Now, I know you have all just read that title and are thinking, “Laura, are you ok? Of course the terrible two’s are terrible, hence the name terrible”. I’m going to explain my reasons, and also the ways I have managed to find them not so terrible. Of course there have been days I have shouted, lost my temper, cried and wanted to run away and hide, that is all normal and mostly, it is ok. Firstly, Lexi is now three and for the most part definitely over the worst of it, with the odd day and moment but I do feel we have worked together and got over the more difficult stage.
Two year old's are developing at a crazy rate, all the new experiences they’re going through and learning and especially going through all changes happening right now, thanks covid! Our little ones brains must be running 100 miles an hour. As parents we want to teach our children good from bad, right from wrong, what’s acceptable behaviour and not acceptable behaviour. When I think back to some of the things that would cause Lexi to have a screaming match or throw a toy, a lot the situations were really small issues to me because I’m an adult and could see the logic behind my reasoning. I also began to notice that sometimes the situation would have been something I would have allowed on another day but for whatever reason today I’ve said no. Maybe we were planning on leaving the house soon, or maybe it was super close to bedtime. To us as adults that’s logical, you’re not going to start baking biscuits just as you’ve put your pyjamas on to go to bed, or get paint out as you’re getting your shoes on because you have a doctor’s appointment. To us that just doesn’t make sense, but we also have a sense of time.
Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong? Here’s a small story to show how I think it feels for a toddler. I used to work in Edinburgh, some days I would get the train early and go the gym before work (no idea where she’s gone now, but would love to get that motivation back, we love that version of me). At the gym, lifting some decent weight, feeling positive and looking forward to the day ahead. I go for a shower and realise the clock in the gym was slightly wrong and I now need to rush to get showered and dressed so I’m not late for work or at least not too late. It’s ok though, no big issue. Get to work and bang, my only hair bobble snaps, leaving my wet, un-brushed hair looking like Hagrid on a bad day not even a normal Hagrid. Starting to get annoyed and losing my positive feeling. That day honestly just felt like it went from bad to worse. We had so little staff due to sickness, the store was so busy which meant clothes all over the place, we were due to set up sale for the next few days and I felt exhausted and sensed something in the air as the customers were not the most pleasant to deal with. Finally finishing my shift just wanting to go to bed and have a good cry and the strap of my sports bag snapped walking to the train station. Now all these little things occurring by themselves would probably not massively affect your day right? But one little thing after another little thing as well as feeling tired just tips the emotions that little but further and can really ruin your mood and your day.
Now turn one of those days you have had into how a toddler may feel day in day out without the capability of understanding or dealing with their emotions on top it. Usually from about age 4 is when children can really start to understand and manage their emotions, so in some ways, it’s really not their fault.
Once I started to understand this, I started to be a bit more understanding, I tried new ways to help Lexi work through her frustration and anger. I started going down to her level, offering a cuddle and taking cues from her. If she didn’t want a cuddle I would stay down at her level until she did or until I could see she was starting to calm down. I would then calmly explain what we were doing instead of the activity she wanted to do, but let’s do this activity later. It usually ended in her still crying hysterically but she would come round to wanting a cuddle and after a cuddle a back scratch (which calms her instantly) she would have forgotten about it in that moment.
If all of that failed and the calm talking, offering a cuddle didn’t work I would tell her where I was going and leave the room (if I knew she would be safe and not flinging herself around the place that is). Beforehand I would stay and I would try reasoning with her more and more and louder and louder which in fact made her louder and louder until I would snap and shout. Which only got her more upset and stressed me out, so didn’t help either of us. Leaving the room gave me that time I needed to compose myself, deep breaths and also a few affirmations helped at this point. You can choose anything you find that will help you. A couple of my favourites are shown below.
I usually found by the time I had taken a few deep breathes, said my affirmations and managed to calm myself down, Lexi would be running through wondering where I had gone, wanting a cuddle. At this point distraction is the best. Usually a snack in Lexi’s case. We would share a snack, watch some TV and the quiet time would fix everything for both her and myself. That quiet moment of cuddling up on the sofa watching TV and eating makes the whole day perfect again.
All children are so different, so what may work for Lexi, may not work for others and vice versa. If I could ask you to take away one point from this is, when you feel the stress is too much, walk away. I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it, as parents we still have our own mindset, wellbeing and mental health to take care of. You walking away to compose yourself for a very short moment will benefit your little one so much. You’ll be able to deal with the situation with a clear head. At the same time as saying this never beat yourself up for losing your temper either. We are humans and it happens. Go to bed that night, forgive yourself and wake up the day next with no regrets.
Laura & Lexi