So… I think I’m beginning to understand what people mean when they talk about the “terrible twos.”
Since Jupiter turned two earlier this year, I’ve been amazed by her development and growth. She’s becoming more of herself every day, and now that she’s talking quite a bit, she’s not shy about sharing her opinions. I love that for her, and I’ll always encourage her to speak her mind. But I’ve gotta be honest: Practicing patience with a 2-year-old can take a lot of effort.
For instance, during lunchtime last week, Jupiter started screaming “NO! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!” at the top of her lungs. I think I’d given her the “wrong” snack, which was very upsetting to her. As I watched her little face turn red with anger, I thought, “What happened? You were so easygoing just five months ago.” She’s a sweet, loving little girl, but I’d never seen that kind of behavior in her before.
I know this behavior is developmentally normal for toddlers. They have big feelings and don’t know how to deal with them yet. I remind myself of this fact frequently because it helps me summon patience and understanding. As her parent, I need to help her manage those big feelings… while also seeking to maintain my own calm in the midst of a toddler tantrum. Here are some strategies that are working in our house right now. Sharing in case they might help you navigate the twos, too!
Chris and I take a lot of deep breaths these days. (And I do mean a LOT.) Consciously doing this helps me find more patience and helps me regulate my own emotions. We also teach Jupiter that taking deep breaths can help her feel better. When we can help her breathe in and breathe out, it helps her calm down and reset.
Identify big feelings
We’ve found it super-helpful to have kids’ books about emotions. One book that I love reading to her is The Monster Parade by Wendy O’Leary. It teaches kids that inside your mind, there’s a parade of monsters: the angry monster, the sad monster, etc. The book talks about how those are just feelings, and if you breathe in and you breathe out, you can let those feelings move past.
Call in a teammate
Sometimes when Juju is having a meltdown, I honestly don’t know what to do or how to help her. So I ask for some help. Chris and I have a no-judgment policy when one of us says, “Hey, I need a hand. Can you step in?” When things start to feel overwhelming, a partner or another level-headed adult can help lower the emotional temperature all around.
Teach coping tools
As Jupiter’s parents, it’s our job to help her learn what is and isn’t okay when it comes to coping with anger or frustration. For instance, we might say, “You’re allowed to be frustrated, but you’re not allowed to hit me when you’re frustrated.” Then we offer her an alternative behavior—usually taking deep breaths—so she learns what to do instead.
Give lots of love
Even though tantrums can make me feel frustrated, I know Juju is just doing what kids her age do. So I always, always give her a hug when she’s ready for it. I want her to understand that her feelings are okay, the tough ones don’t last forever, and she can count on her parents to be there for her no matter what.