We’re going through the terrible twos. We’ve had regressions in just about every single area, from potty to nappies (in the most dramatic way imaginable), from beaker to bottle, from fluent talking to incessant squarking, from sleeping through in her own bed to spending most of the night in ours. But the one that is really costing my sanity is her transformation into a girl who says ‘no’ to everything, who intentionally does the opposite of what she’s supposed to at every turn, and with a knowing glint in her eye. I know it’s normal, and I know she’ll grow out of it. But if you’re anything like me it’s pretty hard to remember that when it feels like your whole life is being turned upside down by a miniature tornado in a teacup. So if you’re in that place, if you’re sleep-deprived, you’re frayed, and you’re at your wits end here are a few practical ideas that have worked for us the last couple of weeks.
Go for a walk.
Getting outside clears the head, it provides infinite distraction, and letting them run can tire them out. We find it best to go out without a purpose, as when we normally go out to ‘do’ something we end up rushing and that can lead to stress and tension. Sometimes it’s nice to go out and let them dictate where to go, and how quickly. To let them stop and examine the pavement for 10 minutes. It gives them the sense of directorship they’re so often craving at the moment, and it can offer you a window into their minds, and help you remember that they are really sweet little innocent souls that find wonder in the mundane, not possessed little flesh devils hell-bent on destroying your life.
Give them choices.
I think a lot of the terrible twos must be to do with asserting independence and a new found sense of self. Giving them choices seems to help satisfy their craving for control and so they tend to be more compliant when it comes to the really important stuff. So, letting them choose what to wear (or giving them two options, both curated by you obviously or we’d have parks full of kids in swimming costumes with lampshades on their heads), letting them choose what to have for lunch, whether to have a shower or bath makes them feel important and listened to.
Play grown-ups/play children
Ditch the traditional toys and let them help you do an important ‘grown up job’ like organising the tupperware cupboard or the hairclip drawer (both disaster zones in our house so not a lot could make them worse). We find a switch of routine can help snap out of the whinginess and give a sense of achievement. On the flip-side don’t be afraid to get in touch with your inner child. Hide behind doors and jump out at them. Join in their silly songs and use made up words. This often catches them unawares and can elicit a much needed laugh for both of you. We have an extremely long cardboard tube that came with a new carpet and I’ve found I can break any mood of theirs by sneaking up on them and blowing it didgeridoo-style into their ear. You may look like a loony but hey, isn’t this whole parenting thing one long road of (in hindsight) hilarious and often demeaning experiences?!
Sometimes destruction is the only way. They’ll try and do it at dinner time, they’ll try and do it at bed time. They’ll try and destroy everything within reach if they’re in one of those moods, which feels like more often than not at the moment. I reached the point recently where ‘no’ was the most common word coming out of my mouth, and that was no fun for either of us. So I changed it to ‘not here’ or ‘not now’ or even better (if I have the presence of mind to practice positive framing) ‘you can do this later’ or ‘you can do this outside’. And I realised if I created a zone of destruction in which they could go wild and get it out of their system that might be a really great way to avert the constant fire-fighting that was taking over our lives. Our disaster zone consists of a walled garden, a big rubber tub and hose with various weapons such as empty washing up bottles and soft flinging objects such as ball-pit balls. So when my little one is flicking her dinner everywhere for the millionth time I can say ‘flicking is for outside’ instead of ‘NO!’.
Never underestimate the power of a cuddle.
Sometimes, when the toddler in question is hell-bent on making everything difficult, a well timed embrace can catch them off-guard and break the spell. It also helps you remember that they’re still small, they’re still squishy, and in all likelihood they’re not actually out to get you.
GOOD LUCK, GUYS
We’d love to hear your tips too in the comments!