A couple of weeks ago, my little baby turned 2! Such a fun day spent celebrating her sweet personality and big smile. But there are a couple of things I wish hadn't shown up around the same time as her second birthday-- mainly the attitude, tantrums, and slapping/biting/screaming that are all too common now that she's a "big girl".
When at the park last week with some friends, my bestie asked, "How are you handling the TWOberty?" and I immediately knew I had to go home and write a post about it!
So if you've got a little diva or a drama king at home who has hit their terrible TWOberty phase, here's a little 'how to' that should help you handle the emotional whirlwind that was once your precious baby.
Understand and Plan
Knowing that your child is going to be hitting milestones that increase their independence and individuality is big for this stage. They will be communicating more, speaking in two- or three-word sentences, and are very particular now that they have had time to discover what they like and what they do NOT. Now that they're a little bit older, they are also discovering that they are not allowed to do whatever they want without consequences, and this is a big change from when they were enjoying the privileges of the baby excuse.
Now that your little wants to do things on her own, wants to try out new skills like running, jumping, and climbing, and wants to make choices of her own when it comes to clothes and food, do your best to plan your days to give her access to express herself and make choices in a place where they won't be rushed. I also like to give my little one time to get all her wiggles out during the day, because the more she plays the less energy she has to thrash around during a tantrum. I also do my best to avoid situations that I already know are hard for her-- one of the main ones these days are grocery trips. Since she is big and wants to walk around and peruse the aisles and touch every single thing, I get frustrated and then she gets frustrated, and it turns into a battle of wills really quickly. So I do everyone a favor and do grocery pick up!
All About Choice
It can be hard to allow your little ones to choose all aspects of their day, and that can mean more tantrums for them and more headaches for mama. My advice here is to make the day all about choices, even if they're not really choosing anything important. Need to get work done throughout the day and your little is having a hard time because she wants to be outside? Ask her if she would rather play with playdoh or the marble run, or have a snack or a drink, or do a puzzle or play a board game. Giving them little choices that are alternatives to what they want help them feel more in control, and will at least put off (and sometimes eliminate) the original stressor.
I also like to give my daughter the choice between 2 different options, but, any more than that, and we end up having another frustrating situation. Too many options lead to too much time deciding which leads to too many tears, and WE DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THAT MAMA. So if you have a diva who doesn't want to eat in the morning, give her two choices: cereal or toast. Once that choice is made, she can decide to have a show on while she eats, but it will be turned off if she's not taking bites. The same thing can be applied to when she's getting dressed, when we're heading out of the house and she wants to bring the entire toy chest in the car, or when she doesn't want to get a diaper change. A couple different choices, and a reward for good behavior helps my little so much!
Patience with New Skills
When it comes to our little TWOberty kids, it's hard to remember that they are learning all new life skills. Something that is hard for a lot of littles going through this stage is being territorial, and not wanting to share. This is definitely true for our little girl. It's important to take a little bit of time to explain why it's okay to share with our friends, what it means when we let others play with our toys or play with our brother or play at our house, and why it's okay to share. You can also do your best to teach them that they don't have to hand over all of their favorite things, but that when we CHOOSE not to share with others, they can choose not to share with us. Trust me, this isn't going to resolve itself overnight, and I'm still working on the same skills with my 4-year-old, but getting the ideas and concepts in early are important for mastering new skills.
It's also important to give your little ones the opportunities to master their new skills! If they're really into climbing and jumping and playing, make sure your weekly routine includes some play time at the park or the indoor jungle gym. If your kid is starting to speak more, give him opportunities to play with other kids his age at a play group or in a dance/gymnastics class. If your little ones want to make all sorts of choices about what they wear, then make sure they have access to their clothing in a way that won't make you lose your mind so that they can pick and choose what to put on, and you're all still going to make it to church looking mostly put together.
The chances of you making it through TWOberty completely unscathed are pretty slim, mama, so prepare yourself for some nasty tantrums, a couple of shouting matches, and a whole lot of tears as the two of you are getting to know each other. Your toddler will be focused a lot on testing boundaries, so it's important to stay consistent and let your little know what is acceptable behavior, and what's not. Just do your best to not let the battles beat you. It's a long road, and if you fight tooth and nail (literally for your two-year-old) over every decision, you and your little are going to have a strained relationship and you'll feel like a failure the whole time. Give yourself a break, and learn to laugh when things get ridiculous, like when your kid is lying on the floor at the mall for no logical reason.
Your babe will show you so much love and attention one second, and then smack your cheek hard enough to sting, and jabber to you in a tone (that is far too like your own) about how unfair life is. The ups and the downs can be jarring and can be more than a little frustrating, because there won't be a rhyme or reason to it. Do your best to see past the tears, and remember that your little is trying to express herself. Even though it has you shaking your head, do your best to stay calm, consistent, and comforting to your toddlers while they're learning new things and working on solving problems!