The little man just turned 2 weeks ago. On that day my husband mentioned the "Terrible two". I had never heard of this phrase and just said: That sounds terrible!" By that I meant the phrase and not the developmental stage that stands behind it.
Exactly on his birthday the little man became what I'd call "a little more independent". Now he decides what he wants and especially WHEN. If we ask something there will ALWAYS be a "No." At first. And we were a bit confuzzled with that since he has been this easy going laid back sort of person. I thought.
So here it was. The struggle. Diaper change, getting dressed, brushing teeth - all situations of asking, pleading and in the end - enforcing. It took us a couple of days, we were glad we were on Easter break and didn't have the hassle of getting up early in the morning with the time in our neck. And decided that patience was just what we had on offer.
So that's what we gave him. Patience. Allowing him the lead as much as possible. I remember one diaper change where my husband called me and asked for coffee while he was waiting for the little man to get ready so he could take his pyjama off. Of course this is not the perfect way but if sometimes you don't mind and there's nothing else to do - go for it and use the time to observe your child!
I'm not always THAT patient but I try. So what I do is work with the understanding. "You really want to run along that cycle path. It seems very exciting for you." While I have a screaming 2 year old on my arm just rescued from some speedy cyclists.
In the end it's a mix of both - patience and understanding - that works. We don't have to allow our children everything at all times. But we should really try and understand that THIS is what they (don't) want right now and put their feelings and expressions into words. We don't have to explain much either. A short "I see you really want this mobile phone of mine now." and then wait. Allow the child to react to it. It's amazing how often the "thing" is not interesting anymore after he has been understood. And if he's still struggling you could still add the explanation of why he can't have this or that right now or offer something else instead.
What also helps a lot is clarity. On the weekend we were at the playground and suddenly realized that we were running late to meet up with friends that were staying at our house at this time. So my husband went over to the little man and said: "We really have to go Leander. Right now."
Leander, just on his way to push his toy buggy the hill up again turned around and followed. My husband looked at me: "That was easy." and I said: "Well you have been very clear about it."
Unfortunately we don't often manage to be clear once the situation has been filled with quite a few "No!"s from th little man's side. But it helps to bring it back and remind us that this is also what it needs to get anywhere with your child.
Now this all sounds so perfect and round. Of course it isn't always like that. But a couple of days ago I said to my husband: "So, the terrible two seem to have been very short." and we realised that it's all going pretty smoothe again. So it seems every stage is a built up for the next. You learn to become more and more patient, more and more clear and the "explosions" become less and less. Because when I thought about it - it hasn't ALWAYS been that easy. There were struggles and difficult times when I realized that there's much more patience in my rucksack than I thought. I just had to dig deep for it. And this wa then just the trial for what would come next.
Now I'm not scared what else will come, I'm excited!
And I hope that more parents will be intrigued to understand WHY a toddler acts the way he does and is open to grow with him instead of just calling it a terrible named phase everyone has to get through no matter how.
A great article by Lisa Sunbury of Regarding Baby on why toddler do hings they do you can read here.