[Note: If you are a parent of a 2 year old and you think the Terrible Twos are horrible enough, do not read any further.]
My oldest was a parenting challenge. He’s made it to 5 3/4 so far, so I consider that a success. He is healthy but he was a handful as a baby. He cried ALL THE TIME from the moment of his birth until he was probably 15 months old. Friends of mine with multiple children would shake their heads and say “I don’t know how you do it.”
And he’s tested us every step of the way with his energy and stubbornness. But he’s an absolutely wonderful kid who may always be a challenge, but has a big, fun personality. And we are trying to rein in the bad while promoting the good energy and leadership skills before we unleash him on the world.
So, we thought we could handle anything when our second came around.
He was a super baby, so content and smiley.
The Terrible Twos weren’t even too bad. Occasionally, when he’d throw a temper tantrum, I could calmly step over him, lean over so we could see eye-to-eye and whisper “it’s not going to work buddy, your tantrums have nothing on your brother’s.”
But then we got closer to the 3s.
Now, my younger son will be 3 in two weeks and I’m starting to remember that the 3s were pretty tough the first time around.
Now, I know that raising a child is frustrating and difficult in every year. As a parent, you want to fight your battles when they are younger rather than 17. We have semi-raised my wife’s twin girls (now 16) and we get that every age brings its own challenges.
But 3 has this special place.
It’s where they grow their own mind, courage and independence, but they don’t care as much about pleasing the parents.
All of a sudden, the temper tantrums aren’t really the problem.
It’s no longer getting frustrated when he doesn’t get his way, it’s the ongoing asking.
It’s the manipulation.
It’s the complete and utter lack of listening skills.
It’s when you try to give time outs but the child thinks they are hilarious.
Where rewards and consequences must be instant (i.e. M&Ms for positive behavior instead of sticker charts; time outs on the spot instead of “no TV later” threats)
All the things you think you know about discipline and effective parenting will be tested.
I keep hearing all of those words I’ve heard my mother say, or that I’ve read in so many parenting articles:
- Stay calm
- Use a friendly and relaxed tone
- You can outstubborn your child
- Stand your ground
- Stay consistent
- If you win this battle, the next one will be easier.
Sure, how easy is it to stay calm with “Mommy, I want gum. Mommy, I want gum. Mommy, I want gum. Mommy, I want gum” ad nauseum or when a child has a meltdown during his absolute refusal to leave the house (when you are already late for work) because you cannot find the pair of shoes he wanted.
Staying calm and relaxed can be the hardest thing on earth sometimes.
I think a transition happens when they are closer to 4. At four, you can start negotiating with your child. They also understand rewards and consequences more.
Three-year-olds understand rewards and consequences but they are unmoved by them.
I love every moment with my children. My goals are to raise them to be moral and respectful young people who will follow their hearts and use their brains. But I want them to have coping skills and be able to move on when they don’t get their way.
So, we are entering the 3s with resolve to stand our ground to be good parents and discipline while remaining calm, cool and collected but to also recognize the personalities and what battles are worth fighting.