If you have a child who is older than three, chances are you’ve had a close encounter with a parent’s worst nightmare: The dreadful Terrible Twos.
When my daughter was still a baby, she was very quiet, happy, cheerful, and it was very easy to take care of her. As a matter of fact, it was so easy that I had some opinions about the parents of loud toddlers.
But then some time passed, and my daughter and I switched roles: She started to have opinions about everything in life, and I started to doubt mine.
Well, the truth is, I did more than just doubt my opinions: I had to re-evaluate my entire perspective on parenting to adapt to my metamorphosed daughter. It was very wild, almost like a survival instinct.
You see, toddlers are not babies anymore as they learn to build their opinions. At the same time, they’re not young kids either, as they don’t understand the concept of time, distance, consequences, and other stuff like that. So they end-up in this in-between state where they know they have the power to argue when they don’t like something, but they don’t know what they can argue about.
So they just argue for the sake of arguing.
Well, it would be more accurate to say this leads to no discussion at all as the species of toddler is not willing to listen or cooperate whatsoever. When a toddler wants something, he/she wants it immediately (right here, right now!). There is no room for negotiation.
As the mom of a toddler, I can say that I had to endure a few fun episodes of extreme tantrums and each time I felt exhausted enough to wonder if I was going to make it through the full-year (assuming that by the age of three she would cool down).
Until the day when she had a royal tantrum. It was like anger at its finest.
It felt like a volcano had erupted in my house and there was no way to escape.
It happened on a morning when we were getting ready to leave for her nursery and she refused to change her clothes. We had a serious battle where I managed to change her, against her will. I felt triumphant but my joy lasted for exactly two (very brief) seconds as she immediately managed to remove the clothes that I had dressed her with, and she escaped from the room, naked.
I have to say, I felt proud and impressed with how determined she was.
But then I felt hopeless.
What on earth had just happened?
And how do you handle this anyway (whatever this is)?
That day, I didn’t drop her off at the nursery and we spent the day at home doing fun things together. I also took the time to re-think my approach to parenting.
You see, my daughter is a very independent little girl. I’ve taught her to do things on her own from a very young age. I’ve also given her the space to move around the house and explore it, to help develop her creativity.
And then, somehow along the road, she learned that she had the power to accept or refuse what was given to her, and she wanted to make full use of it. That’s when the fun stopped and the tantrums started to kick-in.
So on that day, I asked myself if it was worth keeping all the limitations that we had, in order to meet her half-way. I was looking for some kind of compromise, and I found it in one simple question:
“What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
I mean, if it doesn’t involve blood, broken bones, poisoning or electrocution, is it really worth starting a battle when I know that she is just trying out something new, and that she will get bored of it after five minutes?
With this in mind though, each time she wants to start a new activity, I ask myself what could really happen to her if she does what’s on her mind.
Playing with water and cups in the living room will only mean that the table, floor, and her clothes will get wet. We can change her clothes when she’s done playing, and dry the table and floor.
That doesn’t sound too bad to me.
So why should I step in her way of playing a game that she created for herself and that she finds amusing? Also, is it worth getting into battles that give my daughter the impression that her opinion doesn’t count, when the core essence of my approach to parenting is to have an open communication with her? Besides, what kind of impact would this constant objection have on her, when I prevent her from discovering life through creativity?
With my new thoughts in mind, I learned to back-off and to give her the space that she needs. Since that day, the tantrums are…. Less destructive and my daughter is more willing to cooperate.
Just to be clear, she is still a toddler, faithful to her species, so the little crises are still there, but they are much shorter in length. And my daughter and I are both much happier this way.
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