few crying spells. She will be upset and crying, and I will look at her and tell her (calmly) that she needs to stop crying, and then I tell her to say “Yes Mama.” Most of the time she will instantly say “Yes Mama” (with a cute little sob) and then stop crying. Literally, it’s like there is an on and off switch! I know this probably has a large part to do with her personality (none of our other children have ever reacted so swiftly to this request) but I also know that training her to respond to obedience in this way has helped.
My girls in their princess dresses!
To look at me when I speak to them.
This is another huge thing I work on with our two year old, and we started this before she was two. If I’m trying to tell her something to do, or tell her that she needs to calm down, I first have to get her attention! I see dramatic results when I have her look at me. When I first started training her to do this, I would gently take her face and tell her to look at Mama. I really don’t have to do that now, but it’s funny because sometimes she will hide her face in my shoulder if she doesn’t want to do what I’m telling her. Why? Because she knows that when she looks in my eyes (that’s the important part, eye contact!), that she will then need to obey.
Sitting still in Church
We are not strict on this one, and know that she could probably be sitting still right now in church if we practiced sit time at home more often. For a long time I had to take her out, not because she wouldn’t sit still but because she just wanted to talk! Deborah is very vocal and loves to sing and talk all the time (it’s hilarious and exasperating all at the same time!). When we take her out we don’t go to the nursery and let her play with toys. The goal is that she sit on our lap and looks at books. We’re still working on this, but we also are not going to beat ourselves up over it. The main thing is that she learn to sit quietly as soon as she is able. In the meantime, we try to be as respectful as possible to the people around us in the service until she learns. In other words, we’re not going to have it out right there in the middle of church while people are trying to worship. Please don’t do this! Take your child out and try to instruct her somewhere else. Better yet, work on sit time in the comfort of your own home. Your brothers and sisters will thank you!
Do Simple Chores
I don’t assign chores to our 2 year old. I do have her try to help me with a few simple things, but the one thing I’m consistent on is that she throw her diaper away in the trash after I change her. Sometimes she doesn’t like to do this, but once again we go back to the ‘look at me and say “yes Mama”‘ rule, and then she will stop whining (95% of the time) and cheerfully go throw it away. Part of training your children is just learning what you can be consistent in as a parent, so for me I knew I would be consistent in training her to throw away her diaper.
We enjoy our two year olds. They are so adorable and so funny! We laugh at them and with them, and I think we cherish each two year old more and more because we see how fast time goes. When my oldest was two I couldn’t wait for him to be a little bit older. Now I want to put the breaks on and stop Deborah from growing! Right now she is still our baby, and everyone loves on her accordingly .
I do have days where I get exhausted from keeping her out of things. If the older children are doing an activity she wants to be right there with them and make a mess! That’s when I look forward to nap time, which she still has right after lunch. She sleeps in a pack-n-play in the girl’s room, and just recently learned how to climb out of it. For about a week I had to correct her and put her back in her bed, sometimes several times a day. Now she is pretty good about staying in there to sleep. She has a special blanket that she is very attached (it was a lap blanket of my moms, who Deborah is named after, so that makes it very special to me!). It doesn’t matter if it’s winter or summer, this warm blanket must be beside her to sleep!