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The Laughing Mom: humorous tales of motherhood PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susan Pfaltzgraff   

The terrible twos

I never believed in the “terrible twos.” I heard somewhere that toddler tantrums result from the child’s inability to communicate their feelings. I believed that and was determined to be the amazing mom that always understood what her child needed. I was going to be so good at empathizing that my child would never have the chance to fall to pieces in a desperate attempt to explain herself.

I really, truly, deep down in the pit of my soul believed that I could breeze right past the terrible twos without breaking a sweat!

And then the tantrums came. They increased in frequency and intensity until I felt completely frazzled by the end of each day. One evening, Melise went into a tantrum over something so tiny and benign, like me offering her a drink of water, that I crumpled up and buried my head in helplessness.

Daddy said, “Melise, are we entering the terrible twos?”

I picked my head up and said, “But she’s not even two!” She was 22 months old. But the idea sank into me and I began to realize that I hadn’t understood the truth of this notorious phase.

I began to see in Melise a heavy mix of emotional turmoil plus a budding sense of independence, which seemed to lead to many meltdowns. I still don’t understand it completely, but I know this for certain: there is no amount of good parenting skills that will stop it. Now I see the light and I believe wholeheartedly in the unavoidable terrible (TERRIBLE!) twos.

So what is a parent to do? At first, I was bracing myself to just suffer through it. I make a great martyr with my face drawn and wearied ... but it’s a very sad way to live, so I snapped out of it and decided to use my head.

After a little pondering, I realized that toddlers are smart enough to accept incentives. Of course, it has to be more sophisticated than just handing her a toy. Basically, promises must be made and fulfilled!

Incentives solved much of the tantrum problems, such as the fight to get dressed each morning. If I promised Melise that we were going to see someone special, she’d dress willingly—heck, she’d pick the clothes out herself! This has also backfired, such as the day that Melise was so excited to see a certain friend that she put her shoes on and declared herself ready to go, despite the total lack of shirt or pants! She was pretty cute in the diaper/shoes combo, buuuut ...

Incentives have kept me sane since the start of the terrible twos, but I’ve also realized that the best method for handling a tantrum is to find the root of it. This is difficult, to say the least.

Melise’s budding vocabulary is hard enough to interpret when she’s not blubbering through her tears. But I’ve realized that she really does want to tell me what’s wrong if I will just give her a chance. It can be torture to sift through her sounds, but the insight gained is often worth the trouble.

I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to hug my tantruming daughter, listen closely and realize that “Sheep (sob, sob) boot (gargle, sniff) down (gasp, sob) reet!” means “The sheep book fell down beside the bed where I can’t reach it and I wanted to read it!”

I retrieve the book, wipe away the tears, and all the fuss is forgotten! Those moments make me feel like maybe I can get through the terrible twos without a sweat (maybe just a little glow)!

Holyoke Enterprise May 26, 2011